PoP Exclusive: First Look Inside the New Restaurant CommonWealth Opening Aug. 6th


I’m sure many have heard that CommonWealth, the new pub by the same owners as Hank’s Oyster Bar, will open its doors Wed. August 6th on Irving Street west of 14th. I was lucky enough to meet one of the designers of the logo (Soung, see tattoos below) who invited me in to take a look around and snap some photos. First of all let me say it looks like they are going to have a great outdoor dining area (photos after the jump). Inside was understandably a bit hectic as last minute details were getting ironed out and the waitstaff was getting trained. Even with all the craziness it had a very warm and open feel. I was excited to see checkers and chess tables, an open bar area and some very comfortable seats. I am super stoked to try the place. In the meantime get a taste of the place with lots of photos after the jump.






74 Comment

  • Commonwealth…of Virginia?

  • Wow. Looks really great. I can’t wait to try it out!

  • Word on pricing/menu? If it’s like The Heights with $15 to $20+ entrees and overpriced booze, count me out.

  • I was hoping the name was a reference to Massachusetts instead.

  • It is a reference to VA and MA (and KY and PA) — the American beers are all from Commonwealth states.

  • Looks great, but I swear, “Gastropub” is one of the least appetizing words I know.

    I mean, slugs for god’s sake. Bleccch.

  • Anon: Isn’t marketing Virginia positively in the District is a little like marketing Long Island in Manhattan, or Oklahoma in Texas?

    When I think of Virginia I think of two things: barefoot crackers chasing after their food with a squirrel gun, and people who can’t either (a) drive their cars; or (b) park their cars…

    … not exactly the image a “gastropub” might be looking for.

  • Also, are they planning on throwing up anything to improve the acoustics? The high ceilings and cement walls look like it’ll make the place an acoustical nightmare….

  • I kind of want to go…it aesthetically pleases me and maybe I can learn how to play chess tipsy…I wonder what the turnout will be…

  • I’m amazed and sort of saddened by the amount of nit picking going on here. They haven’t even opened up yet and you’re already making assumptions and gripes based on a few pictures. Why don’t you wait until it opens and try to see the place in person before pissing and moaning about poor name choices and acoustics. If it sucks, then bitch all you want.


  • I agree with Odentex. Most people in DC, ESPECIALLY Columbia Heights do not like VA. Especially when they drive in on Friday and Saturday night and bring down the class factor in otherwise great neighborhoods like Adams Morgan. I understand we need their dollars to have the ammenities we do but throwing up a big drawing of Virginia in what is supposed to be a neighborhood bar-restaurant doesnt make much sense to me. even offends me a little.

  • Don’t get too excited about this place based on decor. Other people posting on this site and other blogs about the beer list being crap and the food ho-hum and expensive are right. I read that they are trying to create a gathering place and blue collar sort of place, but look at the prices. Apparently, the name has to do with the original commonwealths, but then I am not sure why it is all British food, mostly British beer…and for some reason, European wines. Scotch eggs, frog in a puff…British food has certainly evolved since then. Why hasn’t this place? I agree that the word gastropub is blah and over. DC is usually behind when it comes to restaurant trends, but really…could they not have come up with a slightly new concept? There are other places in DC already calling themselves a gastropub…apparently anything goes…and this place is more evidence of that. And even for those of you excited about the decor…a pub is not supposed to look neat and deliberate like this. This is a restaurant with a bar, not a pub and certainly not a gastropub. Those of you excited are simply excited because it involves Jamie Leeds and in DC, she is something in the food scene. But the second Hank’s is not as nice as the first and I feel like this one is a reach. Look at the freakin pictures. It is a restaurant. Not a pub. Not the sort of place one can pop into several times a week and see locals and regulars and enjoy a pint…look at the prices. It is just going to be full of the usual yuppies. Boring. Head to NYC for something more original…hell, head to Hank’s for at least something slightly more honest. Ironically, it is the same woman that brought us Hank’s, but this seems more the work of some overly ambitious chef and her posse overreaching and trying really hard to sell an outdated concept dressed up in a nice way thanks to some architects. No thank you.

