While this street manages to have the least political businesses on the Circle (outside of Kramer Books across the street), this sign has all sorts of interesting baggage behind it.

While this stretch of road manages to be the most corporate and, for obvious reasons, least directly political of the immediate branches of Dupont Circle, this sign caught my attention for several reasons. To preface this, I understand that most of Dupont Circle’s businesses target an upper-middle class clientele- the menu at Sweetgreen seems to hover around $10 for an entree, which is not bargain prices. But the exclusion of cash from their purchases says a lot about how they see themselves and their clientele. Despite it’s apparent dearth among the professional class in America, cash is likely not going anyway any time soon- many people still pay primarily by it. It says a lot for a corporation to say that the only patrons they want either have smart phones or debit cards- not to mention that they want you to use their own app. While I’m not sure whether this is politics, it’s sure got a lot of it clinging on.

While admittedly it wasn’t in use when I went, Beefsteak is the only restaurant along this strip to even have a small amount of outdoor seating.

Outdoor seating is an often underused amenity of any restaurants. While there are obvious reasons why many avoid them, it’s nice to have the option- and on this front, Beefsteak provides. While the weather on the day these were taken was not the best downtown, it nevertheless looked like an excellent option- if I could afford dining there that day, I likely would have sat here. The fact they provide it while others don’t can be chalked up to several reasons- a self-assigned higher importance, having more sidewalk space, or even laziness on their competitors’ part. Whatever the case, Beefsteak once again stands out from the group of three.

The brick parking lot of the building had back entrances, much as you would expect- but this one in particular stuck out.

While I admit I am very easily surprised, this door was by far the biggest surprise of the back entrances here. While there’s nothing abnormal with having the business who occupies a space mark their back entrance (which makes navigation far easier), it’s quite abnormal for them to do as much advertising as BGR does. This is not to say this is completely pointless- undoubtedly the people who park here for work would likely have at least a passing interest in getting lunch at BGR’s establishment. Nevertheless, this is the first time I’ve ever scene a company use their rear entrance to advertise- whether it’s simply a smart move or a plea to potential customers.

The parking lot behind the PNC is quite a stark contrast to the bank’s public facing front.

One who has only seen the neo-classical, street facing facade of the PNC Bank build might be shocked when they come around to the parking lot on it’s rear, which seems to tell a far different story than it suggests. While I can’t say for certain, lacking access to the architects or high quality enough photography of the roof, it seems that the marble facade was retrofitted onto preexisting brick buildings, likely residential, in an effort to save money while keeping up appearances. It amazes me greatly that they were able to disguise this so easily, and perhaps says a lot about the area in general- gilded appearances over a mundane base.

This fountain, in the eponymous park of Dupont Circle, stands at the rough center of the traffic circle.

While the exteriors of the stores are undoubtedly more relevant to this documentation, that does not mean a reflection on the architecture of the area at large is not important. Dupont Circle, like much of DC, is a heavily modern neighborhood growing in the often historical architecture of DC’s downtown areas. One need only consider things like a burger joint behind a marble facade to understand the enormously paradoxical and fascinating facts that encompass the neighborhood. I hope to be able to capture this through a handful of these photos, such as this one- a neoclassical fountain juxtaposed with the traffic driving around it and the commercial palaces of PNC Bank and it’s ilk just beyond.

Beefsteak’s branding uses these charming vegetables as mascots.

The most striking thing about Beefsteak, and the reason I chose it over Sweetgreen today, was this rambunctious group of vegetables. Mostly unnamed, this art style is pervasive over the restaurant- the wallpaper and table settings all incorporate these mascots to greater or lesser degrees. Beefsteak’s edge among the restaurants of PNC Bank, along with decent food, is having by far the best branding. BGR suffers from its indistinct nature, something they’re trying to correct, and I couldn’t tell you the first thing about Sweetgreen other than they serve salads. Right out of the gate, Beefsteak screams a combination of “playful” and “vegetables”- something to differentiate its cooking from the thousands of organic vegan places you find in metropolitan areas.

Beefsteak emphasizes its organic/vegan/green message with the omniversal decorative box- the milk crate.

The milk crate is a quite universal sort of box- I’ve never seen one actually used for milk, but they’re great for storing records, sitting on, just throwing stuff in, or using for art projects like this. Beefsteak (named for the tomato) likes to promote their enviromental-vegetarian method with things like this, presumably to give the feel of creative “reuse.” You can also see a mural of a field, which is meant to give the suggestions of wholesomeness and the organic-movement to a restaurant which likely isn’t, though I may be wrong. You can also see the drinks counter, with assorted beverages and juices, as well as a new bottled gazpacho they’re rolling out.

Beefsteak lets you build your own bowl of vegetables or get one of their own recipes.

Beefsteak, like most fast casual restaurants, takes an assembly line approach to meals- you either get something with an ingredient list already made or pick your own veggies (not in the farming sense) and assorted toppings and bases. One particular innovation is deep-fryer style vegetable boilers, which quite impressed me personally, though I’m easy to please. Like most of these restaurants, they’re quite free-flowing with the condiments, in an attempt to make it a universally edible experience- you can flavor anything to your liking. I will admit that the length of this counter made the whole experience a bit confusing, especially since no staff member was there to immediately get my order.

The PNC Bank Building (formerly the Dupont branch of Riggs National Bank) rents out a lot of space to restaurants.

While this Digital Archive set is meant to focus on the interiors, I felt it was important to explain the wider concept I’m exploring. This building, up until recently, was the home of four fast casual restaurants all on the same block- an incredibly questionable set up, though understandable with all of Dupont’s hustle and bustle.  BGR itself is an incredibly uninteresting restaurant- a subpar burger joint with overly greasy food and the ability to confuse Dijon Mustard with barbecue sauce. Perhaps the only way to gleam more information is to examine the two remaining restaurants: Sweetgreen and Beefsteak. Perhaps even an examination of the final death of Chophouse is worth the time. There has to be some secret to why this stretch of land is worth fighting for customers on.

This is a short recording of a relatively quiet hour at BGR on a Sunday.  Listen to the piped in rock music, the banter from the kitchen. I refrained from eating during this half minute, but if you were to be there earlier you might even have heard chewing of what I ate of my admittedly subpar burger. Sound is an interesting medium for describing an interior for many reasons, but one thing to note in particular is the relative quietness of the restaurant. It doesn’t bode well for its popularity when you can hear the voices of the kitchen staff over whatever is playing on the radio and the patrons- perhaps a reason for their rebranding?