Walk up a flight of stairs next door to the H Street outpost of DC’s beloved Ben’s Chili Bowl, and the atmosphere takes a turn towards that of a familiar neighborhood tavern. As of November, both the second and third floors are home to the latest addition to the District’s bar and restaurant scene: the chic, southern-influenced Ten01.
Though owned and operated by the same family in charge of Ben’s Chili Bowl, Ten01 has a style all its own. The walls of the staircase leading up to both the main floor’s dining area and the rooftop terrace are covered with an irreverent, black and white pop-art mural by DC artist Billy Colbert (of Penn Social fame) featuring, among other things, a DJing panda bear drinking a 40oz.
The main level is impressive, a large room with a full look-around bar, wooden tables, and countertops reclaimed from barns around the country, but the real action takes place on the rooftop terrace. Not only does the roof deck come equipped with hanging heaters to keep a crowd comfortable no matter the season, but also it has an awesome view of H Street and the surrounding area, not to mention a fully functioning and expertly-manned bar. It has a fun vibe designed, according to the owners, to welcome everyone and eventually serve as the go-to neighborhood hangout spot.
A highlight of the Ten01 experience is their array of signature cocktails, the majority of which are undeniable godsends. Mixed drinks like the Ten(01) Mule–served here with traditional pomegranate-based grenadine syrup and ginger beer at a perfect level of spiciness—and the pear margarita, are absolute knockouts. And for those looking to steer clear of the pricey cocktails (the Mule is $11), Ten01 also showcases a broad selection of locally sourced draft beers.
If the drinks aren’t a good enough reason to check Ten01 out, the food definitely is. The dinner menu, made up entirely of shareable plates of varying sizes, features everything from beer and cheese-infused sour crème gnocchi and whole grain risotto with pumpkin butter to crispy pork belly and Jamaican-inspired jerked salmon. There’s even a dessert selection that includes a cereal milk crème brûlée with Cap’n Crunch and marinated strawberries. In the words of executive chef R.L. Boyd, they’re “fun comfort foods. Foods for the soul, not soul food.”
Boyd, covered from the neck down in vibrant, Japanese art-inspired tattoos, looks the part. He is dedicated to his craft (he lists “time and patience” as the key elements of the restaurant’s signature burger)—that is, creating delicacies that are as tasty as they are unique – but undoubtedly a man of few words. When asked by a newspaper rep, for example, what had inspired the Steak & Frites, he responded, simply, “I wanted a dish that reflected my life.” But it works. The cuts of steak are tender and immensely flavorful, cooked perfectly with a tiny bit of pink in the center, and the crispy, thinly-sliced fries sprinkled over them have just the right amount of chimichurri mayo and a kind of spicy ketchup, upping the dish’s intensity.
We also tried the ‘Cauliflower 2x’ and the ‘Johnny Cakes’. The Johnny Cakes are essentially thick pancakes (about the size some large crab-cakes) made with a cornmeal batter, crispy pork belly, and roasted pumpkin. Although a little doughy, the pumpkin butter and maple and mustard glaze drizzled on top will ensure nothing’s left on any shared plate. And the cauliflower may look unassuming on the menu, but with heavy seasoning and a delicious caramelized cauliflower puree poured generously on top, it packs a huge punch. Moreover, the fried shallots and almonds add a needed crunch to the dish. Overheard in the crowd during this portion of the meal: “I’ve never liked cauliflower my whole life – how’d you make it this good?”
From the laid-back atmosphere up on the rooftop deck to a creative cocktail and entrée selection, Ten01 delivers. H Street might be lagging slightly behind its more popular cousin U Street, but for anyone in the area, this new addition to the DC bar and restaurant scene is not one to miss.
Ten01 is located at 1001 H Street NE, DC, and is open until midnight Tuesday and Wednesday, 1 AM Thursday, and 2 AM Friday and Saturday. As of November, they’ve also added a weekend brunch from 11 AM to 4 PM that features $16 bottomless mimosas and half-smoke pancakes with chili butter & hot maple syrup.