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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back, Scratch That, Twelve Steps Back in Cleveland Park as Ripple Announces Closure After 7 Years

by Prince Of Petworth June 9, 2017 at 10:10 am 73 Comments


3417 Connecticut Ave, NW

Dagger. Dagger, dagger, dagger. So much for those two steps forward. At least the powers that be have preserved their precious service lane…for now. JFC. There is no spinning this, this is terrible. Thanks to all who emailed last night. From Ripple’s brutal announcement:

“It is with great sadness that we will be closing Ripple later this month. Despite a great sense of pride and accomplishment for everything that our team has achieved over the last seven years, the reality of a slowing business means we will no longer be able to serve our guests in Cleveland Park. We will remain open through dinner service on June 24th, and hope you will be able to join us over the coming days to share another memorable meal with us, or perhaps a glass or two of wine at the bar.

We believe that our food is as good as it ever has been, and less than a month ago we received our highest rating ever from Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post Spring Dining Guide. But, unfortunately, our reviews and recent acclaim have not translated to the bottom line.

We are deeply grateful for your support over the past seven years. We have made fantastic lifelong friends. Couples have met at Ripple, gotten engaged at Ripple, and even celebrated their weddings at Ripple. We have been fortunate to have a warm, wonderful staff who have built connections with our guests and provided memorable meals. Some of our staff have even gotten married after meeting here! This has always been a place about family, and we will dearly miss all of you – our extended family. Whether you found us in June of 2010, or had your first meal with us much more recently, we are forever grateful and hope we can serve you again – either at Roofers Union in Adams Morgan, or somewhere else in the future.

We are grateful to our wonderful staff, some of whom have been with us from the very start. We will try to help them find new jobs – either at Roofers Union or at other restaurants. It is because of the talented chefs and servers and dishwashers and line cooks that we were fortunate enough to win Best Upscale Casual Restaurant, as well as Wine Program of the Year in 2014 from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, in addition to numerous awards for our wine and beverage program. To all the members of our team over the years, we can never thank you enough. You are the best and we wish you all the best.

We have a wonderful landlord whose family operated a restaurant here starting in the 1932. We are grateful for their support. We love Cleveland Park. We grew up around here, we live around here, and we hope for the best for everyone along the strip between Macomb and Porter. We know that many of our neighbors are also suffering, and we encourage you to support these local businesses and restaurants.

Our final dinner service will be Saturday June 24. Until then, we will continue to bring you the best food, produce and drinks from the finest local farmers and other sources. We are still serving an amazing menu from our extremely talented Executive Chef Ryan Ratino, and we will be offering great half price deals on many of the rare and eclectic wines on our bottle list. We have smaller snacks at the bar, and everything from a-la-carte options to a full tasting menu in the dining room. We would love to see you in the coming days – and we encourage you to stop by or make reservations for one more meal with us in Cleveland Park.”

  • CP Resident

    This is the saddest news I’ve heard all week. And that’s tough competition in the News!

  • Cleveland Park runner

    Ripple was quite good, and I enjoyed it. I’ll miss it.
    .
    That said, the last time I was there was a Friday at 7:30pm–peak time–and the restaurant was half full, if that. For all of the kvetching on the CP listserv about needing more restaurants, people don’t seem to actually visit the ones we have. It’s a shame.

  • At least there will be more parking for that vacuum repair shop and light fixture store.

    • Finally room for a Cricket store too!!

      • Anonymous

        That’s great news! I need a new bat and a couple of wickets.

    • tj

      The light fixture store did an amazing restoration on an heirloom chandelier for me. Don’t knock it!

  • MarkQ

    Ripple was good but I left there hungry every time I ate there. CP needs a reliable neighborhood place; the kind of spot area residents might hit up 2-3 times a month, after work for a quick bite or a non-fussy weekend breakfast/brunch.

    • anonymouse

      Totally agree. Spices and Nam Viet are my go-to neighborhood spots, but a non-ethnic place (and one open for lunch/brunch) would be great.

      Over in Spring Valley, a new place called MIllie’s is doing the whole neighborhood casual brunch/lunch/dinner thing and, despite the fact that the food and service are mediocre at best, they are always mobbed.

      • LovingVA

        what’s “non-ethnic” and “the whole neighborhood casual … thing”?

