Judging Restaurants – W Domku

Domku is located at 821 Upshur St NW. Back when I first started this site we didn’t have this section so we’re long over due for this one. Their Web site says:

“Since opening in early 2005, Domku has offered DC residents and tourists a unique dining alternative to the hurried and glitzy offerings of downtown DC. The eclectic menu of mostly Slavic and Scandinavian fare has brought pierogis, borscht, goulash, Janssen’s Temptation, and pickled herring into the everyday language of DC diners. Our menu stays as true to the foods of the region as possible but journeys, on occasion, to other former Soviet bloc regions such as Hungary, Bulgaria and the Caucasus. Perfect for cold weather months, the food is light and healthful enough to enjoy all year long.”

You can see their menus here. Back when Domku first opened it was a huge score for the neighborhood attracting folks from all over the city. Now that it’s been over 5 years what are your thoughts?

84 Comment

  • I found it to be overpriced for what it is…basically peasant food. And not especially well-made peasant food, either.

    • Did you say peasant food? I didnt realize we still had nobility, what exactly qualifies you as landed gentry?

      • It’s ethnic food. This shouldn’t be so hard to comprehend.

      • yeah, “peasant food” is a very common term to refer to the types of simple, hearty food the common people (as opposed to the wealthy) of a region would traditionally eat.

        You should read more. Books, I mean. Not the Sunday funnies.

        • Obviously I’m illiterate if I take exception to marginalizing an ethnicity (actually several) as “peasants”. Do you all eat caviar, foie gras, and truffles every night? If not, you’re likely eating “peasant” food yourself.

          You can stop with the snobbery, I knew exactly what “MtP” was saying, perhaps better even, if you can believe it, better than you.

          • well, then you should try writing in such a way that reflects what you mean and understand.

            Personally, I love peasant food and consider myself and my ancestors peasants, so your attempt to shock me into ‘realizing’ that I, myself, may very well be eating peasant food kinda fell flat.

            Thanks for playing, though.

          • “Peasant food” is a common term for a certain type of european vernacular cuisine.

            Try googling “peasant food” (or picking up a peasant food cookbook) before you get up on your liberal high horse.

          • Oye vey, every watch No reservatons? It’s basically the whole premise of theo show. Get out more often.

          • You know that fish eggs, liver and fungus were pretty much “peasant food” for a long time before the elite discovered them right?

          • @Anonymous 7:27: I think you mean “stay in more.”

  • I’ve had mixed experiences here. I like the atmosphere, unique in the neighborhood and perhaps in D.C. And I like the concept. Interesting (and good!) beer and drink list. The food is hit or miss. I’ve had some tasty pierogies at times, but the last time I went (a few weeks ago) the food was definitely on the mehhhh side, neither of us finished our meals. Overall, I’m glad it’s around, but if the food execution was just a bit better / more consistent, I’d go more regularly.

  • I like the decor and the concept. Food is just ok and a bit overpriced. I live nearby but I just refuse to go there anymore because the service is so terrible. There is one waitress in particular who acts like she’s doing you a favor to take your order. Just can’t see paying that much money for mediocre food and crappy service.

  • we love it. great food, great polish beer selection. very chill – sometimes slow service, but we’re not going to Domku ‘cuz we’re in a rush.

  • i go there sometimes. pricey but decent whenever i’m there. i like the brunch.

  • My partenr enjoy this place, though I would agree that it is a little on the pricey side. If they were to lower their brices a bit, we would likely go more often, rather than making it a once-every-couple-months place.

    I LOVE the pancake with sausage, onion and gouda.

  • I wanted to like you domku. But you have the worst service of anyplace I have ever been to. Ever. In the end the food isn’t good enough to make up for what will likely be a fustrating dining experience. But they have no competition so don’t really have to try that hard. If a busboys and poets type place opened nearby Domku would be out of business in a month. That said I haven’t been there in a year as I basically gave up on them.

  • I’ve always enjoyed my visits there. Quality of food is good. Service, while sometimes slow, has never been unfriendly.

