David Winer already counted as part of his empire a dining room in the West End (Grillfish) and two on the same block in Logan Circle (Logan Tavern and Merkado Kitchen). With the recent debut of Logan @ The Heights, the 47-year-old restaurateur is exploring new territory: up-and-coming Columbia Heights. "It's a neighborhood with a lot of potential," says the face behind the EatWell DC restaurant group, "and little competition."
For his fourth venture, Winer says, he wanted the brand-new space to "feel as if it had been around a long time." So there are Gothic-looking chandeliers dangling from on high and a six-foot-tall, 19th-century clock to give the 90-seat interior "built-in patina." (This being Washington, however, the restaurant also stocks two TV screens behind its long oak bar.) Patrons have the option of dining alfresco, on a front patio that can double the restaurant's capacity.
Winer recruited Sal Del Rosario, the former chef-owner of Six-Twenty-Three, a Mediterranean bistro and tapas bar in Fredericksburg, to launch the open kitchen, though as executive chef for EatWell DC, Rosario is also responsible for the company's other properties. The menu at the Heights plays up comfort food and offers something for everyone: steak frites for meat eaters, crab cakes for seafood fans, vegetable linguine for vegetarians and meatloaf for a homesick Midwesterner -- though no Midwesterner's mom is likely to have served meatloaf with a wasabi crust.
The portions are generous, but some plates could use more finesse: A twist on macaroni and cheese featuring crab and shrimp needs more seasoning, while the rotisserie chicken, nicely tangy with lemon, seemed to have spun several minutes too long over the heat, which had rendered it dry. Of the appetizers, the crisp and gingery fried calamari bests the one-note fried artichokes; of the sides, a diner can't go wrong with the kitchen's garlic-powered sauteed spinach. Now open for dinner daily and on weekends for brunch, the Heights expects to start lunch service after Labor Day. At happy hour (Monday through Friday), most appetizers and a selection of cocktails and beer are served for half-price.
Winer is not a guy who stands still for long. Already he's considering another restaurant and another Zip code, this time in Washington's Mount Vernon Triangle.
--Tom Sietsema (July 18, 2007)