First Look: Carolina Kitchen
ashleywright | Mar 16, 2014 | 2:15AM |

Photos by Jeff Martin, Words By Ashley Wright

If you’ve lived in the District for any amount of time, you know that there are several debates in which DC denizens engage on a regular basis. Does DC have any good Mexican food restaurants? (Various California comparisons ensue.) Can you get authentic Chinese food in the city? (Go out to the suburbs.) Does DC have any good pizza? (Various New York comparisons ensue.) Is DC part of “the south”? While the conclusion of this particular debate has not yet been agreed upon, Lance London’s newly opened restaurant, Carolina Kitchen, is making a strong case for “yes.”

CarolinaKitchenTKOBurger-01Full of warm personal touches and fantastic art curated (and occasionally created) by London himself, the sprawling two floor Rhode Island Row restaurant serving southern cuisine (“Don’t call it comfort food!”) is awash in warm golds, deep chocolate browns, and pop art flare. Every single piece of art and memorabilia in the space was hand-chosen and placed by London. He works closely with an architect to plan and execute every inch of the restaurant’s decor.

The antique German mugs displayed in their own case near the bathrooms? London went around Germany himself collecting them. The massive iron horse statue in the corner, presiding majestically over the room on its own pedestal? London went to the antique show where it was being sold, bought it, then built the custom platform on which it rests specifically for Carolina Kitchen.

“Everything here has meaning to me. Everyone’s like ‘Oh, that’s nice!’, but to me, I went through a lot to get this.”

>>>>>>>>>>>> Here is a Featured Event >>>>>>>>>>>>
Friday 11/10
FotoWeekDC 2017 Opening Party @ FotoWeek Central
$45.00 / $60.00
To celebrate the 10th annual FotoWeekDC festival, FotoDC has partnered with Spain Arts & Culture and the Mexican Cultural Institute as the 2017 FotoWeekCentral Campus. FotoDC & BYT Present: FotoWeekDC 2017 Opening Party! Join us for an exciting evening of photography exhibitions, open bars, small bites, photobooths, music, and more spread across our two-campus FotoWeekCentral as we launch the 10th Annual FotoWeekDC Festival! The FotoWeekDC 2017 Opening Party is made possible with support from The Reva & David Logan Foundation Be among the first to view this year's exhibitions at our two-campus FotoWeekCentral: Magnum Photos Present: Magnum 70 at 70 An exhibition of 70 photographic icons celebrating the diversity of the Magnum Photos agency and how its photographers have born witness to major events of the last 70 years. Including seminal works by Susan Meiselas, Paolo Pellegrin, Martin Parr, and Christopher Anderson, the exhibition spans the globe and covers regional events such as Arab Spring, South Africa under apartheid, and the recent migration crisis. SPAIN arts & culture presents: Cislancerus A project by Thenesoya Martín De la Nuez and Aníbal Martel Cislanderus is cultural project that gives a face to the Canarian descendants in the US. The exhibition shows the faces, and also the voices, of the so called “isleños” from Delacroix Island, the descendants from Baton Rouge, Reggio and San Antonio, Texas. The visitor will delve deep into their work as fishermen and hunters, and discover the ways in which they fight on a daily basis to preserve an unprecedented historical and cultural legacy. FotoDC Presents: FotoWeekDC 2017 Contest Winners See all the winners from the FotoWeekDC 2015 photography contest, featuring both single and series winners in the Fine Art, Photojournalism, and Photographer's Choice categories. View the gallery of 2016 winners here. Also featuring the winners of our 2017 FotoDC:STYLE spring photo competition. Featuring hot jamz from: Ayes Cold & and more TBA! Croosh Deets: Friday, November 10th, 2017, 7:30pm-11pm @ FotoWeekCentral Since FotoWeekDC is celebrating our 10th anniversary bigger and better than ever, FotoWeekCentral will be spread across two campuses this year, @ SPAIN arts & culture and the Mexican Cultural Institute! SPAIN arts & culture 2801 16th St NW Washington, DC 20009 Mexican Cultural Institute 2829 16th St NW Washington DC 20009 Special $45 early bird tickets on sale now! Price goes up soon! This is a 21+ event There is no dress code! Support from SKYY Vodka Stay informed
>>>>>>>>>>>> Ok, back to the article! >>>>>>>>>>>>

CarolinaKitchenTKOBurger-02In addition to collecting the incredible art around the restaurant, London designed many aspects of the decor himself: “All the railings in [the bar] were customized – I drew them and then my architect turned around and refined them.” London also helped design many of the 3D art pieces throughout the space, like the LED-illuminated mural of jazz greats presiding over the to-go line. The result is a unique blend of eclectic, homey pieces. There’s a balance between London’s southern charm and the more refined, urban aesthetic to which DC restaurant-goers have become accustomed.

London also has an eye for layout. “I made something called the inside curbside pick-up so you can actually get the food, then keep rolling on out the door.” Upon entering Carolina Kitchen, patrons have a decision to make: They can either be seated by the hostess and eat in, or they can meander through London’s take-out line, a cordoned-off path that begins near the front door and leads patrons seamlessly through the main dining space without interrupting the experience of the people sitting down.

CarolinaKitchenTKOBurger-04This strategic use of space is echoed in all areas of the Carolina Kitchen. The three areas of the restaurant – the main room where patrons enter; “The Tunnel” with its 38-foot high ceilings, marble panels, and London-designed wrought-iron details; and the King Kong room, a loft-like upstairs area with plush leather seating that overlooks the bar in The Tunnel – transition into one another seamlessly, the aesthetic of each room echoing the one before and then evolving into its own unique space.

London’s eye for detail, his personal touch, and his vibrant personality are echoed in the southern menu available at Carolina Kitchen. If the concept is successful in Rhode Island Row, London will be making his case for DC’s status as a southern city for years to come.