Feb. 8, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Boxcar Tavern’s Pub Grub Twists

Photos by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Boxcar Tavern Executive Chef Brian Klein spoons sauce over the restaurant’s seafood lasagna, a dish that showcases fresh salmon, scallops and shrimp.

For those who believe there’s nothing more stressful than starting a new job, try starting five. 

Boxcar Tavern (224 Seventh St. SE) Executive Chef Brian Klein got such a package deal when he hitched his wagon to hospitality impresario Xavier Cervera, the Capitol Hill denizen with designs on launching at least four additional restaurant concepts — just as soon as he finishes building them out. 

“Everything is a go,” Klein quipped, noting that having a veteran developer/contractor like Cervera overseeing everything helps keep their expansion train moving.

Team Cervera is putting the finishing touches on several pending projects, a slate that includes Pacifico, a “Mexican-fusion dinner place” that Klein expects to have up and running before summer. The reconfigured Hawk ’n’ Dove is supposed to take flight the following quarter. The forecast gets fuzzy after that, with Klein declining to speculate about when Willie’s Brew and Que and Park Tavern — both pledged to the prospective neighborhood being cultivated around Nationals Park — might welcome their first clients. 

Cervera began his climb to Capitol Hill dominance by opening Lola’s Barracks Bar & Grill. Next up was Molly Malone’s. Then came the swanky Chesapeake Room. The equally tony Senart’s Oyster & Chop House followed shortly thereafter. And gastropubby Boxcar followed late last December. 

Klein said he joined Cervera’s team roughly one year ago, just before Senart’s debuted, quickly becoming the group’s Mr. Fix-It. He retooled the Chesapeake Room about six months back — the scrumptious, mustard-tinged jumbo lump crab cakes were his idea — and has been behind the burners at Boxcar since day one. 

“I’m having a great time with it,” the veteran toque said of the immense responsibility he’s now shouldering. 


Sweating the Details

The neighborhood appears to be responding in kind. 

Like many Capitol Hill eateries, Boxcar is narrow but deep. This row house configuration often leads to bottlenecking in the bar-cocktail booth corridor and long waits (we were quoted an hour-plus one Friday night) for the two larger tables—communal benches, really — parked at opposite ends of the main dining room. 

Still, the place draws all kinds.

“I thought I was waiting for you at the office,” one mildly perplexed fellow announced as he strolled in late one afternoon. “Nope,” his already entrenched colleague, obviously an old hat at playing hooky, replied from his perch at the bar.

Lackadaisical socialites holding court, bike messengers seeking refuge from the unseasonably mild winter (one actively perspiring dude popped in to wrap his lips around a 22 of Ranger IPA), curious local business owners (a barber wandered over from Pennsylvania Avenue), they all commune here at some point. 

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