Words by Kaylee Dugan, Photos by Sarah Gerrity
12th Street NE is slowly becoming a dining destination, even if most of the city doesn’t know it yet. On 12th and Franklin there’s Menomale, one of the best pizza spots in D.C. On 12th and Jackson there’s Brookland’s Finest, a great bar and restaurant that serves straight forward (and delicious) American food. On 12th and Monroe there’s Smith Public Trust, a cool bar that does International street food remarkably well. Then there’s the smaller, just as quality joints, like Steel Plate, Murry & Pauls, etc.
And now on 12th and Hamlin there’s Primrose, a French inspired wine bar decked out to the nines. The space used to be an Salvadoran chicken joint (RIP Silvestre), but stepping through the doors, you would never have any idea. Where the counter and soda fridge used to be is now a baby blue bar that feels like it’s been ripped straight out of the French Baroque period. Look to your left and you’ll find a candle lit dining room accented with huge feathered lights. It’s clear that owners Sebastian Zutant (from Red Hen, All Purpose) and Lauren Winter (from Edit Lab) have pulled no punches.
Once you get past some of the more ostentatious design choices (I seriously can’t stop thinking about the amount of dust those lamps are going to collect), there’s some interesting stuff happening here. It’s hard to mess up French fries, but Primrose’s are especially good. They’re fried three times, giving them a crunchy exterior but a melt in your mouth interior. And the homemade mayo they’re paired with is zesty, savory and addicting. It’s grown up drunk food in the best way.
And speaking of drinking, this is where Primrose really shines. Their wine list focuses on natural wine in both France and Virginia, including Zutant’s very own Lightwell Survey. His Riesling and Petit Manseng blend was one of the highlights of the night, leaning powdery and sweet while still being incredibly drinkable. Another favorite was Les Vins Contes Pineau d’Aunis, which reminded me more of a more delicate sour beer than anything else. If you need a break from wine, there’s also a decent beer and cocktail list, including the effervescent Bruit Fort with cognac, prickly pear liqueur, lime sugar and orange bitters.
For the very casual neighborhood, this is clearly a step in a fancier direction. I’m sad I have to drive into Hyattsville to get my Salvadoran chicken fix, but Primrose is doing some things very right. I’ll be back for some more wine and their entirely vegetarian French onion soup. I have a lot of follow up questions about that one.
Primrose is at 3000 12th St NE. They are open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 5 p.m. 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. They’re closed on Tuesday.