So, my D.C. restaurant phantasy is that Kurt Gutenbrunner opens an Austrian cafe at the National Gallery–or in the space currently disappointing the Logan Circle neighborhood with Veranda. That said the Blacks of BlackSalt opening a very cool, casual seafood joint in the area would also rank high on the mouth-watering scale. And thanks to the newly opened Pearl Dive Oyster Palace on 14th St. at Corcoran that dream leapfrogs over to reality.
It’s not often that D.C. experiences good restaurant buzz, so go now. Pearl has that new restaurant smell that I swear I haven’t encountered since moving to the District. Pearl invites you in with its bar open to the street. You’ll see young people lounging with cocktails and oysters like they’ve been doing it for ages, but don’t be fooled: They are excited too.
The service is far more casual than BlackSalt, as it should be. It’s charmingly friendly, if a little frazzled by the rush. And it’s rushed. On the night I was there, all the tables filled between 6 and 6:30; no reservations are taken. The space is tightly packed, but that’s an issue for staff more than patron. You’ll have plenty of room to settle in and enjoy the intentionally distressed interior and polished menu.
The food is not flawless, just as it isn’t at BlackSalt. But it is smart and well-prepared and unlike anything else along 14th St. You can’t go wrong with a glass of white wine and some oysters, but you should also try the po’boy with fried catfish, a fried egg, bacon, lettuce, and tomato or the braised pork cheeks on grits. I’m looking forward to trying the gumbo, the etouffee, and the extensive list of pies, many of them the supersweet Southern variety.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the Blacks have also opened a club upstairs called Black Jack. A funky, quirky bar–also packed–with bocce courts. Have a drink while you wait for your table downstairs, and you might start thinking you are chilling in Brooklyn (and not in a bad way).