1124 Ninth St., NW
Washington, DC 20001
Neighborhood: Penn Quarter/Chinatown
Open Monday through Saturday for dinner.
Nearby Metro Stops: Mt. Vernon Square/7th St.-Convention Center
Baby Wale may be named for the corduroy with the skinniest ridges, but Tom Power’s bar is far from small. At 5,000 square feet, with a mezzanine level and a long, sinewy bar, the brick-lined interior dwarfs the intimate spots that dot Shaw’s burgeoning Ninth Street. The menu, however, is short and sweet, full of delicious, uncomplicated treats.
The soups that Power puts out at his high-end flagship, Corduroy, have a fierce following, and fans will be pleased to find nuanced, $7 bowls at Baby Wale. Among our favorites: a brew of celery root with lobster stock and cream.
Back when Corduroy was a hotel restaurant in the Four Points Sheraton, Power served customers lumpia—Filipino-style spring rolls. The addictive batons make an encore appearance here, as do the chef’s pizzas. Crisp and blanketed with bubbly cheese, the pies taste great topped with shiitake mushrooms or capicola, an Italian ham.
When ordering the juicy roast chicken for two, prepare for a 45-minute wait. Given the great on-tap beers and by-the-glass wines, it’s a welcome chance to sip something slowly and take in the easygoing crowd. (The bird, fragrant with thyme, is available for takeaway, too.) While the menu isn’t geared towards calorie counters, salads—such as a perfectly salted tomato starter—are bright and satisfying.
Only one dish fell flat: lamb pupusas were greasy and flavorless. Cocktails were disappointing as well. We noted a lack of drink knowledge among some servers, and libations were often out of balance. It’s an unfortunate oversight for an otherwise excellent neighborhood boîte, and one we hope will be remedied soon.
This article appears in the December 2013 issue of Washingtonian.