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Holy Smokes, Check out a proposed Rendering for the new restaurant, Al Fresco Tap and Grille, coming next door to Jack Rose in Adams Morgan

by Prince Of Petworth — March 27, 2017 at 12:30 pm 64 Comments

al fresco
18th and California St, NW rendering by A.F.Clarens Architect

A reader reports:

“As a neighbor within 200 ft. neighbor, got a zoning notice for a huge restaurant (including underground parking and a roof deck) that wants to go in where the surface parking lot at 18th and California is. The architectural plans (attached) show it dwarfing Jack Rose. They’re seeking an exemption to the “rear yard” requirement.”

Washington Business Journal reported:

“The property, at 2009 18th St. NW, is owned by the same company that operates Mexican restaurants Lauriol Plaza nearby and Cactus Cantina in Cleveland Park. It’s currently used as an overflow parking lot for Lauriol Plaza, which is just two blocks down 18th Street.”

Updates as the zoning process/construction progresses.

al fresco admo
2009 18th Street, NW rendering by A.F.Clarens Architect

  • Anon

    My first thought before reading any of the blurb: “oh, great, another Lauriol plaza” …. then I read that it’s from the same ownership group.

    • stink eye

      Lauriol: Applebee’s food at steakhouse prices. Does anyone know whey it’s so popular?

      • maxwell smart

        Agreed. It’s pretty terrible, IMO. Based on the traffic, valet and parking situation, I think most of their business comes from MD/VA burbs.

      • Anon

        Lowest common denominator food (easily palatable), frozen margaritas, and a vibrant atmosphere when it’s nice out? I do think that it’s mostly bridge and tunnel folks who frequent Lauriol (ie they don’t really know better).

        • stacksp

          2 pitchers of swirl margarita and the free chips and salsa used to be some good pre-gaming before a night on the town or Saturday day drinking. In my 20s we used to meet up here for the pitchers and just go from there whether it would be to hang out on U st, Adams Morgan or make it down to Georgetown to go shopping…

      • AsAMother

        As I understand it when they first opened nearly 30 years ago, there was nothing else like it in the city. There were just high end steakhouses and French restaurant. They had good food (for DC at the time), a lively atmosphere, and decent prices. So they developed a devoted following. As newer and better places have opened, their fans gradually moved to the suburbs. If you go now, you’ll see that a large number of people have driven in from Maryland. And this place is not worth traveling for. But nostalgia is a big factor here.

        It’s one of a few restaurants that remain popular in DC just because they were the only thing like it, despite not all that great. I’d also put 2Amys in that category.

        • dcd

          Lauriol Plaza has been in its current location since 1999, and has sucked for every second of it. I have no idea whether it was good before that, but I don’t think the “devoted following” that liked it 25 years ago is the reason it’s popular. It isn’t like the patrons all are 50 years old.

        • AMDCer

          It also used to be more of a neighborhood spot before it moved to its current location. It used to be in what is currently Rosemary’s Thyme at the corner of 18th & S. As noted – there weren’t many other restaurants like it at the time, so they built a following, to the point that they were able to build their own building and move. I concur that I don’t get the love for it (and I would never wait for a table there), but they must be doing something right…

      • Anon

        Lauriol Plaza has been in business for nearly two decades. It has an appeal for a certain demographic, but isn’t for everyone. Clearly, they are doing something right for the place is usually packed night after night!

      • John B.

        Don’t know why so many people hate on Lauriol. The food is decent and reliable (some may say predictable but I can live with that), it’s a nice atmosphere, it has outdoor seating, service is always good, and they’ve kept their prices down relative to other restaurants in the area. I’ve been eating at Lauriol since they were at their old location (currently Rosemary’s Thyme) 30 years ago. The one thing that keeps me from eating there more is that it’s always so crowded, but that must mean they’re doing something right?

        • John B.

          Whoops, that should be 20 years ago (I’ve only been in DC for 25).

        • dcd

          “one thing that keeps me from eating there more is that it’s always so crowded, but that must mean they’re doing something right?”
          .
          They’re definitely doing something right. It’s just not the food.

      • John

        parking for suburbanites driving in, thats the only reason – it made me sick the last time I ate there which was years ago.

    • MadMax

      Haha, yep, exact same reaction here.

    • crayons

      Agreed. Lauriol is terrible: poor service, bad food. And another just like it a couple blocks north? This should be out in the suburbs situated nicely between a TGI Fridays and a PF Changs.

  • Dupont Resident

    Oh my. This is going to be a disaster for traffic. The only reason Lauriol got the 5 spaces in front of their restaurant at 18th and T was because they had the overflow lot where this restaurant will now be. 18th st. is already a disaster with tour buses parking in the Valet stand at Lauriol. I live on Swann st. but if I were on T I’d be furious about the agreements they’ve made regarding parking and noise and how those will be affected by losing the parking lot.

    • John B.

