Welcome to One Year In, a feature in which Eater sits down for a chat with the chefs and owners of restaurants celebrating their one year anniversary.
Opening a new restaurant always has its challenges, and opening when the neighborhood's having one of its biggest festivals is another ballgame. Located on ever-more popular 11th Street near mixology heaven Room 11 and across from Maple, The Coupe is a nabe spot, with a nabe vibe, and comfort food ready for the table no matter the time of day. And that's the hook: The Coupe is 24/7 dining so late-night cravings can be satisfied.
From the same team responsible for Woodley Park's Open City, AdMo's hipster hotspot Tryst and The Diner, and let's not forget Tryst at the Phillips, The Coupe has become a local hangout for CoHi residents and south Petworth denizens. Sarah Goldman, the general manager, and Jake Charow, the restaurant's chef de cuisine by way of Vermont and Florida, sat down for a chat about setting up shop in a rapidly changing neighborhood, accommodating furloughed drinkers, and supporting the local community.
So why Columbia Heights?
It's hard to believe how much the neighborhood has changed in a year. But a bit more than a year ago, we realized the neighborhood and surrounding area needed a neighborhood spot. A place where the community could gather that was community-focused. So moving to 11th Street just made sense. Now, we see a lot more people on the sidewalks and out and about.
And why 24/7 dining?
Constantine Stravopoulos, the owner, was pretty much the force behind that. He already had The Diner in Adams Morgan, which is also a 24/7 spot, so it made sense to transfer that concept to another part of town. But we weren't initially open 24 hours. When we first opened, we closed at 11 or 12 at night. And then we slowly moved into being open 24 hours after a few weeks. We know it's important that when the local bartenders, chefs, and cooks got off of work, they needed a place to eat too.
Speaking of the opening, any hiccups on the first few days?
There weren't really hiccups, but our first day happened to coincide with Columbia Heights Day. So you have all these hungry crowds, and you're still figuring a few things out. So that was a challenge, but once that was over...
What any lessons since opening?
We've learned so many things...I guess the biggest thing is being visible to the staff and having them feel like they're part of the family. We have a little under a 100 people on staff, so being available to them is certainly something that's very important.
Since the government has shutdown, have you seen any changes at The Coupe?
We are much busier during the day. So much more day drinking is happening. And to respond to the changes because we were definitely surprised. We've changed our staffing around and changed our happy hour, which now starts at 2 in the afternoon and goes until 8. This shutdown has definitely shaken up the place a bit.
After last call happens, what do drunk diners like to nosh on?
We have a late-night menu with plenty of breakfast options, like the hash brown bowl. But one of our most popular items is definitely the Coupe fries. It has some rib eye, cheese, jalapenos, and plenty of other ingredients that people are love after having a few drinks. Our sriracha chicken wings are also quite popular with the late-night crowd. We find that late at night, it's a lot of industry people coming from the restaurants and bars looking for a good late night meal.
Since being a part of the community is an important part of The Coupe's concept, how has the restaurant been involved with the neighborhood?
When people approach us with ideas or suggestions to help out with a community event, we'll certainly donate a gift certificate or something like that. We're also part of the recently launched 11th Street DC, which is an alliance of 11th Street businesses. It's a great way for the local businesses to work together for the benefit of the community. And if people interested in The Coupe getting involved, just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What's next for The Coupe?
We're in the process of opening up another part of the patio. Right now we have about 20 or so seats outside. When we open up the patio completely next spring or summer, we'll have about 40 seats. That's in addition to the around 250 seats we have inside. Plus, there is a new menu we're planning to roll out.
Any expectations for The Coupe's second year?
We're hoping things will be a bit easier. And we'd like to get more involved with the community. And of course, spread the word that The Coupe is 24/7.
[Photo: R. Lopez]