Frank Sinatra would feel right at home at the Snazzy New Supper Club downtown
At the foot of Franklin Park is Brennan’s Bar and the Carlyle Room, a sophisticated two-part project that seems to hark back to a bygone era.
The ambitious downtown venture is breathing new life into the 12,000-square-foot tract formerly occupied by Pennsylvania 6 (1350 Augenstrasse NW). Upon entering, the Carlyle Room’s curving signage, dotted with silver starbursts, leads the way to a marble-topped, white-table-topped venue dripping with sparkling chandeliers, where an extravagant one-page surf-and-turf menu is live -Music is served some nights a week. At the front, the European-style Brasserie Brennan’s Bar is a more casual all-day affair, opening at 11am daily.
The different areas with separate dishes and drinks share the same elegant art deco ambience that its owner Brennan Reilly loves. He opened the original Carlyle Club in Old Town in 2007 and decided to move the venue to the tourist-heavy heart of DC. The reboot makes room for a towering new sibling bar spanning Eye Street NW.
The catch-all menu at Brennan’s Bar ranges from Parisian classics like bouillabaisse, croque monsieur, French onion soup and puffy gougeres to classics from across the pond like beer-battered fish and chips, crab toast, sticky toffee pudding, and Scotch eggs with piccalilli. Eclectic bar snacks also include fried chicken wings with kimchi barbecue sauce and veggie bruschetta. Hearty entrees include a filet mignon, New York Strip, and grilled half or 1-pound lobster (plus a lobster roll). Entrees start at $15 and appetizers start at $6, happy hour is coming soon.
“Joes [Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab] or Old Ebbitt is the style we’re going for,” says operations manager Fergal Dooley to Eater. “It’s not typical American food, but not that far away.”
For example, there are three types of burgers with ground beef, impossible beef, or shrimp patties.
The bar stocks plenty of local bourbons, Irish whiskeys and signature gins like Bertha’s Revenge in small batches made from cow’s milk whey. Variations on the classics include an Old Fashioned, spiced up with homemade Guinness syrup. A “DC Sour” consists of whiskey, homemade sour mix, simple syrup, egg white and red wine float.
“We’re not changing the world, we’re just taking ingredients that people like and making something different with them,” says Dooley.
Chef Ibrahim Koroma, a 12-year-old Carlyle vet originally from Sierra Leone, continues to oversee the kitchen at his new DC address.
“He’s excited because he hated sitting around during the pandemic,” says Dooley.
Brennan’s is open daily from 11am to 11pm Monday to Saturday and until 10pm on Sundays. The Carlyle Room is open Wednesday through Sunday nights, with shows starting at around $30. Featured acts spanning a whole range of genres including jazz, oldies, Motown, big band and R&B aren’t your average bookings. On Wednesday, July 27th, the former lead singer of the Temptations and Four Tops takes the stage.
The dinner theater begins with appetizers such as beef carpaccio, Rockefeller oysters and stone crab claws. Entrees like beef Wellington, Chilean sea bass, and a filet-and-lobster duo are served with a choice of sides like heirloom carrots, fingerling potatoes, or truffled macaroni and cheese. Guests who can order at any time during the performance must spend at least $25. (And that’s easy, considering appetizers are $12+ and entrees start at $29.) A 2-pound grilled lobster ($79) makes for the ultimate supper club expense. A lengthy wine list is fairly reasonable, around $12 a glass and $40 a bottle.
The weekend jazz brunch will be added in September once residents return to town, Dooley says. The Irishman worked as a hospitality consultant in London before moving to DC five years ago to refurbish the Dupont Circle Hotel’s food and beverage programs. Brennan’s plans to launch a Wellington Wednesdays special inspired by that served in the Holborn Dining Room, an old bank converted into a chic British brasserie, helped Dooley open under now celebrity chef and cookbook author Calum Franklin . (DC will get another beef destination in Wellington this fall when roaring TV chef Gordon Ramsay builds a Hell’s Kitchen on the Wharf.)
Some members of the opening team have tricks up their sleeves. General Manager Nathan Coons is also a trained chef and plans to help out in the kitchen. And Carlyle’s in-house band is made up of local singers and payroll live production professionals.
Once a longtime attorney, owner Reilly fell in love with all things Art Deco after visiting historic NYC landmarks like the century-old Plaza Hotel. Chevron-shaped wallpaper, lightweight sconces and carpet patterns, soft drapes, antique mirrors, and vintage posters and plates on the bathroom walls contribute to a Great Gatsby-esque look from the Roaring 20s.
To celebrate the later era, which was frequently showcased on stage – when crooners like Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke and Buddy Holly all rose to fame – mid-century modern touches include framed TWA flight displays and Reilly’s own Pepsi machine 1950s, which is still finished in mint green glossy blue condition.
Office tenants have their own private entrance into Brennan’s, which overlooks freshly manicured Franklin Park The Washington Post‘s headquarters opposite.
The Carlyle Room seats approximately 180 each evening and up to 240 for private functions and weddings. There doesn’t seem to be a bad seat in the house, but guests can select a specific seat online in advance, just like on a modern day cinema trip. Seating includes two-, four-, and six-top tables and booths. In true supper club fashion, you’re likely to meet strangers and mingle.
“It’s pretty fun,” says Dooley. “I think we’re offering something pretty unique.”
Carlyle had 140 covers for its unannounced opening night in mid-July, Dooley says, many of which were Old Town regulars ready to return to throwback play. A business model that would have been impossible just two years ago seems to be back in full swing.