The Dabney is a cozy, Michelin-starred restaurant tucked away in Blagden Alley and Naylor Court Historic District of Shaw, serving food sourced from the Mid-Atlantic.
Located at 122 Blagden Alley NW, only a small plaque engraved with the restaurant’s name marks the entrance on the door, making The Dabney feel more like a hidden speakeasy than a restaurant. Customers can enter the restaurant through a rustic barn door, which leads to a glass door by the hostess table.
The Dabney is a dinner-only restaurant open from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 5 to 10 p.m. on Sunday.
The restaurant’s low ceilings and hanging lights tunnel your attention past the dining tables to the open kitchen at the back of the room. The bar, dining area and kitchen are all visible from the entrance, allowing guests to watch chefs prepare dishes over an open flame.
The focal point of the kitchen is a giant white-tiled, open oven with a wood burning fire that resembles a large fireplace. Jumping flames from the oven illuminate the dining room, and shiny wood tables and black chairs reflect light from the fire.
You can order items like the hearth-roasted vegetables ($16) and grilled NY strip ($29) that are cooked over the fire. Most other dishes feature charred components like the poached pullet egg ($17) with charred jimmy nardello peppers and the swordfish ($26) with charred fennel.
For a simple dish that allows the distinct char flavor from the fire shine, I chose the grilled shishito peppers with urfa buttermilk dressing ($8). On the snack section of the menu – which also includes items like a half dozen oysters ($19) and charred eggplant dip with corn ships ($12) – the portion is small and should be shared as an appetizer to your meal.
Shishito peppers are thin, East Asian green peppers with a sweet, mild flavor. Sometimes, there is one pepper in the batch that packs some heat, giving delightful or terrible surprise depending on who bites into it.
The Dabney’s shishito peppers are served on a white oval dish with a side of urfa buttermilk dressing for dipping and sesame seeds sprinkled on top. The smokey urfa chili dressing compounds the smokiness of the grilled shishitos, and its tangy buttermilk base brings a balancing acidity to the dish.
The green peppers are almost completely covered in char and coated with an oil shine, while the inside is tenderly cooked. The dressing brings a cold, fresh element to the peppers’ warmth.
I paired the appetizer with a lavender lemonade ($5) which was a refreshing palate cleanser between bites. The Dabney also offers cleverly named specialty cocktails like the Respect Your Elder-Berries ($15) with bourbon, elderberry shrub, smoked maple and cinnamon and the Paradise Island ($15), a rum cocktail of which the proceeds go to Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in the Bahamas.
I sampled the hearth roasted vegetables ($16) with a buttery heirloom grain salad, bright herb puree, ricotta and lemon and a build-your-own heirloom tomato toast ($15), which comes with grilled bread and labneh, a tangy and rich greek yogurt.
Visiting The Dabney was satisfying in both ambiance and taste. Watching the chefs in action is mesmerizing and gave me a greater appreciation for all of the dishes, even simple ones like the Grilled Shishito Peppers.