Beloved Logan Circle Spanish Restaurant Estadio Is Closing

The pioneering dining spot's final rounds of tapas will be served February 18.

Estadio photograph by Marissa Bialecki.

The first big-deal restaurant closure of 2023 is sadly here: Estadio, one of the earliest culinary draws to the now-booming Logan Circle neighborhood, will soon shut its doors after a 13-year run. Owner Max Kuller says its final dinner service will be on Saturday, February 18. 

The restaurant, situated in a prime corner space on 14th Street, was founded in 2010 by Max’s father, the tax-lawyer-turned-restaurateur Mark Kuller, who, until his death in 2014, was one of DC’s great bon vivants. He also founded Southeast Asian restaurant Doi Moi (now under different ownership) and wine destination Proof (closed in 2019). The Spanish-themed Estadio has long been known for its boozy slushitos, creative gin and tonics, and a menu of tweaked tapas-bar classics that hasn’t drastically changed since the early days, when the kitchen was overseen by Haidar Karoum, who is now behind Chloe in Navy Yard. The dining room, outfitted with heavy wooden chairs and plenty of wrought iron, won the RAMMY award for best new restaurant in 2011, and has been a fixture on Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list.

A few factors went into Kuller’s decision to close the restaurant: “Our numbers never really came back to pre-pandemic levels,” he says. “We’re pretty much busy every night during primetime, but those earlier and later hours have been really hard to recapture. I think that’s the shifting demographic of the block and also the shift in dining culture.” Back in 2010, the area around the restaurant was exploding into one of the most exciting dining destinations in the city, with neighbors Le Diplomate, Ghibellina, Pearl Dive, and Etto opening over the next few years. Since 2021, many of the neighborhood’s major openings have been spinoffs of restaurants that exist elsewhere, including Call Your Mother, Vin Sur Vingt, and Mi Vida. 

Bar-dining, Kuller says, has also diminished since the pandemic: “I think that’s industry-wide, but that’s a real part of what’s hurt our numbers.” 

And for personal reasons, Kuller will begin spending more time in Charleston, where he’ll focus his attention on the second Estadio he opened in late 2019. While the Charleston branch’s menu is very different than the original location’s roster, he hopes to transfer a few traditions (the Espookio Halloween party; the gin-and-tonic celebration during the month of June) down South. He is also a partner at Oyster Oyster, the hit vegetarian restaurant in the Shaw neighborhood, where he’ll maintain a DC residence. 

Over the next few weeks, former staffers—including founding bartender Adam Bernbach, who has since moved to Arkansas—will make appearances. The restaurant, which usually airs decades-old soccer games on its TVs, is hosting its first Super Bowl party on Sunday, February 12. Meanwhile, Kuller hopes to spend some time reminiscing with regulars, perhaps about the time during the restaurant’s first week of operation when there was an after-hours knock at the door—from José Andrés. A porron filled with wine was passed around, and when it was Max’s turn, he promptly dumped its contents all over his head. 

“We’ve had a really good ride, for the most part,” Kuller says. “I view this more as a funeral for a 100 year-old person than a funeral for a 30 year-old. There’s a lot to celebrate.” 

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.