Duke’s Grocery in Dupont Circle Is Reopening After a 16-Month Renovation

The restaurant will reopen with greater structural integrity and an exclusive new menu.

Photograph courtesy of Duke's Grocery.

Duke’s Grocery. 1513 17th St., NW. 

Duke’s Grocery, DC’s buzzy London-inspired pub, will reopen its original Dupont Circle location on Thursday, July 11, after 16 months of extensive renovations. “What was originally charming about the building became a little wobbly and unsteady,” says Managing Partner Daniel Kramer of the 115 year-old rowhouse. The revamped restaurant will bring not only constructional peace of mind, but also many new menu items that you won’t find at Duke’s other four locations.

When they first opened the restaurant in 2013, Duke’s founders carried out much of the buildout themselves, driving in a U-Haul load of rough-cut poplar wood from Maryland for the DIY construction job. Eventually, it became clear that the century-old building was structurally unsound and needed a professional rework. They decided to close and completely gut the place, redoing the foundation and installing new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. Aesthetically, it looks largely the same, but now the floor no longer “moves” when you walk across it.

The main level bar, before and after renovation. Photographs courtesy of Duke’s Grocery.

The new design draws from the restaurant’s previous look but upscales its features. Compromised floor joists were upcycled into wooden panels that cover the walls. The bar’s copper overhang was thickened and lengthened for comfortability. Almost every surface is new, save the original exposed brick. Still, the character of the restaurant remains the same, Kramer says. “It’s still an homage to the pubs and cafés of East London, it’s still got British-y design and decor.” Union Jack pillows line booth seats upstairs, along with a mural featuring British icons such as Elton John and Amy Winehouse.

One major goal of the renovation was to enlarge the kitchen, which was too small to sustain the restaurant’s capacity with two dining rooms, a patio, and a streatery. Now, the restaurant’s new deep-fryer makes serving French fries possible, and a system of draft lines offers more options than the bar’s old one-beer kegerator.

The restaurant during construction. Photograph courtesy of Duke’s Grocery.

New “shareables” available only at Dupont Circle include chicken liver mousse, butter chicken wings, mussels with ramp pistou, and caramelized onion dip. Chicken salad and corned beef “sarnies”—British slang for sandwich—are new and exclusive to Dupont, but don’t worry, you can order their trademarked Proper Burger, too. A seafood platter, endive and red leaf caesar salad, and sticky toffee bread pudding for dessert round out executive chef Greg Heitzig’s Dupont-only additions.

Several cocktails on the new “bevvies” menu can also only be found at Dupont. You can order a mango lassi spiked with mezcal and triple sec, or the “London Lux Imperial” with beefeater London dry gin, vermouth, and bitters.

“Excitement is word number one,” Kramer says, “and we’re just looking forward to sharing that with anyone who walks through the doors.”

The main level dining room. Photograph courtesy of Duke’s Grocery.

Duke’s Dupont Circle will reopen at 4 PM on Thursday with dinner service. Hours will expand to begin at noon on Saturday and Sunday, and full lunch service will begin next Thursday, July 18th, with brunch to roll out in the next few weeks.

Josie Reich
Editorial Fellow