They say the fourth time’s the charm, right? OK, I know that’s not how the saying goes but that’s how many attempts to go to Duke’s Grocery I made before being successful. The east London-inspired bar and eatery is located right behind my building giving me plenty of opportunities to make the long trek through the alley to the restaurant; however, on my first trip at lunch they were only open for dinner and I already had plans, on my second lunch attempt they weren’t opening for another hour and I had somewhere to be, and on the third attempt, they were closed for pipe maintenance. Last night, with no plans and having read online that they had re-opened, my boyfriend and I headed over for dinner and finally made it in. Hallelujah!
The rowhouse has a very cozy and laid-back vibe with a small amount of seating on the first-floor bar level and tables on the second floor. We found seats at the bar and began looking over the menu which is mostly made up of sandwiches as well as some shareable items. I decided on the Ruby on Rye (essentially a Reuben with mustard and pickles instead of Russian dressing) and my boyfriend ordered the curried chicken salad sandwich. We also ordered a couple drinks from their small but varied bar menu which, to my utter delight, includes fruit crush cocktails. As anyone who goes to the Delaware/Maryland beaches knows, the orange crush is the ultimate summer cocktail. During our time at the beach, my friends and I crush these crushes (if you will) but lacking the patience and upper-body strength to regularly use a hand juicer necessary to make them, my crush consumption is generally limited to my time at the beach. Until now, that is.
Our sandwiches arrived fairly quickly and, as a huge Reuben sandwich fan, I have to say that Duke’s Grocery is where I will be getting my fix from now on. The sandwich had a very generous portion of corned beef (they call it salt beef but pretty much the same thing) that was not thin deli slices but huge slabs of flavorful meat. The provolone cheese provided a creaminess that countered the welcome bite and spice from the mustard, sauerkraut, and pickles. The rye bread held up perfectly to the sandwich which can tend to fall apart or get soggy without the right vehicle. My one complaint about the meal was the side salad which was greens and dressing, which I tend to enjoy, but the dressing was lacking given it should be star of the show in a simple salad like this. The greens also added $3 dollars to the price which I think is pretty steep for this side; the price of just a sandwich is a very reasonable $9 usually. My boyfriend really enjoyed his curried chicken salad sandwich but I make a pretty mean curry chicken salad, so I had a bit of a bias when I sampled the sandwich.
I see frequent visits to Duke’s Grocery in my future, which is a perfect spot for a laid-back meal or a drink when you don’t really want to go out, which tends to be more and more as I get older (I know, 25 is ancient). I have an irrational fear of becoming a regular at a restaurant, which I think stems from a cashier at a lunch place who would kiss my hand every time I came in, but, as long as that doesn’t happen here, this is the kind of place I could visit multiple times per week. The atmosphere is not too noisy or crowded and the rotating menu boasts a lot of other options I am eager to try. Plus it will be my go-to spot for crush cocktails while I mourn the fleeting summer months. I can only hope they will add a happy hour and brunch menu in the near future.
1513 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036