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The Smith, “American Brasserie”, coming to new building at 13th and U Street, NW (the one with Rite Aid)

by Prince Of Petworth March 24, 2017 at 10:00 am 53 Comments

the smith u street
1314 U Street, NW

According to a liquor license placard, NYC’s The Smith (recently opened in Penn Quarter) is also coming to U Street! The placard says:

“New Class “C” Restaurant with 216 seats and a Total Occupancy Load of 320. Restaurant will serve American food and will have Live Entertainment.”

Check out the 9th and F St, NW menus here. Updates as buildout progresses.

  • Duponter

    I will never understand how that building design was approved. That belongs in Clarendon, not DC. It’s already dated.

    • oh2dc

      I had the same thought that this could be a picture taken in Clarendon or Pentagon City. Would never guess U St. I am not usually one to jump on the “man, this is so ugly” bandwagon, but this really is awful.

      • DCMau5

        If it had floor to ceiling windows like the new construction on 14th you’d have a different set of whiners. Buildings fine, Leave it be.

        • FridayGirl

          Ha! I agree. Not the best looking building, but really — what luxury apartment looks particularly nice these days? They all look the same.

          • TX2DC

            I sure wouldn’t mind having one of those balconies in the spring and summer.

    • Anon

      I completely disagree – I think the design looks very stately and seems to fit in with the historic context (well-proportioned with just enough flourish to not be boring). It also relates well to the Ellington across the street. All the limestone accents are a nice touch as well.

      • maxwell smart

        While I don’t love either building, I give the Ellington the upper hand here. This building has no pedestrian scale at all – it’s a giant red wall with almost zero set-back and very little to break up it’s massive full-block presence.

        • Anon

          That’s definitely true – it’s a rather hulking presence compared to what was there beforehand.

    • Jorge

      One thing we, DC people who care about the city, should keep in mind is that there is a trade off between limits on building in favor of aesthetic goals or historic preservation and affordable housing. I don’t mean to say you can either have one or the other; the issue is one of degree. Enabling developers to build will slow the rise in home prices. I say this as someone who wants both, the preservation of the historic nature of architecture in the city and affordable housing.

      • Duponter

        Nice design has nothing to do with any of those issues. I never remarked that it looked cheap. In fact, it is probably more expensive to build this than a big glass box, which I recognize brings in an entire new spate of whiners.

        But this style is 10 years old already. There’s nothing stately about this. It’s ugly.

        • Anon

          Name an existing building that you think would fit well here. “It’s ugly” isn’t the most nuanced opinion to voice.

          • Duponter

            I did. See below.

            Though I disagree. “It’s ugly” is a perfectly sufficient. I don’t need to recommend alternatives after the fact.

          • Anon

            Sorry – didn’t see your response earlier.

    • Anon

      Question to those who liken this building to cheap simulacra in the ‘burbs: what building do you think would fit well here? Name specific examples (limiting this to buildings in DC).

      • Ben

        The general consensus from what I can tell is people in D.C. want what Napoléon III did in Paris in the 1800s: Completely raze the city, displacing the poor, so beautiful walk-up apartments can be built throughout the city….

      • Duponter

        Something similar (but obviously would need to be a more cost effective version) to the condos in City Center? Most of the new buildings going up in this area, for better or worse, have at least a tad more modern look to them than this building. This building is newer than them but already makes me think it’s older. I agree with the commenter below that the Louis turned out much better than this building. I actually tend to like the buildings that feature more glass, though I recognize that is not universally loved.

        I just think if you wanted to do stately, you can do it better than this.

        • Anon

          My understanding is that the developer purposefully chose to stay away from the more modern designs to appease the Wallach NIMBYs. They went for a stripped-down “neo-classical” design to save money on expensive flourishes (I do think it would look better with more detailed flourishes thrown in, but alas, it’s expensive). They wanted the building to look like it’s been there for a while, as opposed to looking like obvious new-comer.
          I like the Louis building, but it’s a very different situation there as it had to be built to encompass the existing row-houses. I don’t recall the previous building here as having any sort of historical value, so it likely wasn’t worth saving/incorporating into the new design. I do think that a more modern building could have worked well at this site, but I guess JBG didn’t think it would be possible to get a more modern building past the ANC/HPRB.

