Restaurateur Reese Gardner wants D.C. diners to really try and remember what since-shuttered Irish Whiskey Public House looked, felt and even smelled like. Then he wants them to think of the complete opposite. That’s what Tulips (1207 19th Street NW), his crystal chandelier-adorned, 180-degree replacement for the longtime dive bar aims to bring to the table.
“We knew we wanted to create something drastically different,” says Gardner, who runs Wooden Nickel Bar Company (Copperwood Tavern). “I want people to come in and be shocked.”
The 3,800-square-foot, three-tier newcomer, currently scheduled to debut Tuesday, December 26, will include a downstairs dining room with 30 seats, a bar on the main floor, and provocative champagne room up above.
Expect to see flowers everywhere, including on fabrics, walls, and individual tables. The complete overhaul includes planting new natural wood flooring throughout and adding tons of intimate touches. The whiskey bar’s aging downstairs drinking den was removed, and in its place are flower-adorned banquettes and mood lighting.
Corporate executive chef James Duke and chef de cuisine John Leavitt are overseeing a kitchen focused on local ingredients (think: veal from neighboring Virginia) and modern twists such as kimchi made with Brussels sprouts. High-end offerings include beef tenderloin, poached lobster, and seared foie gras.
If the fancy dinner doesn’t act as an aphrodisiac, the racy champagne room should do the trick. Following the meal, diners will be escorted upstairs to sip sparkling wine or fizzy cocktails and relax on — what else — floral-pattered seats beneath even more chandeliers. The brick-lined space is decorated with vintage photos of ladies’ backsides, while a neon sign glowing above the fireplace will read “I See You.”
Bar manager Megan Shaff has created six cocktails, carrying names of various tulip varieties, which feature local spirits and house syrups. The Jack Rose alum is big on persimmon, which will find its way into the Orange Princess (vodka, brown sugar syrup, lemon). Weekday happy hour is also in the works.
Gardner insists the neighborhood is ready for a more mature option.
“The Dupont area has changed so much in the past five years,” says the founder of the former Mighty Pint beer bar. “It’s not 22-year-old kids running around anymore. It’s more upscale now.”
Watering holes aren’t off his radar completely; Gardner’s continues working on long-delayed Shirlington sports bar, Dudley’s. He now hopes to open the 12,000-square-foot beer haven next spring, he says.