Jump to content

Bar Civita - Chef Liam LaCivita Comes From Liberty Tavern To The Former Murphy's of DC Space in Woodley Park - Closed


Recommended Posts

Former Liberty Tavern chef Liam LaCivita's new restaurant Bar Civita is now open, taking over the former Murphy's of DC space in Woodley Park.

Menu is Italian-leaning with handcut pastas, homemade cheese, charcuterie, antipasti.  Most dishes available in full and half-sized portions.

Hoping for some good things, since Woodley Park could use some better restaurants!

City Paper

Post

Link to post
Share on other sites

From the new menu, I see he has my beloved mussels with smoky fennel broth from Liberty Tavern.  Liberty Tavern no longer has that dish and even when it did (after Liam left), it didn't taste the same.  Can't wait to have it again!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Do we know if there are plans to keep the Murphyburger on the Menu?  Seriously, I will need to come to this place just to revisit the place I spent so much of my 20s "working".  Combine that with my like of the early Liberty Tavern, it should be an interesting experience.

Link to post
Share on other sites

This week I learned that Chef Liam and I have a good mutual friend, so I am very excited to head over there and experience Bar Civita. Plus it's right down the road from Ogawa, so I see a lot of visits in between or after service (at Ogawa). And of course a chef owned establishment should have plenty of soul so I`m on board. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Looks like a promising place, but we didn't make it past ordering drinks. At my age, it is ludicrous to be carded but our server said she came from Gaithersburg where it is the law. In this area, I have not been asked for identification for decades, including Gaithersburg roughly a month ago. Management pointed out that the law requires a patron to provide identification when asked, so I was out of luck. Sorry, I am not providing documentation to enjoy myself in their restaurant. Achtung!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Looks like a promising place, but we didn't make it past ordering drinks. At my age, it is ludicrous to be carded but our server said she came from Gaithersburg where it is the law. In this area, I have not been asked for identification for decades, including Gaithersburg roughly a month ago. Management pointed out that the law requires a patron to provide identification when asked, so I was out of luck. Sorry, I am not providing documentation to enjoy myself in their restaurant. Achtung!

As more and more gray appears in my beard, I have become less amused with the whole "carding" thing at dining establishments.  I'm more than happy to perfunctorily flash my ID in the assembly line of entry into a show at the 9:30 Club, but if I am seated within a restaurant and am carded, I make a mental downshift in expectation as to quality.  If you treat me like I'm in a college watering hole, that's the quality of product I am primed to expect.  I get that the law is the law, but also understand the ability of humans to discern general age patterns based on appearance.

In your position I would've shown the ID and gotten on with it, but I get the annoyance.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Woodley Park needs a good place.  (New Heights is reliably better than good, often wonderful, and I don't mean to diminish that at all.  And by the way, Open City seems like it might have made the transition from "bad" to "not bad.")

I let myself get excited about District Kitchen when it opened, and then not.  So I am wary, because it is so easy for a restaurant in this neighborhood to start thinking "I can charge a couple dollars more, and make the food a lot worse, and serve it to a constantly rotating stream of conventioneers, none of whom will ever be back in town.").  But ...

I stopped in at Civita last night just to have a drink and see what it was like.  Ended up having a great time sitting at the bar and talking to nice bartender Katie, who swore that the food was good and that the chef cared about keeping it good.

So went back for dinner with the family tonight and was very pleased.

The decor is sort of "clubby" in an old-fashioned woody way, which is perfectly nice.  There is a big long bar, and a reasonable but not huge number of tables.  Everyone on the staff, at all levels (including chef) was friendly, funny and welcoming.  Not stiff at all - everybody was just a bit quirky and personable, which is great for a neighborhood place.

Menu is here and self-explanatory.  Most pastas and other dishes available as half or full.  Meats and cheeses.  Veggie "antipasti" are very good.  I had pasta with smoked shrimp, mussels, arugula, etc., which was really quite good - a good smokiness.  Others had ziti w/vodka sauce, goat cheese & peas etc. (pro tip: tell the server that you really will eat the shisito peppers, so maybe they will load up a little more).

