For years, the worst part of going to Nats Park was deciding where you were going to drink and eat before the game. For years, there were a handful of options that will fill up hours before the game started. Bon Chon only really worked if no one in your group was a vegetarian or vegan. Bluejacket was out of the question unless you got there at an ungodly time. Whaley’s, Osteria Morini, The Salt Line and Due South all leaned a little too fancy for a casual dinner, plus you could count on them to be equally as packed unless you snagged a reservation. Once those spots were full, you were SOL (and by SOL, I mean you either ended up at 100 Montaditos, drank watered down sangria at Nandos or resigned yourself to spending a small fortune inside the park). It was frustrating to say the least.
Though the constant construction of Navy Yard has its fair share of cons (just look at all those shoddily built luxury apartments no one can afford!), the steady increase of food options is a good thing. The introduction of super casual spots like RASA and Morini Piccolo have made us excited to visit the neighborhood again, but if you’re looking to have an experience somewhere between counter service and a white table cloth meal at Chloe, Declaration’s Nat Park outpost might be your best bet.
Larger than its original Shaw location, Declaration Nats Park also has a much bigger menu that brings handmade pasta into the fold, as well as charcuterie and a couple of new pizzas. Designed by Roxanne Christie, it feels like the opposite of their Shaw location, with tall ceilings, large windows and a much brighter color scheme, making it feel more casual and laid back. In the spirit of many Navy Yard restaurants, they’ll also have their own version of a to-go window. On sunny days, they’ll open the glass windows behind the bar and serve drinks and food.
The much larger space (including a sized up kitchen), gives chef Demetrio Zavala much more room to play with. While the new pastas and charcuterie are obviously exciting, Zavala’s true passion has always been pizza. Inspired by his favorite pizza spot in Coney Island, Zavala has changed up his method, going with a different pizza oven and a new dough recipe for the Nats Park location that allows him to get a thinner, crispier crust. Our favorite of the pizzas was the Frances Hopkinson, made with rich tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella, salty romano, delicate soppressata and a drizzle of calabrian chili honey. The combination of salt, sweet, spice and meat is to die for and goes incredibly well with the more crunchy than chewy crust. As a person who isn’t a big fan of pepperoni (it’s just a grease pool, there’s no flavor there), the soppressata is a welcome substitution.
If you’re a vegetarian (or you just like meat free pizzas), then go for the John Witherspoon, one of Zavala’s newest pizzas. Made with eggplant, basil, ricotta and mozzarella, it’s an easy to like pie that (again) allows the new crust to shine. There’s also the new Matthew Thornton with spinach, ricotta, garlic, nutmeg and mozzarella. While I loved the fresh spinach and the addition of nutmeg, the heavy combination of ricotta, garlic and mozzarella makes for a very rich pizza.
Not feeling pizza? There’s also a brand new muffaletta on the menu featuring house made mortadella, capicola and soppressata and a healthy dose of provolone and giardiniera. It’s a delicious combo of cheese, brine and meat on a pillowy, yet dense stack of bread.
Two other pizzas are expected to move into the neighborhood, a fast casual spot called Oath and a second All Purpose location. While that might seem like too much, we can’t wait for everything to be up and running. It gives us a much better chance of getting a seat at Declaration’s bar, where you’re sure to find me eating a slice of the Frances Hopkinson and drinking a beer before the game.
Declaration Nats Park is located at 1237 First Street SE. Lunch is 3 p.m. – 7 p.m., Monday thru Friday. Dinner is from 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. (Monday – Thursday), 5 p.m. – 12 p.m. (Friday & Saturday) and 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. on Sunday. Brunch runs from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday.