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Lincoln Park Kitchen and Wine Bar, Chef Howsoon Cham in the Former Ninnella Space in Near Southeast

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Ninnella has been sold and will soon become Lincoln Park Kitchen and Wine Bar (catchy name, that  <_<). According to the realtor who did the deal, the focus will be on small plates, and the menu posted in the window lists cheese plates, pastas, flatbreads, and a surprisingly wide range of some creative-sounding dishes at a much lower average price than the earlier incarnations there. If the chef can pull this off--and the realtor told me he is very experienced, though I can't recall details--it may well finally be the sort of place that location has needed (though its history has taught me not to hold my breath).

The chef is Howsoon Cham (originally from the Gambia, from what I recall).  He previously headed the short-lived Newtown Grill on U Street, and before that a restaurant (can't remember the name) in Dupont that had been BEDUCI (currently Scion), and before that Red Ginger in Georgetwon.  I think there was a thread about Red Ginger on here where Charlie Adler touted his skills.  I've never eaten at any of his restaurants, so I can't speak to that, but I hope that this does better than the preceeding three.

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The chef is Howsoon Cham (originally from the Gambia, from what I recall).  He previously headed the short-lived Newtown Grill on U Street, and before that a restaurant (can't remember the name) in Dupont that had been BEDUCI (currently Scion), and before that Red Ginger in Georgetwon.  I think there was a thread about Red Ginger on here where Charlie Adler touted his skills.  I've never eaten at any of his restaurants, so I can't speak to that, but I hope that this does better than the preceeding three.

I don't hold out much hope, though I wish I could.  The last incarnation, in which it seemed to have been sold, turned out to be some kind of shell game, so I don't know how legit this is.

On Sunday, I saw the tables outside and menus in the window were gone and wondered what was going on.  Next day, I saw the "coming soon" sign for the new restaurant.  I assumed it was a rebranding and not a sale.  We'll see.  (Oh, and the dog that I sometimes see inside the restaurant was still there on Sunday.)

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I don't hold out much hope, though I wish I could.  The last incarnation, in which it seemed to have been sold, turned out to be some kind of shell game, so I don't know how legit this is.

I don't know either, so I did it, but that was the most difficult all-caps "NOW OPEN!" I've ever typed.

Cham's restaurant in West Dupont was called Café Tropé.

(Pat, if you or anyone else finds out this is a rebranding of Ninnella, please let me know so I can merge the threads back. 106 13th St. SE is the "ḧaunted house" of DC restaurants - the Boo Radley of dining (let's not forget that Boo, despite the children's fears, turned out to be a good guy - I have to give it the benefit of any doubt.))

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I don't know either, so I did it, but that was the most difficult all-caps "NOW OPEN!" I've ever typed.

Cham's restaurant in West Dupont was called Café Tropé.

You can take it back, because it's not open yet :).  There is some construction work going on upstairs in the residence area, so perhaps this is the real deal and the whole building has been sold.  Fingers crossed.

ETA:  Their Twitter feed shows a message on September 15 saying that they will open in 3 weeks.

AND, someone on Popville found the sale information:  $3.2 million, last November

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They've been looking like they're getting close to opening.  The tables are all set.  I saw someone carrying a meat slicer in last week.  Their twitter feed says they are opening next Tuesday, the 27th.

Their website is up.

Do any folks near/in that part of the Hill want to try a happy hour there next week?  Happy Hour is 4 to 7.  If there seems to be any interest, I'll put something in events.

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I ate at the bar on Saturday and was told by the very capable bartender that they had been open 4 days. The place was full, and I was lucky to get a seat at the bar just as someone was leaving.They are working out kinks in both food and service.

I had the rockfish. It received the standard sear-and-roast treatment and was served over peas and julienned carrots in a ginger/sesame pan reduction with chanterelles. It arrived after a long wait. The fish was overdone; the vegetables had lost their spunk; the chanterelles were not fresh but reconstituted and chewy. All the ideas were good if not very original, and If this dish had been more carefully and cleanly executed it would have been a good entree for $18. A side of grilled asparagus was served over an olive tapenade that overpowered the vegetable.

Again, they haven't been open long so I expect things will get better. Since I live a block away I certainly intend to give it at least a few more tries. Everyone seemed to be really making an effort on a slammed Saturday evening.

The problem with this locale is that it must be either a destination restaurant that attracts based on the brilliance of its cuisine alone, or a neighborhood place where people can drop in with their kids for some inexpensive bistro fare. I don't see how anything in between these extremes (like an upscale gastro-pub) could succeed in the long-term given everything else available on H Street and Barracks Row. That might be the explanation for the haunted-house character of the places that have been there before. I hope Lincoln Park Kitchen can find the right profile for success.