Desserts included a spumoni thing and a cookie plate that were surprisingly good - it would be so easy for a restaurant like this, in its first weeks, to offer just some lame-ass creme brulee or something.

All in all, I recommend that you try this place.  I will return, and hope that it keeps up the very good beginning.

(By the way, scrawled on the mirror behind the bar was a suggestion that there is a burger that does not appear on the menu.)

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I would like to visit it but I'm worried about the parking situation there on a Saturday night.  Where should one park?

I don't know if the restaurant "does" anything about parking (valet or otherwise).  No indication that I can see, on the website.

It is steps from the Metro but that may not be useful information for your situation.

The neighborhood is hard for parking.  If all else fails, and if you don't mind walking up to 5 to 10 mins or so, you can almost always find parking along, or just off, Cleveland Ave.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Ate here tonight and was really impressed.

Highlights:

--mussels with smoked tomato broth--easily my favorite mussel dish in DC and one of the best I have ever tasted

-- pincianelli with fava,mint and lamb ragu--oversauced but the ragu was awesome, hearty and would have been good on its own

--tagliatelli with smoked shrimp, mussels, arugula and fennel pollen---came out looking bland but tasted great, prob the best of the pasta dishes

---prosciutto wrapped haddock with putanesca sauce and ground pork--interesting combo, well cooked and the sauce accompanying it gave it a nice acidity

Lowlights:

--the bread needs some work--not much of a crust to speak of, one white, one wheat with fennel seed

--the vegetable antipasti are overpriced, underflavored and small in portion size---compares poorly to Ghibellina's vegetable antipasti or even Pete's Apizza's vegetable antipasti

Overall I would say this is the best restaurant in Woodley park right now( not that there is much competition).  Its a good neighborhood joint and I hope it does well.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

It had been too long since my young dining companion and I went off on one of our adventures in DC, so I wanted to go somewhere neither of us had been before. Bar Civita just got something of a scathing First Bite, but I wanted to form my own opinion.


 


On the Sunday before Memorial Day, I'd called to see if there would be a problem getting a table at 6:15, and they said no, just come on in - Woodley Park was, not surprisingly, packed with tourists, the Gin Joint at New Heights was open, and Open City appears to be continuing its tendency to print money, it's patio being completely full with patrons from the Omni Shoreham and the Marriott Wardman Park hotels. The Wardman Park, in particular, will play a vital role in Bar Civita's ultimate success, the question being: will this restaurant play to the tourists, or will LaCivita join New Heights in upping the ante?


 


We were seated by the hostess and given menus, and then a runner came and filled our water glasses, but nobody had yet taken a drink order. Finally, our server came by and took our entire order, and with my order, I asked for a cocktail, a Hemingway Daiquiri ($11) which didn't arrive until after our first appetizer. Unfortunately, this was symptomatic of the service problems we would be experiencing during the entire meal, the one saving grace being that our server was clearly a nice person (who had the easily correctable habit of saying, "No problem!" every single time either of us said thank you - perhaps a dozen times through the course of the meal) The entire staff needs to be trained, and Bar Civita should consider this an almost-urgent priority.


 


A somewhat clumsy plate of bread arrived, four pieces in total, with a small tub of butter - the plate itself was just too big, and life would be simpler for everyone if this humble accoutrement came in a small basket - when our house-made Lamb Rillettes ($4) landed, it came with its own small plate of toasted bread, and we needed to consolidate our plates, eliminating the bread plate entirely. The rillettes was served at refrigerator temperature, which compromised an otherwise-clever riff on the classic British dish, "Roasted Leg of Lamb with Mint Jelly," as the "layer of fat" on top was indeed house-made mint jelly, and was quite good. At the right temperature, this dish is a keeper; our server was unable to tell us which of the other various charcuterie offered were house-made, and which were procured, so we just stuck with the rillettes. At $4, especially with the presentation on a wooden board with house-pickled vegetables, mustard, and sea salt, this is a bargain; the restaurant is undoubtedly hoping that customers will order multiple types of charcuterie.


