Jeff and Barbara Black’s Pearl Dive Oyster Palace is the latest addition to the vibrant 14th Street dining scene; seafood stew with mussels, shrimp, redfish, and saffron milk . Photographs by Erik Uecke
Fans of Jeff and Barbara Black’s eateries—BlackSalt, Black’s Bar and Kitchen, Black Market Bistro, and Addie’s—have been looking forward to the debut of the restaurateurs’ first Logan Circle venture: Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Black Jack, a dual-concept spot bringing Gulf Coast fare, an ambitious cocktail program, and bocce ball together under one roof. It is slated to open next Tuesday.
On the ground floor sits Pearl Dive, a 78-seat restaurant with exposed brick, mermaid murals, and plenty of distressed wood. The setting—and the menu—have the feel of a citified fish shack. Black looked to his Gulf Coast roots for the menu, which gives a nod to the region’s French, Vietnamese, and Spanish populations with such dishes as pickled shrimp with spicy-sweet slaw and olive oil-poached tuna. There are also Southern classics: wood-grilled redfish and grits, three types of gumbo, and po’boys like the “C.E.B.L.T.,” laden with Benton’s bacon, fried catfish, and a runny egg.
Oyster-lovers are served well here, and can perch at two bars: a 14-seater facing the street or a smaller one in the back. The bivalves are served up many ways, including freshly shucked and accented with yuzu/mirin mignonette; wrapped in bacon; simmered in a creamy stew; and grilled with garlic/red-chile butter. To go along with everything, brothers Ari and Micah Wilder have put together a roster of oyster-friendly cocktails, like the Abalone Bellini with vodka, pear brandy, and cucumber.
Upstairs at Black Jack, there is a burlesque vibe (crimson curtains, red leather banquettes), along with two indoor bocce courts. You can wait for a Pearl Dive table up there—guests take a supermarket-deli-style ticket at the restaurant and watch for their number to come up on a screen—but there’s also an extensive bar menu. The booze-friendly fare includes pizzas with toppings like grilled shrimp and roasted green chilies; a muffaletta sandwich; pork-belly-and-pickled-jalapeno nachos; and nightly “blue plate specials” (we’re looking forward to Wednesday’s combo of three braised beef tacos, a shot of tequila, and can of Tecate). The Wilder brothers’ drinks get more playful up here too. Witness the Cigar, which involves smoked peach ice (it’s melted in a smoker and then refrozen with peach nectar) topped with heady Mezcal and a roll of duck prosciutto.
Think this couldn’t sound less like a traditional Black Restaurant Group venture? They’ve stayed true to tradition with one thing: the garlicky Addie’s mussels on every one of their restaurants’ menus are available on both floors here.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace/Black Jack. 1612 14th Street; 202-986-8778 (Pearl Dive); 202-986-5225 (Black Jack). Pearl Dive is open for lunch Friday and Saturday from noon to 4 PM and dinner Monday through Thursday 5 to 11 PM; Friday and Saturday 4 PM to midnight; and Sunday 5 to 11 PM. Black Jack is open for lunch Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 PM and dinner Sunday through Thursday 5 PM to 12:30 AM; and Friday and Saturday 5 to 1:30 AM.
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