      I’m apparently one of the few people here who actually likes Lauriol, but have to admit that if I were one of the neighbors I’d be pretty pissed about the traffic and parking.

  • johnny

    I also live near by. Beats the vacant exxon/parking lot that its been the past decade. I would also take issue with the claim that this is “dwarfing” jack rose. Yeah its bigger but the scale is totally fine for 18th. Im sure the nimbys will be fired up about it regardless. Id prefer if it was a more inspired concept than a big taproom but what’s so bad about having a big dependable no frills option around. especially with the coming hotel tourists and all the condos going up nearby.

  • Reality

    I’m glad they’re including garage parking in the project. The design seems a little of a place (looks more like a suburban restaurant) but it’s an improvement from surface parking! Hope the food is good with reasonable price.

    • Reality

      *Looks a little out of place*

  • KenyonDweller

    Thank goodness it’s a grille and not merely a grill.

    • Laura

      <3

    • DCbyDay

      +1

  • DC20009

    Wow, they really scaled up from the earlier renderings on the ANC website.

    • DC20009

      Oh NM, looks close to the early drawings. I just didn’t appreciate the scale.

  • A Person

    How much is this gonna completely screw Jack Rose’s upstairs?

    • Anon

      Meh? I think they’ll continue to do just fine.

    • MadMax

      Given the amount of smoking that goes on up there now I really couldn’t care less. I used to love that place until it became a haven for cancer lovers.

      • Tsar of Truxton

        Agreed. I hate places that let smokers on roofs or in patios. Ruins it. That place is one of the worst.

      • L

        +1!!!! It’s 2017, who smokes anymore!?! I can only go to Jack Rose if I hang out downstairs. I refuse to smell like an ashtray.

  • AMDCer

    Hmm – yeah, it’s a bit uninspired in terms of design, but I’ll take it over the empty parking lot.

    • dcd

      I dunno, the neighbors apparently have an affinity for hideous, useless hardscaped lots (see Suntrust Plaza). Also, omgyou’retakingawayparkingmyheadisgoingtoexplode!!!!

      • Sorry

        It’s not my parking I’m concerned about, it’s their own parking at this location and Lauriol Plaza. Every time they’ve negotiated for more privileges be it for noise, Valet spots, nuisance issues, they cite the parking lot they have at this space. This is going to make an already bad traffic situation at 18th and T even worse. The LP valets also don’t give any concern about blocking the alleys or the road. I really don’t have empathy for these people coming from Maryland and their parking concerns.

        • AMDCer

          I am a neighbor (live half a block from here on California St.) and I’m all for doing away with this parking lot. The only thing it has going for it now is that there are about 16 Zipcar spots there. I wonder if they will continue to use the parking garage they are putting under this as overflow for Lauriol – though obviously they won’t be able to do that during construction. I don’t really see a lot of people driving to this restaurant.

  • J

    There is a 1000% chance that this place will not be any good and will constantly be packed

    • Not dead yet

      Welcome to the down side of capitalism ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • MoldieOldie

    besides Mintwood and Federalist Pig, this is the first new place in a while (in Adams Morgan) I’m looking forward to (although it looks like the Glover Park Wholefoods)

    • INWDC

      huh? Maybe you forgot about Tail Up Goat, Lapis, Pops, Donburi, Bul, Sakeramen, Songbyrd, Philz to name a few off the top of my head.

      • dcd

        I was gonna say, Mintwood Place opened more than 5 years ago. There’s lots of mediocre food in Adams Morgan, but also lots to like.
        .
        Also, the thought that someone is excited about food from the good people who have inflicted Lauriol Plaza on us, but who is meh about Tail Up Goat is hilarious.

      • Cheyenne

        Tail Up Goat is meh – be honest. Donburi has gone to shit as has Bul. Sakuramen is still dominant. Songbyrd is a never-was, and Philz is a stupid concept unless you want to make no money as a coffee shop (too slow, too much staff, too many campers, etc.)

        • Kza Nomics

          Songbyrd is great man. I order take-out from the sandwich side all the time. The bizet is one of the best sandos in AdMo.

          • CE

            Songbyrd has good breakfast food, too. It’s too loud at the bar, but I’m still a fan.

  • ST21

    A lot of hataz up in this piece. Look, LP and Cactus have mediocre grub- no doubt about it. But whenever I go to either of those spots (not very often admittedly) it’s basically just to have a fun group outing with solid drinks and reasonable prices. There’s like 3 things on each menu that are pretty good fan favorite type items that are hard to screw up and I just stick with those. Both of those places basically live off of the group outing type atmosphere and it looks like this will be about the same. I got no problem with that. The design is a little strange given the neighborhood- hope that gets revised a couple times before they submit final plans. The signage is also pretty terrbs. I’m sure it will improve (hopefully). Either way, i’ll take this over an empty lot.

    • Kingman Park

      +1. I’ve never had bad service at LP or Cactus. What they’re doing seems to be working so kudos to them for opening another restaurant. The palates of the majority of commenters on here must be too refined to even remotely understand where they’re coming from.