 


For appetizers, we each got a half-portion of pasta: Gnocchi ($8) with Abruzzese sausage in the form of small meatballs, tomato, Sambuca, mozzarella, and large, green olives, possibly Castelvetrano; and Pincianelle ($9) with leg of lamb and neck ragu, a large dab of goat ricotta sitting in the middle of the bowl, fava beans, mint, and chiles. As diametrically different as these two pastas may sound, they were, amazingly, almost indistinguishable from one another - the somewhat sweet, bland tomato sauce was the dominating factor in both dishes.


 


A half-portion of the NY Strip ($12) was a good value for several cubes of properly cooked, medium-rare steak, served with smoked potato and truffled cheese puree (not hot enough), grilled asparagus, and red wine tamarind jus. A full order of Roasted Chicken Contadina ($21) comes with a warning that it will take 35 minutes (okay with me), and is listed as being served with confit and crisped breast, preserved lemon, sweet and hot cherry peppers, mushrooms, Roman style gnocchi, and chicken jus. This was accompanied by a glass of good Sauvignon Blanc ($10.50), served in quality stemware at the proper temperature - I had a choice of New Zealand or French wines, and chose the French: I never did ask about the producer, but it might have been a Patient Cottat "Le Grand Caillou." There were substitutions on this evening, as the breast was served atop a cylinder of polenta, and there were three roasted shishito peppers encircling the plate. This has the potential to be a very good dish, but this was the driest roast chicken I can remember having at a restaurant in a long time, and the somewhat flavorless steak wasn't far behind.


 


I see in Bar Civita a casual restaurant with potential, and I've seen the chef's work at both Centro and Liberty Tavern, so I know he's capable of running a good kitchen; for now, this must be considered a work in progress, to be monitored for its potential: despite all of the intricate details listed on the menu, the entire restaurant needs to step backward, take a deep breath, and look at the big picture, both in terms of service, and also in terms of basic flavor and textural profiles in its cuisine.


  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

It's sad that this restaurant is putting out such inconsistent food, bc based on the meal I had it has potential to have some staying power in the Woodley Park area.  Service was pretty poor when I went as well, but I cut them some slack being a relatively new restaurant.   I am hoping the criticism they have received has the effect of leading to some improvement in their service rather than a death sentence for the restaurant.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been off the forum for too long, so it is great to be back. I can assure you that we strive each hour of the day to get our place where we feel we need to be and we have been making great progress since our opening on April 28th. Consistency is the hallmark of a great restaurant, and that is what we strive to become, a solid fixture not only for Woodley Park, but for DC in general.

On a side note..

We have some fun and interesting events coming up that I will post here as soon as we get it finalized. Thanks!

  • Like 8
Link to post
Share on other sites

Stopped in yesterday for quick dinner with my wife.  The service was 100% better this time.  We had a female server( can't remember name) who brought things promptly, was attentive without being intrusive.

I was really tempted to get the mussels again, but decided to try the octopus since it was new on the menu.  Was a braised then seared( or grilled?) octopus with vinegar braised onion, roasted tomatoes and some greens.  The octopus was tender with good flavor.  The vinegar braised onions were good and brought a nice touch of aciditiy.  If I had to nitpick, then some dressing on the greens(lemon/olive oil/salt) would have nice.

My wife got two of the vegetable antipasti and they were nice enough to throw in a third for free.  Unfortunately the antipasti continue to disappoint.  One was pickled beets and carrots, another was a carrot dish, and last was a farro/strawberry/goat cheese combo.  They were alright, but all of them seemed one note.

For mains I got the gnocchi with browned butter, ricotta, roasted tomatoes and my wife got a seafood pasta with chickpeas, clams and mussels.  My pasta was good-- tender gnocchi, nice flavors.  My wife's dish was not as good.  The seafood was cooked well and tasty however they had put a spice, almost tasted like a curry powder in the sauce that was a bit off.

We will be back, and I am glad the service is improving as they find their feet.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd been meaning to visit Bar Civita if only to experience my erstwhile favorite dish at Liberty Tavern - the mussels with smoked tomatoes and fennel broth.  However, having to drive into the city and deal with a bad parking situation, I put it off...until last night.  I got a TravelZoo coupon for the place so that was enough to get me off my butt.  The verdict:  we will be back.  Not only do the mussels remain addictive, but my husband totally loved their spaghetti and meatballs.  I had the NY strip, which was fine (perhaps had cooled down too much before being served), but will try something different next time.  The menu was pretty small (compared to Liberty Tavern) but there was enough interesting stuff for us to choose from.    Service was fine.