  • i get yelled at way more at mixtec than at domku. definitely not the worst service in the city.

    • There is a difference between agonizingly slow service and surly service. Some of my mixtec ladies can be rough but the food comes fast and hot.

    • hardly a glowing review.

      +1 on e-beth’s comment. I’d have to agree that the service borders on rude. We must have had the same waitress who acted like she was doing us some huge favor waiting on us. She seemed totally annoyed to be pulled away from Facebook or whatever the hell she was up to on her laptop.

      Love the beer selection, though!

  • The food is good 99.9% of the time. The staff (besides the owner) are pleasant, but service is usually disorganized when there are more than 5 customers. The biggest problem is that the owner acts like she couldn’t care less about customer service.

    Every few months we give Domku another chance and get burned waiting an hour for dinner and never does the owner offer an apology. I imagine she’d rather burst into flames spontaneously (given her nasty demeanor, a possibility) rather than comp an item.

    She’s in deep doo-doo if Upshur ever takes off and other restaurants with decent food and pleasant surroundings ever take hold and she doesn’t adjust her attitude or hire a front-of-the-house person who knows what they are doing.

    • Agreed that the owner is one of the meanest/coldest/most unfriendly people I’ve ever had to deal with. If you have a problem with any of her food, don’t ask to send it back, or else risk the wrath of this evil woman. It’s not worth it! Some of her staff are friendly and constantly apologize for the management, but others are just as bad as her. Don’t bother! Hope this place closes and Petworth gets something new, and better, and FRIENDLIER!

    • OK, I wasn’t gonna tell this story, but it totally dovetails with what you’ve said about the owner:
      went there with a group and I ordered the porkchop. It was completely rancid. I mean beyond the pale spoiled. No amount of the seasonings or gravy on top could cover the smell. I didn’t even have to bend down to get a whiff. In fact my wife smelled it from across the table. How anybody could cook this thing AND serve it (especially given the price!) is beyond me.

      When we pointed it out to the server, she was completely uninterested, made no apologies or offers of something different, and begrudgingly took away the plate. I had to call her back to place a different order!

      The owner was there that night, but never made an appearance, never said a word, and certainly didn’t comp us anything (although that’s not what I was after). If this were my joint and this had happened I would have been out at the table lickety-splits making nice and buying desserts or a round of drinks or something. I never understood how she could be so nonchalant and aloof.

      It’s possible the waitress never told the owner… and that the cook didn’t say anything either, but that points to bigger problems too.

  • If it wasn’t located in gangster-ville, I’d go from time to time. Some of the characters looming around that block are pretty frightening, and the memory of seeing young crew of punks from the neighborhood rob a young hispanic boy in broad daylight in front of many onlookers who did nothing (including myself out of fear for my life too) is etched in my memory.

    • Seriously? Gangsterville? Have you even been there in the past 5 years?

      • Gangsterville is harsh, but the Hilltop Boys are still in full effect around there.

        • The PP lives in the neighborhood, he knows what he is talking about and he saw what he saw, no lie. Not to say there are not a lot of good neighbors, there are. I so wanted to like Donku but I’ve switched to the Looking Glass Lounge and will wait for Domku to die a slow death. When you drive by a place at 8 pm on a Friday and it is completely deserted that is not a good sign. I have to second everything most of the previous reviewers have said about Domku – love the concept and decor, HATE the glacially slow service and surly attitude of the owner/wife who seems to have been forced into a life of restaurant servitude against her wishes? Because that’s the vibe she gives off. Beer prices are WAY too high, they more labels that are cheaper than $7 each. Also the gouda pancake IS delicious and the cappucino is good. We went in there to sit at the bar for after dinner drinks on a rare date night at 9:40 pm and she acted like we were robbing them at gunpoint. So off-putting.

  • This place used to make me mad because either the food was good and the service was bad or the service was good and the food was bad. The last 3 or 4 times I have been there everything has been 100% great. I now recommend this place to people.

