Saturday, March 22, 2014

Still Life With Robin: Popping Up in Cleveland Park

Photo courtesy of Michael Hartman, Thos. E. Clark Inc.
by Peggy Robin

Pasteria Floriana has popped up in the former Pulpo Restaurant space in Cleveland Park, but just until March 27. (The Washington Post has the story at The “pop-up” restaurant is a recent trend -- a little weird but I like it. The advantages are obvious:

  • It make good use the space of a recently departed restaurant, rental space that might otherwise sit vacant and deteriorating until a long-term tenant can be found.
  • It allows a restaurant owner to try out a new concept without investing --and risking-- too much time, money, and energy.
  • It give food critics, and adventurous foodies, and even ordinary occasional restaurant-goers some new tastes to sample, with the promise of the fully realized incarnation of the new restaurant turning up at some point in the not-too-distant future.

What’s not to like? Even if the pop-up’s offerings are less than stellar, there’s opportunity for the dishes to be re-worked, the service to be smartened up, the setting to be redesigned.

In the short space of a few months between the demise of Pulpo, at 3407 Connecticut Avenue, there have actually been two pop-ups. Soon after Pulpo’s closing, there was the Hawaiian restaurant Hula Girl, a product of the owners of the Hula Girl food trucks (see which featured Teriyaki tofu steaks, macaroni salads, dishes made with Spam and other additives favored in the 50th state but rarely part of mainland chef’s repertoire. So you might say that Pasteria Floriana is the pop-up after the pop-up.

Or you could count it as the third pop-up in that space, taking into consideration of the fact that prior to Pulpo, there was Bandolero, a “modern Mexican” pop-up by celebrity chef Mike Isabella. (Flashy Bandolero was always somewhat out-of-place in poky old Cleveland Park; it’s much better suited to the hustling-bustling part of M Street in Georgetown where it found its true home. See  to get a sense of its decibel level, as well at its cuisine.)

What will come next for 3407 Connecticut? An international barbecue place (as suggested in the Washington Post article)? Or a Peruvian chicken restaurant (as reported in the Prince of Petworth blog - I’m in suspense … but glad to know, due to the pop-up trend these days, that if the new restaurant doesn’t work out for whatever reasons, that the space won’t sit empty long. Another pop-up may come along with a new concept, more surprises, more innovation. In any event, I don’t think we’ll ever go back to fast-food-boom times of the ‘80s and ‘90s, when that space was a McDonald’s. (At least I hope that trend is gone for good.)

And now for a longer walk down Memory Lane: Here’s a link to a photo of what was the original use of 3407 Connecticut Avenue: The Thomas E. Clark Plumbing Showroom Pretty snazzy!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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