Dino’s Grotto Now Open in Shaw – A Look Inside

1914 9th Street, NW

Last week we looked at some menu highlights from Dino’s Grotto now open in Shaw – I had the opportunity to take a taste last week and I’m happy to report it was just as delicious as the original Dino’s in Cleveland Park. They’ve now listed some of their beers and ciders on their facebook page too:

“Taps: Champion Killer Kolch {brand new Virginia brewery} ~ DC Brau Poseidon’s Daughter {black IPA} ~ Atlas Home Rule {IP lager} ~ 3 Star Citra Lemon ~ Lost Rhino IPA ~ Baladin Floreale

Bottles & cans include: Duclaw Sweet Baby Jesus ~ Anchor California Lager ~ Williamsberg Redmarker Ale ~ Del Ducato Verdi Stout and Nuova Mattina

Ciders: Dupont {French}, Crispin {Calif}, Jack’s {PA}”

Today take a look inside the new space – first upstairs:




Lower level:


68 Comment

  • maxwell smart

    I mean, good luck and everything, but the owner’s whole “Cleveland Park is a terrible place and we are moving to somewhere hipper oh and P.S. we’re going to crowd source the funding for our new place because we are just so good that people should pay us money for the privilege of even having us reopen when the truth is we have been losing money for some time” just rubbed me the wrong way. I hope something moves into their old space in Cleveland Park, is wildly successful and just goes to prove them wrong and that you can only chase the “hip” scene for so long before it’s time to realize that location isn’t everything.

    • Did he actually say that he’s moving out of CP because it’s no longer hip or is that conjecture?

      • Ya, he pretty much did. Not that I disagree with him but he blamed his lack of business on everyone wanting to go to the new, cooler areas of town like 14th St, Shaw and H St and deciding he needed to move to where the action is. I live near CP and was sad to see them go, but I wasn’t too offended by his comments.

        I am just surprised to see that he recognized that people in DC are looking to go out in these new areas of town without also recognizing what they expect for atmosphere these days. This place looks like a bore and the demographics he is going after I think will agree.

      • No, he did not, and I think the previous poster is letting his/her feelings show about yet another fantastic restaurant leaving Cleveland Park. Let’s face it, CP is no longer a destination in this city and businesses are feeling the heat. Dino left because foot traffic declined significantly in the past couple of years and he couldn’t support the rent that CP landlords still think they can charge. And I think that is fine with a surprising number of CP residents; they would rather have a ghost town to maintain their little “village” in the middle of a city. Have fun when nothing but chains can afford to open there!

        • yup.. CP gets little foot traffic AND parking around Dino’s old location was horrible. why would they want to stay in an expensive lease in that area?

      • maxwell smart

        “As diners have migrated to trendier neighborhoods, whether the 14th Street corridor or H Street NE…”http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/going-out-guide/wp/2013/11/19/dino-plans-to-leave-cleveland-park-and-rebrand-itself-in-shaw/

        • But, he’s not at all wrong to think this… ?

          • maxwell smart

            Yes and no. It’s a blanket statement that I think is only half true. Is 14th street a trendy dining scene? Yes. Does that mean that ALL dining patrons want a trendy dining scene and/or want to trek to 14th street for diner. I would say no. There are still plenty of places in Cleveland Park / Connecticut Corridor that are doing quite well. Blaming the lack of business on the neighborhood just goes to show how out of touch they were with the area, which is now painfully obvious in this new space that is completely out of touch with being in a “trendy” area.

          • That’s a fair point about Dino scapegoating the neighborhood.

          • But are they places that people from outside of the neighborhood will make the trek to CP for? Increasingly the answer to that is “No”. Diners would make special trips for Dino, Palena, Ripple, Lavandou. They may have come back to try other restaurants they saw, or if they couldn’t get in to their first choice would end up somewhere else on the block. When the magnet locations close down or move on to trendier pastures the whole area suffers. Do you really think that is not happening to CP? Are people going to trek across the city or from VA to go to Spices or St. Arnold’s or Medium Rare? They are fine restaurants, but not destinations. Failing to re-brand a prime commercial strip as the rest of the city improves is what will kill CP businesses, not lack of interest from those who already live near CP. God forbid the Uptown ever closes.