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I didn't feel like cooking last night, so we walked over to give this restaurant a try.  Overall, a good experience. One and a half thumbs up?

The food was better than my one meal at Ninnella and better than almost anything we ever had at Park Cafe, even back in the years when Park Cafe had some decent food.  The portions are moderate but gently priced.  The service was good, albeit with a few easily corrected glitches.  Most striking of all, it felt like a professionally run restaurant.  (That should hardly be a compliment, but after all of the years Park Cafe was in this space, it's a huge selling point.)

My husband had both an appetizer (Flaxseed  crusted  artichokes  / cilantro lime $9) and a pasta (Cavatelli /  Prosciutto / chanterelles /  fava beans / truffle butter $12)  to start.  The descriptions are from the online menu and I'm not sure if they are a complete match on everything listed on the menu last night.  The artichokes, which were tasty, came accompanied by lemon for squeezing.  I had inquired as to how the flaxseeds were incorporated into the breading for the artichokes, as my husband can have issues eating just the seeds.  I couldn't communicate this very well to the server and gave up on getting an answer.  As it turned out, they seemed to be pureed into the batter and were not a problem.  I had a couple of these and would have had no problem eating the whole order if it turned out to be something my husband couldn't eat.  He enjoyed his cavatelli, which was a pretty decent portion for $12, given what some restaurants charge.  He thought it was a bit salty but attributed that to the prosciutto.  That was the only dish either of us found notably salty.

I started with Risotto / Porcini  &  Oyster  mushroom /  peas $12, which I thought was pretty good but a little too cheesy.  Since it's not mentioned in the menu description, I'm not sure if the cheese was ribbons of Parmesan or Pecorino (I suspect the former), but it was layered in the dish in a couple of places and imbalanced the dish somewhat.  The peas seemed like an afterthought and didn't taste terribly fresh when I occasionally came across one.

The star of my meal was the short rib (singular) in the Root beer braised beef short rib / mac N' cheese / collards  Red wine Sauce  $21.  It was plated in a mini cast iron skillet on the bone, with the tender meat at just the right point of falling apart tenderness.  I wanted to drink the sauce this was  resting in.  Instead, I pulled collards from the side dish through the sauce and ate them coated in beefy red wine gravy.

I suppose the collards are the same ones listed as a $5 side dish and described as "No Meat"  Collard Greens.  There is no further description of them but they were so very peppery, I think they must have been dressed (doused) in some kind of pepper sauce.  The sauce from the beef helped tame them a bit, but these were my least favorite part of the meal.  I was also not terribly enamored of the mac and cheese that came with the order.  The pasta shells were creamy enough but barely cheesy at all.  My husband didn't care and ate pretty much the whole order.  The sides came in small Corningware dishes like the ones of my mother's I have somewhere in the cupboards.

My husband generally liked his main course of duck (Red mole rubbed  duck / quinoa / pumpkin / blood orange   chipotle gastrique   $22), though he's a bit tired of quinoa (and pumpkin) at this point.  He had compliments for the duck itself, though.

We were too full for dessert, though the bourbon pecan pie with ice cream jumped out at me from the dessert menu.  We left, comfortably full and sated, with no leftovers to bring home and a tab of $76 before tax and tip for our 5 dishes.  That seemed like a fair price, though if we had ordered alcohol, our final total would have gone into triple digits.

I hope they can thrive in this space.  When we arrived at about 7 PM, there were only a couple of tables occupied.  By an hour later, the restaurant was at least 2/3 full.  This on a Tuesday night.

Note that while they were originally serving brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays, they didn't go too many weeks before dropping Saturday and having Sunday brunch only.

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Thanks for this report, Pat. I've been wanting to try it, but have been waiting to hear a few more reports. This encourages me maybe to go for a meal this next week.

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They have now dropped Sunday brunch as well.  I've been meaning to get back in here for a meal and hope to do it soon. I check the menu posted outside occasionally and it has been updated a bit recently, though some of the older dishes (the root beer short rib, flaxseed artichokes, etc.) are still there.  

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6 hours ago, Pat said:

They have now dropped Sunday brunch as well.  I've been meaning to get back in here for a meal and hope to do it soon. I check the menu posted outside occasionally and it has been updated a bit recently, though some of the older dishes (the root beer short rib, flaxseed artichokes, etc.) are still there.  

I've finally been there a few times now and they're . . . OK. The pasta dishes and appetizers I've had have been pleasant, but not exceptional. Wine (rosé and red) has often been served warmer than desirable. But the bill always feel larger than the value. Par for the course with this location.

