Aside from a smattering of carryouts, corner stores, delis, and markets, the pocket of D.C. between the Anacostia River and Lincoln Park lacks a proper sit-down spot to enjoy every meal of the day.
This explains why the Northeast neighborhood seemed to be clamoring on Thursday, September 15 at the new DC Capitol Square Bar & Grill. The all-day cafe comes from Dr. Ogay Irono and Emmanuel Irono, an influential couple from Nigeria who also run a nonprofit nearby serving high-poverty communities.
“Our goal here is to bring great food to a part of Capitol Hill that doesn’t have many healthy food options,” says Emmanuel Irono. “This restaurant gives us an opportunity to do precision food for a neighborhood we know and love.”
DC Capitol Square Bar & Grill is open daily for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. Hours are Sunday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday to Saturday until 11 p.m. (1500 East Capitol Street NE).
A catch-all American comfort menu offers a wide array of mains including a New York strip and filet, Maryland crab cakes, and racks of lamb. Vegan and vegetarian dishes include pickled root vegetables with mushrooms and a quinoa cherry salad. Breakfast brings eggs Benedict, buttermilk pancakes, and corned beef hash to the table.
The Ironos say they believe food has the ability to nourish and empower underserved communities. And they’re using their restaurant to hire Washingtonians, including those that grew up in the community.
That includes executive chef Damian Beckett, who grew up near RFK Stadium and got his start at Phillips Seafood. He went on to cook at Rusty Scupper in Baltimore, The Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner, and was even chef of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“This is my neighborhood, and it deserves quality food,” he says.
In D.C. circles, the Ironos are best known as nonprofit leaders. Dr. Ogay Irono is president of the TIS Foundation, an organization that funds several public health, education, and social services programs both in the U.S. and Nigeria.
TIS Foundation is headquartered a few doors down from DC Capitol Square Bar & Grill, and she says its mission of uplifting people through service sparked the idea to open a restaurant. The space took two years to renovate and complete.
“For years, our offices were next to this boarded and abandoned building on the corner. What we wanted to bring to this neighborhood is compassion through food,” she says.
The space includes a dog-friendly patio out front for 40 and an inside restaurant and bar with capacity for 116 people, plus a room upstairs available to rent for private meals.
The restaurant also caters to Hill East’s family-oriented neighborhood. A kid’s menu features hearty pasta dishes, burgers and fries, chicken tenders, and grilled cheese sandwiches for $8.
DC Capitol Square Bar & Grill also adds a needed brunch and happy hour option east of Lincoln Park. The bar sends out pineapple and mango mimosas and cocktails like a Hemingway daiquiri, pomegranate Moscow mule, Godiva chocolate martini, and passionfruit margarita.
The restaurant’s signature drink is a Caps Square Rum O’Range with rum, amaro, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, and garnished with an orange peel.
“We want this space to be a reflection and celebration of who we are but also the community we know and love,” Emmanuel Irono says. “After all, this is the neighborhood where we congregate with others.”
Those salivating for more restaurants in Hill East won’t have to wait too long. This fall, critically-acclaimed pizza parlor Della Barba will open its doors, as will two neighborhood bars and restaurants: Dupont’s beloved wing joint Duffy’s Irish Pub and Hill East Burger from the owners of Sloppy Mama’s and Republic Cantina.