Neighborhood joints are fewer and farther between in increasingly busy areas such as the 14th and U Street corridors, but Vinoteca has managed to maintain the vibe in its six years of business. Now native Washingtonian Paul Carlson is set to open another locally minded venture on the corner of 501 Florida Avenue, Northwest, with his family, who also live nearby. The sliver of a spot in LeDroit Park will be called the Royal after its former tenant, the Royal Liquor.
“I think DC is in major need of little hole-in-the-wall places,” says Carlson. “DC is having a food revolution in some ways, and we’re getting great restaurants coming into town, but they’re not all everyday places. It’s a great time to build small spots where people can stop by on their way home, the price points are lower, and people know each other and know the staff.”
Many details are still in the works because of pending permits and the buildout. Carlson estimates that maximum capacity will hover around 40 seats, but the restaurant may see more action than some, due to continuous service. You’ll likely find a coffee shop with a small food menu in the mornings and afternoons, while evenings will bring a concise lineup for dinner—think around eight staple items and some specials—overseen by Vinoteca’s chef, Lonnie Zoeller. Carlson says the goal is to keep tabs for a full meal under $20. As for drinks, Vino’s barman, Horus Alvarez, will create a spirits-driven beverage menu to complement wines and beers. Service will be equally casual, with no reservations or even hostesses.
The early-19th-century space has what Carlson calls plenty of “original bells and whistles,” including a high tin ceiling and large windows. You may also find a cozy outdoor patio with seating for about ten when the Royal opens in early summer. Stay tuned for more details as they develop.
The Royal. 501 Florida Ave., NW.