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An Early Look at Cork Wine Bar
A rustic-chic spot for wine and seasonally-minded small plates.
Reviewed By Kate Nerenberg
Photograph by Brian Liu/ToolboxDC.
Comments () | Published February 20, 2008
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Cork
Address: 1720 14th St., NW, Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202-265-2675
Neighborhood: Logan Circle
Cuisines: Tapas/Small Plates, Modern, American
Opening Hours: Open Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 5 PM to midnight; Thursday through Saturday 5 PM to 1 AM.
Nearby Metro Stops: U St./African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo, Dupont Circle
Price Range: Moderate
Dress: Informal
Noise Level: Chatty
Reservations: Recommended
Best Dishes Braised mustard greens with pork tenderloin; roasted Brussels sprouts; croque madame; a stew of chickpeas with saffron; French fries with house-made ketchup; crustless goat-cheese-cake quenelles.
Price Details: Small plates, $5 to $15.

For ten years, newlyweds and Logan Circle residents Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts have been watching as their neighborhood slowly shed its identity as a Dupont castoff. With the opening of their brainchild, Cork Wine Bar, they’re helping carve a new niche for the growing area. As of now, many residents know it as the new spot replacing Sparky’s Espresso Bar—itself a favorite local hangout. It won’t be long, we’re guessing, before residents embrace the rustically elegant Cork.

The name is an homage to the roster of 20 wines by the glass and more than 130 by the bottle. While the list focuses on the Rhône region and Old World varietals, the owners wanted everyone—from a seasoned oenophile to “the guy on his first date,” as Pitts says—to feel comfortable ordering wine.

Pitts had two requirements for his dream wine bar—first, that neighborhood residents feel like it was theirs and, second, that they serve the best French fries in town. For the former, Gross and Pitts hired local architect Eric Gronning, whose past projects include Hank’s Oyster Bar and the newer Marvin. He preserved Sparky’s exposed brick and pressed-tin ceiling but otherwise gutted the place.

A garage behind the property was transformed into kitchen space, and the basement became an open wine cellar. In the dining area, the walls are a subdued chocolate brown, accented with retro-style light bulbs and flickering candles. There are a handful of cozy nooks, including sophisticated banquettes with striped cushions, alcoves in the two front bay windows, and an L-shaped bar with a short granite end that’s a snug spot for two. The total seating comes to about 70, including 15 seats at the bar.

For the French fries and other fare, Gross and Pitts enlisted Ron Tanaka, an eight-year veteran of such haute kitchens as Citronelle and, more recently, CityZen. Among the sharable, seasonally minded small plates ($5 to $15) are a creamy rosemary-chicken-liver bruschetta with shallot marmalade; a simple salad with romaine hearts, anchovy dressing, and downright addictive wine-soaked croutons; and a twist on a croque madame, a pan-crisped brioche sandwich with prosciutto, fontina, and a sunny-side-up egg.

Oh, and we tried those French fries. The potatoes are double-blanched, tossed with a lemon-parsley gremolata, and served with house-made ketchup. Tanaka—and the young couple behind Cork—might just be on to something.

Cork's Menu 

Cold Plates to Share
 
Cheese Selection   
3 for $10, 5 for $15, and 7 for $21

Charcuterie Selection
$6 each, 3 for $15, or 5 for $24
 
House-Marinated Olives  $4

House-Roasted Marinated Peppers $4
 
Romaine Hearts, creamy anchovy dressing, shaved pecorino, cabernet croutons $7
 Bin 16 or Bin 55
 
Mesclun Salad, shallot vinaigrette $7
 
Roasted Eggplant, chili, mint, grilled bread $7
 Bin 27 or Bin 97
 
House-Cured Trout, shaved fennel, toasted hazelnuts, tangerine vinaigrette $9
 Bin 12 or Bin 71
 
Celeriac Salad, mustard, caraway, bacon and watercress   $7                     
 Bin 22 or Bin 137
 
Rosemary Chicken Liver Bruschetta,
shallot marmalade, herb salad  $9
 Bin 11 or Bin 58
  
 
Hot Plates to Share

 
Exotic Mushroom Duxelle, sweet onions, fine herbs, grilled bread  $8                              
 Bin 25 or Bin 84
 
Oil-Cured Roma Tomatoes, chevre, grilled bread  $7
 Bin 17 or Bin 18
 
Caramelized Sunchokes, walnut oil and lemon salt  $5
 
Lemon and Black Pepper Dusted Calamari and Rock Shrimp with caper remoulade  $11
 Bin 19 or Bin 68
 
Pan-Crisped Brioche Sandwich of prosciutto, fontina, Path Valley egg   $10
 Bin 32 or Bin 90
 
Potato And Leek Gratin, Caramelized Onions, Gruyere, bacon  $7          
 
Mussels, garlic, white wine, herbs $11
 Bin 7 or Bin 72
 
Pan-Roast Organic Chicken Breast, prunes, olives, preserved lemon with garlic-tarragon jus  $13
 Bin 21 or Bin 87
 
French Fries tossed with parsley, garlic, lemon, house-made ketchup $5
 
Crisp House-Made Duck Confit, creamy mushroom polenta  $14
 Bin 30 or Bin 85
 
Sautéed Wild Mushrooms with madeira and marjoram  $7
 
Red-Wine Braised Lamb, pomegranate, radicchio, spinach  $15
 Bin 41 or Bin 119
 
Grilled Flat Iron with brussel sprouts, pancetta relish  $14
 Bin 31 or Bin 134

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 02/20/2008 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Restaurant Reviews