An Early Look at Market Tavern

At the former Harry’s Tap Room in Clarendon, corporate steakhouse stalwart Michael Sternberg aims to catch up with a changing neighborhood dining crowd.

From the new menu at Market Tavern: Short-rib casserole, prime rib, and fried green tomatoes stacked with honey goat cheese. Photograph by Erik Uecke

Slideshow: An Early Look at Market Tavern 

When Michael Sternberg came to Washington in 1982 to open Morton’s, he says there were two ways to dine in DC. There were the steakhouses—The Palm, Prime Rib, Blackie’s House of Beef—and there were “pomp-and-circumstance” French restaurants: saucy, formal affairs. Things have changed a lot in the intervening decades, Sternberg says.

“All the fluff is gone, but decor is very important,” he explains. “And people are more knowledgeable about food than they’ve ever been.” In Clarendon, where he recently remodeled and renamed Harry’s Tap Room, the crowd has grown increasingly urban, says the restaurateur, and his revamp is a response to these dining-savvy denizens: The upstairs “chophouse” may look out onto a Cheesecake Factory, but there’s an M.F.K. Fisher quote on the wall (“Almost every person has something secret he likes to eat”), and among the more straightforward dishes on the menu are some fine-dining-inspired outliers. The meat in a short-rib and polenta casserole, for instance, spends 72 hours sous-vide, and a fried green tomato appetizer is sauced with a mustard-marjoram emulsion—chef Richard Beckel began his career as a saucier for the Ritz-Carlton, and toiled under Michel Richard for a time. Beckel says chops are a tough sell in the Washington area, where we like our prime rib, but he’s got both pork and veal chops on the menu; the latter is served with roasted peppers, Moroccan olives, and sautéed escarole.

Downstairs, a wall of industrial steel rods separates a lounge area from the bar. A daily happy hour is offered in both sections, and features discounts on bar menu items and beverages. There are 76 wines by the glass (Chardonnay fans, you’ll be pleased) and 26 beers on tap.

Something for everyone, as it were.