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A Sneak Peek Inside Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Black Jack

The focus of Black Jack's bar is a picture of a woman who has been digitally tattooed.
The focus of Black Jack's bar is a picture of a woman who has been digitally tattooed.

[R. Lopez, 9/8]

Fall's first big restaurant opening is soon at hand as Jeff Black's duo Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Black Jack near completion on 14th Street. The pre-opening party is tomorrow night, but the restaurants hope to soft-open next week once the liquor license goes through. Eater took a look around both venues and can officially confirm that they will be very popular, thanks to an indoor bocce court and the solid reputation for seafood that Black has earned from restaurants from BlackSalt to Black's Bar and Kitchen.

Though they are connected, Pearl Dive and Black Jack are emphatically two separate restaurants with separate entrances, menus and dramatically different design schemes. The decision to split the space into two, Black says, is due to his own belief that "food suffers in big restaurants." So on the main level you have Pearl Dive, which emphasizes the seafood on its menu with a nautical decor that includes weathered wood, an undersea mural punctuated by portholes, mermaid coat hangers and that generally distressed look that everyone is going for these days. In the back, there's an oyster bar that seats four and another 15-seat bar looks out on 14th Street passers-by.

Beyond oysters, there's also going to be a menu including things like Vietnamese pickled shrimp, crawfish ravioli, braised pork cheeks and more. This is more of a Southern style of seafood, Black says, meaning no lobster rolls and definitely don't expect to see any foams or fancy things like that on his menu. Seating is limited downstairs, but they've installed a ticket system where you can take a number at the hostess stand and watch the neon screens tick up toward your number — your cue that your table is ready. There are even screens upstairs, so you can wait at Black Jack's bar or bocce court.

Oh, the bocce court. A trip to Brooklyn inspired this particular design feature, naturally. Not only are there two lanes for bocce players, but there is an actual spectator stand with 19 seats for those waiting their turn. The game room has another neat feature in an Artomat machine dispensing pieces of art for $5.

The rest of Black Jack is going for more of a swank vibe, dimly lit with swatches of red in the oversized booths and the curtains hanging behind the bar. The front of the bar itself is plastered with a photograph of a woman whose body has been digitally tattooed. The menu up here tends more toward bar food — pork belly nachos, duck confit nachos, sandwiches, charcuterie and more. There will also be blue plate specials each day for $16 that include dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, tacos, and chicken-fried steak. The cocktail program, designed by Ari and Michael Wilder, features the use of gomme syrups in an attempt to be "old world reinvented."

Black says the target opening date for both restaurants is September 20, but Eater hears they could very well soft open as early as next week. Stay tuned.

· All Previous Pearl Dive Oyster Palace Coverage [-EDC-]
· Black Restaurant Group [Official Site]

Black Jack

1612 14th Street Northwest, , DC 20009 (202) 319-1612 Visit Website

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

1612 14th Street Northwest, , DC 20009 (202) 319-1612 Visit Website