          • maxwell smart

            It’s really unfortunate that DC is continually held back by various ANC’s that seem to cling to this idea that DC needs to maintain some arbitrarily determined historic period for all new construction, which I can only assume is some attempt at “maintaining the character of DC.” The irony is that it actually makes the city less interesting, as all of these buildings are just a clone of the one next door. It’s a sea of mediocrity – bland, uninspired design-by-committee, resulting in forgettable buildings. It’s the muzak of architecture – it’s there to fill space but disappear into the background.

            Where is the sense of discovery? Where is the sense of allowing different areas of town to have a unique and different look and feel? London comes to mind as a city that has this great blend of old and new. Maintain what is actually legit historic, but otherwise, let’s see diversity.

          • Duponter

            I totally get the many issues that led to this, but that was part of my complaint really. Also, I guess I disagree that if that was the concern of the neighbors, they got what they wanted. This looks old, but not classically old. It looks like it’s just a decade old building that wasn’t interesting when it was built a decade ago. It reminds me a lot of the big box buildings along Mass Ave between 6th and 3rd NW that everyone hated when they were built (10+ years ago) b/c they were bland boxes despite the fact that at least made a bit more sense in that part of town (though I agree and disliked them when built).

          • Duponter

            Also, this design is VERY JBG, now that I think about it. They built most of the buildings around town that remind me of this one. Maybe the answer to the issue is a bit more obvious.

          • FridayGirl

            Didn’t JBG also do the Louis and Atlantic Plumbing though?

      • Duponter

        I will concede, for a building with a Clarendon feel, I do like this one more than the monstrosity they put at 14th and Rhode Island (w/ the Shake Shack).

        Oh and I’d note those new buildings near 930 club are at least interesting to look at. I don’t love every new building the “north Shaw/U Street” area that has gone up, but I do enjoy they all tend to have a distinct but not out of place vibe. This one seems to stick out to me as a let down for such a busy intersection.

      • kd21

        Something architecturally striking and interesting. The Atlantic Plumbing building and the building directly across the street are good examples.
        This building just exemplifies uninspired, lazy, and bland post-modern architecture. There’s a condo building in Dupont Circle at 17th and O – The Richmond, built in 1987 and also embodying the absolute worst aspects of post-modern architecture – that this appears to pay homage to, though it is quite undeserving. In fact should check to see if it’s still there, it may have been airlifted and dropped here…

        • maxwell smart

          Yep – was going to come here and say the same thing. This looks like the type of building I would expect in Upper NW DC that is the product of NIMBY’s that demand faux-historical architecture because anything more modern than 1980 is a disgrace to the fabric of the neighborhood.

          • Anon

            I’m pretty sure this building is exactly that – dictated by NIMBY opposition.

        • Duponter

          Yes! The Richmond is exactly the building this reminds me of.

  • Seafood Eater

    I disagree — I walk past it every day and it feels a bit more in character than the glass cubes going up all over the place.

    As for the Smith — decent food but way overpriced for what you get IMHO. I’m hoping they have an aggressive raw bar happy hour because I need that within blocks of my house. Old Ebbit or Clydes is just a bit too far.

  • anonymous

    This building could’ve easily rivaled The Louis. Which to me is one of the better designed apartment buildings in the city.

    • MtP

      100% agree about the Louis. I was on the bus going up 14th the other day and really noticed how good that building is. The storefronts look much more natural than other buildings, and the design is more human-scale and interesting than others. I also think the various buildings by the 930 club are good examples too. I really think designers who do something like this are just mailing it in for the most profit.

      • anonymous

        Even if they chose a different color brick- it would’ve had an entire different look/impact. This desert color brick is NOT the business.

      • maxwell smart

        What The Louis does well is respects the scale and proportion of the neighborhood, while being a larger building. It’s a lesson in being contextual, which doesn’t mean slapping on faux-historical details. The above building has no sense of scale in this neighborhood, which is why I think it’s getting the comparison to Clarendon or the suburbs. It’s more suited for somewhere with wider streets, probably fronted by a larger parking lot.

    • JS

      The Louis is ugly and it demolished the Taco Bell closest to my house. I hate it, don’t @ me.

      • I weep for that Taco Bell.

      • anonymous

        probably did you a huge favor.

