October 10, 2013 | by Mark Lee
RedRocks is H Street gem
Ken Fulkroad, RedRocks, gay news, Washington Blade

Ken Fulkroad is general manager of the newest of four area RedRocks locations. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When Kenneth Fulkroad moved to D.C. a little more than two years ago, he knew where he wanted to end up. Recently hired to open and manage a sparkling new multi-level restaurant and bar that has quickly become a prominent highlight there was a bonus.

Gravitating to the still rugged “edginess” of the re-developing H Street commercial corridor in Northeast Washington, Fulkroad eventually settled in the adjacent Trinidad neighborhood immediately to the north. A transplant most recently from New York, it was the section of town he found reminiscent of Brooklyn and the East Village.

The 29-year-old hospitality professional and now general manager of the newest of four area RedRocks locations feels most at home where the “hipsters” he unselfconsciously references have migrated in discernable numbers. A veteran of service, operation and management at diverse casual and fine-dining establishments in Boston, New York and D.C., Fulkroad learned the trade by hands-on experience.

A topsy-turvy hardscrabble childhood spent growing up gay near Boston instilled in a self-described “awkward nerd” an independent character and self-reliant work ethic. Beginning with his first eatery job at age 18, the whip-smart articulate dynamo served as dishwasher, busboy, bartender, bar manager, waiter and general manager – along with a stint working with the youngest master sommelier in the U.S. Fulkroad’s largely improvisational and often out-of-sequence job ascension skilled him in all facets of restaurant, lounge and bar operation.

He oozes excitement at coordinating the three-level multi-space hotspot and latest RedRocks venture of co-owners James O’Brien and Doug Baj – at 1348 H St., N.E., directly opposite the Rock & Roll Hotel and adjacent to the landmark Atlas Performing Arts Center a few paces down the streetcar-ready boulevard. It became H Street’s largest venue upon opening last month.

Glass doors spanning the front swing open to the sidewalk allowing engagement between streetscape and interior on the first level. Arriving patrons are greeted by a large rectangular wood-topped bar surrounded by table seating. Red brick walls and exposed ceilings with large loft-style industrial ductwork combine to create a comfortable modern environment. A brick wood-burning pizza oven is emblematic of the ambient casual coziness.

Hovering above the concrete floor is a second-level catwalk with tables joining separate open dining areas featuring banquettes nestled among two bay windows street-side. A private rear dining room, bar and special event space, replete with an elevated DJ booth, completes the upstairs. Dark wood planks are underfoot with expansive windows seemingly everywhere.

Soaring overhead is one of the largest retractable skylights in the city – opening the central rooftop to both levels below and granting visibility to the sky from every angle. The distinctive melding of indoors and out doesn’t end there. A roof deck with both table seating and bar areas offers panoramic views above the area’s low-slung architectural topography with the U.S. Capitol visible to the southwest.

The venue has engendered quick affection from guests eager to welcome this latest addition to the strip. Patrons enjoy a well-rounded bistro menu and up to two-dozen craft beers on tap alongside specialty cocktails and standard bar concoctions.

Fulkroad is preparing to launch two special LGBT events later this month – a Thursday night DJ dance party and a special Sunday drag brunch featuring the rollicking performances of Shi-Queeta Lee and her harem of queens. Soon-to-be-announced and held on a monthly schedule with future frequency based on buzz, these events will offer the area’s growing number of gay and lesbian habitués with a first-ever series of community events.

The quick popularity of this unique gem of a destination bodes success for both.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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