After what felt like weeks of stepping outside my front door and grabbing a bite at a brand new restaurant on 14th Street, it finally seemed like the right time to venture out of the neighborhood and try someplace new.
I did a bit of research, asked a few friends, then decided to head up Georgia Avenue and explore the up-and-coming restaurant scene in Petworth. There is a bit of a renaissance happening in this area with trendy restaurants popping up and many diners flocking to the area to try them.
The Hitching Post (200 Upshur Street N.W.) has been serving up Southern comfort food for almost half a century on the eastern edge of Petworth. Renowned District Chef Barry Dindyal has captured the traditions of the original restaurant, including the fried chicken, when he bought the restaurant in 2010. In 2005 Domku (which means little cottage) opened its doors at 821 Upshur Street. Domku serves Scandinavian and Slavic dishes. In April of last year, Chez Billy began serving the Petworth neighborhood authentic French food and cocktails. Chez Billy is named after the space it currently occupies, Billy Simpson’s Seafood and Steak, which served as a well-known and upscale venue for African-American clientele from 1956 to 1978.
Most recently, Petworth Citizen and Reading Room (829 Upshur Street NW) named after the community newspaper that chronicled the neighborhood from 1916-1951, opened. This is where I decided to take in some of what Petworth has to offer. Petworth Citizen is one of two restaurants that Paul Ruppert of Room 11 fame is bringing to Upshur Street. Former CityZen chef Makoto Hamamura is the head chef, and Kristi Green, formerly of Firefly, has created the amazing drink menu. With such great names behind this restaurant, there’s a tremendous amount of potential, but the restaurant is new and it still needs to iron out some issues.
We began our meal by ordering several drinks from the bar menu as well as a few appetizers. While the house punch was a little too “sugary water” for me, many of the other drinks worked. The Moscow Mule, which many times is poorly executed, was a superbly concocted drink at Citizen. My favorite drink of the evening was the Boo Radley, consisting of tequila blanco, lime juice and ginger beer. They were so good, I had two.
We were also impressed with our array of appetizers: the chicken wings were delicious with a strong-but-not-overpowering ginger and garlic soy sauce, and the chicken fell off the bone. Several people at the table enjoyed the wedge salad, which consisted (I’m told) of fresh bright green lettuce leaves. The blue cheese on top looked so delicious, I even stuck my fork in and tasted the perfectly pungent dressing. The queso fundido with chorizo was a heavy but excellent appetizer.
Unfortunately, as the main courses arrived, it appeared that our luck had run out. The fried chicken sausage sandwich was dangerously undercooked and the homemade chorizo burger was delivered cold. The short ribs were a bit tough and the mac and cheese was rather ordinary. The cheddar cheeseburger was the top plate of the evening.
After a lackluster group of entrees, the Lizzy’s Goat Cheese Cake with Roasted Coriander Pineapple Jam put this restaurant back in the game — it was a decadent masterpiece. All the dishes on the menu have potential but were not executed entirely correct. It’s understandable to a point — Petworth Citizen is still in its infancy.
Much like the entrees the service was a bit cold, tough and ordinary, and I also must note that even though it is not mentioned on the menu, a 20 percent tip is automatically added on to any party of five or more. While this caught us off guard, it downright infuriated another group of diners that evening as we overheard a heated exchange between a manager and these patrons over this unwritten but strictly enforced policy as well as the “sluggish and apathetic service.”
Overall, Petworth Citizen is full of potential and I was really hoping to love it. However, this establishment clearly needs a little bit more time to mature and work out the kinks. Citizen is a solid addition to the neighborhood and the drink program is fantastic; hopefully the food and service will quickly rise to the same caliber.