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Posted at 11:29 AM ET, 03/ 4/2008

Adams Morgan's Bushy-Tailed New Restaurant

By Julia Beizer

On the weekends, Adams Morgan sometimes feels like an alternate universe, where Miller Lite is king and jumbo slice, his greasy mistress. For the last week and a half, restaurant/bar Black Squirrel has been charting a slightly new course on the 18th Street strip, serving up duck roll appetizers, swordfish entrees and tasty beers.

"I was a little bit worried about the bar atmosphere that takes over on the weekend," says chef and co-owner Gene Sohn, who previously was the chef at Marcel's. "There used to be a lot of good retaurants here," he said. "They're coming back."

The restaurant, which takes its name from the 18 non-native black squirrels that the National Zoo released during Teddy Roosevelt's time, sits in the old T. S. Muttly's space. Sohn and his two partners put just over $100,000 worth of renovations into the space to transform it from a dingy Irish pub to a much brighter dining-and-drinking spot. High tables line the perimeter of the long, skinny space and kitschy film posters -- think "Superfly" and "The Hustler" -- don the red walls. The cutest (but perhaps chilliest) seat in the house is the one by the window, where low chairs and benches surround a table that looks like a section of a tree trunk.

Sohn describes the cuisine as "good American comfort food." Appetizers -- including mussels in a cream sauce and shrimp dusted in a salty blackened Cajun spice -- were the highlight of my weekend visit. Entree options, which Sohn says will all be priced under $20, include baby back ribs in a port barbeque sauce and a grilled Angus ribeye. Want to give the new place a shot? Go on a Tuesday, when, for the foreseeable future, food will be half-price.

Black Squirrel's extensive, multi-page beer list is particularly exciting. Try the bar's namesake beer -- a dark brew that's not too heavy and not too sweet. Sohn says the short wine list is growing.

It'll be interesting to see how the establishment's attention to dining will play out in the coming months. When you stroll in at 11 p.m. on a Saturday, will you see people finishing up meals and sipping drinks at the tables? Or rocking out to '80s music on the Internet jukebox and downing pints at the bar? Perhaps some combination of the two. What do you think?

--Julia

By Julia Beizer  | March 4, 2008; 11:29 AM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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Comments

I'll admit I don't ever think of heading to that strip to eat dinner, but it's nice to hear someone's trying to bring that element back.

Posted by: Metrocurean | March 4, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I was there for their grand opening and the food (and beer!) was excellent. I'll definitely be back.

Posted by: Bradley Caricofe | March 4, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I have already been to the Black Squirrel twice and am heading back on Saturday. The food is amazing -- I especially like the duck roll and the ribs that was mentioned in the article -- and the extensive beer menu is a rarity. The manager can also help you find the right beer for you.

The crowd that the bar is attracting is great, as well. I spoke to two British soldiers for hours one evening who were in town for only one evening. I am sure that they were very impressed by DC based on the Black Squirrel.

Posted by: Amy | March 4, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Black squirrels are unnatural demons only surpassed in evil by their albino kin.

Posted by: Max | March 5, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Are we talking beers on tap or beers in bottles? Please give a good detailed list.

Posted by: cha | March 5, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

The Black Squirrel is a nice addition to Adams Morgan--great food and beer and a wonderful atmosphere!

Posted by: christida | March 6, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

We're talking beers on tap and in bottle!! Every beer you can imagine...my favorite being the chocolate beer. Can't remember the name of it off the top of my head, but it was full-bodied and DELICIOUS. This place is AMAZING and great company! Love the staff. Very interesting people. I give it 5 stars. :)

Posted by: Shannon | March 7, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Errr -- isn't the idea that good restaurants are returning to the area wishful thinking? Although it's not a departure of an establishment, didn't Ann Cashion sell her place recently b/c she thought Adams Morgan was now a bad place to operate a restaurant?

Posted by: mark | March 7, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I just had that beer, Double Chocolate Stout and have been extolling its virtues ever since. The Squirrel has a 4 page beer list and is adding Hofbrauhaus on tap, I think.

As she said above, the staff are fun, interesting, knowledgable, and give the bar a unique feel.

Amy

Posted by: Amy | March 12, 2008 8:49 PM | Report abuse

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