  • Are you kidding me with some of these comments?!!?!? Why don’t we just build a big wall around the District to prevent those “outsiders” from MD and VA getting in. In fact, why don’t we all, as good American citizens, boycott CommonWealth since it’s trying to recreate the feel of a British. Yeesh. I’m VERY excited to try this place out. Get over yourselves people.

  • I’ll say this about their outdoor seating area: get ready to enjoy lots of bikes locked to that fencing until someone sees fit to put in decent bike parking on the sidewalk.

  • In reply to pauper…

    Of course we should be critical. They are trying to sell us a concept and it irritates me that they are underestimating the DC restaurant scene by giving us a concept restaurant that is this transparent. Chefs should not get so pompous and sure of themselves that they stop trying to be original and at least honest about what it is. They are obviously just trying to make money off of the success of places like Spotted Pig. I even read that they are trying to be “green.” Again, another marketing ploy. How often are they planning on changing the menu? There is nothing seasonal about it as it is. They thank some farms, but how much and what is coming from these local sources? And what the hell is green about the drink list? Beer from Britain, wine from France and Italy…come on!

  • we need bike racks.

    and can someone explain to me why i want to sit outside and look at target and best buy while i have a pint?

  • Totally with pauper and Nita here. The amount of bitching and whining on here before the place has even opened is pathetic. And seriously, what decent restaurant can you go to anymore and pay less than $15 an entree? Sure, TGIFridays, Applebees, etc. – but do they really qualify as “decent” food, and do you really want more of those type of restaurants in the neighborhood? I guarantee if there were, the complaint would be that the big chains are pushing out/taking over/pricing out locally owned/mom & pop type places.

    Some people are never happy, are they? There’s a good mix of higher-end restaurants in or coming to Columbia Heights, as well as a bunch of lower-priced options (Pete’s, Five Guys, Taqueria DF, etc.). Quit complaining. It could still be nothing but crappy Chinese behind bulletproof glass, you know?

  • Do they have a website yet with a menu and beer list? I am excited. Beats the hell out of any of the other offerings in columbia heights. Like the WOW wingery that is supposedly opening in DCUSA. WOW indeed

  • ah yes, but pauper, nita, and dreas…

    as much as chains take away from a neighborhood, places like this contribute to gentrification of a neighborhood. but i guess you don’t care about that because you can pay $20 for an entree and want people that can’t out of the neighborhood. look around ch…people are getting pushed out rather than integrated.

  • Jeez — a boatload of whining for a place that hasn’t opened yet. Regarding the seasonal/local thing, I saw Jamie at the the Dupont Farmer’s Market Sunday, so there’s clearly some effort to live up to that going on. The website lists the place as offering “British inspired farm-to-table fare,” and the “gastropub” movement began in England, with an emphasis on high-quality versions of traditional pub grub, so the presence of British food and beer on the menu should be unsurprising. As to the look — I’m sure Jamie could have gone to one of those companies that puts out “authentic” Irish pub interiors by the score (asking for the English variation, of course) but that’s not really what makes a pub a pub.

    I do agree, however, with the complaint that the the restaurant has a “concept” and that it’s “transparent.” That’s why I never go to Bistro du Coin with its transparent French theme or Rumbero with its transparent Latin theme or even Pete’s, with that transparent Pizza theme. God forbid that someone should think opening a pub might be fun and actually do it, and then advertise it as such.

    PS: Sitting outside on on a clement evening while the good, bad and ugly of DC walk by can be a delightful thing. But it you don’t want to sit there, I’ll take your seat.

  • the gastropub movement may have started in britain, but the gastropubs over there do not serve this type of food. this is a british-themed restaurant with a bar. emphasis on restaurant.

    i’m glad you saw jamie at the farmer’s market…but how much do you have to buy locally to be able to market yourself as local when as someone pointed out, the beers and wine are hardly local and the food does not look seasonal. i mean, who wants to eat a pot pie when it is 90 degrees outside?

