There was a time in the DC dining scene, not so long ago, when hotel restaurants mostly fell into two camps: tourist traps or pricey operations from absentee celebrity chefs. The new wave is much more enticing— destinations unto themselves powered by local talents (think American Son at Eaton or the cheffed-up Line). Café Riggs, which opens today in Penn Quarter, aspires to join those ranks.
“We’re thinking about this as a restaurant that happens to be inside a hotel instead of a hotel restaurant,” says executive chef Patrick Curran, who previously helmed David Chang’s Momofuku CCDC.
The airy, all-day brasserie is tucked off the lobby of the just-opened Riggs Washington DC, the first-ever US hotel from international hospitality company Lore Group. Similar to their Sea Containers in London, which channel a 1920s transatlantic cruise liner, Riggs evokes past grandeur through the historic bank building in which it resides. Designer Jacu Strauss preserved many ornate details of the 1891 structure while mixing in modern, whimsical touches.
“We kept a lot of the wrinkles that came with age. We didn’t want to make it too clinical, but we also didn’t want it to feel like a museum.” says Strauss.
In the Café, historic Corinthian columns and the lofty bank ceiling are offset by a towering, lush display of colorful paper flowers made in Ukraine. Vintage black-and-white footage plays on televisions above the cocktail bar. Curran’s cooking also blends classic and modern themes. Brasserie staples like steak frites and omelets are joined by a lobster tartine (his take on fancy toast) and an entire section dedicated to seasonal “plant dishes” that can serve as sides or meatless mains.
The menus, which start with breakfast before going all-day, aim to crowd-please with entree salads and a brasserie burger alongside splurges, such as the $99 shellfish plateau crowned with oysters, shrimp, lobster, scallop ceviche, and caviar. There’s also a $98 caviar grilled cheese. The melty sandwich is made of mild, chèvre-style chive-goat cheese that’s sandwiched between crispy golden rounds of homemade brioche and spread with an ounce of Russian Ossetra caviar.
“It reminds me of chef snacks—all the random things that are laying around the kitchen at the end of the night that you try and eat,” says Curran.
Café Riggs is currently open early morning through late-night (last call for dinner is 11 PM on weekdays, midnight on weekends). Look for weekend brunch to start in the future.
Café Riggs. 900 F St., NW
See the menus below: