For chef Hamilton Johnson, the most challenging aspect of his new job at Glover Park Grill might be the commute by bicycle. While the route from his Adams Morgan home is literally an uphill climb, Johnson’s task at the revamped restaurant inside the Glover Park Hotel was to put forth a menu that avoids complications. The chef who once put together modernist plates of Nordic-Southern hybrids at Honeysuckle is now emphasizing the benefits of slow-roasting chicken.
When Glover Park Grill opens for dinner Monday, November 23, the first customers will find a range of hearty American comfort food full of subtle clues that show off Johnson’s chops.
The chef’s deviled eggs, for example, contain zero surprises in the yolk filling, but they’re topped with the South Carolina native’s sweet chow chow (pickled cabbage, cauliflower, and peppers) along with crispy shards of fried soppressata that speak to the influence of owner Michael Schlow. An apple puree blended with butter and salt is a creamy complement to crab cakes with a light cracker binder. For his shrimp and grits, Johnson separates the seafood until plating, grilling large shrimp to preserve their texture before laying them over Anson Mills grits in a shrimp nage (broth) studded with Spanish piquillo peppers and smoked pork.
“Straightforward, simple, but done really well,” Johnson says. “That’s what we’re looking to do with everything.”
Schlow Restaurant Group still owns the business, which used to be homey Italian spot Casolare. Michael Schlow, the James Beard award-winning chef who leads the group, hired Johnson after the chef distinguished himself during a series of tryouts the group hosted at Alta Strada. A new owner at the hotel, who also works with Schlow at a hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is renovating the whole property, so Schlow wanted to update the restaurant in a way that would make it the go-to for the neighborhood, an “approachable” place with something on the menu for everyone.
Glover Park Grill does have a couple of carryovers from its predecessor: a margherita from the restaurant’s gas-powered pizza oven, and a “giant chicken Parm” with grilled broccolini.
One of Johnson’s early favorites is a plate of double-fried Buffalo wings dredged in potato starch to give them a shattering crunch similar to Korean-style chicken. One of the most work-intensive dishes is a fresh cavatelli pasta with lump crab meat, fried sage, chiles, and toasted breadcrumbs. Johnson’s steak frites come with prime New York strip, a rich, wine-based Bordelaise sauce, and a pat of a compound Bernaise butter that folds in tarragon.
Schlow has noticed the influx of cheesesteaks around the District, so he worked with Johnson to develop a spin on the sandwich for Glover Park Grill. Theirs starts with short ribs that have been braised with red wine and tomatoes. The meat gets crisped up on a flat top, thrown on a roll, then topped with a Poblano chile cheese sauce, mushrooms, onions, and rosemary aioli. The sandwich is ideal for splitting or saving; Schlow says customers might need to buy a room for a nap if they eat the whole thing.
That style of decadent layering extends to dessert, where SRG executive pastry chef has created a bread pudding interspersed with layers of dark chocolate and a caramelized banana puree. There are also ice cream sundaes, apple crisp, and warm chocolate chip cookies.
Glover Park Grill is open for indoor and outdoor seating from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. seven nights a week. Once the restaurant completes construction on an outdoor terrace, it will add a daytime cafe that offers coffee and pastries from Levin.