        • T

          I think they’re talking about a place like Open City. Reasonable price, good but not incredible food, open all the time, nice atmosphere, basic American-ish something for (most) everyone.

      • dcd

        I don’t understand what you mean by neighborhood casual.
        .
        Millie’s (from the owners of Jetty’s and Surfside) benefits from a complete lack of competition – the only sit-down places nearby are the dreadful Wagshal’s restaurant and the equally dreadful and geriatric DeCarlo’s. (The food quality at the Back Alley BBQ is orders of magnitude better than Millie’s, but you can’t eat in, and if you ate that food each day you’d be dead in a month.) Plus, they do a nice job with atmosphere at Millie’s. I agree the food isn’t great, though.

    • Ben

      Maybe Dan should take the cue and open his own place. “Popville – DC’s neighborhood bar!”

      • My neighborhood bar is Nanny’s!! But when I do open my bar one day it’ll be called PoP’s Place. 🙂

        • Margrave of Mt. Vernon

          Maybe a PoP UP (Urban Pantry) PopUp?

    • Irving Streete

      Like Dino and Palena Cafe?

      • maxwell smart

        Dino’s was terrible and their attitude when they closed was terrible. Not sad to see them go.

    • jpvt

      Totally agree – this neighborhood needs a less fancy, less eclectic option with broad appeal — think Cafe Deluxe (not an endorsement of Cafe Deluxe, but I was there for lunch on Wisconsin during the week and they were doing good business.) For all the acclaimed restaurants that have made Cleveland Park a “destination” (Dino, Ripple, Medium Rare, etc).. they just can’t survive without some neighborhood foot traffic, too.

  • anonymouse

    Ripple’s grilled cheese bar was my favorite think about Cleveland Park. When they stopped doing it last year, I got the sense that the owners were investing more resources in their other ventures.

    • Raya

      +1 – the grilled cheese bar made them unique and let you get something quick and casual. I never went back once that was gone, and stopped sending friends there. An Open City type spin-off would be so great in this neighborhood (food is decent, but hopefully fix the service which is rather lax – staff seems to turn over monthly.)

    • Jmur

      How does shifting from doing grilled cheeses to a tasting menu a sign of the owners investing their resources elsewhere? They were charging $12 for two pieces of bread and cheese. Now they are charging $16 for house-made pasta with truffles. If it is not clear to you, it’s is exponentially more expensive and labor intensive to produce the latter.

  • Eh. When you have Bindaas what more do you need?

  • annyong

    this news isnt all bad. this frees up space for a 7-11 between the new 7-11 and the other 7-11.

    • maxwell smart

      I was thinking a Rite-Aid – make sure all the drug-stores are represented.

      • LovingVA

        can’t open a Rite-Aid. that would put Brookville out of business.

  • Joshua

    I was never really blown away by the food and it always seemed extremely expensive for what you got. Guess I wasn’t the only one who thought it wasn’t worth the price. Still, it’s sad to lose them. Because you just know this space will inevitably sit empty for years.

    • annyong

      +1. It certainly was high quality, just not high value.

  • andy2

    I’m really sad! Ripple has always been excellent with fantastic service, a welcoming atmosphere, and great food.
    You will be missed – and I wish all of the Ripple staff the best of luck in their new endeavors. I look forward to hearing where they go.

  • cachito

    While I am bummed to see another local spot go, I can’t say I went here too often. It was kind of pricey for what it was, and better food could be found elsewhere. St. Arnolds, Stang of Siam, Indique and Bindaas are my regular spots in the neighborhood. But if this means we’re getting something else like that 7-11, then I need to get my butt to all the other local spots ASAP.

  • PM

    Loved getting drinks and grilled cheese at this plate. I don’t do enough $100/pp meals to have had a chance to have a proper dinner there, but always wanted to try it for real. Looks like that may never happen.

    I feel Ripple had way too much space for that kind of restaurant in this kind of neighborhood.

