I had high hopes for Commissary, the new bar/coffeehouse/restaurant hybrid near Logan Circle. Positioned at the perfect midway point between my house and the Y, I had visions of stopping in beforehand for a cappuccino, or afterwards to unwind with a tall pint of pureed berries. And indeed, the smoothies at Commissary are delicious, especially the Very Berry – a purple garden in a glass. But as far as being able to call it my new third place, well, not so much.
Part of the EatWell empire responsible for Logan Tavern, Grillfish, and The Heights, Commissary replaces Merkado Kitchen – but apart from a paint job and the addition of a floating lounge in the center, retains the open design and high industrial ceilings of the former. The concept appears to be aiming along the lines of the popular Busboys and Poets. But there’s something lacking here. I can’t quite figure out why it leaves me cold, but after three visits, I’m not anxious to return.
I just can’t imagine stopping by to hang out at the long bar for a pre-workout smoothie. Neither can I feel comfortable in one of the armchairs in the center lounge, nursing a cappuccino while working on a laptop. Though the rug underpinning the lounge area helps diffuse the noise element in the sparse space, the area just doesn’t say cosy to me. Maybe I’m too paranoid to write where I know nearby diners can easily see what I’m working on… but it just seems too manufactured. “You Should Sit Here And Write!” its little lapdesks almost seem to scream. Um, maybe for spreadsheets, but creativity doesn’t work that way.
The one time I stopped in for an actual cocktail, I was shocked to see a gaggle of suits and stilettos crowding the bar. It was a Tuesday and the place was packed with an atmosphere more Lotus than Logan. Hardly the “casual cafe” vibe they advertise, and not was I was expecting or desiring, so no attempt yet to try their “Honest Cocktails.”
As far as the food, the problem of trying to be all things to all people is again highlighted here. Like all the EatWell spots, the food is decently dependable, but nothing brilliant.
A friend described the ambiance as “the urban equivalent of Olive Garden,” and I think this encapsulates neatly why it makes me uneasy. The entire block of new development on P between 15th and 14th is calculated to make people who once refused to walk down that expanse feel at home. Despite a few notable exceptions like New Vegas Lounge, it’s fast losing any grit.
So I’m still on the hunt for a third place to call my own. Until then, I guess I’ll make my post-workout smoothies at home. And where to get that cappuccino? Another story for another week…
1443 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20005