And the parking situation?  We drove straight to Cleveland Park and parked where we normally park when eating there and walked along Conn. Avenue to the restaurant (~15 minutes downhill).  However, while walking, we did notice some free spots along Conn. and side streets.  We wondered if this was normal availability or everybody-is-out-of-town-in-August availability.  Time will tell.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

So first of all a disclaimer- I really love Liam's food.  I have liked it since he first started at Liberty Tavern and was a regular their back in the day.  I was really sad when he moved on to things outside of NOVA (but to be honest both Liberty and Lyon get so busy I was going less than I used to go.)  And disclaimer two I messaged him ahead of time and he knew I was coming because I wanted to make sure they could accommodate a toddler.

I got to the bar early because the cab ride from Arlington only took about 17 minutes (I forget how easy it is to get to Cleaveland Park).  I got their updated Manhattan which had Domaine Canton and I forget what else, but I loved it.  I would go back here and sit at the bar anytime, and last night there was plenty of space to do such a thing.  They had a highchair (straps working all good) already set up at our table.  As soon as my brother, his wife, the babe, my mom and her SO arrived they quickly closed my tab and seated them.  We ordered a bottle of wine and some drinks.  I thought the list had a nice variety, but I am not someone with a huge amount of knowledge on such things.  We ordered some french fries on rush for the babe and they came out straight away.  The bread is now in a little bread basket (they took some advice from above) and is the same soft homemade bread that he made for Liberty.  I love this bread as it reminds me of the homemade white bread I would eat growing up and it is PERFECT sopping up bread.

We had a super nice server that was from Lyon Hall and she was really knowledgeable about the food, and just so nice.  There is another server who used to be at Lyon Hall so they should have some good well trained staff in place now.  She moved things along not at a rush but a little more expedited for the babe after asking if we would prefer that, and was just really thoughtful. We had a complimentary plate of some of the house cured meats.  There was proscuitto, house chicken liver mousse and something else that actually was my favorite, but I can't find that part of the menu online to figure out what it was, it came with plum on top.  House mustard and pickled veg.  My brother also ordered another snack of tomato, chickpeas, fennel salad that was really lovely and fresh. I love their house pickles and mustard, they would be awesome on a burger.

 For starters we got the tossed salad, octopus, watermelon and tomato salad, and half order of strascinati.  The tossed salad was a nice version of a salad with some nice veggies and a light dressing.  The tomatoes in the watermelon and tomato salad were our of this world good and I really enjoyed a couple bites of this salad.  The octopus and mussels were a tie for favorite dish of the night.  The mussels had an incredible broth that we all sopped up with bread, it was smokey but not over the top (I don't love a lot of smoke taste the aftermath of having a house fire and everything smelling like smoke for months) with a great basil, anise flavor from the basil and fennel.  I loved this dish even more than the octopus (which I ordered) but others thought my octopus was the best, most tender octopus they had ever had.  I liked the fact that there was a nice contrast between the meaty octopus and tapenade and potato so you could taste everything but it went together nicely.  But man those mussels are awesome!!! Thanks hopsing!!!!!  My brothers strascinati was a very homey comforting dish, the babe had some bites, although he is being picky of late and not eating pasta.  It would be a great sit at the bar with a glass of red wine kind of dish, it's homey.

For entrees I had the spicy spaghetti with clams and shrimp.  I loved this dish, it was a nose runny heat, but in a good way, and wasn't too spicy, the seafood was tasty and the pasta al dente with nice texture.  Mom's cod was really good, I loved the sauce, I would probably order that next time, very nicely prepared.  Mom's SO got the scallops and loved them, I think that was one of the only things I didn't have a bite of, but he really liked them.  We also had the chicken saltimbocca- some of this dish was really good, but parts were a little bland.  Compared to some of the real stand outs it just wasn't quite on the same level.

