Duke’s Grocery partner Daniel Kramer looks behind the copper-topped bar at the new location of the popular English pub in Foggy Bottom and spots a problem he’s delighted to have. The top shelf is too tall for bartenders to reach without a stepladder, so it’s empty. Kramer muses that maybe the kitchen can stash reserves of house pickles up there in the future.
At the latest branch of Duke’s, which opens today at 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Kramer and Co. have more space than they know what to do with. That’s a welcome change from the cramped quarters at the original Duke’s Grocery, tucked into a rowhouse in Dupont, and the Duke’s Counter across the street from the National Zoo.
More than a year after announcing the brand would expand into the 4,500-square-foot space, Kramer says the kitchen in Foggy Bottom is bigger than those at the other two locations combined. The space has a storied past, too, hosting Bob Kinkead’s nationally recognized seafood restaurant for 23 years before sitting vacant for the past six.
Kramer used the renovated kitchen to lure chef Rick Koplau back to the company. Koplau, who worked for Duke’s in 2014 and 2015 before leaving to cook for corporate banquets, has developed a menu that will satisfy loyalists while making the most of the new space.
So on top of the Proper Burger, the chile sauce-spiked gouda cheeseburger that has been named the best patty in the city by several outlets at one point or another, repeat customers will recognize the chickpea and garlic hummus, the truffle mac and cheese, curries, and Sunday roasts.
Koplau has brought on house-made crisps — English lingo for potato chips — in rotating flavors and chips (fries) that undergo multiple cooking methods for maximum crispness before being served with chippy sauce made out of reduced tomatoes and fruit.
Other new additions include a Mumbai masala toast that stuffs spiced potatoes in between naan, a huge plate of battered, fried duck wings served with a side bowl of mussels, and an entree of octopus legs slathered in romesco sauce.
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Following a nose-to-tail tradition popular in European pubs, the new Duke’s is also serving potted trotters — a jarred spread of cooked pig’s feet served with a reduced blueberry sauce — and jars of pickled, head-on sardines to go with toast, butter, and a red pepper sauce.
At the bar, Duke’s has 12 draft lines and a list of 20 cocktails, including a cucumber Rickey and a rosemary maple bourbon sour.
Design firm //3877 helped instill the feel of the original Duke’s, opened on 17th Street NW in 2013. There’s lots of exposed brick, a white unfinished ceiling, and touches of East London like a red English phone booth. Artist Alia Akthar painted the wacky mural with references to English music including Queen star Freddie Mercury, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon prism, and a girl “with kaleidoscope eyes” like in the Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.
Duke’s opens at 11 a.m. and will continue its tradition of a generous weekday happy hour that runs from noon to 7 p.m. and includes $5 prices on all rails and select beer and wine.
Service will start indoors, first, Kramer says, but he expects to open patios in the front and the back of the building soon. Because Duke’s is part of the historic rowhouse portion of the Shops at 2000 Penn development owned by George Washington University, the backdoor leads into an enclosed mall, making for an indoor patio. Kramer says Duke’s will eventually have a takeout window there, too.