          • maxwell smart

            @Anonymous 1:21pm – While I see your point, it goes both ways. I’m not going to go out of my way to go anywhere on 14th street much less Shaw or H Street – it’s too far away, too trendy and generally I feel over-rated. So, yes, while an area does need a reason for people to come, at the same time, not ever area of town needs to become hipster mecca. As for Cleveland Park, I do think there are things that keep the area viable – The Uptown Theater does, from what I have seen, a really strong business, and is something that directly supports bars and restaurants.

        • So you’re upset that a business owner who was losing money chose to move his business where he thinks he could actually make money? The landlord wanted to jack up the rent beyond what the location could sustain. See also: Palena, Lavandou.

    • Someone living west of the park got their feelings hurt.

    • Agree with you on this one.

    • I’m pretty sure that’s not how it went down.

  • everyone loves an exposed brick wall

  • I love Dino old and hope to love Dino new when we get a chance to go

  • I wish them the best and was a big Dino’s fan but have to say I am not digging the interior at all- it looks like a strip mall restaurant from the suburbs. The furniture, lighting, everything looks really cheap and doesn’t fit in with the “hip” vibe I think he is going for. With the name “grotto” and a partially underground location I expected much more. Let’s hope the food is more inspired than the space.

    • I completely agree … maybe it’s not just CP that’s having trouble staying “hip”.

      • Not even un hip CP (per Dino) wants a restaurant this ugly here!

        • CP is for blue hairs running out the clock. If you chose to live in a retirement community, that’s on you.

          • Spoken by someone who clearly has never been to Cleveland Park. I don’t even live there but that’s not how it is. Just stop by brunch at Ardeo Bardeo and that’s enough to prove you wrong. Sorry, but your ignorance is showing. But it’s ok I bet you live on H Street and you’re just toooooo cool to care.

          • Uh what? I love my neighborhood, I’m not complaining about it, but even Cleveland Park which is actually full of young professionals and couples without kids, and many other people NOT retirement age doesn’t want a place that looks like this. It’s tacky and cheap. I’ll stick with drinks on the rooftop at CPB&G enjoying the sunset before I set foot in somewhere that looks like Subway in oh so trendy Shaw.

    • yes. exactly what i was trying to say!

    • Definitely agree, I am pretty shocked to see this is what they came up with. It’s as if no one under 65 was consulted about this design. There is decidedly NOTHING “hip” about the look. If you told me it was a strip mall Italian joint in Warrenton I wouldn’t bat an eye.

    • It does look kind of “hip” – for a monastery dining room. That basement is downright grim with the most uncomfortable looking stools!

  • This just looks strange to me. the floors and tables and chairs look really cheap. the sign also looks out of place stylistically. It looks totally unrelated to the old Dino (maybe that’s intentional) – but mostly just looks crappier.

    • All of the furnishings except some of the new light fixtures come directly from the old Dino. The paint color on the walls is even the same.

  • You’d better want to eat in groups of 2 or 4.

    I agree that the decor looks pretty cheap and tacky.

  • Does anyone else see that the exposed brick, yellow walls, and terra cotta tables are basically the EXACT same interior as all Subways? This is what I imagine a 85 year old would design and say is “hip”. Think you missed the mark on “hip” Dino.

  • I can’t wait until the Pale Ale craze is dead and buried

  • No sound dampening panels… concrete floors, brick walls… tables stacked on top of each other. It’s going to be loud as hell in here. And what’s up with the cheesy decor? Is this seriously the interior?

  • Well, that’s a weird thing to say in the context of Dino’s reopening, especially since only two “pale ales” are mentioned above. Do you get incensed about other beverages as well, or is it just the pale ales?

  • Man this place looks ugly.

  • I went there a few days ago and had a poor experience and the food was forgettable. I also had the same comments about the decor as previous posters.