For dessert we had blueberry lavender cake with blueberry sorbet, ice cream and cookies, chocolate something and panna cotta.  The desserts were all delicious.  My favorite was the cake because I am a lavender addict and the blueberry flavor was really fresh.  I thought the cake had good texture, it was more like a pound cake but not too dense, and the flavors were really there.  The cookies were classic italian cookies and everyone was raving about the vanilla ice cream, I ate the strawberry and liked it, but the vanilla got eaten up before I could have a bite.  My family is not one to rave over vanilla ice cream, but they did.  The panna cotta was in a little almost parfait bowl and I liked how it was served it had really good berries on it.  I forget exactly what the chocolate dessert was, I think it was a mousse of some sort with some other things in the bowl, all I know was my bite was pretty darn good (definitely worth a dairy pill to eat).

Overall we loved dinner, had great service.  I thought the food showcased some seasonal ingredients that were really in their prime, had fresh and tasty seafood, but was homey in the way I would want a neighborhood place to be.  So many parts of the meal were made in house and I could tell.  I would swap this for Willow any day and then I would be there all the time.  I will be back soon.  I think it's a shame it got reviewed so soon before it could really get it's leg underneath.  But maybe I am biased.  I think this brings the same exceptional talent for a really good neighborhood restaurant just like he brought it to Liberty Tavern and Lyon Hall, I saw a lot of similarities to he previous cooking, which for me is a very good thing.

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites

Bar Civita has the potential to become a very good neighborhood restaurant - if you can call the little commercial strip around Woodley Park Metro a neighborhood.  Handsome bar, two dining rooms, and a nice patio.  Low-key, casual, a place to catch up with friends, a mid-week meal, or a spot to take the parents on that first night in town.  With some tweaking the food could also match the setting.

I sat at the bar on a blustery, temperatures dropping, Wednesday evening.  There were a good handful of people dining, but by no means busy.  The bartender was friendly and enthusiastic but not overly intrusive, just keeping an eye on things. Dining solo and wanting to try too much, I paced myself, ordering a dish or two here or there while sipping a Port City Porter ($7) and later a Hofbrau ($7)

I started with a plate of Soppresetta ($4) and Roasted Peppers ($5) which came with some toasted bread, pickled vegetables and a dollop of Dijon-style mustard, nicely presented on a long white plate.  Both the soppresetta and peppers were fine, the bread was very crunchy, the vegetable could have been pickled longer, being too crisp and lacking a pickle punch.  It was a pleasant why to start the meal and read the menu, but nothing outstanding.

Next I went with a half order of the mussels ($9) and goat ricotta crostini ($9.95).  Well, the mussels have been much talked about and I can see why, the smoky roasted tomato broth was incredibly deep flavored and rich.  I picked out all of the mussels and basically ate it like a soup, dunking a slice of bread (much better than the above bread) and scooping up the mussels and broth.  This is certainly a must order dish, and the half sized portion is a good mini entree or shared appetizer size.  The ricotta crostini served with whipped kabocha squash, a drizzle of honey and fried sage leaves was also a steal with three large slices of toasted bread.  Although the ingredient list said it included smoked salt, the dish really need a touch of salt to set off the rich cheese and squash.  This was a good dish and with just a small tweak could be a very good dish.  You could easily split the crostini between two or three people.

At this point I was rather full, but damn it, I wanted to try the gnocchi, so after a few minutes I placed an order.  Gnocchi with roasted root vegetables, brown butter, sage, and parmesan foam ($8 for a generous half order) was a lovely presentation.  But also a dish that needed a couple of tweaks to make it a standout dish.  The gnocchi themselves were very nice, although rather small about the size of bay scallops.  The root vegetables needed a little more time roasting, several were under cooked and a little more time in the oven would bring out their sweetness.  The butter and the foam combined to be very rich, one of those rich on rich fall/winter gnocchi dishes.  I thought the dish could use a touch of acid to cut the butter and perhaps a little crunch (some toasted nuts perhaps), since it was soft gnocchi with roasted vegetables.  This is a dish that is one or two steps away from being outstanding.

All in all it was an enjoyable first visit and I definitely over ordered but, hey, that's why I'm a member of DR!       

