GW alumnus Jeremy Pollok still comes back to campus to watch his favorite Colonials on the basketball court, but to him there’s one big post-game problem.
“There is no place (on campus) to go before or after the game to hangout,” he said.
So Pollok decided to bring a new branch of his Mount Pleasant restaurant TONIC to Foggy Bottom, and give students a place eat, drink and socialize in the heart of campus. When Pollok heard that Quigley’s, the historic pharmacy on 21st and G Streets, was up for sale, he knew it was the right time for TONIC’s downtown debut.
“I think this is exactly what GW students are looking for. It’s affordable food that tastes good, and a versatile restaurant for students to eat after classes, basketball games, and long weekends,” said sophomore Julie Silverbrook, who has eaten at Pollok’s original TONIC in Mt. Pleasant.
Pollok, who graduated from GW with a B.A. in psychology in 1994, said he never expected to become a restaurateur, but kind of “fell into” the food industry after stints busing tables and bartending. After opening a restaurant in New York, Pollok returned to D.C. and opened TONIC in 2003, offering customers a menu of American comfort food like “mac and cheese,” burgers, quesadillas, tater tots and Philly cheese steaks.
TONIC’s menu is extensive, and restaurant goers with a more sophisticated palette will enjoy the cracked pepper pork loin, roasted portabella mushroom sandwich or vegetarian stuffed peppers. Students concerned with all things frugal won’t mind TONIC’s prices either, with plates costing between $8 for a sandwich and $15 for an entree.
But the best part may be that once TONIC opens students will no longer have to trek to Georgetown in search of Sunday brunch. TONIC will serve daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, and will feature a brunch menu on Sunday’s from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Customers eating at the Mt. Pleasant branch also seem to enjoy the restaurant’s relaxing ambiance of warm colors, with deep reds and browns on the walls, and dim lighting. But Pollok said the best part about TONIC is that all the food served is homemade.
“We figure, you’re paying to eat here, so we’re not going to serve you hummus from a can,” said Pollok, whose other Mt. Pleasant restaurant, Radius Pizza, was rated D.C.’s best New York style pizza in 2005 by Washingtonian Magazine.
Pollok said he and his TONIC co-owners, Eric “Bernie” Berstrom, and Ilias Nathanail plan to re-create the same restaurant when they arrive on GW’s campus.
“It’s going to be the same TONIC with the same atmosphere and same good food,” Pollok said.
But one snag may be the restaurant’s liquor license, which was delayed indefinitely last November by the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration, citing two laws: one requiring at least 400 feet between a liquor license establishment and a school (the School Without Walls High School is at 2130 G Street), and another stating that only a hotel can hold a liquor license in a residentially zoned area.
Despite the disappointment, Pollok said “We will open whether we have a liquor license or not.”
The restaurant will have three levels, Pollok explained. The first floor will be a casual bar setting with high-top tables where customers can sit and socialize, and the dining room will be on the second floor. But GW’s TONIC will also feature a third level that will be open for private events and student use, complete with a stage and comfortable couches.
“When it is not in use, we want this floor to be open to anyone who wants to socialize or even study,” Pollok said. “We want to be the neighborhood restaurant bar and grill. It’s not meant to be pretentious, but casual and comfortable.”