A shellfish plateau with a whole lobster, nine oysters, five shrimp, five clams, and Snow Crab legs; the ground floor. Photographs by Emma Patti
When it comes to U Street nightspots, brothers Eric and Ian Hilton know how to create a popular venue: their current inventory—Marvin, the Gibson, American Ice Co., to name a few—have all been bumping since day one. So it's surprising that the July 14 opening of BlackByrd Warehouse, the latest Hilton venture at 14th and U streets, has been comparatively low-key: there's no Web site, and there was no opening event or a press release sent to media.
"We want [BlackByrd] to develop organically," says manager Sheldon Scott. "Marvin, Patty Boom Boom, they both had a fixed identity starting out. Now we want the neighborhood to take ownership and develop the space as they see fit."
The bi-level spot has the signature Hilton warehouse-chic decor with exposed brick, bare lightbulbs, mismatched furniture, nautical prints, and old art-studio stools.
Chef James Claudio's small menu includes a raw bar that ranges from budget (early and late-night $1 oyster happy hours) to splurge-worthy (a three-tiered seafood plateau) as well as offerings such as a Maine-style lobster roll and Gouda-and-Parmesan-thickened crab dip. The cocktail list contains classics such as a Margarita and Old Fashioned, in addition to house drinks; the eponymous BlackByrd has Plymouth gin, Manzanilla sherry, vermouth, and orange bitters.
There's a definite artistic theme, starting with the name—it comes from Donald "Black" Byrd, a musician who taught at Howard University in the 1970s and recorded the hit "Rock Creek Park" while in DC. A large movie screen upstairs shows black-and-white films, and there's space for video installations and spoken-word performances.
Talking about the Chesapeake-inspired raw bar and the local musicians who will play nightly, Scott says, "We're merging the best of all worlds that we have here."
BlackByrd Warehouse. 2005 14th St., NW; no phone. Open Sunday through Thursday, 5:30 PM to 2 AM; Friday and Saturday until 3 AM.
Click the menu to view at full size.