  • Like 6
Link to post
Share on other sites

I made it to Bar Civita on one of my infrequent forays into DC out of curiosity.  I had spent untold hours working in the smoky dinginess  (word?) of Murphy's of DC back in the day and had also enjoyed the early incarnation of Liberty Tavern.  Eating in a window booth with my wife and sons was a weird juxtaposition of so many memories after last call when we ..., well, let's not go there.  Overall, as Tweaked described, we had a very good neighborhood restaurant experience.  The option to get half portions of most menu items was great as we were able to strategically order a variety of food without spending a boatload of money.  The charcuterie, grilled octopus, butcher block ragu with orreichiette, and spaghetti with clams and grilled shrimp were all very tasty if not life-transforming.  If we lived in the hood I could easily see this being a monthly treat for the family.  Whether that fits the demographics of that odd neighborhood remains to be seen.

Link to post
Share on other sites

If we lived in the hood I could easily see this being a monthly treat for the family.  Whether that fits the demographics of that odd neighborhood remains to be seen.

I live a half mile away, and find Civita to be a pretty fantastic neighborhood place. They care about the food, and they care about being welcoming.  My recommendation to anybody who lives anywhere within striking distance would be: go, sit at the bar, eat and drink a bit, and be friendly.  do that two or three times.  I expect that, after that, you will feel a great loyalty towards the place.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

We had dinner there last week, and it has a fairly sophisticated kid's menu including a hangar steak with fries and salad, and spaghetti cacio e pepe.  I thought the octopus app was grilled with just enough char, and the gnocchi was excellent as well.  Wife had the short ribs which she enjoyed.  Dessert was fine but I could skip next time.  I would explore more here, and agree that it is a very nice neighborhood spot.  Based on the crazy rents we are seeing several blocks away, I think the locals won't think twice about eating there.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

My friend was in town from LA and wanted to do a group brunch near the zoo so I happily suggested/pushed Bar Civita given what has been posted about the restaurant on this board. We met at 12:30pm and while outside seating was full, inside was on the empty side and two out of the four people in the party were able to be seated while waiting the arrival of the other two brunch mates. It was much appreciated that we did not have to wait for our full party before being seated.

While waiting for the fourth, three of us decided to get a half order of donuts which included an apple cider donut and a chocolate krueller. I had half a chocolate krueller and it was so very good. The donut was light and airy and because it was still warm the chocolate was melting on the top. I wish I had a full donut to myself, and I am not a donut person. The apple cider donut looked great as well but the two ladies who split it did not want to share.

I ordered the two poached eggs with smoked salmon, which also came with some potatoes and fall vegetables (carrots, parsnips, and cauliflower). I thought the plate was very good although my eggs were overdone and not runny at all. That was a big bummer. I was worried the caper hollandaise would overwhelm the dish, but fortunately, it did not. There was a healthy amount of smoked salmon and potatoes, which I devoured and the vegetables were well cooked and appreciated.

Service was a little slow but there was a lot of conversation in the group so I think I was the only person to notice. Overall, everyone enjoyed their brunch and we had a lengthy discussion about how there could possibly be a line around the corner for Open City while Bar Civita was relatively empty. What is wrong with people?!?!

As a former resident of Woodley Park, I really really wish Bar Civita was around when I was living there. Heck, I would trade Bar Civita for Busboys and Poets or Silo here in the Mt. Vernon Square area any day of the week. I wish the neighborhood appreciated it more than it did from what I saw on this lovely Sunday afternoon.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I took my son and father-in-law here for brunch after checking out the baby panda.  Unfortunately, they were woefully understaffed and completely overwhelmed by a modest brunch crowd; the place was never more than 30% full.  It took quite a while to put our order in and an hour (!) to get our food.  At least one group near us gave up and left.  Luckily, my hungry three year old was in a good mood.  I joked with my FIL that despite the 45-60 minute wait at Open City, we actually would've eaten sooner there.

When the food finally did come, it was quite tasty.  But it wasn't tasty enough to risk another service breakdown quite like that.  I don't think I'll return.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have found this each time I've visited BC--the staff is well-meaning but not nearly up to the level of the (mostly excellent and fairly priced) food.  And I suspect the principal problem is understaffing, perhaps in the kitchen as well as on the floor, which might be a bit of a chicken-and-egg issue:  Until they attract a larger crowd, they can't raise labor costs, but until they hire more people, it'll be difficult to secure a loyal following.