    • Hi. If you did not enjoy your experience at Dino’s Grotto I wish you would get in touch with me so we can make amends. Thanks.

      • This is the one comment you choose to respond to Dean Gold? There are 30 comments on the absolute failure to decorate the place. Also, just out of curiosity, when did you become a chef? Where did you study and when?

        • maxwell smart

          decorate would imply that all was needed was some well placed personal touches – some art, plants, etc. I think what you meant to say was “… on the absolute failure to even bother to design this space to appeal to the younger, hip crowd you so desperately want the marketshare of.”

        • Well he is responding to the one comment made from experience rather than armchair photo viewing. It’s got a bit more substance to it.

      • Are you going to renovate the ugly space?

      • Dean, I’m in a good mood today, so here’s some advice:
        Hire a local artist and either commission some work or buy some of their existing work. Decorate the space with cute, quirky pictures/paintings. Don’t be cheap about it – you only get one chance to make a first impression. I’d nominate Elizabeth Graeber (see some of her work at elizabethgraeber.com). If you’re not partial to her work, there are countless other artists in DC who would love to work with you. Folks around here aren’t into your highly institutional decor. It’s not inviting; nobody wants to patronize a place that makes them feel dull. Ambiance matters.

        • ok, that is constructive, but not sure Graeber’s work is best for Dino (not discounting her work, I actually quite like her project dispatch pieces), but totes concur with the vibe youre putting out there.

  • man this wotp/eotp rivalry is kinda funny. we are one city, can’t we all enjoy it? I like hanging out at places in dupont as much as I like U street. AdMo and H st both give met he same satisfaction. Can’t we all get along, unite, and be happy together? 🙁

    • maxwell smart

      You literally only mentioned EOTP neighborhoods in the context of pointing out the humor in the rivalry. Nice use of irony.

      • dupont is considered eotp? and admo is in line with the park, no?

        • Maybe look at a map of the city, then reconsider your comment?

          • i mean at this point, nothing is wotp then. van ness, tenley town, residential neighborhoods that may as well be virginia. in terms of feel, i’d say dupont has a lot more in common with georgetown than columbia heights.

        • What park are we talking about and when did eotp and wotp become acceptable acronyms? I’m confused.

      • Hahaha, I didn’t even notice that until you pointed it out. Whether intentional or not, that’s hilarious!

  • I’m calling it now. He is going to do poorly and want to close in 8-10 months but will stick it out for 12-18 because of the big deal he made out of moving into the new “trendy” neighborhood.

  • This has to be the most pedestrian, uninspiring and flat out ugly restaurant interior I’ve ever seen. Most McDonalds outclass this interior buildout.

    Dean, you are already in trouble, I’m just sorry that the people who gave you money to reopen won’t be able to get their freebies out of you before you close for lack of business.

  • As a neighbor, I am exciting to see some new blood and hope in the 1900-block of 9th Street. As long as Dino’s is a good neighbor and there are some interesting things on the menu, I’ll be happy to try them out and return if the food is interesting/good. While I agree that they could have put more emphasis into the “grotto” decorating theme, perhaps Mr. Gold, having read all these comments, and being a quick-study/student of customer-feedback, will both, improve the menu, the customer service and the decor!!!

  • I don’t understand all the complaints from people who are looking at a picture but haven’t actually gone inside. I’ve been there and it’s actually not unattractive. Sure, some art would be nice, but in general, it has a nice feel and the tables aren’t all that close together. The food was quite good too. I’m not much of a mixed drink person, but apparently the cocktails are pretty great. I get the impression that most the comments are from people who have never been to the old Dino’s. let alone the new one! And also, FWIW my impression isn’t that they chose to move to 9th Street to attract hipsters, but rather they lost their lease in CP and had to move somewhere.