  • Food is pretty good, but as others have said, horribly overpriced. If I am going to pay $100 dollars for dinner/drinks for two, I would like to not be sitting on a fold out card table and have a server come by at least every 20 minutes. I have only been there twice but both times they ran out of stuff. I say avoid

  • Domku definately benefits from having no competition that doesn’t involve the potential for being shot in the head (looks at Island Cafe).

  • Awful – if any of my Polish friends from Cleveland ate this food, they would lose their mind. And I know, it is not a full Polish place, but eat their perogies and tell me they are good.

    • I know I’m not your friend, but I am from the Cleveland area and of Polish descent, and you are right. The perogies are awful and seriously over-priced. I still rant about it any time the topic comes up.

      • +1

        I’m from Cleveland and of Polish and Hungarian descent and I agree, the pierogies (and the attempts at good Hungarian dishes) are awful.

    • That is so funny! My Slovakian friend by way of Cleveland said the same thing – to him the food at Domku was like a TV dinner version of how good Eastern European fare CAN be. He particularly dissed on the kielbasa.

  • Big tip: Buy a gift certificate for Domku on http://www.restaurants.com. I can’t remember the exact deal, but it’s something along the lines of paying $10 for a $20 certificate and I’ve definitely seen Domku as one of the participants.

  • i’m from pittsburgh, and we like our pierogi, and the pierogi at domku are straight up bad. like i said, though, the breakfast has some decent items.

  • kiki

    The service is pretty bad, waited way over an hour for dinner for two when there was only one other table. I was happy to finally get some Polish in DC (I’m from Chicago, biggest Polish population outside of Poland!) but because of the prices and service, I’ve never been back.

  • There’s not a single thing on their menu that appeals to me and I’ve only ever heard bad things about the food and service, so despite living within walking distance of Domku for 4+ years, we’ve never been. From what I’ve read in these comments so far, that seems to be a wise choice.

    • You’d think that Kira (SP?) the owner would get the message since every time Domku gets discussed online (and off) people universally pan the customer service and are split on the food. And after a few years it seems that the attitude that she exhibits at Domku (i.e. “I could give a f@#k”) isn’t just misinterpreted by a few touchy patrons.

      It is a service industry, after all, and the fact that she’s determined to act this way wouldn’t be the kiss of death for the place if she’d merely hire a floor manager or host(ess) that handled these duties like a normal human and made sure that it didn’t take an hour to get a sandwich.

      Two pieces of bread, some greens, a dash of mustard and sausage. Stack of chips.

      ONE HOUR.

      It’s almost like a deliberate “f@#k you” to the customer.

      I’m sure her attitude is that she MUST be right because she is making money in the restaurant biz, while you are just an idiot patron, and the overwhelming expressed opinion that she drives customers away is of no concern whatsoever.

      Frankly, she’s just unprofessional and her limited restaurant experience prior to Domku shows not only in the slow service and inconsistent food, but in little things like letting her small daughter aimlessly run loose in the dining area, her surly attitude toward patrons, and the nearly unusable junk tables (which she finally got rid of a year ago). She was very smart in picking Petworth when she did, years before the wave really started breaking, but being in the right place at the right time doesn’t make you Wolfgang Puck.

      People seem to universally agree that they go to Domku for lack of other similar options – not exactly a ringing endorsement.

      We’ve resolved to just not go back. I venture I put ~$1000 in Kira’s pocket over about a dozen visits during which the food moderated from pretty good to once being pathetic. The prices aren’t outrageous in DC but if I want to be treated like a schmuck I can just hang out at a Metrobus stop with a bunch of teenagers and save $60.

  • i love domku! it’s really best treated as a neighborhood hang-out than a prolific restaurant though. i’d never go on a weekend night but then again thats true with most restaurants in the area. all those complaining about the price and food have not ordered the gypsy sausage sandwich.

    • I’ve ordered the gypsy sandwich many times. It’s just okay, and ithe price is no bargain when factor in that you just never know if you’ll still be hungry by the time the slow ass staff get it to you.