I took my son and father-in-law here for brunch after checking out the baby panda.  Unfortunately, they were woefully understaffed and completely overwhelmed by a modest brunch crowd; the place was never more than 30% full.  It took quite a while to put our order in and an hour (!) to get our food.  At least one group near us gave up and left.  Luckily, my hungry three year old was in a good mood.  I joked with my FIL that despite the 45-60 minute wait at Open City, we actually would've eaten sooner there.

When the food finally did come, it was quite tasty.  But it wasn't tasty enough to risk another service breakdown quite like that.  I don't think I'll return.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was recently reading this article that I now can't find.  It had on the list of underrated restaurants Nonna's Kitchen (Will Artley is here and I am trying to get here soon), Drift on 7th and Bar Civita, as well as a few others (Sixth Engine, I recall).  And as for the three listed above, I totally agree.

Bar Civita was by no means slow last night, BUT given how good all of the food was last night, it also is way to easy to get into on any given night.  I will say the service still needs a little work.  It wasn't bad by any means, but the host wasn't easy to find when we first came in, had a bit of a strange first greeting to us (bless his heart, he just didn't ooze charisma or grace like you would like a host to do), others behind us had the same problem too.  Also we sat outside and it took a bit of time for them to clear our first plates.  But our server was really great and very nice.  I will say it is definitely not a great area to find parking, but arriving close to 6:30 pm on a weeknight when the street parking opens, helps.  We got spots pretty close by.

The wine list is fairly priced and has a decent selection in my mind, especially for a neighborhood type of place.  The food was really top notch.  I had a bite of every dish we ordered and there wasn't a miss in the group.  We started with a spring salad, mussels with tomato sauce and anise, the spaetzle with asparagus.  If I didn't have more food coming I would have asked for more bread to dip in that tomato anise sauce, it was SO good, all the mussels were plump and fresh.  The spaetzle was like mac and cheese, but not overly cheesey, although it was cheesey.  The best thing we ate though was the duck Crositini that the chef sent out (Thanks Liam!).  The duck was tender and incredible with some broccoli rabe and parmesan. This was an great flavor combination with one of the best "bites" (I cut it into 4 pieces for the table) of duck I have ever had.  I am still thinking about how good this was today. It doesn't hurt that they know how to make good bread.

Second courses were: the seafood spaghetti in which the tomato anise makes a reappearance, but is a little spicer, oh man, I want to go back and get a big bowl of this.  The shrimp and clams were good and I liked the texture of the spaghetti.  I had the Paccheri with meatballs.  The simple red sauce was wipe the rigatoni around the plate and get as much as you can on the noodle good.  I also really enjoyed the meatballs they were tender, but not falling apart.  I like that the dish was fairly simple and not over seasoned but just very well executed.  My Mother's papradelle with rabbit ragu, oh my goodness that was good too.  The noodles again were perfect, the sauce was rich.  It could have used a touch more pepper, but the tender rabbit was so good on the dish that the pepper was an extremely minor touch just to perfect the dish.  I swear we had one more dish, but the Spring Menu isn't up on the website yet.

I was impressed because we felt that the dishes were really good, especially given the prices.  This restaurant really has good value.  I have been a huge fan of Liam Civita for a while and I was glad to see the restaurant busy because the food deserves that, it is worth it.  AND we were there with my brother's toddler last night who is just in a stage that doesn't making eating out easy and we were very welcome (there were two other babes in high chairs that I saw.) They seem to have some good Happy Hour specials for people that live closer and can make it for HH.  They had sparkling wine and a cheese plate for $20 which I think was last night.  I saw one night was half price bottles of wine, which would be a great deal (I think that was Monday).   It might not be Kinship, but it feels like a neighborhood gem in the way that Drift is, as well.  I wish I lived closer to both. And, man, I wish I could cook duck like that.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

Mrs. and I had brunch here a few weekends ago.  Overall, the place was kind of empty on a Sunday.  We started with 2 of their house-made doughnuts (one resembling a chocolate churro and a strawberry-lavender (if I am not mistaken) doughnut), both of which were outstanding.  It all went downhill from there.  My "shrimp and grits" were downright terrible: the "creamy provolone polenta grits" were anything but creamy, topped with 4 small, previously frozen shrimp, undressed greens and 2 overcooked eggs.  Besides the microscopic portion, the dish was shockingly bland.  When I asked the manager if the clumpy grits were supposed to look like this, he said "yes, absolutely."  My wife's burger was above average with a nice char to it, although the kitchen forgot to add fresh onions per her request.  Our server was entirely indifferent to us (his tip reflected that).  

