The owners of Shaw Tavern, 801, and Prost DC expand to Dupont Circle tonight with the debut of Vagabond, a dreamy new bar that taps into the team’s shared love for surfing, sandy travel destinations around the world, and late actor Patrick Swayze.
Restaurateur Eric Heidenberger completely transformed the old Rebellion space into a two-part venture that starts with a bright bar and dining room covered in whitewashed decor, pops of turquoise, leafy palms, pebbled flooring, and tropical photos (1836 18th Street NW). The wanderlust undertone carries over into a globe-trotting menu showcasing cuisines from Portugal (tinned sardines and wood-fired prawns), Hawaii (ahi tuna ceviche), and Mexico (quesabirria), with a cocktail program big on mezcal, tequila, rum, and dehydrated fruits.
Down below, a surprise speakeasy called Swayze’s pays tribute to the team’s celebrity man crush.
“We’ve all had an admiration for Patrick most of our lives, starting with Point Break and Road House,” says Heidenberger. The lengthy layout lent well for a themed bar-within-a-bar. “It started as a joke and snowballed,” he says. Vagabond’s partners include Frank Wilson, Alex Heidenberger, Dick Heidenberger, and Michael Tobin.
The same brand of Utica Club Beer that a sweaty Swayze sipped while shimmying in cult ‘80s movie Dirty Dancing is served downstairs by the can. A rep coincidentally came into their German bar Prost with the New York brewery’s hard-to-find lager. “We had wanted to get it and didn’t know who sourced it,” he says. (Along with its movie cameo, Utica Club’s claim to fame is it’s the first beer sold the night Prohibition ended.)
Back upstairs, a paloma-like “Cerritos Beach” features clarified coconut milk, mezcal, grapefruit, lime, and grapefruit soda. An island-hopping beer list includes Puerto Rican lager Medalla Light and Maui Brewing Co.’s hoppy IPA.
One of Heidenberger’s favorite vacation spots is Lagos, a rustic cliff town in southern Portugal he’s visited with his wife. “Wherever you travel you connect with the cultures through dining out and meeting the people,” he says.
Vagabond offers diners a taste of Portugal via tinned sardines with lemon and herbs alongside grilled toasts and seafood butter and a fisherman’s stew brimming with clams, mussels, calamari, fish, and shrimp. “We are trying to source from purveyors that are able to get authentic supplies from these destinations,” he says.
A wood-fired grill prepares whole fish, octopus, and prawns, and double-patty sliders arrive on King’s Hawaiian rolls.
To start, hours are 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15. Thursday joins the mix next week, along with extended hours from 4 p.m. until 3 a.m. on weekends (Swayze’s opens at 10 p.m.). Daily hours and weekend brunch (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) will come later.
Southern bourbon bar Rebellion closed in 2020 and Heidenberger bought the whole building in 2021, which includes dive bar Larry’s next door.
Builder Matthew Shannon-Browne was tasked with rehabbing the aging space, which included refreshing and expanding downstairs bathrooms with tiger print wallpaper and smoky mirrors. A DJ booth and playlist connects to the same high-quality sound system used by Miami nightclub E11EVEN.
Heidenberger also plans to use Swayze’s as a private events space and host themed nights around its famous namesake. Recreating a scene out of Ghost with clay-spinning classes is just one idea.
“We are looking forward to having some fun down there,” he says.
Bali graphic design firm Studio Sedano put together Vagabond’s branding and menus. Here’s a first look: