Petworth Citizen is bursting with promise. It's a cozy neighborhood spot in an area that's aching for good places to eat and drink. It comes from the owners of the much-praised Room 11. Former CityZen sous chef Makoto Hamamura is in charge of the kitchen, and bartender Kristi Green, recently of Firefly, created the cocktail menu. There are plans for a "Reading Room" that would host a bring-a-book, take-a-book lending library and offer space for literary events, though it won't be ready for several weeks. True to the neighborhood vibe, the name has standing ties to the community: The original Petworth Citizen was a weekly neighborhood newspaper in the early 20th century.
The grand opening is scheduled for Friday, after three nights of previews. If you're planning to be one of the first through the doors, be warned that it's very much a work in progress. (If you go tonight for the last of the soft opening events, your tab is 10 percent off, as it has been during all previews.)
Last night, the bar could only make one of one of Green's six signature cocktails because ingredients haven't arrived, and three of the half-dozen classic cocktails were scratched for the same reason. The bar promises cider on one of its four taps, but it was only pouring Lagunitas Pilsner, which wasn't even on the menu. The stock of beers in bottles was also much smaller than promised.
Of course, this isn't really Petworth Citizen's fault. In D.C., bars aren't allowed to even order spirits until they receive their liquor licenses, which often makes for a mad scramble before opening. And yes, it was only their second night open. But what they did have – and the atmosphere in the packed, family-friendly dining room – really made me want to come back once things are moving along.
The brushed metal tables, antiqued light fixtures and weathered bar back make the place look like the latest hipster bar, but there were a number of families hanging out and dining with kids last night. (There are high chairs, but no special kids menu.) Like so many places these days, Petworth Citizen is loud, but in a convivial way. I ran into some friends who live in the neighborhood who were stoked for Petworth Citizen to be open – and looking forward to coming back with their daughter.
I had two drinks last night. The house punch, which will rotate daily, was a fire-and-smoke mix of tequila, grapefruit, aptly named Hellfire bitters and a dash of the house-made grenadine for balancing sweetness. Delicious, but I preferred the Kill Bill Vol. 1 – basically a rye whiskey Old Fashioned with a sweet-and-spicy ginger and sesame simple syrup. The wonderfully complex flavor seemed perfect for a chilly evening. Prices are excellent: The classics, such as a Scofflaw, Moscow Mule or Jack Rose, are $8. Green's original drinks are $10.
The food is worth exploring. The satisfying potato fishcake fritters are fried balls of salted haddock and potato with a peppery red aoli. The server warned me about the wings, which are sauce-free: The chicken is marinated in soy, ginger and garlic before being fried crispy. No buffalo sauce in sight.
In short: Petworth Citizen is brand new, so lower your expectations about service and speed, and don't expect that they'll have everything they promised. But if the happy multi-generational crowd last night is a preview, it won't take long for Petworth Citizen to become a community fixture.