  • I hope the owner is reading! Decor and atmosphere are really good, and there is no competition. Owner seems completely disinterested and unprofessional — some of her staff (not all) are the same. Food is decent, for what it is. We do every one or two months and treat it more like a cafe/bar (if we’re in no hurry) but with a couple of changes would go more often.

  • Agree that the food is just fair, that it is overpriced, that the service is poor and that the owner is uninterested. The “don’t move the furniture” table signs and “no substitutions” menu warning epitomize the attitude there. Always a last resort, which we’ll reluctantly accept because it’s within walking distance.

  • On a side note, people of Hungarian and/or Polish descent, are there any good metro-accessible Hungarian or Polish restaurants in the D.C. area? I’ve only been here 3 years, but I’ve yet to find one!

  • We just moved to Petworth a few months ago and we LOVE Domku for breakfast, brunch, meeting for coffee, etc. – it is the perfect little neighborhood cafe. We also take our small daughter, and the laid-back mood and atmosphere work well for us. The staff has always been friendly and is never in the way. They may be hard to get at times, similar to the service at Tryst. I’ve never had a problem with the food or service, but I’m also not in a rush and don’t expect the owner to act like we’re friends or something. She took a big risk opening up the cafe, and I’m thankful for it every time I walk by or stop in!

  • glad i’m not the only that thinks it’s overpriced. definitely not going back. service was ok when i went.

  • I attempted to try them once. I went in there on a Sunday (I think) to get something for take out. They were busy, all the tables were full, but there was space at the bar that I planned to sit at, have a beer or two while my food was prepared. However, they refused to serve me because I was going to do take out. They said they were too busy to do take out orders, even though I stated that I wasn’t in a huge rush and would be happy waiting as long as it took (a few beers worth). “No.” Denied. I walked out. I will never give them a second chance (though I never really got a first chance).

    I just cannot believe that they would deny service because they’re “too busy.”

  • bfinpetworth

    Went in last week on my way home from work for a quick bite with my partner. Wanted a drink really bad – one of those days…. We sat down at the bar, looked at the drink menu, and waited. and waited. While we were waiting the bartender was fixing a coffee drink. Very slowly. veerryyyy slowly. I assumed, since she was clearly making that drink a priority over even acknowledging our presence, that it was for a customer. But of course not! After ignoring us for at least five minutes while fixing this seemingly complicated coffee thingy, she leaned back on the bar and started sipping her drink. She seemed to be purposefully avoiding eye contact with us so that she wouldn’t have to do anything. I finally just said “excuse me” and ordered my damned martini. AAAHHHHHHHHRRRRRR!

  • I have never been but now I am totally intrigued! hey PoP, how about an interview of the owner? She sounds crazy bitchy/entertaining. Love to hear her side of this…

  • I have given them 3 chances.

    First Time – Terrible service, really slow, and we were the only ones there.

    Second Time – They were out of the first 2 things I wanted. Finally ordered something they had and then they came back 10 minutes to say the chicken was still frozen.

    Third Time – Finally had OK service, however, the
    Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry dish are much better (and way cheaper) at the IKEA restaurant.

  • I like it a lot. I think the service has improved a lot since it first opened, and I haven’t had much problem, but I do see people waiting quite a while oftentimes. Some of the food is pricey, and some is not. Beer selection is great.

  • Not too much to add – the main thing it has going for it is, location (convenient to us) and nice ambiance inside. I like that I can take my dogs with me when I sit out front.

    The food is…well, just not that great, particularly for the ridiculous price. I mean, I know their volume is low so they make it up on price, but I’m tired of getting a silly appetizer-size serving for my entree…The last visit the ‘salad’ didn’t even come with a little vinaigrette.

    The aquavit is fun, but other than that…nothing to recommend.

