There’s a new Halloween-themed restaurant full of Tim Burton references, stuffed bats, lamps supposedly made out of real human bones, and spooky pumpkins opening on H Street NE this weekend. Before opening the doors to Beetle House, a former New York City pop-up that now has locations in NYC and Los Angeles, owner Zach Neil has done everyone in D.C. the favor of showing he knows nothing about D.C.
In a preview piece published by DCist, Neil cops to targeting tourists and claims to be solving a problem for them that the city simply doesn’t have:
“Everything in D.C. kind of turns off at 7 o’clock at night. After the monuments, there’s not really a lot of options. It’s mostly chain restaurants.”
That’s nonsense. One could maybe make the argument that downtown is a little heavy on chains and steakhouses, but H Street, where Beetle House is opening, is not full of chains. It has the city’s first hit ramen shop, a Taiwanese-Cambodian cafe/streetwear boutique, a punk venue at the Rock & Roll Hotel, and a punk pie shop at Dangerously Delicious (open until 3 a.m.). There are Swiss and Burmese restaurants, for crying out loud. The main drag may be the most bar-dense strip in the city.
The Beetle House bars have drawn big crowds of people who like to dress up in L.A. In D.C., there’s a $50 price tag for a three-course meal full of dishes named after Tim Burton movies like Edward Burger Hands, “Corprese Bride” salad, and Batman falafel (OK not the last one). That price doesn’t include drinks but does include access to an upstairs club with, DCist reports, fire dancers, sword eaters, and contortionists.
Cocktails ($10-$15) include red punch that comes in a blood bag.
After the original publication of this story, Neil reached out to Eater to clarify the remarks he made to DCist. He insists he was speaking to the point of view of a tourist visiting the National Mall. Neil says he has been coming to D.C. for 20 years as a musician in the hardcore punk scene.
“If I thought D.C. nightlife shut down at 7, why would I open there?” he asks.
He says he’s paying higher rent in D.C. than he is in New York City to commit to this project, and that he thinks of D.C. as a second home. “I’m not a New York carpet bagger,” he says.
Neil says his team’s plan is to eventually open 10 Beetle House bars in different cities. D.C. was not on the original list, but “we kind of just fell in love with it.” Beetle House is currently looking into expanding into Las Vegas, Chicago, and Austin.
Update: September 26, 1:54 p.m. This story has been updated to include Neil’s response.