  • While I rarely comment on these things–I feel I have to here. I wonder how many of those who have responded to this post have actually been to the new 9th Street location? Dino’s has been a fixture in DC for quite some time. The restaurant business is difficult at best–yet that has remained in a volatile landscape
    Dino’s in Shaw just opened YESTERDAY. For God sake–give them some time to work out the glitches. You don;t like the ambiance? It will evolve. I can say, having been there more than once, the food and service has been terrific, and the price point reasonable.
    At the end of the day, it’s about the all that and the company you’re with. I would call these so-called ‘reviews,’ patently unfair at so early a date; and many, simply mean-spirited and ill-informed. While it may not be perfect after a whole 24 hours, it is a great place run by a competent and passionate staff who are making great food and really care about it. Go and actually try it. Cleveland Park’s loss is 9th Street’s gain. And for those that are so vocal about THAT part of it, perhaps you should have supported it in its former location. Too bad you missed the pasta with the Wild Boar. It’s equally as good, if not better, on 9th Street. I will be back.

    • This is a good post. And it is CP’s loss, no matter how many sour grapes posters whine how the new place is ugly or whatever.

  • I have to admit – the interior design does look like something right out of a strip mall in the burbs, except for the exposed bricks. Not the best way to highlight what could have been a really cool space. But lets face it – people don’t go to a restaurant just for the ambiance. A restaurant with mediocre food often compensates with great ambiance, and some not-as-pretty restaurants with great food do thriving business on their own. So i think Dino’s could fall firmly in the latter category and do really well in shaw, and hope to try them out soon. Welcome to the hood!

  • Dear god, nearly 60 comments just on the decor and perceived ambiance? This is what’s wrong with this city’s dinning scene — more focus on gimmicks and style than actual substance.

    I haven’t eaten at the new Dino’s yet, but my friends in CP held the old one in high regard. The few times I visited the old location, I enjoyed my meal (which is more than I can say for most Italian restaurants in DC), and I’m excited to have the new location in my neighborhood.

    I’m sure in time they will add more flourishes to the interior design, but to totally dismiss this place based on a few photographs (in full lighting no less — something that will probably never be the case during dining hours) seems snobby and silly.

    • “Perceived ambiance” is a ridiculous term. Ambiance is, of course, always “perceived.”

      Many people these days know how to make simple good food and can easily get the fresh ingredients to do so. Tossing up a great pasta takes 30 minutes. An impromptu dinner party can be made from one quick stop at Trader Joes. If you’re a foodie with a hankering for really exquisite masterpiece cooking – there are at least 30 solid destination places to go. If you’re just a regular person who doesn’t feel like cooking one night and wants a good meal out – there are still dozens of good restuarants nearby.

      So unless a restaurant’s food is uniquely other-worldly-intoxicatingly devine – (unlikely) a big part of the attraction is indeed the ambiance. Reform-school stools in a dreary basement and cheap dull rows of tables in a dull space just isn’t going to cut it.

      People here aren’t criticizing to be mean – I think all of us want a local business to suceed. But reality is harsh. Look seriously at the competition – be better or fail.

      • I took the “perceived ambiance” comment as suggesting that most of the people who have commented on the restaurant’s decor don’t seem to be basing their comments on their experience visiting the actual restaurant — but, rather, solely on the posted pictures. Which is a very limited and possibly inaccurate way to judge a restaurant. Reality can, indeed be harsh, but let’s not mistake photographs for “reality”.

      • I’m surprised at how many of the critics never ate at the old Dino’s. I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy, and Dino’s was the only Italian restaurant in DC that for me ever come close to feeling like you’re sitting in a restaurant in Italy. And believe it or not, the focus of Italian restaurants (in Italy) is the food, not the decor. So, yes, the food at the old Dino’s was creative, unique, and affordable. I don’t see why that would change.

    • maxwell smart

      There are so many comments about the decor because they moved out of Cleveland Park to be in a “hipper” area of town so they could attract more foot traffic – they set themselves up for a discussion about perceived ambiance. What people are saying on here is that, yeah, okay the food might be okay but if you want to succeed on U Street / H Street / 14th Street (aka hip areas of town) you need to not only make good food but also have a space that people want to come to, and this is not going to cut it.

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