Xavier Cervera plans the American, a neighborhood gastropub in Blagden Alley

August 22, 2013

Xavier Cervera is repeating himself.

Back in the mid-2000s, when the D.C. native returned to Washington and moved into a Capitol Hill address, Cervera discovered there wasn't a watering hole nearby that appealed to, well, a man of his experience. Intern bars, sure, places where you could knock back enough Miller Lite to turn a toilet into your second home. But a joint that catered to someone who had transformed old buildings into boutique bars in Miami Beach? Cervera couldn't find such a place.

Pending ANC approval, the Downtown Boxing Club will turn into Xavier Cervera's gastropub. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Xavier Cervera plans to turn the Downtown Boxing Club into a gastropub much like Boxcar Tavern. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

So like any serial entrepreneur, Cervera built his own. In 2008, he took the old Tapatinis on Eighth Street SE and refashioned it into Lola's Barracks Bar and Grill, the plush, clubby outpost on Barracks Row.

You could say Cervera knows his history but he still plans to repeat it anyway with the American, his planned gastropub in Blagden Alley, not far from R.J. Cooper's Rogue 24. Much like Lola's once did, the American will serve as Cervera's own neighborhood watering hole. In a few months, he's planning to move into the nearby Naylor Court Stables.

"The business will be in an alley, and my home will be in an alley," Cervera says.

This small parking lot could soon become a summer garden patio at Cervera's The American. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
This tiny parking lot could become a summer garden patio at Xavier Cervera's the American. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

Cervera hopes to pattern the American after Boxcar Tavern, his sort-of former, sort-of current gastropub on Capitol Hill. To be more precise, Cervera plans to pattern it after the Boxcar Tavern he originally opened with a menu by former Brasserie Beck executive sous Brian Klein, not the one that's currently limping along under Barracks Row Entertainment, the partnership that bought all of Cervera's restaurants on New Year's Eve. (As reported earlier this week, Cervera has been asked to return and manage the restaurants back to health.)

What could that look like? It might look like a pub menu, heavy on the high-grade burgers and other cheffy sandwiches, on which everything sells for less than $20. Craft beer would dominate the bar program and, best of all, you could consume it all on a summer garden patio out back.

But all of that is still months away, Cervera warns. The American, right now, is still a boxing gym covered with ivy. The summer garden patio is still a parking lot, with its own tangle of ivy, looking onto the neighboring Rent-A-Wreck. Cervera has signed a lease for the space, but until construction begins, the gym appears to still be open for business. Cervera hopes his secret little hideaway of a neighborhood pub will open in seven months or so.

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires he ingest more calories than a draft horse.
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Tim Carman · August 22, 2013

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