If You Go
DRP Reserve, 2216 Mount Vernon Ave.
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
Pro tip: Coming in with a group? “We would highly recommend ordering the entire menu,” says Chef Eric Reid. Small plates at reasonable prices allow for a taste of everything.
When Mount Vernon Avenue gets hopping in the evenings, it really fills up. No matter the time of year, families stroll the avenue, stopping for custard or window-shopping. Or pizza.
Nearly any night finds Del Ray Pizza jam-packed with people, ranging from couples out to share a pie to larger parties ordering several pizzas to plow through. But upstairs, above the din of the busy dining room, a calmer, more refined experience awaits. Each weekend, DRP Reserve opens its doors to guests looking for something a bit different than the scene at the pizzeria downstairs — and customers are responding.
This is the Reserve’s second go-round — after a stint in 2015, the project took a long layover before reopening in early September. And though there’s been no ad campaign, no media blitz, barely even a presence on social media, diners are finding their way back to the Reserve, passing tips on to their friends by word of mouth (and Facebook photos).
But expect the menu to be a bit different from the Reserve’s first iteration. Whereas the 2015 version sported an array of Southern favorites, Chef Eric Reid is looking to broaden the scope here in 2017.
“Since we closed [in 2015], shrimp and grits started popping up all over the place. It was like, ‘What can we do to still be relevant; what can we do to not really leave our comfort zone, but switch it up?” Reid said. The answer: “Let’s just do smaller plates where people can come in and share their plates, get to try everything on the menu.”
Some customer favorites? The Pad Kee Mao, for one.
“My wife and I were going out to a bunch of restaurants, just trying new things, and we have this Thai restaurant right around the corner and we were always getting the drunken noodles,” Reid said. “And I said, ‘I’m going to do this. I want to try it; switch it up.’ So we make it with crispy duck – everything’s made in house. It’s a lot of fun.”
To round out the meal, Reid has been known to dash out to international-foods groceries around the region to procure the proper peppers and Thai basil.
Some of the other hits of the menu: A tomato-bacon pie and a starter of boiled peanuts that fill in for the usual bread service.
And what would a good speakeasy-like environment be without a decent cocktail or two? Cocktail aficionado Nolan Grace has you covered. Grace ensures that a half-dozen different cocktails are on the menu each day, with every ingredient made in-house.
“I usually try and do maybe one or two ‘cocktails of the night’ on any given night,” Grace said. “Basically I come up here and play around — if it tastes good, I throw it out there and run it as a special that evening.”
As summer turns to fall, expect the cocktail menu to skew more cold-weather-friendly. One of Grace’s new favorites: The Winter Sage. Made with tequila, grapefruit sage, simple syrup, lime juice, grapefruit bitters, and a touch of soda water, it toasts the season with style.
“I love it — it’s kind of like a margarita for the wintertime, and I think it tastes delicious,” he said.
Hope Nelson owns and operates the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at www.kitchenrecessionista.com. Email her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.