Scarlet Oak may be a home-run's distance or two away from Nationals Park, but it's not the ballpark crowd that the new American restaurant is after.
"Our goal is not to cater to the Nats fan here," says co-owner Peter Lupo. Instead, he echoes the popular refrain of so many restaurants these days: "We're catering to the neighborhood. The Nats are a great bonus, and we love 'em and we love the Nats fans, but we want to be a neighborhood restaurant."
The owners of the new Navy Yard restaurant, which opened last weekend, also operate Southern Hospitality in Adams Morgan. Chef Leo Garcia, a former sous chef at the Red Hen and Proof, is serving a wide-ranging American menu that includes everything from tuna tartare with guacamole and crispy wontons to shrimp and jasmine rice in a green curry sauce. "It's one of the best things on the menu," Lupo says of the curry. "I have an Indian investor. He thinks it's as good as his mother's even though he won't tell her." There are also pizzas and three homemade pastas, including squid ink tagliatelle with seafood and marinara sauce. A grilled chicken sandwich and fried chicken are carry-overs from Southern Hospitality. Small plate prices range from $7 to $13, while entrees range from $13 to $25.
The restaurant will open for lunch next Thursday with a similar menu that includes more salads and sandwiches. Brunch will begin the following week. Scarlet Oak will eventually launch daily specials, like half-price bottle of wine or burger night.
You won't find any crazy cocktail names—or crazy cocktails in general—at Scarlet Oak. Each drink is simply named after a spirit: Vodka, Rum, Gin. "They highlight that liquor," Lupo explains. "We're using fresh juices and some agave syrup, but very little. They're all designed not to cover the liquor but to enhance it." There are also 16 wines by the glass and a mix of big brand and craft beers, including 10 brews on draft.
Scarlet Oak gets its name from D.C.'s official tree. (Yes, D.C. has an official tree.) A mosaic near the entrance features leaves from the tree, and an accent wall behind the host stand also uses scarlet oak wood.
Scarlet Oak, 909 New Jersey Ave. SE; (202) 780-0140; scarletoakdc.com
Photo courtesy Scarlet Oak