The first thing you see when you walk into this 20 year old restaurant at 1200 New Hampshire Ave NW is the huge mural looming over the bar.
The different servers and managers at Grillfish will give you will give you different answers as to what the mural is supposed to represent. Designed by Andrew Reid, a Miami-based muralist, everyone agrees that the image is indeed a little disconcerting; biblical and dramatic. The vibe adds to the classic and epic nature of the seafood restaurant, nestled right on the edge of Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom, and a walking distance from a number of theaters in the area.
Grillfish has been in the neighborhood for over 20 years. They focus on simply-prepared filet cuts of a variety of fish types, emphasizing sustainable sourcing. They list where each individual species was caught, on a board towards the back, along with plaques that describe their environmental-friendly practices. There’s the feel of the restaurant being a well-kept secret; where Fiola Mare and Joe’s Seafood are the more famous name brands in the district, Grillfish stands as a place that is welcoming equally to local diners and out-of towners.
The restaurant is quiet during its brunch hours, when I dined before attending one of the Kennedy Center’s Reach festivities on opening weekend. There are flyers for $1 oyster happy hours, and the bartender specifies that these are typically James River or Chesapeake selections. The menu also has a three-course brunch package for a surprising $35/per person deal.
October is National Seafood Month, so look for weekly special dishes. This week the spotlight is on shrimp. The shrimp ceviche is fresh, with the balanced zest that doesn’t overpower, just lights up the natural brine of chopped shrimp and avocado pieces. A buffalo shrimp appetizer, on the other side of the spectrum, feels familiar as a deep-fried comfort food. The server suggested I use the rustico bread to sop up the thick spicy that smothered the dish.
Grillfish embraces simplicity in its cuisine and presentation. The open kitchen allows for an environment where cooks can chat with guests, where kids are brought up to the line to watch as a lobster is prepared. My crab cake Benedict was presented on beds of spinach and rosemary potatoes, and a generous serving of Hollandaise. These are hearty and filling dishes, with little pretension.
The brownie sundae and key lime pie that finish our meals follow the same philosophy: delicious, simple ingredients to deliver decadent results. For the brownie sundae: a warmed caramel pecan sauce that excites the sweet tooth. The key lime bristles with zest and tang to an excellent play when attempting to “share” with a dining companion.
As a location that has marked this corner for over twenty years, Grillfish relishes in its sense of familiarity with its neighborhood. While Dupont Circle has evolved, this restaurant has held steady in its location, serving up a comforting dining experience with steadiness and precision.
Grillfish, part of the EatwellDC restaurant group
1200 New Hampshire Ave, NW.
202 331 7310
Theatres close to Grillfish:
Dupont Underground (5 minute walk)
The Kennedy Center, Keegan Theater, and Theater J (15 minute walks)
Pro-tip: on the weekends, the parking garage next to the restaurant is a $7 flat fee.