    And yeah, the staff I’ve encountered has always been nice, but service there is a joke…

  • Love the decor, LOVE the brunch, and I find the staff usually to be friendly and nice.
    Of course, the service is SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW. Always. I live nearby, and can’t get anyone to go there with me for brunch anymore.

    It’s better then a few years ago, though, when they inexplicably had these coffee cups with no handles that were too hot to pick up. Seriously the waiters would go through this dramatic effort to put it on the table without scalding themselves, without concern for how the hell the customer was supposed to pick it up and drink it.
    They’ve replaced them with tiny glass cups, though, and charge for refills.

    That pretty much says it all, I think.

  • I’ve met Kira, the owner, and while she’s not the friendliest person in the world, I wouldn’t say that she’s mean. I get the impression that she’s tried to cut corners, which is why the place is understaffed. She used to have a chef, Eric, but I think she does all the cooking now herself. The food is OK, if a little overpriced, but the real reason to visit is their selection of Eastern European and Baltic beers (and of course their aquavits).

  • I think the food has become more consistently good. I remember going there a few years ago and not being impressed with the quality of the food–and being even less impressed given the prices. Now the food is better, the service is good (for D.C.) and the beer selection is good. But I still think the prices should be a little less.

  • Wow. Awful lot of complaints about the service. I hope this is brought to the owner’s attention.
    I went there a fair amount when it was the only game in town (in the ‘hood) – the first couple of years after it opened. Now, not so much. I’ve never had a bad service experience there. Food was decent but unexceptional. Good beer selection though. Never struck me as particularly expensive but maybe prices have gone up since my last visit.
    Their menu could use some updating. They are serving pretty much the same items that they served 5 years ago.

  • Been twice, 2008 was pretty decent, this past May was Very Mediocre. Very watery pierogi, awful decor (rattly/unlevel elementary school-type chair?), glacial service. Rent can’t be that much in that area, and potatoes are cheap, so the prices really aren’t justified, either. Won’t be going back.

  • This place has the worst service I’ve ever had. A group of us went for brunch. When she brought out a dish that was different from what we ordered, the server insisted that it was what we ordered and argued with us for 10 minutes about it. Finally, she very begrudgingly took it back and gave us something else. The whole rest of the time we were eating she would stop by and give us other nasty thoughts that she forgot to say the first time. It was an epic fail.

  • I would just like to clarify that when people are referring to amount of time it takes for food to come out as “service,” they are entirely misguided. Wait staff has absolutely no control over the amount of time it takes for a dish to come to your table. If you have a complaint about drink refills, yes, that is service. If it’s about how fast your meatballs came, no, that is not service.

    • When they fail to take your order or ignore you it absolutely does effect the timing of the food. Read these comments. Further, people are objecting to the attitudes as much as the slow pace. When mistakes happen and the excepted response is “go fuck yourself” – again read these comments – it absolutely is a waitstaff issue as well as a management issue.

  • I have noticed that “can’t give a shit” service is pretty much par for the course at Domku, Room 11, Looking Glass, Wonderland, and Red Derby. Perhaps it has something to do witht he doofus hipsters they hire as wait staff. All have great concepts and decent food, they just seem to hire waitrons that couldn’t give a shit. Ran into it this weekend at Room 11.

    That said, I get great service at The Heights and Meridan Pint and okay service at Red Rocks.

  • overpriced and don’t like the unfriendly owner

  • We live so close and it seemed great at first but unfortunately we have been pretty disappointed. I would be ok with the prices if the food was delicious and there was more on the plate. We took my dad there and I was really embarrassed by the reluctant service and the extremely long wait. The ableskivers keep us coming back from time to time but overall we can find better places.

  • I keep hoping this place gets better but to no avail.

    Food is ok, nothing special.
    Decor is shabby “chic”
    Service is miserable.

    Why hasn’t the owner/manager taken steps to make things better? This place would be a huge asset to the neighborhood if only they tried a bit harder.

    With lots of other options, how long will this place survive?