  • I can’t seem to find the website. Could someone please post it for I am not good at the google

  • http://www.commonwealthgastropub.com

    but there is nothing there but the logo.

  • There’s a hard-to-read menu here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanbohemian/2701825544/sizes/o/

    Prices strike me as middle-of-the-road for both food and drink.

    From the menu:

    “…dedicated to preserving the common good of the community. The original meaning of the word wealth refers to one’s well-being and we believe good food, drink and laughter are the basis of a neighborhood’s wealth….” Apparently Virginia, Mass et al were not the inspiration for the name.

    There’s also a list of local farms which they — presumably — patronize, FWIW.


  • as irving street says, can’t someone just open a pub because they love pubs and not sell us a concept? i am tired of the restaurant scene with chefs trying to make a name for themselves. i am tired of chefs with their lofty goals of building a restaurant empire. i can’t help but feel like the decor and menu is what it is because it will be easier to recreate this sort of place. because if one does well, then you know you can expect another commonwealth…perhaps in virginia.

  • common good of the community? so making a restaurant that many people in the neighborhood can’t afford is for the good of the community?

  • not sure how up to date this menu is, but there is a link to the menu on this blog:


  • Their food could be the best thing since Samuel Colt invented the six-shooter, that doesn’t change my very innocent question as to why someone would invoke Virginia in DC — where there are clearly at least *a few* people that would find that perplexing. [Exhibit “A”, these comments.]

    Wouldn’t seem like you’d want to add an extra unnecessary distraction to the already difficult business of opening a restaurant… er… pub… er… gastro-whatsit.

    Seems like someone sitting at the table early on might have noted this tiny issue when they were kicking around names for their new restaurant, and maybe said something like, “sure, ‘Commonwealth’ sounds nice, but perhaps we oughta chose a name that won’t cause half the people to go ‘wha?’ and the other half to descend into rather laughable hissy fits defending us like we’re their bestest friend in high school who has had a rather nasty rumor started about them in study hall that involves a bottle of Everclear and a billy goat.”

  • BTW, neither do I drink Everclear (much), nor do I know (that particular) billy goat. These vicious rumors must stop.

  • Go to McDonald’s for cheap food you whiners. Jeebus.

  • Fine. Moan about the concept thing if you don’t like it, but all I am saying is that I truly don’t think you can judge a place until it opens and you experience it. That just seems rational to me. And you know what else, not every restaurant is affordable for everyone. There are a ton of options in the neighborhood that are less pricey.

    And as far as gentrification goes, it’s a fact that most of us have to deal with. There are neighborhoods that I can’t live in and one that I did live in but had to move out of because it became too expensive. I had to leave to find housing that was more affordable for me. And if being excited that the neighborhood I moved to is changing (mostly for the better in my opinion) is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

  • so only those of us who can afford to pay these prices should be able to have local farm fare and the rest of us can have mcdonald’s? pauper, it will not be long before you get priced out of your new neighborhood if people are not more critical of how the neighborhood gets developed. these big developers and restaurant empires do not care.

  • If the place is too expensive, don’t eat there. If there is a market for people who want something cheaper, cheaper places will appear. Why does every single restaurant have to meet some Anonymous poster’s notion of “fairness” in pricing? Has it occurred to you that the prices on the menu may reflect the prices of the produce? Have you been to the farmers’ markets in this town? Farm fresh produce, unfortunately, isn’t cheap. Vote with your feet and stop whining.

  • Such is life, anon. Such is life.

    This restaurant isn’t from some big developer. And calling it a restaurant empire is giving me a serious case of the giggles.

    Anyway, I won’t keep debating this because it’s a waste of your and my time. Let me just say to those of you who are already boycotting a place that hasn’t opened, thanks. I’ll be happy to enjoy my meal without hearing you boohoo in my ear…unless it sucks…then I won’t enjoy my meal.

  • Eric, if I could give you a high five right now, I would.

