Xavier Cervera is slowly taking over Capitol Hill. He’s already the king of Barracks Row, responsible for Molly Malone’s, the Chesapeake Room, Senart’s Oyster and Chop House and the recently-expanded Lola’s, plus the forthcoming Pacifico. He’s adding to his empire by opening Boxcar across from Eastern Market in December.
What’s drawing the most attention right now is his purchase of the famous Pennsylvania Avenue dive bar Hawk ‘n’ Dove. The 45-year-old saloon is beloved by politicos and Hill staffers for its dirt-cheap happy hour specials and the old political memorabilia hanging on its slightly shabby walls, and some are worrying about Cervera making changes to their favorite hangout. But even its biggest fans have to admit the place is a little run down.
Here’s what Cervera has planned.
Once Cervera takes control of the bar in mid-October, he plans a top-to-bottom overhaul of the buildings — with three separate addresses — that comprise the Hawk ‘n’Dove. “You can see it if you look at it [from outside],” Cervera explains. “The building to the right is wooden and very distinctive. The other two are brick.” With the older wooden building, he plans to put in a pair of French doors (after consulting with the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, the organization that helps maintain Capitol Hill’s historic look and feel.)
Bigger modifications are planned for the other building, which includes the older main bar room and the little separate “corner bar” that’s reached through its own door. Cervera plans to tear down the wall that separates them and put in a “40- or 50-foot exhibition bar” that will run the length of the room, with 25 draft beers.
The second floor -- a warren of rooms used for private parties and as a small dance club on the weekends -- may be rendered unrecognizable. Cervera plans to remove walls to create “more of an open mezzanine looking down” at the first floor. He complains about how dark the second floor is, so he wants to add some “historically correct” windows along the front of the building’s facade to let in more natural light.
Cervera’s signature is his use of hardwood and intricate millwork -- more than 19,000 pounds of gleaming African mahogany cover the walls, ceiling and floors of the two-story addition to Lola’s -- and he plans a similar makeover with the Hawk, where the walls will be recovered in a hybrid of walnut and mahogany. “The Hawk ‘n’ Dove is all dark black wood [now]. I’m going to let in more light, period, but I’m going to stay with dark, masculine wood. A lot of the memorabilia is going right back on the walls. I’m not getting rid of it. The place needs a renovation.”
Expect a similar revamping of the menu, although Cervera says reports of a “bistro menu” are untrue: The Hawk ’n’ Dove will have an “upscale saloon” menu with open-hearth pizza ovens. “I’m talking to a chef who’s pretty well known in this area -- I don’t want to reveal who yet -- but he also does sandwiches in a pizza oven.”
Left out in the cold will be the young-and-thirsty masses who rely on the Hawk for happy hour. Cervera says that he was in the bar recently, looked at the specials and was taken aback by ads for $2 Miller Lites until 9 p.m. “I think it costs me more than that,” he says, laughing. He also plans to discontinue the 18-and-over DJ nights and events because “no adult wants to be around that.” As a whole, the crowd at the Hawk and Dove has “gotten much, much younger” than during the bar’s heyday during the ‘70s and ‘80s, he says. By fixing it up, Cervera says, “I think it will regain that political cache.”
Expect the Hawk ’n’ Dove to be closed for “about five months” for renovation.
In the meantime, Cervera has a number of other projects in the works.
Last week, the second and third floors of Lola’s officially reopened, with a pair of nine-foot leather-pocketed pool tables, two 20-foot shuffleboard tables, a couple of Big Buck Hunter and Golden Tea games, dartboards, a comfortable covered patio and a long new bar. It has the makings of a great neighborhood hangout.
At Boxcar, Cervera added a 75-foot extension to the back of the former Petite Gourmet building across the street from Eastern Market. Its long, narrow shape is the source of the new name. Cervera describes the planned decor as an homage to the Arts and Crafts movement -- “Mission style, with lots of copper, and chandeliers with stained glass” -- in keeping with Eastern Market. There will be 65 seats, with a bar about the size of Lola’s. Look for 15 or 16 beers on tap, a dozen wines by the glass, and an “upscale tavern menu” that is “sourced locally as much as possible.”
Willie’s Brew and ‘Cue is coming to the historic Boilermaker building near the Navy Yard and Nationals Park. The “Cue” refers not to pool, but the barbecue that will be smoked on site. It’s set to have a sports bar theme -- something in short supply around the ballpark -- and Cervera promises “the audio and video system is going to be very cool in there” when the place opens in 2012, including custom-built 12-foot plasma screens.
And then there’s a LEED-certified restaurant that will serve Neapolitan pizzas and feature a raw bar, which Cervera has planned for Canal Park, a three-block stretch of open space along Second Street SE, near the Navy Yard Metro station.