The Iron Gate's shell, along with its signature tucked-away feel, are still there, but much will be changed when the next incarnation of the Dupont Circle restaurant opens its doors next week.
The restaurant that many said was the oldest continuously operating restaurant in D.C. was in renovated stables behind the headquarters of the General Federal Women's Club. It began as the club's tea room and had three owners since the tea room closed in the 1920; the last one closed it in November 2010.
The Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which has been renovating the space for the past 14 months, has turned the former restaurant's summer bar into what they hope is an all-weather bar space with new chandeliers, gas lamps that look like something out of the era when the building was built — the late 1800s.
The space used to be the carriage way, where guests would arrive. The main dining room is accessible through the patio behind the bar, which is now covered with an awning in addition to the century-old wisteria and grape vines that cover the old Iron Gate's trellis.
The addition should help the new restaurant get more time out of its patio, which accounts for 50 of the restaurant's approximately 125 seats.
The indoor dining room, which has 48 seats, still has its original doors, an original working fireplace and at least one wall of an original horse stall.
Otherwise, it's been largely redone, with a new kitchen, an exterior kitchen workspace where the former Iron Gate's indoor bar used to be, new flooring, wrought iron chandeliers and cozy banquets.
In the dining room, chef Tony Chittum will offer a choice between a four-course and a six-course tasting menu of Italian and Greek-inspired dishes. He plans to source locally as many products as he can.
"I like food simple, rustic and fresh," he said. "Fresh lemon, olive oil, those flavors."
The tasting menus will all begin with an antipasti course and then some small shared plates. Diners will have a choice of entree and dessert in the four-course version, which costs $50.
In the bar and on the patio, the Iron Gate will serve an a la carte menu of breads, antipasti, pasta and meats cooked on the rotisserie; that menu will be divided into water, pasture and garden.
The restaurant opens Nov. 19 for dinner and will add lunch in the ensuing weeks and months. Neighborhood Restaurant Group is also hoping to begin a more casual coffee and breakfast service in the bar and patio area in the future.
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