  • maxwell smart

    Well… I hope all the service lane supporters are satisfied that their staunch belief in ±22 parking spaces has managed to shut down yet another business in Cleveland Park. Sure, the service lane isn’t 100% to blame, but it’s a big part of the problem. The businesses along this stretch are basically inaccessible to pedestrians. The sidewalk is so narrow, it’s not even wide enough for 2 people to pass without stepping off the curb. The dual layer of parking + the drive aisle and the median push these business so far back from the street, they are easy to pass and forget. The lack of outdoor seating is a liability for restaurants in this city – people want to be outside! I’m sad to see another vacant storefront in Cleveland Park that will either remain empty for years or be filled with some generic corporate chain that doesn’t really provide anything to activate the neighborhood.

    • dcd

      Agree on all fronts.

    • Margrave of Mt. Vernon

      Nannys is so corporate. All they do is talk about upselling and how much flare to wear.

    • Joshua

      “Let’s go to Ripple for dinner.”
      “But, Honey! The sidewalk there is so narrow! Let’s go someplace else instead.”

      • OP Anon

        Haha, said no one ever.

        • Bob

          Actually, we live in the neighborhood, love Ripple, but tend to go to the Cathedral Commons area now. The Conn Ave strip is just not a pleasant experience. Sure, it’s not that we decided against Ripple explicitly because of the sidewalk or service lane. It’s more subtle than that.

      • maxwell smart

        You say that in jest, but have you tried to go to these restaurants? It’s terrible. Between sidestepping on and off the curb and trying not to get hit by drivers, and then having no outdoor seating… it’s no surprise that people would rather go to Cathedral Commons or Park Van Ness.

        • T

          I walk past here all the time. It is the same as walking on any sidewalk — might need to dodge someone. Because traffic in the service lane is slow, you can pop into the service lane if needed. Unless you’re in a wheelchair or have a stroller, I don’t see what the big deal is.

          • maxwell smart

            False. The sidewalk is way too narrow. I’ve almost been doored by people exiting businesses and/or cars. And the lack of patio seating is a huge negative. Personally during Spring-Fall, I choose places based on if they have patio seating.

        • Joshua

          Yes, I used to live nearby and have used that sidewalk many times. It’s extremely dangerous. But I just don’t believe that it’s hurting businesses. And removing the service lane altogether is not some sort of panacea for attracting more diverse businesses. The sidewalk on the other side of Conn. is enormously wide and save for the occasional big movie premiere, it’s mostly empty.

          • maxwell smart

            Look I’m not expecting CP to become the next 14th Street. Or H Street. Obviously the area is not going to support that. And sure, removing the service lane isn’t suddenly going to turn this block into a thriving retail corridor. But it would be a good place to start.

          • Bobert

            I’m with maxwell here – I think removing the service lane and allowing for sidewalk seating would be quite a positive sea change for that strip.

          • Anon

            As someone who use to work at a restaurant on the strip as soon as the weather turns to how it’s been these last few weeks the business would drop precipitously. Having a few tables outside would have been huge, people just want to drink outside when it’s nice out. As for the other side of the street are you counting north of Ordway? Those patios at Med. Rare & Indique crush when it’s nice out and Byblos (the only restaurant really on that part of the strip) always has people sitting outside. If Fat Pete’s, Nanny’s or any other spot on that strip could add another 300 or so square feet of outdoor space to their footprint of course it would make a huge difference financially. It may not attract any diverse range of businesses coming in but it will help the existing places to remain open when lease negotiation time comes up by attracting more patrons, both new walk ins and existing regulars.

    • lizcolleena

      Having lived near there for four years (several years ago), I think you’re overblowing the lack of sidewalk problem. (Two regular sized people can definitely both pass, just not three people, a stroller, a dog or any other impediment.) I will say the lack of patios for some of these places is a real deterrent, though a couple of them have rooftop options that suffice. Not living near there now, I am grateful for the service lane, as otherwise I’d likely never get to have Vace. Parking over there is a pain, and I’m not taking a pie home on the metro or bus.

      • maxwell smart

        The parking lot at Sam’s is generally 50% empty.

      • Joshua

        +1. While we’d all love to have everything we ever desire within 100 feet of our apartments, cars aren’t going away completely anytime soon.

        • maxwell smart

          However on a block that is directly served by the metro and several bus lines, arguing for parking is pretty ridiculous.

  • SinSA

    I am so sad to hear this news.

