“Lark, grown up.” That’s the mantra John Sundstrom keeps repeating as he gets ready to open his restaurant in a brand new location in the little triangle between Broadway, Union, and Madison on Capitol Hill.
A professional designer could hold forth on the subtle ways in which the design of this front slice of a 1917-era warehouse harkens back to the original room on 12th Avenue, the one Sundstrom occupied for the past 11 years. But to the layperson, this Lark’s deep blue banquettes, bank of 12-foot windows, and ceiling that's basically an inverted meadow of dangling bulbs looks completely new.
Semantics aside, it's unquestionably gorgeous. And as of this evening, it's Lark’s official new home. The growing up isn't just figurative. Perched atop the dining room is Bitter/Raw, a completely separate bar serving charcuterie and crudo. It, too, opens at 5pm. Slab Sandwiches and Pie, the takeaway coffee and sandwich shop tucked behind Lark’s bar (the new Lark has a proper bar!) will follow by the end of the year.
From the hamburger buns topped with duck cracklings to the cinnamon toast topped with cured pork fat, here's a handy primer on what to expect at the new, grown-up Lark.
Eat: Lark classics. Or maybe just a burger. The menu should look familiar to Larkophiles—farro from Bluebird Grains, foie gras, hanger steak, burrata. It's all there. But Sundstrom estimates the new menu is about 25 percent larger, including the fare at Bitter/Raw (more on that in a sec), more pastas, and the restaurant's first-ever burger. He needed an 11-year break after cooking so many of them in his days at the W Hotel. But when John Sundstrom designs a burger, he doesn't mess around. His is topped with cold-smoked mayonnaise and cheddar, and the bun is house-baked brioche with tiny bits of duck crackling pressed on the top.
Drink: An amaro cocktail upstairs...with a side of cinnamon toast lardo. Specifically a drink at Bitter/Raw, the mezzanine bar that actually seats a few more people than the entire space downstairs. Up here the bar menu's entirely different; there's a lineup of charcuterie that includes housemade bread topped with cinnamon butter and shavings of cured pork fat. You can also order oysters, little plates like uni with ginger ponzu sauce and crispy garlic, or a proper Parisian-style shellfish tower. The titular bitter elements come from various amari (and aquavit, cynar, sherry, aged gin, etc.) mellowed out in cocktail form via new Lark bar guy Mike McNett. Downstairs, the new Lark also has a proper 16-seat bar adjacent to the dining room.
Sit: At one of the cushy blue mohair banquettes. The word mohair conjures up images of weird grandma sweaters, but these upholstered booths are plush and elegant and reminiscent of seats at a really great old theater.
Bonus Intel: Upon heading downstairs to show off the private event room in the basement, Sundstrom said, "this is off the record." I thought that was kinda weird. I mean, the room definitely had some boxes and random stuff sitting in it, but overall it was a decently atmospheric little space with seating for about 40 and a little prep kitchen attached. Paranoid much? Then I read the opening press release and realized: Off the Record is the name of the event space. I am S-M-R-T. The original Lark on 12th is also doing private events.
Formal address: 952 E Seneca. Oh, and the restaurant will start doing lunch and brunch in January. Right now both places open at 5, though Bitter/Raw's opening should creep up to 3pm by the end of the year, hopefully in company with a happy hour.