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Low-Key Bar Grand Duchess Is Now a Full-Fledged Restaurant With Crab Cakes and Steak

Fiola Mare alum Enoc Lopez brings pasta dishes, burrata, and Philly cheesesteak empanadas to the Adams Morgan hangout

Rigatoni with hot Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, and red sauce.
Hawkeye Johnson/Grand Duchess
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Grand Duchess, the low-key Adams Morgan cocktail bar that opened in 2017 with cheap Old Fashioneds and a short list of grilled cheese sandwiches, is now a bonafide restaurant serving pastas and seafood dishes from a Fiola Mare alum.

Chef Enoc Lopez, who also served as head chef at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown, joined the team last year and was preparing to roll out a full menu before the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the bar adapted to restrictions triggered by the public health crisis by hosting a takeout hoagie pop-up with assistance from Lucky Buns owner Alex McCoy.

“We always wanted to round out the experience with great food, and it’s been a long, wild ride to get to this point,” co-owner Vinnie Rotondaro says. “It’s been a brutal year but we made it through and the team is intact.”

Starting this month, Lopez began sending out creamy chicken rigatoni, shrimp scampi, and pan seared gnocchi with nut-free pesto. A pair of plump crab cakes — a hot commodity disappearing on D.C. menus this summer amidst soaring prices — are also on board ($24). “It’s definitely a fan favorite around here so he wanted to put it on,” Rotondaro says.

The co-owner sums up the menu as “eclectic” American. Creative starters include a Philly cheesesteak empanada stuffed with shaved ribeye, ‘whiz, and masa. Matzo-breaded chicken tenders come with a hot honey mustard. The bar will slowly roll out steaks, too, like a New York strip served with truffled fingerling potatoes and olive tapenade.Desserts include a cannoli and mini cheesecake tower.

Crab cakes at Grand Duchess come with a helping of roasted Mexican street corn.
Crab cakes at Grand Duchess come with a helping of roasted Mexican street corn.
Hawkeye Johnson/Grand Duchess
A Philly cheesesteak-inspired empanada pays homage to co-owner Rory Adair’s home turf.
Hawkeye Johnson/Grand Duchess
“Enoc’s Shrimp ‘Scampi’” features spinach butter, capers, herbs, and tomato over spaghetti.
Hawkeye Johnson/Grand Duchess

“In the end [Lopez] is not trying to do something big and fancy,” the owner says, “He has a great ability to take something simple and make it flavorful. It fits right into what is cool about the Grand Duchess — it makes you feel at home.”

Partners Rotondaro and Rory Adair pay homage to the space’s former life as a row house that dates back to 1890 with decor like a powder blue couch, candle-filled fireplace, vintage jukebox, and bookshelves near a bay window. Before Grand Duchess, it was Pharmacy Bar — a cult cocktail spot that closed in 2014 — and the owners converted one of its pill-encased tabletops into wall art.

Burrata arrives balsamic-roasted cherry tomatoes, a dollop of pesto and toasted bread.
Hawkeye Johnson/Grand Duchess

“Me and Rory are the classic two dudes who wanted to open a bar on a budget,” he says. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We love amaro, and that is going to vibe a lot more with the food.”

Longtime hits like a Negroni and combos of Narragansett and Old Overholt Rye join new additions like a frozen Miami Vice — a swirl of pina colada and strawberry daiquiri.

“It’s brutally hot right now and that hits the spot,” Rotondaro says.

Grand Duchess’s best-selling Negroni.
Hawkeye Johnson/Grand Duchess
A seasonal Painkiller (coconut, rum, pineapple, and orange).
Hawkeye Johnson/Grand Duchess

The bar took a hiatus soon after opening 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. Now there’s a second toilet and room for 48 people. One perk of the pandemic was capitalizing on a winterization grant with a new 14-seat patio out front.

Grand Duchess is open Wednesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to midnight (and later on weekends), with a kitchen closing at 11 p.m. during the week.

Grand Duchess

2337 18th Street Northwest, , DC 20009 (202) 299-1006 Visit Website