  • OP Anon

    CP needs a spot like The Coupe, Tryst, or Open City. While CP residents are pretty wealthy, they don’t seem to go out all that much. You need a spot that appeals to the DINKs and singles that live along CT Ave, while also appealing to the upper-income families that live in the SFHs. Ripple only appealed to one of those demographic groups and that group is highly mobile in their dining habits. Families will hit up the same walkable restaurant multiple times every month….that wasn’t Ripple.
    .
    That said, St. Arnold’s does a great business. We come from Adams Morgan to go there at least once every 2-3 months. We much prefer this location over the one in Dupont (too small, too dark, no outdoor seating). We never went to Ripple as there are so many other restaurants throughout the city at that price point…we can’t do them all.

    • Joshua

      There are also loads of seniors living in that area who would be well served by a Coupe/Tryst/Open City-type place.

      • OP Anon

        I’d love to see something like a Perly’s in Richmond: Jewish deli-diner with great food at affordable price points. It would bring in people from outside the neighborhood, but the locals would come by early every morning for a coffee and breakfast with kids in tow. Make it all about high turn-over.

    • Kent

      Definitely. Blue 44 in Chevy Chase comes to mind. Nothing special, but the families in the SFHs off Connecticut keep it regularly busy.

    • Ellen

      I also was extremely saddened to hear this. Although I didn’t go to Ripple super often, my boyfriend and I have spent many birthday, anniversary, and Valentine’s Day dinners there (including a”major” birthday at which my sister and her wife made a surprise appearance (all the way from CA)). The servers were nice and well-informed and the food was always unique and delicious. To me, it had a homey feel that most restaurants in DC lack. I would guess that the closing had a lot more to do with increasing competition from places in Cathedral Heights, 14th St., and even Adams Morgan (which has amped up its “nicer” dining options in the past few years) than the service lane issue.

  • SLR

    Best wishes for the Ripple team. I thought Ripple’s food was great, but I only went there twice because it was too expensive for me. The last time I went — for a special occasion last year– the bill was $125 + tax and tip (total $165?) at least for two people, and we left the restaurant still a bit hungry. I’m in my 30s, live in the neighborhood in a single-family home, and that price point is too high for me to visit more than once or twice per year.

    I’d love to have them put in a restaurant that we could afford to visit more regularly. I agree with those who like the idea of a diner/Tryst/Open City-like place. The places I use most in the neighborhood are those at a price I can visit after work when I don’t feel like cooking (e.g., Siam House, Fat Pete’s, Vace) or those that cost a bit more but still aren’t super expensive (Ardeo, Bindaas, Medium Rare, and Indique). I’d love to have a place in the neighborhood for breakfast/sandwiches/entrees like Open City.

  • notconvinced

    It seems like people keep blaming this on the residents, or the service lane, or whatever… perhaps Ripple just didn’t stand out?

    I live in the area and honestly have never been, the prices seemed decently high, and not justified by the level of acclaim / reviews they’ve received. This isn’t because I don’t spend money on dinner, I’ve been to Sfoglina several times, and not because I don’t go to neighborhood restaurants like St Arnold’s, Dolan, Bindaas.

    Little portions of protein, high prices, and middle of the road reviews kept me away, it wasn’t the right value proposition. That being said, restaurants can succeed in Cleveland Park, heck just look at Bindaas / Ardeo, they’re in the same space and one does very well (Bindaas), while the other is usually where you get a drink at the bar waiting for a seat to open up.

    You need the right restaurant.

    Perhaps I missed a good thing, but I’m just trying to add my thoughts on why they may have closed, I’m guessing I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    • Bobert

      Sietsema just gave them 3 out of 4 stars in his most recent dining guide – same number of stars he awarded to Rose’s Luxury and Sfoglina, and one more than the perpetually busy Red Hen. I do agree that the value proposition wasn’t as high at Ripple as it is at many other quality restaurants.

      • Megan

        That may be so, but having been to both. Ripple was nowhere near their standards, in my humble opinion.

        But I found Ripple to be glorified California food in tiny half-portions with mediocre to good service. I went a few times and based on the bill and still being hungry and mostly lackluster (not bad, just underwhelming) service, I’m not surprised. Food industry is tough and if you’re going to charge those prices, both food and service need to be top notch.

        CP is missing some good casual spots that aren’t bars or a 7-11.

  • bean

    Nooooooooo!!!!!

