Wherever I went, whoever I saw this weekend, fewer than 10 minutes would pass before someone brought the conversation around to lamenting the news about La Bête. Owner Aleks Dimitrijevic announced on Facebook that his unceremoniously smashing Capitol Hill restaurant as we know it will serve its last pork rinds and chicken liver mousse August 16. A 30 percent rent increase is ultimately what felled the beast—or at least inspired its owner to set a new plan in motion.
Dimitrijevic opened the restaurant in 2010 with his then-partner Tyler Moritz. It's by no means a fancy spot (our anonymous critic Kathryn Robinson said it best in her review: "La Bête’s grandmotherly delicacy is shot through with a debauched Bohemian streak"). But the ever-changing menu is clearly the product of curious minds and steady culinary hands. The kitchen bar was the site of one of my most memorable birthday meals, and though it's by no means a burger type of place the one served here is my husband's preferred way of celebrating life's small milestones. Oddly the salad that comes with it is even better than fries. The news made for a sad day at our house.
But not all is despair in this story. Dimitrijevic is staying put in the space just a half block off Olive Way, using this setback as a chance to open a new spot, incorporating changes both aesthetic and culinary that have been percolating in his mind for a while.
He recently constructed a smoker from scratch, big enough to handle two, even three small pigs. "Or just a whole lot of smoked brisket, RIBS, sausage, fish, baked beans and the like." That, he told me, was a clue of what's to come. And (much to my husband's joy) the burger, pork rinds, and chicken liver mousse will reemerge in the new restaurant.
Beyond reimagining the food and the name, the space will be recast too. Dimitrijevic is an artist and also exceptionally handy. By way of proof, check out the cool banquettes and geode-inlaid tables at nearby Juicebox, where he's a partner. He's puzzling over how to fit some booth-type seats in his restaurant, but overall, he promises some "aesthetic twists" to go along with the new menu.
Another puzzle Dimitrijevic is working out in his head: the name. His new incarnation will open some time this fall. Meanwhile, diners have just under a month to return for a last assignation with La Bête as we know it. As Dimitrijevic wrote in his Facebook post, "Lord knows that I’ll need as good of a send off as possible to make the next phase less of a financial burden…. Think of it as investing in your future place to hang out for great food and great drinks!!!"