Contemporary American restaurant Reverie arrives this weekend in the heart of historic Georgetown, granting the neighborhood a new fine dining option that won’t break the bank.
Executive chef Johnny Spero’s 64-seat restaurant (3201 Cherry Hill Lane), two years in the making, features a minimalist design with globally-inspired dishes that draw from his diverse resume (Minibar and Komi in D.C., as well as Copenhagen’s Noma and Spain’s Mugaritz). He’ll still man the menu at Drink Company’s award-winning cocktail bar Columbia Room, though most of his time will be spent inside Reverie’s kitchen for at least the next six months.
Its name, which means a “daydream,” also refers to the wayfaring technique of finding Reverie in the back of a cobblestone walkway.
“There’s something about wandering down an alleyway and stumbling upon a restaurant,” he says, adding Columbia Room’s location tucked inside Blagden Alley also provides an air of mystery with a simple placard posted on its door.
Reverie’s la carte options include charred cucumbers with ramp vinaigrette, boqeurones, and cured egg yolk; scallop crudo topped with buttermilk, dill, and dried scallop; and ribeye with lovage, potato, and beef tongue — Spero’s spin on a refined steak and potatoes. Lots of Mid-Atlantic ingredients round out the menu, with produce sourced from Lexington Park, Md. farmer Mike Mustard.
He says more adventurous orders that used to be “hard sells” in D.C. — like squab and sweetbreads — are also part of the opening lineup.
“D.C. has grown and evolved. Guests know more about food and what is going on around the world — it enables us to do things we like,” says Spero.
Dishes range from $12 to $30, with shareable platters priced around $90 to $100. The menu features around 15 to 18 items to start, with three to four desserts at a time.
“A big part of this is making this style of cuisine really accessible and all inclusive — not cost prohibitive,” he says.
The restaurant will also offer two “pay-what-you-can” seats each night through its reservation page on Tock.
EditLab’s transformation of a former office space plays up colors and textures found at Nordic and Japanese restaurants. Think: a curved wood ceiling and royal blue tile work framing the bar and open kitchen. Wood-and-leather chairs and naked tables pay homage to Spero’s love for Mid-century modern design.
An intimate 20-seat garden patio in the back will be covered and come alive for seated dinner service starting next year; for now, patrons can utilize the space while waiting for a seat, wine in hand.
A tight opening cocktail menu, curated by Columbia Room beverage director JP Fetherston, highlights Spanish spirits like sherry and vermouth. There’s a Dutch Salute, with By The Dutch Genever, Tio Pepe Fino Sherry, Mancino Secco Vermouth, koji, and orange cream citrate. Wines come by the glass and bottle (none of which is over $200), and there’s also various beer and ciders. Glass porron pitchers — a traditional way to guzzle cider in Spain — also line the bar.
D.C. native Evan Zimmerman, who helped pump up Portland’s hospitality scene over the past decade, is back as general manager at Reverie. He also worked at Komi (though never crossed paths with Spero).
While Reverie falls under the Drink Company umbrella, the goal is to maintain its own identity.
“This is not a bar, it’s a restaurant,” says Zimmerman. “This is not an extension of X Y or Z — this is our brand.”
Initial hours of operation are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and closed Sunday and Monday. Daytime fare isn’t part of the equation; Spero says the aesthetic doesn’t translate well for brunch, and fast-casual neighbors like Sweetgreen and Chaia have already cornered Georgetown’s lunch market.
“Georgetown is going through a sea change. We are confident we can be here and succeed in our vision,” says Zimmerman.
For Spero, the seeds to open Reverie were planted soon after he moved back from Spain four years ago. Just as it finally arrives, he’s already about to hit another milestone: welcoming his first child any day now.
Status: Scheduled to open on Saturday, October 6 at 5 p.m. 3201 Cherry Hill Lane; website.