by Vicky Johnson
The Petworth Citizen and Reading Room at 829 Upshur Street NW opens Friday, but you'd be forgiven for thinking it's been open for decades. It's dark, warm, and feels comfortably lived-in, like a neighborhood bar should be. The name itself is a nod to a community newspaper from a century ago, and the shelving behind the bar was saved from the former inhabitant of the space, Island Cafe
The restaurant is owned by Paul Ruppert of Room 11 and the cocktails have same kind of innovative deliciousness found at Room 11. The cocktail list is split between signature and classic drinks, all of which are $10 or less, and there's also a punch bowl option, a cute little glass of the punch of the day. On this particular day the punch was heavy on the Hennessey and peach schnapps. It was wonderful and very strong. There are also beers on tap and by the can/bottle, and wine.
We had the whipped gorgonzola toast - a good strong cheese, not for fans of weak cheese - and two of the sandwiches. The Roasted Beet Sandwich, roasted beets, goat cheese, and pesto on a pretzel roll. It was a lot of roll, but very good. The Chicken Sausage Sandwich was outstanding, though, battered and fried chicken sausage on soft, fluffy white bread (possibly with the crusts cut off - it was hard to tell). Next time we'll get the hushpuppies, I saw some come out of the kitchen and they looked tremendous. For dessert, we tried the waffle s'mores. A hot fresh waffle with melted chocolate and marshmallows. Our server mentioned that there might be a nutella version coming soon.
The Reading Room part of the name is, or will be, an actual reading room - a back room to be lined with lendable books and used as an event space for author readings, signings, etc. It was not ready at the time of our visit, but will be open within a few weeks.
One last thing - in the ladies' room, look up.