Good things come to those who wait—at least that’s the mentality around Pennyroyal Station, which after three years in the making is ready to soft-open its doors on Friday, November 20 in Maryland’s Mount Rainier neighborhood. Co-owners Erin Edwards and chef Jesse Miller—who met at 14th Street’s Bar Pilar—and longtime Acadiana barman Garrick Lumsden, spent years transforming the historic Singer Building into a cozy dining space with a spacious patio (they hit a series of permitting delays). The trio were on the cusp of opening when the pandemic struck. Now, with new Covid restrictions in Maryland that limit dining rooms to 25 percent capacity, the team says they’re forging ahead with a full dine-in evening menu and takeaway options, plus brunch in early December.
“We want to hold true to our original goals—it’s a good test for us and we want to show what we’re capable of,” says Miller. “The neighborhood has been waiting, so even if we have to make the menu smaller down the road, we want them to get a taste.”
A lot of restaurateurs talk a big game about opening an approachable neighborhood spot, but for Edwards, she went into the project as a neighbor herself. The former director of operations at Pilar and Saint-Ex was house-hunting in the area four years ago when she happened on the 1917 building that was originally a bank (“I don’t know if I had liquor in my coffee that morning—I’m just going to buy a house and open a restaurant,” says Edwards, who now lives nearby). Lumsden, who is Black and identifies as gay, says the restaurant will reflect the diversity in its ownership and neighborhood. Eventually, the team wants to serve the community around the clock, with breakfast and grab-and-go items during the day and, post-pandemic, a lively vibe at night.
“That’s one of the things we learned from Pilar and Saint-Ex, two neighborhood gems that have been around for 17 years,” says Edwards, who witnessed the transformation—and commercialization—of the 14th Street neighborhood around the restaurants. “We wanted to get back into an area that had more of a neighborhood vibe.”
Miller was known for his creative comfort food and bar snacks at Pilar, and he’s taking a similar approach for the menu at Pennyroyal Station—a name that nods to the neighborhood’s 1920s origins and the nearby trolley station that once connected the suburban area to downtown DC. On any given evening you might find pork skins, buttermilk-fried chicken skins, truffled potato croquettes, or macaroni and cheese enriched with bone marrow and brisket. Vegetarians can indulge in dishes like a winter squash lasagna with miso, ginger, and melty taleggio and gruyere cheeses, or opt for lighter items like maple-roasted carrots with avocado hummus. Both the dine-in and takeout menus have family-style options such as a fried chicken dinner or pulled pork with homemade tortillas and condiments for taco night. Miller also makes his own breads and sweets, so expect plenty of homemade treats like Parker house rolls, warm biscuits that can be eaten solo or in a fried-chicken sandwich, and stacks of chocolate-glazed cake doughnuts.
The team took a hands-on approach to the restaurant design and decor, meaning they did it mostly themselves—there are several paintings on the walls from Miller. There’s a homey vibe; guests can browse cookbooks that line built-in shelves, or sip a green goddess cocktail with cachaça, lime, green peppercorns, and herbs grown in the restaurant’s window planters (you can thank Edwards for the vintage glassware). Outside, a spacious patio is partially covered by a pergola beneath a colorful mural—a good place to post up with hot cocktail under a heater this winter (the restaurant plans to sell blankets for $5). Currently the capacity is limited to 40 guests outside and 20 inside.
So if a crystal ball was able to predict the restaurant’s long three year build-out and pandemic debut, would the owners still do it?
“We would be in Hawaii by now,” jokes Miller.
Pennyroyal Station is soft-opening on Friday, November 20 with limited hours from 5 to 10 pm and no reservations (carryout is available). A grand opening is set for December 1 with extended hours, reservations, and delivery via UberEats and DoorDash. Follow their social account @pennyroyalstation for updates.
Pennyroyal Station. 3310 Rhode Island Avenue, Mt. Rainier, Maryland; 240-770-8579