Photos by Nicholas Karlin, Words by Jose Lopez-Sanchez
Dupont is growing up. The businesses on 19th Street are growing up.
Tulips is the latest eatery opened by local restaurateur Reese Gardner, and his first restaurant in DC proper – Gardner also owns both Copperwood Taverns in Virginia. Gardner has owned the three story townhouse for approximately thirteen years, and Tulips is the third concept he has installed in the building, after the Mighty Pint and Irish Whiskey. And much like the previous incarnations of the locale, Tulips fits in with the spirit of the area – although that spirit has clearly changed.
This is not Irish Whiskey – you won’t find aluminum bottles of Bud Light or cases of Fireball in the stockroom – and it’s kind of amusing to see a beat up dive bar get such a stunning facelift and refresh when you can still vaguely recall stumbling down their stairs.
There are only six signature cocktails, making for a streamlined list that nonetheless covers a broad range, and their twist on an Old Fashioned was outstanding. Dupont’s days as the epicenter of drunken revelry are passing; that action is moving north and east to Shaw and Columbia Heights, and continues to snake its way into Bloomingdale. The area is a little more grown up and mature (don’t tell that the patrons of Madhatter, Public, 18th Street Lounge, anywhere you see a line out the door and the majority of dudes are bros in khakis, anywhere that chargers a cover).
Although it was just a preview tasting, the food we tried was really good – a perfectly cooked lobster tail paired with a flavorful beef tenderloin marinated in both sake and schōchō and grilled over binchōtan charcoal left us wanting more. Chef James Duke heads the kitchen here, much as he does at Gardner’s other two restaurants, and I’m excited to see what else he comes up with.
Tulips is yet another example of a Dupont’s evolving identity and looks by all accounts to be arriving at just the right time.