When you hear that a stellar new restaurant and lounge has opened near 14th and U Street, you may be quick to assume it’s the latest attempt by a habitual D.C. proprietor to cash in on the neighborhood without a thought of what folks in the area might actually want in a new hangout. However, it only took a moment after meeting Omar Miskinyar, the congenial former software engineer and local event promoter who recently opened Policy Restaurant and Lounge, to see that this guy is not your typical entrepreneur and is serious about bringing a unique venue to the U Street corridor unparalleled in vibe and crowd.
First and foremost, Policy bills itself a restaurant and rightfully so. Chef Brian Murphy, who began his culinary career at the renowned L’Auberge Chez Francois in McLean, Virginia and subsequently trained under the likes of John Cochran at former D.C. fave Ruppert’s, is a good friend of Miskinyar’s and helms the kitchen at Policy. You can expect simple, seasonal food that’s hearty yet modern (the lobster and brie chile relleno could make just about anyone salivate), and a distinct cocktail menu led by three signature libations of Murphy’s that adhere to Policy’s “truth, love and liberty” theme. The “Truthtini” is a concoction of green tea and lemongrass; the “Libertini” embodies an updated twist on the classic mango caipirinha, and the “Lovetini” is – what else? – a chocolate martini complete with a cinnamon lollipop. Other sophisticated cocktails abound and are priced comparably to many area restolounges.
The downstairs restaurant has an upscale diner feel with red vinyl booths, metal finishes and embossed black tin ceiling panels that have a shabby chic-gone-goth look that is spot on. The bar area on the same level has ample seating (at least 20 stools and a few nooks for sitting down and getting cozy and viewing one of a handful of flat panel TV’s), and impressively does not overshadow the dining room courtesy of great design and use of space.
But the real kicker here is the upstairs lounge, a true one of a kind space with grafitti-tagged walls so colorful and raw they’re almost breathtaking. (The art by local Andrew Funk pays homage to Miskinyar’s wife, his late beloved pup and President Obama, to name a few.) Complimenting the wild backdrop of the open and airy lounge are bold hued crystal chandeliers that set the perfect cool but casual tone, one that’s easy to get lost in as you settle into one of the numerous couches and seating areas that – get ready for this – are generally first come, first serve throughout the night. Yes, D.C., someone has finally opened a lounge where you don’t have to throw down a month’s rent to get a table and kick back with your friends. Someone knight this Miskinyar fella immediately.
With respect to the crowd you will find a welcome mix of fashionable folks between their mid-twenties and early forties, many of whom embody the artsy aesthetic of the neighborhood. Cliché, perhaps, but the scene manages to simply be cool without trying to be so. Hopefully patrons of the venue will pick up on the real and genuine vibe Miskinyar has set out to accomplish.
In a city overly defined by and consumed with policy, it’s nice to finally see a rockin’ venue that isn’t.