The Washington Post

Bright spots in the Satellite Room

The meatloaf at the Satellite Room gets grill marks and comes with mashed potatoes and green beans for a quintessential diner meal. The spiked milkshakes, most named after pop culture figures, are a popular upgrade. (JUANA ARIAS/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

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.

At right, the neon sign illuminates the bar at the Satellite Room. (JUANA ARIAS/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

2047 Ninth St. NW. 202-506-2496. Entrees, $8 to $14.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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