        **Also- the store front of this building looks very stripmallish/outletish.

        Tacos for everyone. just not from taco bell.

  • L


    • L

      let me clarify. It’s hideous. It most definitely looks like everything in Clarendon. ICK!!!

  • jaybird

    Seems like a “nicer” Ted’s. My kids will enjoy.

    • Michael Pierce

      It looks like a more expensive Clyde’s. If the food is mediocre or better, they’ll make a killing at this location.

  • DF

    I’ll state I’ve never been to The Smith, but the menu and “feel” I get from it seem very much like Le Diplomate. I don’t know if it’ll be filled most nights, but I bet it’ll be popular.

    • Nathan

      Excited for this. I stopped into the Penn Quarter one for a drink recently. Awesome space.

  • Idontgetit

    Okay enough of the Clarendonphobia (again)…I’m excited about the restaurant! I wish it was open for breakfast!

    • Ross

      Yeah, especially since half the commenters on this site probably moved here from Clarendon a few years ago!

  • ST21

    I’ve heard this build out is going to be awesome from a buddy who is on the project. If you haven’t gotten over to the new one near Chinatown I recommend it. It’s just a rock solid restaurant that offers classic American cuisine. I’ve always liked the décor in there and the bar is a nice place to post up for a couple hours- not sure if this one will have TV’s but I really hope they do. I know it’s hip and trendy to not have TVs in restaurants anymore but a couple TVs on either corners of the bar seems like a nice compromise to me. Anyone else feel that way about restaurants? I guess a TV makes it less “classy” but when I’m posted up at a bar or even just having a drink waiting for a table I enjoy having a game on.

    • jes

      Seconded. Our experience at the PQ location was an excellent one, and they took extra good care of my wife’s food allergies, which always gets you an extra star in my book.

  • deejay

    I just had brunch at the Penn Quarter location last weekend with 7 others. We had a great experience. The food was delicious, drinks strong, and service friendly and fast. I hope that trend continues at the U Street location!

  • AJSE

    Loved my dinner/drinks at the Smith, so super excited to see they are expanding! Agree with others that the Penn Quarter space is beautiful and the atmosphere is fun and friendly. The drinks and food are awesome!

    • Anonymous

      Loved my job writing online hack nonsense for a local PR firm!

      • AJSE

        Lol k, not an online hack (at least not of the PR variety). Just super enthusiastic about a restaurant I really loved coming closer to where I live.

  • LittleBluePenguin

    Every time I see something name the X “Brasserie,” my eyeballs switch the letters around and I read it as “Brassiere,” which gives me 0.7 seconds of snickering confusion!

  • Planner

    While I don’t love this building I give it a strong B. I like the Washington residential look – brick, historical-ish details – but they went pretty hard on it, which doesn’t quite suit so big a building. The tiny balconies make me laugh – I wonder if they will be functional for anything other than use as a glorified window… but on the other hand that could be ok, since that corner is sure to be noisy. Maybe they’ll be good for looking down to see if your Uber has arrived yet. Speaking of size, this building is tall and even without seeing it, I am jealous of the view from the upper floors, especially since it seems unlikely anything will be built to block the southern view, given the neighboring houses.

    Interesting that several folks have mentioned the Louis, which I do not think is much better. The non-historical approach is ok, but they went hard on the old trick of making the upper stories black so they are less noticeable… and that didn’t work; it just makes it look gloomy. I think the Louis is probably the better building at street level, except for that over-busy garage and loading dock on 14th; the new building might be taking some risks with a few large storefronts – a failure or two could really dampen the street life. (Though obviously that is worst-case.)

    And for what it’s worth, although I like the brick and historicism particularly in a residential building, I also think Atlantic Plumbing is one of the best buildings built in DC, in years.

  • Admiral Yi

    The Smith sucks. The end.

  • wpk_dc

    I actually really like this building as a nice refreshing break from all the other new apartments and condos going up. I do think there is a stateliness to it and the brick/limestone fits much better on U Street than any City Center-style building ever would. I also love the curved balconies, again something different than the rest but yet historically grounded. Yep, I’m a fan.

    • wpk_dc

      And as for The Smith, I’m definitely excited to try the Penn Quarter location very soon. Good to see they’re investing in DC with the second U Street one opening here. Nice all around.


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