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All We Can Eat
Posted at 02:15 PM ET, 11/03/2011

Tune Inn looks to reopen Friday afternoon


The Tune Inn: The old dive bar has been gutted, renovated and cleaned up for its second life. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

Tune Inn owner Lisa Nardelli has spent the past 4 1/2 months undoing the damage of a seemingly small, self-contained kitchen fire in June. She’s not about to bury the memory of the whole affair once she reopens the historic Capitol Hill establishment on Friday.

So Nardelli has commissioned a new logo for the Tune Inn, a prominent feature of which are Harley-Davidson-esque flames engulfing the U.S. Capitol, as if she were commemorating the Burning of Washington, not her beloved drinking hole. The logo has been painted right on the front door. (See the photo after the jump.)

“The fire is part of our history now,” Nardelli explains.

The fire has also allowed Nardelli, whose family has owned the place since 1947, to give the Tune Inn a facelift. Well, maybe more like a complete RoboCop makeover. The joint has, in Nardelli’s own words, a “new car smell.”


The owners of the Tune Inn embrace the fire as part of the dive’s history. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

“We gutted the place from front to back, top to bottom.We’ve got a new sub-floor. We’ve got a new roof, all new electric, all new plumbing,” Nardelli says. “The kitchen was where primarily the fire damage was contained to, so that was a total [loss]. But the front of the restaurant, the bar area, was smoked damaged and water damaged.”

“We were not to blame for the fire, so the insurance took care of us very nicely,” Nardelli adds. “We took this opportunity to upgrade some other things, just out of my pocket, out of the Tune Inn’s pocket.”

Renovations eventually cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Nardelli says. “Everything inside is brand new,” save for the bar itself, the front alcove, the front door and some decorative moldings.


Tune Inn owner Lisa Nardelli can smile now that the renovation work is almost complete. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

As for the memorabilia on the walls — the photos, the hunting trophies, the newspaper clippings, the sundry knickknacks — most of it was saved, though not without considerable work. Some photos were water-damaged beyond repair, but Nardelli still had copies or original images in storage, which she had to get enlarged and mounted. The hunting trophies, save for a couple of deer derrieres that didn’t survive the fire, had to be sent to a taxidermist for cleaning.

“He restored all the mounts,” Nardelli says. “He brought them back to brand new. They’re absolutely beautiful.”


The Tune Inn interior feels more like a hunting lodge now than a dive. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

As part of the renovation, crews extended the ceiling, exposing some gorgeous old masonry and a skylight that adds a little natural sunlight to the once dingy room. They also installed new booths (with commemorative nameplates to indicate the tables’ “sponsors”) as well as stained paneled walls and antler chandeliers. It sort of makes the Tune Inn feel more like a hunting lodge than a dive bar — at least until the regulars start showing up and making it their own again.

Perhaps most important of all, the Tune Inn has a completely new kitchen. It’s now this gleaming, stainless-steel space with modern fryers and refrigerators and burners. It even has a working dishwasher now, which should please the crew that used to scrub everything by hand.

What’s more, the new kitchen will have a new employee, Eddie Peterson, formerly chef at the Hawk ’n’ Dove, the next-door-neighbor that recently closed. Aside from new additions such as bean soup, salads and a breakfast burrito, Peterson is planning a weekday specials menu that will expand the Tune Inn’s offerings beyond its traditional deep-fried wonders. “I told him he can do whatever he wants with that,” Nardelli says.


The Tune Inn has a brand new kitchen, with all new appliances, including a dishwasher. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

There will be some new beers on tap, too, as Fritz Hahn noted yesterday, including a microbrew or two from such breweries as Maryland’s Flying Dog. But not to worry, Nardelli cautions: Natty Boh will still be available in cans.

Despite all the changes — and the costs associated with them — Nardelli says the menu prices will remain the same.

“I didn’t want anybody to have sticker shock when they came back in. I didn’t want them to think that it was one of those renovations: You come in, spend a lot of money and you turn it around and kill everybody with the prices,” Nardelli says.

The Tune Inn had hoped to open Friday morning, but the final inspection couldn’t be scheduled until then. So Nardelli is hoping to relaunch her place Friday afternoon, assuming the inspection goes well.

“It’s kind of been like watching a sick child, bringing the child back to health,” she says.

“Words can’t even express how I feel right now,” Nardelli adds. “The community is like family, too. I just can’t wait to get them all back in here. Everyone’s been so supportive.”

By  |  02:15 PM ET, 11/03/2011

Categories:  Comfort Food | Tags:  Tim Carman

 
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