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D.C.’s Super-Seasonal Staple Equinox Is on the Move

After 25 years, the iconic downtown restaurant finds a new home with a bonafide bar

“Fritter Fridays” at Equinox on 19th pays homage to its sibling restaurant in Rehoboth Beach.
Equinox on 19th

White House-adjacent mainstay Equinox is leaving its longtime address at 818 Connecticut Avenue NW. But it’s not goodbye forever. Instead, the restaurant is relocating a few blocks away into Elephant & Castle’s old digs — and rebranding to Equinox on 19th — at the end of October.

The bigger location (900 19th Street NW) offers a blank slate for a place known for its mid-Atlantic fare since 1999. Chef Todd Gray will continue to put forward familiar, veggie-heavy menus like its crowd-pleasing weekend brunch. An expanded bar area carves out room for a new a la carte lineup featuring more happy hour bites and sips. “Fritter Fridays” connects Equinox with the Federal, its seafood-heavy sibling in Rehoboth Beach.

French toast for brunch
Equinox on 19th

Gray expects more crossover with both establishments, as regulars often travel from D.C. to the Delaware destination and vice versa. The fritters are the beginning of that synergy, sprinkling in street foods to an otherwise upscale dining experience.

“The newest addition to our repertoire will be the bar menu,” says co-owner Ellen Kassoff. “We’ve never had a big bar before, which is one of the reasons we were attracted to this space. We can finally have a real bar program with happy hours, cocktails, specialities, and a bar menu. It opens a world of possibilities.”

The indoor space holds up to 65 with a private room in the back, as well as a green patio area it’s nicknaming the 19th Hole. As business partners and spouses, Gray and Kassoff want to pay tribute to the space’s British pub roots by retaining its dark wooden bar, brick fireplace, and other details amongst an updated bright, clean, and plant-filled aesthetic.

The family- and employee-owned restaurant take note of more team input this time around. That means working closer with chef de cuisine Ernesto Muñoz on the rebooted menu.

Empanadas enter the fold at Equinox on 19th
Equinox on 19th

“We’re going to be very collaborative with our employees, honoring the regions of the world they come from,” Kassoff says. “It won’t just be dictated by Todd. So much of our staff is from South America, and we want to honor their food experiences that made them go into this business in the first place.”

Debut dishes include a section of On 19th Empanadas, created by longtime employee of 19 years Silvero Casas; braised short rib and caramelized onions; braised leeks and wild mushrooms; crispy shrimp tempura with saffron aioli; an oyster po’boy on a pretzel bun; pan-fried green tomatoes with pickled banana peppers; sweet corn fritters with jalapeno and caper remoulade; and rockfish and chips with cured lemon tartar sauce.

Rockfish and chips at Equinox on 19th
Equinox on 19th

As a downtown fixture surrounded by museums, politicos, and tourists, Gray and Kassoff are used to a mix of clientele.

“The space is a total upgrade for us,” says Gray. “The new layout encourages multiple experiences, broadening our scope to the young professionals and the corporate groups.”

The new space also allows Equinox to revisit its cooking and experience classes, which is something they offered a few years back. On the docket is a cocktail demo with bar master Alfredo Avalos, a vegetarian brunch tasting for four, spirit-based dinners, and a shellfish cooking demo with Gray.

An oyster po’boy sandwich
Equinox on 19th

A twice-as-large kitchen also opens the door to more catering and pastry capabilities.

“Lifting the size is huge for our employees,” Kassoff says. “We’re just expanding on everything.”

That includes building upon Equinox’s already-innovative and robust composting program. As a restaurant focused on honoring the earth’s cycles, Equinox was one of the first in the city to compost in order to reduce food waste. Now, instead of sending out food scraps to composters like Pluvr, they’ll have their own composting system in the back. The fresh soil will go back to the local farmers they source their produce from.

Equinox 2.0 will also open a bit earlier, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and for brunch on Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.