Five Dishes to Try at Sixth Engine (Pictures)

Mass. Ave.’s new pub-style restaurant serves riffs on American classics in a 157-year-old fire station.

The house cheeseburger and a side of onion rings at Sixth Engine. Photograph by Jeff Martin.

There’s a newcomer to the downtown dining scene that’s worth checking out this week: Sixth Engine, a pub-style restaurant and sipping spot from the crew behind the Dubliner and the recently relocated Town Hall.

The restaurant occupies a restored firehouse that dates back to 1855. Its architect, Adolf Cluss, went on to design signature District structures such as Eastern Market and the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building. (A picture of him with the mayor at the time hangs on the downstairs wall at Sixth Engine.) Notable among the upstairs artwork: a replica of a Norman Rockwell mural, altered for copyright reasons—that’s co-owner Jeremy Carman’s mutt, Trudy, running alongside a boy and fireman.

Chef Paul Madrid’s menu also riffs on the classics, both highbrow and low. The lunch menu boasts a “Mac Rib” sandwich—an ode to the McDonald’s special that inspired a cult following, this time with real meat (smoked beef) pressed into riblet-esque form—and a mashup between a bánh mì and French dip with lamb, cilantro, pickled carrots, and a soy-ginger dipping jus. At dinner, spins on hearty American favorites are on offer, including fried oysters with absinthe butter; pot roast; and lobster tortellone with Thermidor sauce. Later in the evening, the bar is likely to draw a crowd with classic cocktails and cold brews, but the owners aren’t expecting anything rowdy enough to sound the alarms.

Sixth Engine. 438 Massachusetts Ave., NW; 202-506-2455. Open Monday through Thursday 11 to 1 AM; Friday and Saturday 11 to 2 AM, and Sunday 11 to 1 AM (opening hours may change, so call ahead).

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.