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First Look: Baby Wale Opens on 9th Street
September 4, 2013 | 10:30AM

All words: Svetlana Legetic
All photos: Stephanie Breijo

9th street is giving 14th street a run for its restaurant money. Well, maybe not quite yet, but the signs are all there. After A&D, Seasonal Pantry, Sundevich, Rogue 24, Table and last week’s Thally opening, the Godfather of 9th street restaurants, Corduroy, just got a sibling next door: the long awaited, much talked about Baby Wale (address: 1124 9th Street).

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Tom Power, the man behind Corduroy and a man that always paid more attention to his cooking than to generating buzz, has therefore found himself in the center of the new DC restaurant media power play, and the good news is-he’s got all the right cards to play this game well. The space, which was just an empty shell behind an old storefront attached to Corduroy, has been designed by EDIT Lab @ StreetSense, who are also responsible for everything from U Street Music Hall to Red Hen to Daikaya’s look and everything inside feels both instantly comfortable and imminently instagrammable.

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The walls are adorned with Power’s own Go Go Posters (fun fact: Power had Chuck Brown perform at his wedding) and the same aesthetic is applied to most decorative/instructional elements: from the wine menus above the long, zig-zaggy bar (Power, according to Brian Miller from EDIT, wanted A LOOONG bar, and they decided on the angled pattern to avoid those early comers from feeling like they’re alone at an endlessly long slab of counter) down to the “wash your hands” signs in the rest rooms (scroll to the bottom of the story for those)

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As the bar ends, the space shoots up to twice the size in volume, with the upstairs lounge overlooking the dining action downstairs.

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Crowning it all is a custom made chandelier of sorts, made of found wood embelished with delicate firefly-like lights. In absence of a starry night, this will always do in a pinch. We dare you to not whip out your cell phone and photograph it once in, no matter how cool you’re trying to play it.

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The good news is, the menu is also worth all the wait. The restaurant is open for dinner now Monday through Saturday (5pm till ???, according to their website) and features everything from Duck pupusas with Salvadorean slaw to Lobster rolls to charcoal grilled pork loin and roasted baby squash. At our visit, all individual plates ranged from $7 to $21, with the most expensive item being a roast chicken for two for $38.

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The general affordability stretches to the wine list as well, with glasses going for as low as $8 and many wine bottles in the $40-$50 dollar range. There WILL be specialty cocktails too as well as well curated six draft lines featuring Narragansett, and Sixpoint Brewery, among others. Reservations are accepted or, as the restaurant’s refreshingly unpretentious website states, JUST COME IN.

 

 

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  • claudiaInDC says:

    I went there last night and loved it. Steve the bartender was very friendly and welcoming. Beautiful atmosphere, can’t comment on the food since we only had drinks. I would suggest they offer happy hour specials, check it out

  • Disappointed says:

    Just went to this place last night. The chandelier is just about the only thing of redeeming value in the place. The menu is a haphazard list of street foods with no conceptual link to each other or the atmosphere, and it subtly suggests that the food is only meant to accompany the drinks. But without any house cocktails, or *any* cocktails listed, the drink menu of beer and wine suggests the drinks are only meant to accompany the food. Joseph Heller would be proud of the spiraling confusion created by the total lack of forethought that has gone into this place. It seems like a real rush job without an anchor. It’s as if the only purpose for opening the place was to create any pulse of nightlife in the neighborhood to draw more proprietors into a commercial rent trap.
    What we had: a chipotle tomato soup that was ketchupy, those duck pupusas were a bland insult to the duck (far better pupusas for less than half the price available on 14th St NW), and the fried spring rolls (meh). The black lager was nice, the wine was acceptable. No complaints about the service though, they have that going for them.