Chef Frederik De Pues new restaurant, Smith Commons, strives to be one of the H Street corridors finest dining experiences, with a broad menu, smart cocktail list and inviting atmosphere.
Opening an establishment on H Street was a bit of a gamble. Before visiting the semi-renovated building, De Pue had never eaten, or even gone out for a beer, in the area. He had only seen it once on a Food Network show, which featured mussels from the nearby Belgian-accented Granville Moore’s.
And it is hardly an established dining destination. So far, few true restaurants have opened along the bar-dominated strip. Liberty Tree and the newly opened Atlas Room are among those expanding the options for diners looking for a sit-down meal.
The blogger behind neighborhood site H Street Great Street, who prefers to be anonymous, says Smith Commons isn’t just the corridor’s most attractive eatery, it’s also proof that the area isn’t just for the PBR-swilling masses.
“It’s H Street growing up from a place to drink and eat to a place to dine and also have a drink,” he says.
Another test for De Pue was stretching beyond the repertoire of moules, frites and carbonades that diners might expect to find on a menu created by a Belgian chef.
Instead, his food zigzags around the Continent (fish and chips, eggplant lasagna) and takes detours to the American heartland (macaroni and cheese and pork chops).
“It would have been an easy way out to do a Belgian place, but it didn’t make sense for the neighborhood,” he says. “I want it to have a broad appeal.”