The info sheet handed out at Hogo’s media preview reads, “Hogo is part of a project called Temporary Works that hopes to bring new late-night dining options to Washington, D.C. by giving talented chefs a platform to cook bar food with their own twists. Located inside Hogo, Temporary Works has a dine-in kitchen that will be helmed by a cast of rotating chefs from Washington, D.C. and other nearby cities.” If you read recent City Paper coverage you might be asking, “would they really open a bar knowing that it would have to close in a year?” Your answer is thus completely out in the open, proudly announcing itself with the name Temporary Works. Hell, that’s even the name that appeared on the ABRA notice.
This cannot in any way be an impartial report. Regular readers of this site — especially the weekend posts — might by now have the idea that the Social Chair and I spend a lot of time at the Passenger, two doors north of Hogo. It should thus come as little surprise that we’ve come to be friends with brothers Tom and Derek Brown (and in the interest of the fullest disclosure possible, we have known their landlords and partners the Rupperts for even longer than we have known the Browns). We first met Tom in the company of the Rupperts after a “garage sale” at the Warehouse Theater, in the Passenger’s early days. Presented with the horrible beach cocktail book we’d bought at the sale, he admitted that what he really wanted to open was a rum bar with tiki drinks. Several years and uncounted Tiki Tuesdays later, he has realized that dream with Hogo. Not only have we known the new bar was coming, though, we helped paint the place and move the furniture.
It was on one of those painting days that I saw the name Temporary Works on the ABRA notice and asked Tom about it. He said they’d had to put something down on the forms, and it was probably going to stick since changing legal names is too hard. He mentioned he was going to add the word “temporary” to the RUPPERT REAL RESTAURANT sign above the window and have some fun with it.
He’s had some fun, alright. Hogo features a painting of zombie skeleton Elvis on black velvet, a mermaid on the hood of an old Pontiac, and shelves upon shelves of rum, with a Siamese fighting fish in a mescal bottle nestled among them for good measure. Oh, and a painting of Bill Murray in character as Steve Zissou protects the front door from wayward sea creatures.
For the most part the Passenger is a rather unpretentious bar. Leave aside the Columbia Room and Derek’s “bar food that matters” job notice after chef Javier Duran announced his departure last year, and what you have is a roadhouse with loud music and a low-key vibe. Hogo takes the Passenger’s low-key vibe and drops it in an unnamed (and perhaps undetermined) Caribbean location, shifting the focus from rye whiskey to rum in all its forms. Standout cocktails include the ti’ punch, a French-Caribbean classic made with rhum agricole, cane sugar, and fresh lime; Blackheart’s punch, with blackstrap rum, cinnamon, and tonic water; and the Pinky Gonzalez, a variant of the Mai Tai featuring blanco and reposado tequila in place of the light and dark rum.
The aforementioned chef Duran (recently returned from California) gets the first crack at the Temporary Works kitchen, with a menu focusing on Hawaiian bar food. The most surprising menu item is Spam musumi (sushi rice, seaweed, and, uh, fried Spam) served with a wasabi aioli. The menu also features two variations on Loco Moco, which is a delicious but unholy mess of fried protein, egg, and gravy, with sides of rice and macaroni salad. Of the two versions I preferred the beef patty with sausage gravy. The highlight of the Hawaiian menu, however, is the miso saimin, ramen noodles in a rich broth with bacon dashi, a poached egg, vegetables, and pork belly. I hope this bowl lives on at the Passenger when the next chef takes over the Temporary Works kitchen. That next chef might be Ed Witt, until recently the chef at 701, but he also might have taken another job by then. Tom already has a small army of suitable candidates lined up to take the helm, however temporarily.
Left open, of course, is the question of how the Brown brothers and their partner Paul Ruppert actually feel about the temporary nature of the whole venture. They’ve stayed mum so far and I haven’t chosen to push the issue. From my perspective the only bad news is that the Passenger’s Tiki Tuesday is going away, since as Hogo’s Twitter bio says, it’s Tiki Tuesday every day there. I doubt that Hogo is the last new venture we’ll see from the trio, but I’ll be waiting for announcements along with everyone else. At the bar. With a ti’ punch.
Hogo opens at 5pm today.