Have your ID handy if you want a milkshake
By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Eric and Ian Hilton have produced, among other hits, a swank watering hole, a British tavern and a French bistro. In October, the brothers behind the Gibson, Brixton and Chez Billy added another line to their ever-expanding portfolio: the Satellite Room, a hipster diner located next to the 9:30 Club in Shaw.
Carved from a former warehouse owned by the music venue, the Satellite Room finds funky art splashed across exposed brick walls, Formica tables and a long bar illuminated by the restaurant’s name in neon.
Milkshakes in 10 boozy flavors have been a top draw. “We sell more of them than beer,” says Ian Hilton of the $10 drinks that include strawberry ice cream with Tanqueray gin and peanut butter ice cream with Tennessee whiskey. Given that they’re made with four scoops of dairy and two shots of spirits, “you can only really have one,” suggests the night-life entrepreneur.
The menu, executed by chef de cuisine Moises Guzman, is long on burgers and tacos (go for the zippy cubed skirt steak swaddled in a corn tortilla). Among the dishes that can be ordered as late as 3 a.m. on weekends are a vegetarian potpie, huevos rancheros and chicken-fried steak that tastes as if cardboard had been substituted for the usual batter. The kitchen can be careless. What’s with the ancient-tasting chips with salsa and the dull, dark shrimp seviche? Be sure to fit some panko-crisp onion rings into your game plan. Like a number of sides, the snack shows up in a Chinese carryout carton. Cute.
The dish that tugs at this Midwesterner’s heartstrings is grill-striped meatloaf, served in two thick slabs with gravy-filled mashed potatoes and bright green beans. Perfect diner food, the plate reminds me to call home.
There’s a brand-new place to get a burger or a boozy milkshake after a concert at the 9:30 Club. The Satellite Room , located adjacent to the 9:30 Club’s side door on Ninth St. NW, is the latest outpost from brothers Eric and Ian Hilton (Marvin, the Brixton, American Ice Company, etc.). It’s a fairly simple operation: One side of the menu lists gourmet burgers, tacos and diner dishes (meatloaf, buttermilk pancakes, fried chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans), with most dishes in the $8-$12 range.
The other side features $10 “Boozy Shakes,” such as the Lucy Ricardo (chocolate ice cream and Johnny Walker Black whiskey) and the Patsy Stone (a rich spiced rum and pineapple/coconut/orange concoction with nutmeg grated on top), and a to-the-point list of beers and wine by the glass. All shakes can be made without the spirits for $5, but that seems less fun.
As with most of the Hilton projects, it’s a handsome space. One wall of the high-ceilinged room is lined with booths and artfully tiled tables. A square section overlooking the large front windows features cushy retro bar stools lined up facing shelves wide enough for drinks or a small plate. More stools line the long bar, where I expect the giant neon Satellite sign to become one of the most Instagrammed images in D.C. nightlife.
A courtyard outside offers covered tables for dozens of diners, 12 stools at a short bar and room for even more to stand around and look at the luchadores painted on the walls.
Satellite Room opens daily at 5 p.m., but the key thing to remember is that the kitchen stays open until last call every night. Got a hankering for a patty melt, huevos rancheros or just a bowl of tater tots after a show? The Satellite Room is waiting.
-- Fritz Hahn (Oct. 9, 2012)