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hubby and I went to brunch here on Sunday because I wanted to try their homemade doughnuts.  I had intended to order a la carte, but got their buffet only because I was starving and indecisive after the gym.  I think Liam Civita's strongest points are- his meats, his ability to have a really good smoked dish, baked goods and tomato sauces.  Brunch showed many of those off.  The homemade krueller was really delicate and well done, the yeast doughnut was a great fresh homemade yeast doughnut.  The smoked salmon on the buffet- Hubby and I both agree is our favorite smoked salmon we have ever had.  The bacon was really good thick cut bacon.  They also had a really nice selection of Kusmi hot teas that were really good.  I normally am not a buffet person, but things were very fresh and replenished often.  It had a nice selection of items.  I really want to try the smoked tomato hollandaise with the steak and eggs from the a la carte menu though.  I like eating here- I never feel rushed, I feel like it is a good value for what I am getting. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Gadarene said:

It's such a brutal location for pedestrian traffic. 

Then why is Open City always packed?

I don't think Woodley Park is brutal for pedestrians, as it's near the zoo, as well as the Omni Shoreham and the Marriott Wardman Park (which are (or were) the 2nd- and 3rd- largest hotels in DC).

The problem is that, SO I WAS TOLD by a restaurateur, (note: that does *not* mean it's true) that the hotel concierges are on the take, i.e., that bribery "by restaurants to hotels" is rampant.

Is there a logical reason (for example) why Petits Plats is still open? The answer is, "I don't know," despite it being on "the other side" of Connecticut Avenue.

If any restaurant writer in DC wanted to get some hits on their website, they'd do a piece on (theoretical) bribery (which may, or may not, be true) to hotel concierges.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, DonRocks said:

Then why is Open City always packed?

I don't think Woodley Park is brutal for pedestrians, as it's near the zoo, as well as the Omni Shoreham and the Marriott Wardman Park (which are (or were) the 2nd- and 3rd- largest hotels in DC).

The problem is that, SO I WAS TOLD by a restaurateur, (note: that does *not* mean it's true) that the hotel concierges are on the take, i.e., that bribery "by restaurants to hotels" is rampant.

Is there a logical reason (for example) why Petits Plats is still open? The answer is, "I don't know," despite it being on "the other side" of Connecticut Avenue.

If any restaurant writer in DC wanted to get some hits on their website, they'd do a piece on (theoretical) bribery (which may, or may not, be true) to hotel concierges.

You can see Open City from Calvert Street (and from the turn to Rock Creek); it's got a corner spot.  Unless I'm mistaken, Bar Civita is literally hidden on the back side of that complex, in that little spur of 24th Street.  You wouldn't know it's there unless you know it's there.

It's not so much that Woodley Park is brutal for pedestrians, although it's not great, but that Bar Civita specifically is in a place where virtually no pedestrians can see it.

It's next doorish to Open City but a world away in terms of visibility.

Link to post
Share on other sites

We used to live in Woodley Park for several years. My anecdotal impression is that Woodley Park is ruled by tourists and conference-goers. I remember when Bar Civita opened saying to my wife: "it looks like a great restaurant, I hope it does well, but I'm guessing it won't last." A chef driven restaurant isn't what the tourists want (unfortunately). I'm surprised District Kitchen has lasted this long, but kudos to them for figuring out how to adjust to the marketplace from their original vision. 

Open City serves what the tourists love. I know from first hand experience having taken parents and parents-in-law there several times. The location certainly helps, but I'm guessing that if Bar Civita had Open City's location it still wouldn't have made it. 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...