Wheelchair Accessible, Kid Friendly, Late Night, Weekend Brunch, Good for Groups, Breakfast, Good for Desert, Good Bar/Cocktails
When Constantine Stavropoulos opens a restaurant, he aims to fulfill a neighborhood need. When he brought Tryst to Adams Morgan in 1998, the cafe culture that blossomed around its saggy, mismatched couches belied the cliché that DC was an uncool city of transients. Then came the Diner two doors down, filling the 24-hour breakfast gap. With Open City in Woodley Park, he satisfied latte-starved locals.
His new endeavor, the Coupe—which takes up nearly a full block on Columbia Heights’ suddenly crowded 11th Street—comprises a diner, coffee shop, and low-lit cocktail lounge. Each claims its own area of the restaurant, whose clever design makes the most of exposed-brick columns and window-lined walls.
Stavropoulos has tapped Florida transplant Rob Theriot to oversee the kitchens at his four restaurants. Here Theriot puts upscale spins on greasy-spoon classics. Buffalo-style frog’s legs—paired with a crunchy apple-and-celery salad—are a delicious riff on chicken wings. A freeform lasagna expertly mingles veal shank, Italian sausage, and beef brisket. Toad-in-the-hole, a highlight on the all-day breakfast menu, tops sweet brioche with eggs and chipped-beef gravy.
As good as some of Theriot’s ideas are, execution can be a problem. An open-faced eggplant sandwich arrived on a baguette so rubbery we couldn’t slice it with a knife. A take on poutine with short-rib “debris” and jalapeños was undone by frigid French fries. And the Coupe’s macaroni and cheese was the sort of one-note bore you’d expect on a kids’ menu at a less ambitious place.
More suited to an adult palate are bar manager David Fritzler’s sodas. The pleasingly acerbic strawberry-lemon shrub recalls the popular “drinking vinegars” at Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok restaurants in New York City and Portland, Oregon, and a coffee-infused concoction proves a great counterpart to the Coupe’s fudgy “birthday” cake.
Cocktails, too, are bold and distinctive. Try the bourbon-based Georgia Comforter, with peach bitters, or Grandma’s Pink Lemonade (vodka, Madeira, and the aforementioned shrub). The Coupe may still be working out its kinks, but the drinks seem poised to become stars.
This article appears in the January 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.