  • isn’t that the problem pauper, that when you go, you are going to experience it…only from your perspective? never mind the people, who like you before, cannot afford to eat there and are now getting priced out of the neighborhood they call home. gentrification is not something we have to just accept. with proper urban planning, it can be avoided, but people like yourself have to care about what is happening. sure it is nice to get a good restaurant in the neighborhood. i agree with you on that, but it has larger implications that we should not ignore.

    all i will say is that it is especially disappointing that this is coming from jamie leeds as she is usually a supporter of the local community.

  • thanks for the interesting debate. you all, including the many anonymous posts (don’t think they are all the same person) have some good points…and some bad. will try the place with an open mind.

  • Gee, I didn’t mean to set off a border war. I want to go on record that I love my Virginia peeps. Since I am a big fan of Hank’s I am looking forward to this restaurant’s opening and I will judge it in person on food, service, price and atmosphere. Who wants to join me?

  • i’m game, as long as we wait a bit to let things settle…restaurants are never good right away.

  • farm fresh food is not cheap. thanks for reminding us of that eric. i wish i could have it more. i wish i could afford to go more often to restaurants that serve it.

    i am glad jamie leeds is doing local food, but i do have to agree that the concept is a bit dated and transparent.

  • gosh, places evolve as they open and grow and get in to a groove. as far as pricing is concerned the restaurant business is expensive and risky as hell. they deserve praise and everyones very best wishes and support. time as always, will tell. thanks for the peek.

  • Not sure how a commitment to high quality, local food could become either dated or transparent. Also unsure how many people were confused by the alleged Virginia allusion.

    But, that’s not why I’m back.

    A little more background just in from Jamie’s PR folks (I think it’s important to cut the subject of these types of releases a little slack, since PR people tend to make their clients look much more shallow and silly than they really are):

    “The mission for CommonWealth is to transport guests to a lively, urban pub scene reminiscent of those found in London. Guests will find board games in the bar, such as chess, to challenge friends to a match while sipping true pints of beer and listening to classic and new British pop tunes or a lively soccer game. And the food, which is good, tasty food for the “common” man and woman is totally ingredient driven by the season and humanely raised.

    “We are making a point of thanking our local farmers listed on the CommonWealth menu as they are the people that are truly make it all possible for us,” says Jamie Leeds. “Sandy and I also want to dispel the myth that British food is bad, as the UK is focused on revamping their dining image too.”

    Guests can look forward to the Scotch eggs, roasted bone marrow with parsley shallot salad, deviled sweetbreads and house-made Wiltshire-style pork belly on the menu and the big news is CommonWealth will serve dessert or “pudding.” It will be hard to resist the sticky toffee pudding, lemon trifle with raspberry coulis and a decadent Young’s double chocolate stout float is an option for those 21 or older. Menu items range in price from $4-$19.

    Lewis and Leeds traveled in and around London researching gastropubs and one of the important concepts they brought back to their Washington restaurant is the British tradition of the “Sunday Roast” or Sunday afternoon supper, featuring a selection of roasted meat for the table served family style, paired with sides, such as leg of lamb, rabbit, pork, turkey, chicken-whatever is market fresh and available from local farmers.
    The Sunday Roast offering will be featured on the restaurant’s blackboard and will range in price from $17 to $23 per person for the entire table, and is served from 1 pm until closing exclusively on Sunday.

    CommonWealth is also importing British condiments including teas, oat cakes, beer, and cheese. Guests can choose creamy, semi-hard, blue, stinky, goat and cheddar cheese from the daily blackboard, which ranges in price from $4 to $6 for a one-ounce serving…”

    I find myself keen to try the bone marrow and stinky cheese, and perhaps to ask a dining companion “how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”

  • I can appreciate paying a bit more for food and I’m happy we are getting more options here in CH, but I don’t see this place settling in as a neighborhood bar the way places like the Red Derby have. A quick look at the bottled/canned beer menu leaves me a bit pained. Beers are one or two bucks more than the Derby:

