Park Cafe Papered Over and “Closed for Today” This Week on Capitol Hill

106 13th Street, SE

Park Cafe has been “closed for today” this week at the eastern edge of Lincoln Park.

The front has been papered over so it is possible it could be undergoing a renovation. Though there was also this ominous note posted to the front door:

Their Website says:

The place started out, as I’m sure many of you who’ve been here longer than I have remember, as a Mexican place where you brought your own booze. Then he went to Latin and Spanish food. One of his lawyers, Paul Pascall’s, favorite stories is how the Park Cafe got its liquor license. Originally they were turned down because a nearby church invoked a law that says a business within a certain number of feet of a church cannot have a liquor license. So he hired a lawyer and challenged the law. He was an immigrant in this country, with no special connections to anyone in power, and he used the court system available to him and got the law overturned. A great example of the American justice system being equal and available to everyone, Paul likes to point out. He’ll also tell you about how all the windows in the neighborhood were filled with signs supporting the Cafe.

So once he got his license, Alcione opened the kind of restaurant he really wanted. A real, high end, food lover’s restaurant. And he began collecting wine. If you ask him how he knows so much about wine, he’ll laugh and say, “In Chile you grow up, you know about wine. From day one. You just drink it and you know. When the babies cry, they don’t dip the pacifier in milk, they dip it in the wine.” He currently has somewhere close to 3500 bottles in the cellar representing wineries in Spain, Chile, South Africa, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Oregon, Washington State and, of course, California. He loves California wine.

He develops the menus with his chef, Gustaf (formerly the chef at the Palm on 19th Street, famous hangout of Washington politicians). He adds new dishes every few weeks to accommodate seasonal ingredients or to show off something he’s been working on.

You can see their menu here.

We judged them back in Feb. 2010.

24 Comment

  • And, of course, let’s not neglect to mention that the food was incredibly overpriced and just never any good. That location deserves better.

    • SouthwestDC

      I think a casual, inexpensive cafe would do better in this location. Someplace where you could grab a cup of coffee and a bagel on your way to work, or a sandwich to take to the park.

      • That may not be able to pay the rent.

      • Kinda like Crepes on the Corner. Oh wait…

        • Yes, a business is destined to fail since a similar one did.

        • Speaking of COTC ….these were 2 comments on the local listserv:

          “COTC was doing well. It seems there were challenges between the two owners which resulted in the abrupt closing.”

          “The majority owner (not the executive chef/co-owner) made the abrupt decision to close the restaurant. This was a surprise to those running/working at the restaurant. Things seemed to be going well.”

          • Yeah, it sounded like the majority owner just decided to shut down the business out of frustration or spite. It’s shitty for those of us in the neighborhood, but must have been horrible for those who worked there and had no idea this was coming.

  • Don’t understand how that place has remained in business for so long. Pound is on the verge of shutting down and it gets so much more business than this place. I walk home by this place everyday and I seldom count anywhere close to 5 people eating there.

  • I share the sentiment of those who already made comments. I took my Mother and Father here for Mother’s Day in 2011. I had just moved nearby and thought the place looked adorable. I made a reservation and when I arrived they looked at my like I was causing a huge disturbance arriving 10 minutes early, yet there was no one there with multiple tables open. The food wasn’t anything to write home about. I’ve walked by it since and it appears to never be open. Not sure how they’ve stayed in business this long. I agree with Caroline that this location would be better as a coffee/tea/sandwich place.

    • It would be nice to have something similar to Crepes on the Corner, Preregrine Espresso or Sidamo Coffee & Tea. That will generate a lot more business than what is there currently.

      • Agree, especially if they create an outdoor patio area. I live close to Peregrene but it would be nice to get away from the weekend crowds sometimes.

      • Especially if they open up those front windows for indoor/outdoor seating. The location is fantastic, but it always seemed somewhat uninviting. It’d make a nice neighborhood spot like Jimmy T’s, only with better food.

  • My understanding is this place is going to be an Italian restaurant and will open during the week of September 10. Don’t know if the liquor license transfers? This is of course my local listserv

  • I’ve walked by this place every day for nearly two years. Have probably seen a grand total of 30 diners there over that time. Which raises an important question: drug front?

  • The food was mediocre, overpriced and often they were out of things on the menu. The owner is eccentric. However, the wine selection was pretty great. Hope it can remain an eatery of some kind.

    My understanding is he owned the building and lived upstairs? Does anyone know for sure?

  • I always imagined that this place if it were more like a cafe you’d read about in a Hemingway novel — sit down at a marble-top on the patio, have some coffee, maybe a few drinks, watch the park, etc. I guess that kind of business can’t survive or isn’t appealing to most people.

  • The restaurant is being renovated and will become an Italian restaurant with food from the Pulgia region. The restaurant has new owners/chefs. Don’t know if they bought the building as well.

    • Sounds good to me! Hopefully the quality will be good enough that it will get enough business at this location.

  • I never understood how this stayed open as long as it did. Frankly I only ate there once in the 10+ years I have lived in my house where I went to COTC once a week and it wasn’t open a full year. This place seemed a bit to “rich” for my wallet and snobby for my personal taste.

    Just now sure how well a sit down place with waitstaff – no matter what type of food they were serving – would do at that location.

  • I live around the block and have been to Park Cafe twice in about 7 years. Over priced, bland and boring menu, and just not a nice place to sit. Hope something more practical comes along.

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