      • maxwell smart

        I get where they are coming from – I think there are better options in the same price point. Heck, even in the same cuisine category.

      • dcd

        “The palates of the majority of commenters on here must be too refined to even remotely understand where they’re coming from.”
        .
        Sure, that’s one way to put it. But as Maxwell Smart said, this is poorly executed, ubiquitous Mexican food, when one can have better versions of the same dishes innumerable other places for 2/3 of the price (maybe less). One doesn’t have to be Phyllis Richman to recognize this.
        .
        And I don’t blame them for opening up another restaurant – Lauriol Plaza (inexplicably) prints money. It works for them, and God Bless – I root for them if for no other reason than they infuriate the Adams Morgan NIMBYs. But that doesn’t make the food good.

    • stacksp

      Margaritas, fajitas, chips and sit out on the patio and people watch with your friends and laugh away. Its not that serious. Every place doesn’t have to Michelin rated

      • turtwigs

        +1

      • maxwell smart

        I’m not disagreeing. I’m just saying there are other places that I prefer in the same category. I also don’t like smokey salsa, so that alone is part of the reason it and CC are not my favorite. If I wanted to eat something that tasted like campfire… well it better be while I am camping.

        • stacksp

          Lol

    • turtwigs

      +1

  • Mojotron

    (glances at picture) “It’s about time downtown Reston got a combination gym and coffeeshop”
    (reads article) “That’s supposed to be a what where now?”

  • n3

    The building design doesn’t look terrible, BUT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, please change that signage. That’s really really bad signage. Like Dallas chain restaurant signage.

    • maxwell smart

      No.. it would need to be Papyrus to be Dallas Chain bad.

  • NIMBYs Need Limits

    “Dwarfing” Jack Rose? Sounds like a classic AdMo NIMBY. This is exactly where a restaurant like this should go! It is filling in an unsightly surface parking lot and replacing a run-down auto shop, it is on an entirely commercial block, its edifice is only a few feet higher than Jack Rose (also sits higher on the hill, so not crazy for it to be a bit taller to get full stories), and it has a 6 story apartment building across one street and tennis courts across the other. If not this building, then what? And please don’t tell me that the parking lot is somehow “historically significant” or it has somehow become a public space because you parked there one time five years ago. Not to mention it is currently used as parking for a building two blocks away and they are building underground parking, so you can’t even very well argue that this building is taking away available parking in the neighborhood.

  • Saf

    I’d like to see a 6 – 8 story residential; building in that location (perhaps with ground floor retail), but then again, I’m becoming obsessed with the belief that DC (er, Congress) should raise the height limit to allow 40+ story buildings in certain locations and increasing the tax base.

  • Anon

    It looks wonderful and will be a very engaging venue at night. Perhaps as importantly it will further activate the lower end of 18th Street. Win-win. Build it!

    • maxwell smart

      As long as they don’t start the whole LoAdMo thing again.

  • ExWalbridgeGuy

    I actually don’t understand the hate for Cactus and Lauriol. I’m not giving them a James Beard award, but the food is fine and is mostly pretty cheap (what’s the steakhouse you’re comparing it to – Ponderosa?). I’ve never had bad service. The owner is a legit American Dream-type story. But for some reason this place brings out the snobbery in people in a way I just don’t get…

    • Anon

      “The owner is a legit American Dream-type story.”
      .
      So apparently they straight-up stole the menu/cook book from Rio Grande / Uncle Julios cafe to open up Lauriol Plaza. (The menu is very similar still, same as the taste.) Seems pretty legit, I guess.

    • Willard&18

      Agreed. Lot of self declared food snobs on here. I have had my share of good cheap Mexican / Central American Food and I don’t know what everyone is talking about when they claim this place is so terrible. It’s a great atmosphere, there are a number of good dishes from all over Central and South America. I’ve always had great service especially considering the volume of customers they see.

      What Latin Food would people count as better in proximity to Lauriol?

      Also love all the disparaging comments regarding this belongs in the suburbs as if that is a bad thing. Guess where all the best ethnic food is? Not Logan Circle. You have to go to the suburbs where the rent is cheap. Cue all the bougie commenters who are going to assert “I live in / have traveled to xxx South / Central American Country and this is not AUTHENTIC!” Do you know who started the restaurant? The staff?

      I think people just see folks rolling up from PG County and assume they have no taste and therefore Lauriol Plaza = Poor Food.

      • Miguel

        Which dishes are from South America vs Central America? Which ones are Mexican? You have quite the palette.

  • DRC

    Kudos to the designer for including an Audi R8 in their renders. I was just about to comment on the lame cars used in the picture until I saw the ass end in the right foreground of the 2nd pic.

  • AMD

    dear god that cornice… on the plus side if the restaurant doesn’t do well, looks like a bed bath and beyond would be right at home there. Can’t wait for more traffic at the intersection of 18th & Florida.. and tour buses.

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