An Early Look at Commissary

The word “commissary” has many different meanings: The military thinks of it as a supermarket, Hollywood types consider it a cafeterialike lunchroom, and the general public bills it a multipurpose store for all sorts of provisions—food and otherwise. Logan Circle residents will soon come to know it as a P Street restaurant as utilitarian as the word itself.

Owner David Winer—whose EatWellDC restaurant group also owns Logan Tavern, Grillfish, and Logan at the Heights—closed Latin/Asian-themed Merkado Kitchen at the end of August. He gave the space a quick makeover and reopened it last Monday as the American-focused Commissary.

While Logan Tavern—located on the same block—is always busy, Winer says, Merkado never experienced the same success. “For three years I played around with the concept, and three years I couldn’t strike the right pitch.”

This time around, he’s determined to lure customers by touting “honest pricing” (entrées run from $9 to $16) and a something-for-everyone menu. The 90-seat restaurant serves breakfast every day until 5 plus lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Small plates, which range from $3 to $12, include sharable items like hummus and grilled pita, crisp chicken dumplings, and beef sliders showered with pickles and onions. There are heartier options such as a crisp single-serving tomato-basil pizza, burgers, and sandwiches, which range from a classic white-bread BLT to a bubbly French croque monsieur. Full dinners include seared salmon with tamarind and a Merkado-inspired steak streaked with a bright-green chimichurri sauce and paired with matchstick fries. Desserts and breakfast pastries come from Firehook and Uptown bakeries.

Those familiar with Merkado will recognize the same wide-open space, but Winer has traded the modern decor for a patriotic theme: An American flag is tacked above the bar, large chalkboard menus are written in red, white, and blue, and a weathered wooden communal table sits near the back of the restaurant.

Up front, Winer has planted a circle of coffeehouselike armchairs, whose swinging tray tables can support a laptop computer (the place has free wi-fi), a cup of espresso from the coffee bar, a smoothie from the juice bar, or a chess set from the collection of board games.

Unlike Merkado, Commissary is committed to being ecofriendly: Power comes from wind, the menu is printed in soy ink on recycled paper, and the collection of 25 wines and 12 beers all come from sustainable or organic producers.

So far it seems that the neighborhood has embraced his new concept. By 7 PM on Friday there was an hourlong wait for a table, on Saturday Winer says they were so busy he felt like closing the doors, and when we left at 6:30 PM on Sunday, customers were waiting for our table.