Photo: Wine Glass at Unconventional Diner
Last Updated: 6/23/2020
Current Status: They have reopened the dining area for sit-down: “We are operating by reservation only through Phase 4. Tables are limited to 6 guests, preferably from the same household. All reservations are for 1 hour and 30 minutes maximum for proper sanitation between each seating and to ensure all reservations are honored.” Take-out and delivery continues.
Before Times Review:
Last Visited: April 2019
The space is large and the food is indulgent. The word “Diner” in the name is not just a cute evocation. The cooking is elevated with twists, but it is rooted in the hearty, homey classics of the diner.
Unconventional Diner is helmed by David Deshaies (savory) and Ana Deshaies (sweet). They have distinct spaces at either end of the restaurant for their work. David Deshaies is a protégé of the late and legendary Michel Richard whose playful approach to food, at its height, was the standard for D.C. fine dining. DeShaies continues the idea by playing with classics like fried chicken, meatloaf, and nachos. The chicken parm is two breaded fillets with spinach and gruyere oozing out when you cut into it. There are lots of small plates and veggies on the list (the menu helpfully identifies dishes compatible with modern dining restrictions, GF, V, CN, DF and SF, even if a boxscore is required to decipher the code). Some dishes, like the meatloaf do shine, some are less compelling, but all seem to be very good. This is excellent cooking done on a large scale and holding up under the pressure.
The staff flitters about. They do well covering a large space, though on the last visit there was more than one slip-up. The bar is long and cocktails are dependable. The wine list is old world focused and, as the influencers might say, curated well. There are few surprises lurking, but there are many good choices to match whatever mood you are in.
The echoes of downtown NYC art scene’s past are woken up on the walls. Art reminiscent of Keith Haring and other touches abound. It is a light-filled and warm space under bright lights that stands up to the glare.
Other Guidance: The vibe is casual. You can dress nicely, but shorts, jeans and yoga pants are plentiful. As noted above, most dietary restrictions are pre-emptively addressed.
Rating: Worth Paying for Cab
Cuisine: New & Old American
Neighborhood: Mt. Vernon/Convention Ctr
Address: 1207 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Washington Post: 2.5 from Tom. He maintained that rating in his 2019 Fall Dining Guide.