Word of Domku closing has loosened a few memories for me. I’m gonna have to put on my old man hat and remind some folks what Petworth was like it 2005 when they first opened. Petworth was spectacular in 2005, thank you very much. It was spectacular because it was “real” and the people were the best. No nonsense, no bullshit, no pretension. Now despite the fact that Petworth was the most underrated neighborhood in the District, it was far from perfect. There were not many sit down restaurants on Upshur Street (RIP old school Hitching Post) and there certainly weren’t any that served borscht. In came Kera Carpenter with W. Domku. Domku was a game changer. It was cool as shit and despite it’s originality it was most definitely not pretentious. It was what so many of us had been pining for – simply a cool spot to eat, drink and meet folks from the neighborhood (and beyond.)
Now having said that Domku was far from perfect. I actually always enjoyed the food but as others have noted the service was, at times, uh, inconsistent. And the owner was at times, uh, no nonsense. But let’s again go back to 2005 for a minute. Opening a new restaurant on Upshur street was not roses, rainbows and celebrations like it is today. You had to be tough as nails.
Crime was a serious issue. Kera needed to be tough and project “I’ll kick your ass, if you F with me.” Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But this toughness didn’t come from a vacuum, it was absolutely 100% essential. Once you’re tough for so many years, I’m not sure how easy it is to just flip a switch turning it on or off. Also, Kera could be incredibly pleasant too. I’m rambling – point being – Domku did change the face of Petworth but it wasn’t easy. I’d argue it changed Petworth for the better. Could it have been better? Sure. But if a hundred people opened a restaurant in Petworth like Domku back in 2005 – I’d be surprised if ten were successful. So Domku deserves props whether or not it was your favorite spot on the block.
Personally, I found Domku maddening, spectacular, the absolute best, the absolute worst, delicious and warm and cold and loving. Kera has most definitely done a lot for Petworth and Upshur Street in particular. She is a pioneer and deserves the thanks from those who like the revitalized Upshur Street of today. Paul Ruppert should send her flowers every day for a year. Thank you for all you have done Kera. Good luck on your next project. Domku will be missed by many. Personally, I thank you for all the memories: the good, the bad and the ugly. Domku was an original, no doubt about that.