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H Street Restaurateur Shares Alternative Vision for New Bar and Diner

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Plans for Spile and Spigot, Blue Diner remain in flux

The under-construction bar at Spile and Spigot Tap House.
Photo by Tierney Plumb / Eater DC

Food service professional turned aspiring restaurateur Justin Harbin wants to set the record straight about what to expect from Blue Diner, and Spile and Spigot Tap House, the twin hospitality ventures he and his father, Lawrence, have been developing for nearly two years.

The elder Harbin last week gave Eater a tour of the properties the pair is adding to the Atlas District, sharing insights into the downstairs bar and second floor eatery the first-timers are hoping to unveil this fall.

But Justin says some of that intel is either incomplete or just plain wrong. For instance, he tells Eater that Spile and Spigot will not be “an English pub, per se.”

“While it will indeed focus on cask fermented ales often imported from England, the menu will not be pub food,” he says, adding that a more apt description of the anticipated cuisine would be “contemporary American with international influence.” Justin says the shepherd’s pie and fish and chips that his father mentioned may appear on a late-night or bar food menu, but stresses that they are not part of the core offerings.

Likewise, he points out that Blue Diner will prepare “a modern take on classic diner dishes” rather than the “normal, everyday stuff” his father suggested. Justin did not specify how his culinary team might modernize spaghetti with meat sauce, meatloaf, or roasted chicken, noting only that they may still be included along with “many other American diner staples.”

Those decisions will likely come into sharper focus once an opening chef is selected. Justin says that search continues, and that whoever fills the post will have “freedom to cultivate and expand the menus within the general guidelines we set.”

Any additional cultivation — including that rooftop garden his father floated — will likely have to wait.

“The rooftop garden is still a strong likelihood, but is expected to take shape further down the road,” Justin says.

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