The Hot Plate: Eyes on the Hill

Posted December 5, 2003 at 2:55pm

The owner of Adams Morgan’s popular Tryst coffeehouse and bar and The Diner has his sights set on Capitol Hill for a future restaurant.

Constantine Stavropoulos was approached this spring about opening a restaurant in the building across from Eastern Market at 701 North Carolina Ave. SE, he said. He’s been busy compiling plans ever since and hopes D.C.’s Historic Preservation Review Board will be open to his ideas.

Stavropoulos’ knack for tapping the pulse of a neighborhood is evident in the success of Tryst, which he and a partner opened in 1998, and The Diner, a 24-hour spot that serves breakfast all day.

For Capitol Hill, Stavropoulos envisions a coffeehouse/diner hybrid that would open early for breakfast and offer a place for people to linger over coffee and drinks. He sees a place where Eastern Market vendors could fuel up in the wee hours of the morning before setting up shop.

Gallery space for local artists and free wireless Internet connections are other perks Stavropoulos would like to include.

He stressed that instead of replicating his other restaurants, he wants to pinpoint the neighborhood’s needs and create a gathering place that reflects who the residents are.

“Each [neighborhood] has its own unique thing — it’s that thing we’re trying to identify,” he said.

That shouldn’t be too hard for Stavropoulos, who is no stranger to the Hill. “I lived on Capitol Hill for eight or nine years,” he said. “I love Capitol Hill. I know Capitol Hill from the inside out.”

What’s more, Stavropoulos said the residents and business owners he has spoken with on the Hill seem eager to welcome him to the neighborhood.

But before he can carry out his vision, he’ll have to win approval for his plans.

The problem is the available space is too small, Stavropoulos said. So he would like to use the sidewalk space in front of the building to expand the dining area.

But making any changes to a historic building’s exterior is tricky, and the Historic Preservation Review Board must approve the plans.

Stavropoulos’ father, who is an architect, is drawing up the plans they will present to the board later this month.

The design involves a temporary structure in front of the building that would serve as full-time dining space but could be easily dismantled. Stavropoulos likened the idea to pavilions in Paris that are set up outside buildings to expand space — an idea he hopes the board will go for.

The process of getting approval could be lengthy, with the most optimistic scenario allowing Stavropoulos to break ground sometime in the spring. But that all depends on approval.

“We’re hoping board members will think out of the box and take it to the next level,” he said.

Pass the Bubbly. To showcase new champagnes added to its wine list, Café Atlantico is hosting a champagne dinner Dec. 9 featuring dishes from the minibar.

Café Atlantico’s minibar, a six-seat bar where diners are treated to more than 30 creative small plates, opened this summer and inspired the restaurant’s sommelier to add several champagnes to the wine list to complement the minibar’s menu.

Executive chef José Andrés and head chef Katsuya Fukushima created a special menu with champagne pairings for the dinner.

The evening begins at 7 p.m. with mango mimosas, followed by innovative dishes such as oysters with espuma (foam) of rose and potato mousse with caviar and vanilla oil.

Tickets are $65, tax and tip not included. For reservations, call (202) 393-0812.

Changing Hands. At the end of October, McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants made a deal to buy three Angelo and Maxie’s locations, including the one in Penn Quarter. The restaurant at Ninth and F streets Northwest will be changed into a McCormick and Schmick’s sometime early next year.

The other two locations are in Reston, Va., and New York City.