First Look: Cause Bar And Restaurant
BYT at large | Oct 30, 2012 | 2:00PM |

All words: Travis Mitchell — All photos: Antwone Walters

It seems like Washington nightlife has seen it all. Restaurants with indoor mini golf. Bars modeled after stock exchanges. Hangouts designed like urban beaches. That list now includes city’s first “Philanthropub,” CAUSE which opened its doors Tuesday.

DC Councilman Jim Graham was on hand Tuesday night to cut the ribbon (obligatory oversized scissors in hand) on the city’s newest restaurant concept, CAUSE, housed in a two-story townhouse off the corner of 9th and U Streets, NW.

The restaurant and bar will donate 100 percent of its profits to charity. It’s a lofty goal, with close to 90 percent of restaurants failing. But CAUSE appears to be off to a solid start. It owns the building andreceived more than $25,000 in start-up funds from more than 200 donors in 15 countries.

And despite the tough going in the restaurant business, there is no denying that co-owners and long-time friends Nick Vilelle and Raj Ratwani believe in the concept, which the two conceived several years ago at Arlington’s Clarendon Ballroom.

CAUSE aims to reconcile the relatively high percentage of income that people 45 and under spend on eating and drinking with the low amount they spend on charitable donations, Ratwani said. It’s about making it easier for people to make a difference, and about emphasizing the value of even a small amount of money.

CAUSE will rotate out three to six charities per quarter, with patrons able to choose where they want heir bill proceeds to go at the end of their meal. The first set of featured charities include: Martha’s Table, Higher Achievement, Common Good City Farm, and Agora Partnerships. While CAUSE is more than happy to raise money through profits, it’s also about becoming a platform to raise awareness for charities and promote community involvement.

Social awareness aside, CAUSE is also an inviting new location to grab a drink or a bite. Grab a stool at one of the wooden tables, made from repurposed materials and order up a local beer or a one of several unique cocktails. The best one I tried (it came highly recommended from multiple servers) was “The Truth”, a mixture of rye whiskey, apple cider, white wine, house made grenadine and tarragon.

The kitchen is helmed by former Queen Vic chef and NOVA native Adam Stein. Menu options are created with a focus on local, sustainable ingredients and will be frequently rotated based on seasonal availability. The selection of apps that were passed around during Tuesday’s opening all showed potential, including a take on crispy pig’s feet and hush puppies queso fresco.

So next time you’re out on in the U St./Shaw part of town, mosey on up to CAUSE and put your money to work.