  • I think we can definitively say there is room/demand for a new restaurant besides Island Cafe and Domku on this block in Petworth.
    We’ve resorted to ordering sushi, Thai and Vietnamese delivery from Sala Thai and those two Pho places down in CH. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE a stroller and dog friendly Domku like place except without the crappy service and attitude, lower prices, a totally different menu, open more weekday morning hours…maybe a killer spinach salad and calamari? Please somebody hear us!

  • I think it says a lot about her attitude that the owner hasn’t responded at all to this blog topic. I think most people would chime in, apologize for people’s bad experiences and ask people to contact her about ways they could improve service. It’s proof that she doesn’t care about diners’ experiences that she has not.

    • saf

      I don’t think she reads blogs.

    • I wouldn’t want to if I were her, not with all this name-calling.

      • People’s experiences aren’t “name-calling”. I fail to understand this protective attitude people have for places like Domku and, until recently, El Limeno, that really don’t merit the loyalty. Like somehow the neighborhood would cease to flipping exist if we don’t all kiss her feet and never say a discouraging word. Please. It shows a fundamental lack of respect on her part to treat customers the way many people have been treated there. So while we are supposed to give Kera a major pass because she so bravely takes money to do a job, and then promptly falls on her face, people relating actual events are the bad guys for pointing out that reality?

        The very best you can say is that the service and the food is mediocre for the price.

        • Sheesh. Calm down. I didn’t say any of that, especially that you should give her a pass or that you’re a bad guy for pointing out your experience.

          I referenced name calling, names like “evil woman” and “crazy bitchy/entertaining.” That’s all.

  • Wow, I did not expect to read that kind of reviews.
    I’ve only been there once for dinner, with a restaurant.com coupon, and once for brunch, and I loved it. We had dinner outside, and I thought service was fine. I tend to hate the overly sweet “my name is Cindy and I will be your server” bullshit, when they interrupt your conversation, and train of thought, about every 11 minutes, just to ask you if everything is ok. Actually that drives me crazy, and ruins my meal, so maybe I have different expectations from my servers.

    I loved the food, and now that I finally just moved to the neighborhood, I’m looking forward to eating there more often. Maybe the coupon I was using kept me from realizing how expensive it was, but I did love the food.

    I have no issue with calling anything ethnic peasant food, because it still beats the hell out of standard american diner or bar food in flavor and sophistication.

    • People aren’t talking about wanting waitstaff to hover, they are talking about unreasonable waits for simple-ass items like sandwiches, getting substandard fare, paying too much, and getting attitude.

      Keep going, you’ll find out.

  • I’ve gone several times and twice we were told that the kitchen was closed. After the second closed kitchen we stopped going back since there didn’t seem to be any way to predict when the kitchen would be closed and I can walk to Highlands and get yummy food all day long, without attitude.

  • Too bad there is all this Domku bashing going on.
    I go there all the time, nearly every week.
    I have had nothing but friendly service and good food each time.
    If I had to wait for the food (honestly never that long)I also realize that it is cooked to order.
    If I waited for a waitress I also realize that it is a small business and that the heart surgery I needed to perform could wait:)
    I know the owner and trust me she is a really nice person. Not a perky kind of person but nice. Definitely not deserving of some of the above comments.
    For a small business that took the chance on opening in Petworth when most would not have, I think they deserve a little more than all these negative comments.
    She is busy with more than one favorable review published so I can only assume she is doing something right.
    She spends around 15 hours a day at the place, I would not assume she does not care. Her day off is spent going to exotic places such as Restaurant Depot.
    Too expensive based on what? This is a menu that offers a meal for $8, $10, $16… Get what you can afford.
    I am glad she is open 5 years later and even amazed that she has managed to make this happen here in Petworth.
    She hires Petworth people. Is not a burden but an asset in Petworth. Serves good food.
    Give the girl some credit or would you prefer another friendly liquor store in her place. Keep it up and we may get it.
    Full disclosure: I am her friend. I have owned restaurants in the past. I have been the owner who did not care all that much. And lastly yes, my restaurant did suck…

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