    Sam Smiths Organic Lager: 8
    Wexford Irish Creme Ale (can): 8
    Isle of Arran Blonde Premium Beer: 11
    Tetley’s English Ale (can): 7
    St. Peter’s English Ale: 8
    Greene King Abbot Ale (can): 8
    Well’s Bombardier Premium Ale: 7
    “Old Speckled Hen” English Fine Ale: 8
    “Hen’s Tooth” condition English Ale: 11
    Duchy Originals Organic English Ale: 8
    Belhaven Scottish Ale: 8
    Camerons Challenge Ale: 8
    Andam’s Suffolk Special Bitter: 8
    Samuel Smith’s India Ale: 8
    Black Sheep Yorkshire Ale Riggwelter: 10
    Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter: 8
    Young’s Double Chocolate Stout: 8
    Skulsplitter Orkney Ale: 9
    Harvey & Son Imperial Extra Double Stout: 12

    These prices make me want to run to the Derby and lock the door.

  • gastropub concept is dated. not farm fare. thank you for the pr write-up and thanks for a look at the beer list.

  • you people make me laugh so hard.


    and PS i’m self employed so i’m only stealing from me.

    and PPS if you can find Belhaven Scottish Ale at Red Derby, be my guest
    what the hell good is it to compare a rare scottish ale to a can of miller lite??

    oh and those are for PINTS, english sized pints, 20oz’ers. not a 12 oz can.


  • Hey “anonneemooo”, We appreciate you taking time away from what must be a merciless onslaught of activity at “Ananneemooo Int’l HQ” to post on a blog.

    Belhaven a “rare Scottish ale”?

    Tee hee.

  • If you can’t afford to live in CH, move to Petworth. If you can’t afford Petworth, there are plenty other affordable neighborhoods in DC. I live in Petworth. I would love to be able to live on U St. Yet, you don’t see me on here bitchin’ about it.

    And another thing, if you are complaining about the prices of the restaurants, you probably should eat at home. Odds are that a home cooked meal is cheaper and will healthier for you.

  • Boy I can tell there are not too many readers who lived in the DC area in the 90s! I would be that 80 to 90% of the posters would not have stepped foot in CH or Petworth afterdark during those days. The numbers of young folks living in MD and VA vastly out numbered those in DC, which were limited Capital Hill, G-town, as well as Dupont and AM, to a lesser extent.

    If people want to come to CH and spend money in restaruants and bars, then let them. The more the merryier.

    And the prices on the high end beers seem pretty mundane from what I have seen, but what do I know?

  • I have lived in DC my whole life and I for one liked adams morgan before the Douche Parade started marching down the streets every friday and saturday at 11pm. That being said I have no problem going elsewhere while they bring in revenue for my home town.

  • All I can say is no beers under $7 = lame

    I still wish them luck & I’m sure they’ll do well.

  • Ontarioroader, I don’t think those are all the beers they have, just merely expensive cans of rather pedestrian British swill that will make some people feel like they are getting a “rare” treat. Sort of like how all the boys in the trendy bars in Glasgow and Manchester were downing expensive bottles of Budweiser and Coors a few years back thinking it was cool.

  • We just put up an early look at CommonWealth, complete with loads of photos and menus, and an interview with Jamie Leeds. I think it sounds great! http://www.washingtonian.com/blogarticles/restaurants/bestbites/8895.html

  • Time Stealer, thanks. I just checkered out washingtonian.com menu link and they thankfully do have many $5 and $6 beers also. Yes, I still laugh every time I think back to expensive “coors banquet beer” at pubs in the UK.

  • Evidently a lot of people have never heard of the British Commonwealth. No doubt including the U. S. “commonwealths” was a cute way to include some domestic brews.

    Can’t wait for the place to open and I’m pretty sure it will be slammed. Perhaps the critics on here can channel their anger more productively by opening their own places, chock full of originality, local color, and quality food at prices the “real” CH residents can afford. I know, maybe another Salvadoran restaurant!

  • time stealer,

    granted i just did pick one beer off the list and call it rare –

    point is that to compare these beers to coors or miller lite in terms of price is ridiculous.

    as well, i just love laughing at people who take time away from their desk jobs at someone else’s company criticizing the entrepreneurial efforts of others…


  • ontarioroader – I too foundly recall seeing that select Belgian brew, Budwiser as the most expensive in the pubs in the Cotswolds…along also thought it was funny that SoCo was a hip shooter – never understood that.

