The District is a city of neighbourhoods, and on a Saturday afternoon, Columbia Heights exudes both the bustle of a big city and the charm of a small town. What better place to sit back, people watch, and take it all in than the Heights Restaurant? Located in the ground floor of The Kenyon condo building, the Heights feels like the cornerstone of the intersection, with panoramic views up 14th street and across Tivoli Square.
Renee Pickard joined The Heights as a general manager in October following an ownership change at the start of 2015. In addition to aesthetic changes and a new logo, Renee and owner Ammar Daoud are working to make The Heights the neighbourhood bar of Columbia Heights.
“Our goal is to be the best neighbourhood restaurant in D.C. Columbia Heights is a neighbourhood unlike what you see farther down on 14th Street,” said Renee. “Down there you’ll see an occasional regular, but most people you see once or twice and never again.” At The Heights, there are regulars who come in 3 or 4 times a week—and Renee waves to them as they walk down Kenyon. “If you come in more than twice, we’ll remember who you are,” she said.
Not content just being in the centre of the neighbourhood, The Heights has been an active partner with the Columbia Heights Initiative and many other community groups. They hosted our March happy hour a few weeks ago, as well as a networking happy hour for the Latin American Youth Center and a fundraiser for playground builders Kaboom!
“What better place to have a community event than here?” Renee asks. Any inquiries from local charities or organizations, they do their hardest to get them in and support them, whether by providing meeting space or donations. At the Columbia Heights Tree Lighting Ceremony, The Heights provided gallons of hot chocolate throughout the night.
A partnership with the nearby GALA Theatre provides patrons with a discount on food and drinks before or after performances by showing a ticket or program. All Children’s Hospital staff receive a discount on food and drink as well, perfect since the employee shuttle picks up and drops off right at The Heights. There’s also the Saturday morning running club that starts at The Heights—and ends there with a 25% discount on brunch.
Describing their menu as “southern-inspired American comfort food” leaves a lot of room for the chef to get creative. If you’ve ever wondered about the “Gold Star Cincinnati Chili,” it’s a nod to owner Daoud’s roots as a manager for the family business, Gold Star Chili in Cincinnati. The crispy Brussels sprouts with maple mustard glaze are not to be missed. One of the most popular menu items is the fried chicken. Both the entrée and sandwich version is honey brined and beer-battered breast meat that stays moist despite not being dark meat. If you’re there for weekend brunch, grab a Bloody Mary and the French toast with caramel pecan sauce that has been voted best in the city.
A new spring menu is set to launch April 12, with a focus on seasonal, locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. The bar menu is also getting a makeover, with a greater focus on craft cocktails that are “innovative, yet accessible”—new takes on classic cocktails. Order a Manhattan or Old Fashioned—they barrel age them in house.
Regulars will still find old menu favourites, though maybe with a twist, as well as family-friendly service. Their happy hour was listed as one of the city’s most kid-friendly, and their outdoor patio has plenty of space to bring the dog. Most of all, Renee says, they are focused on being the neighbourhood place.
“We want to be a place you can bring the family and have a nice dinner but also a place that you can catch a game, bring a first date, have brunch and enjoy a laid back experience. We want to be part of the neighbourhood, not just in it.”