Adams Morgan cocktail bar Grand Duchess, which quickly became known for its $7 Old Fashioneds and $5 grilled cheeses upon opening last year, had to take a hiatus this summer to tend to an occupancy issue: There was only one bathroom on site, which meant only 15 patrons were legally allowed inside the 1,200-square-foot space at any given time.
With a second toilet now in place, 48 people are free to eat and drink (and pee) at the dimly-lit cocktail den (2337 18th Street NW), scheduled to reopen Wednesday, September 19 at 4 p.m. First-time bar owners Vinnie Rotondaro and Rory Adair tell Eater its best-selling cheap eats and drinks are making a comeback, along with more cocktails and food in the mix this time around.
There’s a powder blue couch, candle-filled fireplace, a record player, and bookshelves near a bay window. Unlike a living room, however, there’s no TVs (to encourage more interaction, the owners tell Eater).
More recently, the space housed Pharmacy Bar — a cult cocktail destination that closed in 2014 — and the new owners converted one of its pill-encased tabletops into wall art.
The duo also added some of their own touches throughout, like a framed picture of John Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones — the same photo that hung in their house while they were roommates in Brooklyn a decade ago.
Small bites include olives, Marcona almonds, and a seasonal panzanella salad. There’s also four types of grilled cheese sandwiches ($5 to $8) filled with ingredients like mozzarella, brie, prosciutto, thyme, basil, and Nutella.
“Because it’s a small space we don’t have a full kitchen so we have finger foods to keep you going,” says Adair.
Some of its most popular cocktails are back, like the House in the Woods ($12) — a riff on a Manhattan with orange blossom water and aquavit. There’s also organic wines and craft beer, as well as a Narragansett Boilermaker shot with a choice of bourbon or tequila, and a cornichon-brined pickleback.
Here’s a look at the new menu:
The owners purchased the bar in May 2017, spotting a demand for more “no fuss” cocktail respites in Adams Morgan. They’re fans of newcomers like Middle Eastern bar Green Zone, which opened nearby while Grand Duchess was offline this summer.
“It became apparent to us weren’t a whole lot of places in the neighborhood for residents to go. Adams Morgan has been known as a crazy Bourbon Street. We want to be a safe haven,” says Adair.
During its run as Pharmacy Bar, the packed space wasn’t called out for the legal ramifications of having one stall and more than 15 patrons. Now there’s “one comically large and one comically small” bathroom, says Adair, adding it’s hard to “skirt by” D.C. law nowadays.
The bar is projected to open at 4 p.m. — an hour earlier than before — with a daily happy hour from 4 p.m to 7 p.m. (and closed on Mondays).
Status: Scheduled to reopen on Wednesday, September 19 at 4 p.m.; 2337 18th Street NW; website.