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Washington Firehouse turns historic building into restaurant

Tuesday - 7/15/2014, 2:44pm  ET

D.C.'s Bloomingdale neighborhood will see new life breathed into a long-shuttered historic fire station when the massive Washington Firehouse restaurant and event space opens next month.

We mentioned the spot last week, and now we have more details: The 10,000-square-foot restaurant and catering venue covers three floors, including a “Captain’s Loft” overlooking a second-floor ballroom, a VIP lounge on the top floor and a ground floor bar and dining room complete with a replica fireman’s pole.

The space also has a patio with an expected seating capacity of 80; together with the outdoor seating, Washington Firehouse could seat approximately 300.

The buildout has been underway for the better part of a year, as crews chipped away at paint over the original brick, shined up the original wood beams and put railings around and installed a new fire pole — the same one firefighters used since the building was commissioned in 1897 until it closed more than 30 years ago, according to Washington Firehouse general manager Bobby Sabet.


Click through the gallery for historic photos of the firehouse and a tour of the restaurant site.


With its large windows and views of the U.S. Capitol a few blocks down North Capitol, Sabet and catering manager Jessica Henderson can see it now: Weddings or rehearsal dinners in the ballroom, bridal parties hanging out in the loft, small groups renting out the third floor lounge.

The event business will be a big part of the equation, Sabet said.

“Washington Firehouse is first an events place, then a restaurant and then a lounge,” he said. “We’re not going to have DJ’s … that brings in rowdy people and leads to fights.”

On the ground floor, though, the establishment wants to be a neighborhood favorite, with a menu of steaks, entrees and also pizzas from Executive Chef Peter Prime of sister restaurant Shaw’s Tavern.

The pizzas — as well as several lasagnas, including a vegetarian option and a “super-decadent” lobster lasagne — will be made in a huge copper oven the chef is particularly excited about, he said this week.

“We don’t just want to be a steakhouse,” he said, “so the menu will also be including fun, accessible food.” While wagyu steaks will be on the pricer end of the menu, dinner entrees average around $20 and appetizers range from $9 to $13.

That includes five different mussel pots and a nod to the Southern fare at Shaw’s Tavern, with an emphasis on barbecue flavors in some dishes and red velvet waffles on the brunch menu, the chef said.

The restaurant plans to hold a soft opening in mid-August, with a grand opening in early September. And it won’t be the last spot for the restaurant group, Historic Restaurants Inc., Sabet said. The company owns two other large buildings in “prime locations” around the District that will eventually be converted to restaurants — though he’s keeping mum on the details for now.

© 2014 American City Business Journals, Inc.