An Early Look at Room 11

A funky wine bar opens in DC’s Columbia Heights.

It seems as if every time a Café Saint-Ex or a Cork or a Granville Moore’s opens, it’s immediately crowded with people looking for a comfy neighborhood space. If there’s a thoughtful array of beer, wine, and cocktails—great. Good food? All the better.

For those weary of elbowing their way into Cork and so over the Saint-Ex scene, Room 11 (3234 11th St., NW; 202-332-3234) is the answer to your prayers. Just not all of you at once, please—the tiny corner wine bar seats only 15 inside and 28 on the patio.

If you’re lucky enough to score a seat, you can enjoy simple and reasonably priced ($10 a pop)—yet hearty and delicious—panini, which come with a salad. Most of the panini are vegetarian, and the fresh-mozzarella-roasted-tomato-and-pesto version is packed with ripe summer flavor.

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Specialty cocktails—all $8 despite the fact that they incorporate trendy ingredients such as house-made bitters and infused syrups—and the rest of the menu have yet to be sampled because the restaurant officially opens tonight. Beer and wine prices hover between $5 and $10, with the most expensive wine topping out at $12.

While we weren’t able to sample much of the menu at last week’s press event, chef Ben Gilligan, who’s also a part owner, showed us around what he likens to a tiny submarine kitchen with the pride of someone who has put his own sweat into it. He and his partners have been working to open Room 11 for about a year, and their creative group of friends—which includes artists and musicians—put their personal stamp on the place.

Cool touches include an end-grain floor that has the look of wooden bricks, fancy wallpaper in the women’s bathroom, and metal screens that recall the ones found in church confessionals. The owners’ friends were recruited to make curtains and donate plants, and one owner’s wife is a partner in the Paisley Fig bakery, which provides the desserts.

The community spirit is already here. This funky, cozy place is just waiting for its neighborhood to arrive.

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