When friends Nick Vilelle and Raj Ratwani decided to open Cause Bar & Restaurant in Shaw, they knew they'd need to have more going for their concept than a great hook (the profits from the place go to charity). "We recognized that if it wasn't on par or better than other bars and restaurants in the neighborhood, people would come once for the novelty but not continue to come back," said Vilelle. So the partners, who met in grad school at George Mason, brought on a team of restaurant veterans to help, including John Jarecki and Dave Pressley of The Light Horse on the management side, and chef Adam Stein (formerly of the Queen Vic) to handle the menu.
Cause, set to open Wednesday at 1926 9th St. NW, spans about 2,500 square feet over two floors. "It's that long, narrow rowhouse style," Vilelle said of the building. The downstairs will have a lounge-y, low-key feel with banquette seatings and two-top tables. Upstairs will have more seating (for about 80-90 people), and a big wrap-around bar. Many of the materials used in the restaurant design are recycled, such as donated church pews, bar stools made out of former apple barrels and other accents using recycled wood. A local artist, Katie Dean, designed a beer bottle mosaic for the space, using about 1,200 beer bottles. Portraits of champions of social justice decorate the downstairs walls.
Cause will serve upscale bar food, with a menu of sandwiches and snacks as well as about 10 daily specials that will rotate. Six beers will be featured on tap, with specialty cocktails named after famous innovators available (which means, yes, you can order a Mahatma Gandhi at the bar. Take a peek at the menu, featuring items like General Tso flavored wings and seared chicken livers.