Photos By Jeff Martin, Words By Brandon Wetherbee
A few months ago the corner of 5th and Florida NW was boarded up. It was boarded up for a long time. Now it’s occupied by a corner restaurant that has sunlight pouring in on both sides, patio seating a gorgeous bar. The Royal will do just fine. The Royal should be busy from their first day of business.
Owner Paul Carlson and Chef Lonnie Zoeller are creating an all-day and all-night destination. They’ll be offering a breakfast menu Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to noon, 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday and Sunday, and a noon to midnight menu everyday. The area needs a destination like this. Thai X-ing #2 is a few doors down but not open past 9:30 p.m. and requires a reservation. Bistro Bohem and Shaw’s Tavern are packed most every night both stop serving before midnight. Other than that, your neighborhood option is pizza, not very good pizza. The Royal will not be serving not very good pizza.
Named after the liquor store that occupied the space in the 80s and 90s, The Royal will focus on coffee and tea (they’re serving Counter Culture coffee, Kilogram and Good Thoughts tea), cocktails and a Colombian inspired menu. The Colombian inspired menu is what stands out. They custom build a 4-foot wood burning grill. The grill’s top goes up and down. Chef Zoeller is able to give the food a different grill flavor than your Weber. The few bites we tasted is what will bring us back. The steak and the botifarra will bring us back. We’re really looking forward to the grilled squid.
The grill isn’t the only aspect of The Royal that stands out. The bar is full of nice touches, from a re-purposed fire extinguisher that’s about 100 years old now being used as a vermouth dispenser to the vintage ice shaver found in Guatemala, the bar doesn’t blend in with its neighbors.
The bright, warm space will be good for both everyday dining and date night. It’s cute. It’s basic. The solid oak pews were salvaged from a North Carolina church. The chairs were found and cleaned up from the Naval Academy in Annapolis. The fireplace stores the wood that’ll be used in the word burning grill. The space is well done.
The Royal is located at 501 Florida Ave NW and opens for business this Thursday. Stop by for an Ascension. The shaved ice will be nice when it’s 100 degrees outside.