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Posted at 3:40 PM ET, 11/16/2005

The Limits of City

By Jen Chaney

Open City has opened its doors and the place is already hopping. This Woodley Park newbie is the third establishment from the owner of Tryst and the Diner and it follows the same formula as its sister establishments, combining upscale diner food with coffeehouse amenities and a full bar. Owner Constantine Stavropoulis envisioned Open City as a neighborhood "third place," where one can habitually retreat after home and the office for a sense of balance and comfort.

The menu features breakfast items, a cream-cheese-heavy spinach and roasted garlic dip, pizzas, mussels (with a choice of three preparations), a few salads, chicken and upscale meatloaf. Burgers are piled high with crispy lettuce and onions; there are plenty of other sandwich options, too. Unfortunately, though, my chicken cheesesteak tasted dull and flavorless. As for the bar, I didn't see the drink menu until after I had ordered my wine, but the jalapeno margarita, along with other clever cocktails, might lure me back.

I hadn't anticipated such an overwhelming crowd last night and, clearly, the staff hadn't either. Menus, silverware and servers -- even Stavropoulis was bringing out dishes from the kitchen -- were in short supply, but those details hopefully will be remedied in due time.

There are plenty of things to love about Open City. Management plans to offer WiFi within the next few weeks; breakfast is available anytime; the hours are long (6 a.m. until last call); and the coffee is good. But at least for the time being, Open City won't be my "third place." That type of special hang-out should be comfortable, with ample cozy seating and a friendly atmosphere. But last night, Open City -- with its frazzled servers and the deafening din of multiple conversations -- felt more like Woodley Park's second zoo.

-- Erin

By Jen Chaney  | November 16, 2005; 3:40 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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I am so happy that the neighborhood finally has a coffee shop open past 5PM-- and not tucked in the depths of a mammoth hotel-- that I think I might be willing to overlook the hubbub and lack of comfy chairs. But, I do agree that the allure of straight-back wooden chairs falls short of the inviting atmosphere at Tryst. As it becomes too cold to walk all the way to Adams Morgan, I think I'll be spending some time in Open City regardless - - however if anyone there is reading this, consider it my vote to soften the decor.

Posted by: Allison | November 18, 2005 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Most restaurant critics know better than to come on a restaurant's OPENING DAY and failing to mention that fact is misleading to your readers! And what is wrong with the owner of a restaurant running food out to his guests? I think more owners should get that involved.

Posted by: Jeff | November 18, 2005 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I went there on opening day expecting service to be slow, but oh so willing to wait in order to show my support for a restaurant owner who cares about the neighborhood he sets roots in. Woodley Park is woefully underserved, as was Adams Morgan when Tryst opened up all those years ago. And I, for one, plan on planting my ass in whatever chairs are provided as long as I don't have to pay toward a corporate culture or WiFi services that should be free, or for CDs with someone else's favorite holiday songs on them. Hooray for all-day breakfast!

Posted by: Melanie | November 18, 2005 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I am rather suprised to see that you would go on opening day to Open City and not give them a break.

Posted by: Djinn | November 18, 2005 11:37 AM | Report abuse

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