One of DC’s best cocktail bars has an exciting new sibling. Devin Gong and Chu Yi of H Street’s Copycat Co. quietly built out a snug, stunning space near Dupont circle for Astoria, which began pouring classics and tiki drinks alongside Szechuan fare over the weekend.
Gong, a Barmini alum and New York native, looked to home when envisioning the 42-seat venture. The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, a new edition of the 1930s cocktail tome from the legendary Manhattan hotel bar, influenced parts of the menu and the decor. Core Architecture + Design built out the space with deep booths, brass finishes, and a long bar sans seats. Not everything hearkens back to Art Deco. Gong, an alum of the Maryland Institute College of Art, is responsible for paintings on the wall near the entrance. He’s also behind the food with Yi.
“I stuck with the philosophy I had with the bar, which is you make things you like yourself,” says Gong of the Szechuan dishes.
Whereas Copycat Co. serves dumplings and skewers for grazing, plates here like dan dan noodles, ma po tofu, walnut shrimp, and sweet-and-sour ribs, can make a meal. (The menu recommends one dish for a snack, two for dinner.) The kitchen will also stay open until 1 AM for anyone craving pork-fried rice or “sober soup” (“a light night reviver” of fried pork in a chili oil-spiked broth).
“I really wanted a space that’s not quite a restaurant and not quite a bar either,” says Gong. “ I wanted it to be half-and-half.”
The opening tiki menu is designed to match the fiery fare. Gong says the two have a similar style of “the more the merrier.” Just as you might find five different rums in a tiki drink, you might have five different chilies in a Szechuan dish. That being said, expect drink themes to change—even more so than at Copycat, which built a reputation around hand-drawn, rotating cocktail lists. Partner and bartender Eli Schwarzschild keeps copies of these lists above the bar and will pull from them based on mood and prime produce (i.e. look for strawberry drinks built around sought-after Harry’s Berries, in season soon). A core menu of classics like old-fashioneds, daquiris, gimlets, and smashes—plus suggested riffs—will always be on offer.
As for pricing, the structure is straightforward and built around the going rate for a specialty cocktail these days: everything (drinks, food) is $14. A few things are less like PBR and Tsingtao ($6) and wine ($12).
“I didn’t want people to make decisions based on price,” says Gong. “I want you to base it on what you want.”
Astoria. 1521 17th St., NW; 202-763-3311. Open 5 PM to 2 AM (kitchen serves until 1 AM).