When DGS Delicatessen opened in Dupont Circle, co-owner Nick Wiseman had a vision for the modern deli. Now with five years and three additional ventures under his belt—including posh seafood restaurant Whaley’s and Little Sesame hummus shop—the goals for DGS have changed.
“When we launched we were like, ‘We’re going to be the renegade delicatessen and push all these boundaries and do all these new things,’” says Wiseman. “But there’s so much nostalgia in this food that people really want us to be classic. Classic in our own approach—buying great ingredients, applying good technique, and making everything by hand—we’re never letting that stuff go. But we’ve seen what people want from us.”
Changes at DGS began this past spring, when Wiseman brought on former Mintwood Place chef Eric McKamey. The team experimented with a new morning offering—a small bagel and coffee pop-up inside the restaurant called Sadie’s Weekdays—and also a revamped dinner menu with noveau-deli dishes like latke poutine and lamb shank blintzes. In the end, Wiseman says, the evening crowd in search of something trendy weren’t lured away from 14th Street and Shaw. Breakfast, on the other hand, took off.
The result is a new approach for DGS: a streamlined, all-day menu where patrons can get breakfast dishes like challah French toast and eggs “benedictberg” at any hour. A new lineup of all-day Bullfrog Bagel sandwiches that range from classic house-smoked Norwegian salmon with cream cheese to a deli riff on avocado toast (avo, smoked tomatoes, cilantro, hot sauce). Meanwhile, plates like kimchi-corned beef hash and grilled salmon salad all run under $20.
Though there’s no deli case, a new grocery to-go menu lists all the take-home items one might find in classic Jewish sandwich shop: house-cured, brined, and smoked meats and fishes by the pound, luncheon salads like tuna and whitefish, pickles, flavored cream cheeses, and bagels.
“You have to be moving with the current of your neighborhood to be a successful neighborhood restaurant,” says Wiseman. “We fought that some here, and now we’re embracing it.”