Perhaps more than any area in the past five years (there are possible exceptions: Columbia Heights, etc.), Clarendon has changed, and it is currently undergoing a second-round of changes for the worse. The first round was raw, unbridled growth; the second round is a financial weed-out.
You can rest assured that this financial weed-out is going to continue, and that Clarendon will continue to lose its individuality. Don’t be surprised to see Clarendon continuing to become more generic as time passes, and don’t be surprised if you look back one day and see Le Diplomate as the Beginning of the End of 14UP – Starr Restaurants is a very savvy organization.
It isn’t Cheesecake Factory that made Clarendon such a desirable place for young people to live, but there was a reason they opened there: They knew what they were doing, and beat everyone else to the punch. While people were taking chances on opening restaurants with character, Cheesecake Factory could now afford to just sit back and wait for time to pass, and for the rebound effect to occur.
Tallula was a real gem, and I’m going to miss both it and EatBar. Fat Shorty’s was never good, and although it may seem like an asset to have Four Sisters Grill move in, look what happened to the Mosaic District a few years after they did (just as importantly, look at what happened to Eden Center – a complete mess – after they moved out … someone working with Four Sisters has enormous acumen). Taste of Morocco – remember that place? And remember the building going up behind it, assuring everyone that ‘the storefronts will remain the same.’ What happened to all those storefronts? Restaurant 3 looked generic; it was anything but – it was a genuine, chef-driven, locally owned little treasure, and now it’s La Tagliatella. Harry’s Tap Room, in its death throes, throws a Hail Mary and becomes Market Tavern; now, it’s Fuego Cocina y Tequileria, one of the most generic Mexican restaurants in the area – when DC Coast first opened, it was novel, but this novel has become very ponderous reading. Eleventh Street Lounge is becoming the latest rendition of Cherry Blow Dry Bar. Sette Bello, with Tiffany Lee running its outstanding “Bar Tonno,” and its wonderful pizzas, is now an American Tap Room. Queen Bee, the most venerable Vietnamese restaurant in the DC area, is now a rowdy and raucous Spider Kelly’s, selling God-knows-how-many gallons of beer until 2 AM, 7 nights a week. That leaves the two real anchors of Clarendon: Liberty Tavern, which has spawned off respectable successors with Northside Social (replacing the outstanding Murky Coffee) and Lyon Hall, and Eventide, the quirky giant who probably gets most of its revenue from the behemoth Oddbar downstairs. Hold on, you two.