  • hello, grass is greener, foreign is exciting, same is boring.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

  • this much talk, i guess people are excited.

  • so who is going to be there on august 6th? anyone know what sort of opening they are having?

  • It’s bad enough when people don’t list what’s in a dish, but even worse when you use ridiculous british nomenclature. Most americans don’t know what’s in “bangers and mash” and i can’t find a reference to “frog in a puff” outside of this menu.

  • anonneemooo, actually brews like Old Speckled Hen can be had for .99P at any Tescos in the UK (i.e. the Safeway of Britain). Several of these selections, including the “rare” Belhaven, are exactly like Millers or Coors in that they are available at every shop in UK and brewed by the largest British-owned brewery (Greene King). So the comparision to those two American brands is a fair one even if you prefer a common bitter ale like Old Hen to a common pale lager like Millers. They are both mass produced brands that are sold cheaply. However, I do think it is funnier to see people pay a premium for Coors in the UK. Coors is pretty awful.

  • RCR…toad in the hole, i have heard of, but frog in a puff, no. we shall find out what it is soon enough, i suppose.

    uh, and anonneemoo, perhaps we should not be so harsh, but that quote…it is only a restaurant. we are not debating building a community center or food pantry. i am just not convinced opening a restaurant qualifies as daring greatly.

  • Yes, yes, Teddy Roosevelt was a Man Of Action, and that quote means that anybody who is not currently opening a restaurant cannot criticize any restaurant anywhere. Boy, I’m sick of that quote, among the most abused in the canon. Guess what – sometimes what the Man In The Arena is trying to do is use ephemerally hip nomenclature to justify larding five extra bucks onto everything they sell.

    I prefer Samuel Johnson: “You may abuse a tragedy, though you cannot write one. You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables.”

    Don’t get me wrong – this restaurant may be awesome. I just hate the multiple poor uses to which that Roosevely quote is put.

  • ch res 6:19 opening any small business, especially in these times is “daring greatly” i dont know the exact percentage but the rate of failure is high and even higher with reataurants . a year from, now i wonder how many of the newer small bussinesses in ch and pw will still be around? good luck to commonwealth and all the new businesses in ch and pw.

  • a chance – all that is restaurant fact. nothing new. so not exactly daring. and this current economic situation has been in the making for some time.

  • boo on the picture of VA on the wall. thats not were its located so it shouldnt be there. boycott!!

  • Frog in a puff is a mini version of toad in a hole… And I am sure all the friendly servers will be happy to explain the other mysteries on the menu!

  • just walked by and it’s open now

  • i think that is just mock service.

  • “Frog in a puff is a mini version of toad in a hole…”

    and smagglesmarfum is a larger version of pinkleswasum. If we’re defining things in terms of made up words…

  • The picture of Virginia appears to be in chalk… Maybe someone can erase it?

    Or, maybe it’s supposed to be a chalk outline of Virginia, and the restauranteur is trying to make some sort of statement (somebody killed Virginia!), or something.

  • Okay, I called this place and they hung up me multiple times when I asked if I can leave my name for a table. This after simply answering the phone, “hello?” If it weren’t for the loud background, I would not though I called the wrong number. I guess they don’t want me there?

    Question – isn’t Kentucky a commonwealth? why are there no beers from Kentucky?

  • They have an extensive bourbon list, from what I understand. And, as Kentucky is the “commonwealth” state, it all makes sense.

  • Anonymous,
    Just for the record… the beer is good at Commonwealth.. the foods not bad either. But t oanswer your question, within the Commonwealth of Kentucky there is Louisville. It has a metro area of 7 counties in Ky and Indiana with a population of almost 1.3 million. There are at leat 9 quite large MicroBrew Pubs with excellent beer. In one in particular, there is one Stout that has been aged in a old used boubon barrell. Wow,.. it was good!

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