  • JN

    TBH something like Surfside that’s “fast casual” would be perfect for CP

  • CREAnon

    Not to add too much fuel to the fire here……but average rents for CP are $50 psf NNN. Anyone have a guess what they are on the 10x much busier 14th St?

  • BrooklandDoc

    I’m very sad to hear this news about Ripple. I lived in CP for 7 years, and Ripple was one of my favorite spots. Great food, excellent wine selection, friendly staff, great atmosphere. Lots of great memories there. So sad that the neighborhood can’t support it anymore.

    I wonder if the owners will open in another location? Brookland/Woodridge is pretty nice! Hint hint.

  • Cranky Old Bastard

    Who cares? Ring the alarm bells when Vace moves.

  • Eleanor Oliver

    Ripple is closing because they need lunch as well as dinner seating, Cleveland Park will not offer enough lunch business without office towers filled with workers who eat lunch. A few tables on the pavement will not make up for that. From noon until sunset on any summer day the patrons as well as the food would be toasted alive by the sun shining on that asphalt. Mercifully the sidewalk seating across the street at Biblos, Medium Rare, &c. fall into shadow in time for dinner. Regardless, a 90º day would not be pleasant, even in the shade. Let’s be real. That space is more valuable to any restaurant on the east side of Conn. Ave as parking rather than as seating. The community that is within walking distance is simply not big enough to support all the restaurants that are there now. Ardeo had valet Parking for years after they opened. They must attract patrons from some distance. The service lane is there because the shopkeepers, watching their patrons getting into their cars and driving to suburban malls, insisted on having it cut through. I challenge anyone who favors paving over the service lane to open a restaurant there, then sit down and figure out which would be more advantageous, seating, a few hours a day (when it doesn’t rain) for a few months of the year, …or 26-28 parking spaces, (less after the streetscape is complete) 24 hours daily for 12 months.

    • maxwell smart

      Oh please. We don’t live in Dubai – yeah it gets hot and humid here in the summer, but pass by any place with outdoor seating during Spring-Fall and it will be packed, regardless of which side of the street it’s on. Trees, awnings, umbrellas… plenty of ways to provide a pleasant environment.

      • VVVV

        Not to mention the sports bar, Ardeo, etc all have rooftop seating that’s thriving throughout the summer. Get rid of the curb lane already!!

  • DC Family Man

    Was the opening of this post a reference to Monty Pythons movie “Yellowbeard?”

  • DC225

    Not surprised and no love lost. At Ripple, dinner for two could easily set you back $150, and you’d leave hungry because the portions were minuscule. I mean, can anybody get full from a 3oz piece of fish? And this wasn’t a fancy-schmancy special occasion type place either. As countless people have pointed out, there was horrible value here. Had the prices been more reasonable or the portions enough to actually make a dinner of, they’d still be in business.

  • Jmur

    Most of the negative comments on this page are shocking and saddening. In regards to the value offered, I personally don’t think there was a more reasonable tasting menu price in DC. It was less than $60 per person for a four-course meal that gave you options like foie gras, truffles and lobster. They got 3 stars by Sietsema, the Chef is nominated for rising star chef and best service by the Rammies, it won best tasting menu in the city by the city paper. They were probably on there way to getting a Michelin star. All of these things amounted to a huge cultural addition to the Neighborhood.
    All I read in the majority in these comments are how the restaurant didn’t serve the commenter individually(in a very entitled manner I might add). Look outside! Once one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in DC looks like a strip mall in the suburbs. Leasing signs everywhere only being filled by lowest common denominator establishments. This is a huge loss for the NW and a sign of where everything is headed. Chipotleville….
    If you had a snarky comment without patronizing this restaurant, you should be ashamed of yourself. These people were working to give Cleveland Park some sorely needed diversity.

  • anonymous2u

    Service lane didn’t crush their business but it is certainly holding back the corridor. Can’t for the life of me see why they voted to keep it other than that’s they way it has been so we’ll keep it attitude

  • Andie302

    The chef is opening his own place and I suspect when he gave notice they decided to close up shop instead of hunt for another head of the kitchen and concept change.

  • dsm

    I liked the food and didn’t mind the prices. But, honestly, the portions were so small, I would have to eat again when I got home. That’s what kept me from going back after a couple of visits.

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