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35 minutes ago, Tujague said:

I've finally been there a few times now and they're . . . OK. The pasta dishes and appetizers I've had have been pleasant, but not exceptional. Wine (rosé and red) has often been served warmer than desirable. But the bill always feel larger than the value. Par for the course with this location.

Thanks for the input.  Watching them cut back the hours more and more makes me concerned.  At this point, I wonder what it will take for them to survive and (I hope) flourish.

A friend has been there for group meals, including neighborhood gatherings, downstairs, and has had very positive things to say.  It seems to be a difficult location in practice while looking good in theory.  

:unsure:

 

 

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On 10/18/2016 at 6:31 PM, Tujague said:

I've finally been there a few times now and they're . . . OK. The pasta dishes and appetizers I've had have been pleasant, but not exceptional. Wine (rosé and red) has often been served warmer than desirable. But the bill always feel larger than the value. Par for the course with this location.

This is one of the strangest restaurants in DC - it seems like they've been open for 30 years, and it has *always* been ... OK.

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On 10/18/2016 at 7:12 PM, Pat said:

Thanks for the input.  Watching them cut back the hours more and more makes me concerned.  At this point, I wonder what it will take for them to survive and (I hope) flourish.

A friend has been there for group meals, including neighborhood gatherings, downstairs, and has had very positive things to say.  It seems to be a difficult location in practice while looking good in theory. 

They were actually fairly busy both times I was there, with a number of people who were clearly regulars, so I don't think cancelling brunch is a significant indicator of their overall health. Their strength is probably in serving the neighborhood in the evenings; I think Sunday mornings people are more likely to venture farther afield unless you're offering a great value or something otherwise exceptional. So, Eastern Market and Barracks Row have a more buzzy atmosphere and a chance to tack on shopping/errands, which Lincoln Park does not.

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They seem to be having financial problems. I wish them the best, but when vendors are taping much overdue invoices to your door and demanding return of equipment, things are not looking good.  Why not resolve the issue before it reaches this point? They are open tonight and there are people in there. I don't mean to discourage anyone from going.  But, geez. 

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I see that the building housing the Lincoln Park Kitchen and Wine Bar is once again up for sale. It appears it is still open, but I don't know what this means for its future. Hopefully, a restaurant more worthy of the space.

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Despite living about four blocks away, I still have never set foot into this iteration of this restaurant. I think it would probably take a very special place to make that spot work. 

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not knowing any of the costs involved, I think people overthink this location.  Seems to me a coffee shop/sandwiches etc. cater to the park crowd by day, weekend brunch, casual wine bar at night and you would have a viable spot. 

It's actually a cool space, in a cool building, and it really does have a great location.  Embrace the strollers and dog crowd!    

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3 hours ago, Tweaked said:

not knowing any of the costs involved, I think people overthink this location.  Seems to me a coffee shop/sandwiches etc. cater to the park crowd by day, weekend brunch, casual wine bar at night and you would have a viable spot. 

It's actually a cool space, in a cool building, and it really does have a great location.  Embrace the strollers and dog crowd!    

This is what I've thought for a long time.  For a brief period early on during the Al tenure, they did have morning coffee  I stopped by to get it. I don't know why they don't emphasize that. They also had lunch during that period. I recall eating there for lunch. The quesadillas were good. Lots of people work from home nearby. Why not have sandwiches, salads, and soups, etc. mid-day?  You've got the patio so dog owners/walkers can sit for a bit and get some coffee or something if they don't want to sit in the park. The fixation on wanting it to be a dinner destination has never made any sense to me.  

Now that the remade Wine and Butter (or is it the other way around?) on the other side of the park has an espresso bar, it might be redundant. But why did the new owners of that corner store space think there was a market for an espresso bar at the park. (Hint: because there is is.)

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That's what I mean by a place "more worthy" of the spot---and that will mean having an owner and operator who really understands the neighborhood and the way that the DC and Capitol Hill scene has changed since the place's earlier incarnations.

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I would say put in a Little Red Fox type place, but P&C Market is just right there.  Timber Pizza would be another decent model for those neighborhood type places. 

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22 minutes ago, DaRiv18 said:

I would say put in a Little Red Fox type place, but P&C Market is just right there.  Timber Pizza would be another decent model for those neighborhood type places. 

I don't believe they (P&C, now Wine & Butter) have prepared soups, salads, and sandwiches any more now that it's changed hands. I haven't noticed them on my couple trips in recently, anyway. They do have a nice little grocery section

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