Navigating a second date at Room 11

A couple of days after our first date at 2birds/Doi Moi, Will texted me and asked me if I was free the following week for dinner. I suggested Columbia Heights, and he asked me to pick a spot since he had never really spent time there (Virginites, amirite?). I suggested Room 11, because obviously that’s just the date spot. For anyone who has never made it up the hill to Columbia Heights like inexperienced William here: Room 11 is a place that contains anything and everything you could want for a summer night date: great cocktails, great bartenders, chill atmosphere, a beautiful outdoor patio, cozy inside, and absolutely delicious food (and also – not too far from my apartment since I am lazy and usually running 5-10 minutes late).

Room 11 opened about six years ago and is the brainchild of Dan Searing (formerly of Punch Club) and Paul Ruppert (Crane & Turtle, The Columbia Room, Petworth Citizen). The perfect mix between a neighborhood bar and cocktail lounge, it obviously was immediately a big hit and the place seemed almost always packed. The tiny restaurant expanded with 24 more seats in 2012 and added daily breakfast and lunch service. Even with these additions, Room 11 remains a popular spot despite all of the new openings in Columbia Heights in the past few years.

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The evening of the second date was a hot, steamy night so I ubered up 11th street. The patio looked pretty packed, but luckily Will had arrived before me and snagged two seats at the small inside. After we ordered our drinks (manhattan for him, Biz Marquee for me), we decided to stay at the bar for dinner instead of heading back out into the heat. I also actually prefer eating at the bar when I’m with someone because it feels more casual and less stiff than sitting across a table staring at them. You’re actually sitting next to them, and plus the service is better when you’re just chilling right in front of the bartender.

We started with the burrata over strawberry relish, spring blossom, and pistachio puree. While I usually love burrata, I did not like this dish that much. This is also maybe the first time I have ever not loved something I ordered at Room 11. The burrata was a little on the stiff side, and I was hoping for some creamy cheese that just ooooooozed as soon as I cut into it. The strawberries and pistachios made each bite a little nauseatingly sweet and the texture of everything together was not really going down my throat easily. Luckily, our main courses arrived shortly after.

I was pretty hungry and craving something meaty so I got the Four Barrel coffee burger with BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar with ranch salad. Will ordered the grilled pork chop with honey gastrique over tongue of fire beans, chard, pea shoots, pickled pearl onions. The burger was excellent: slightly crunchy on the outside, slightly pink on the inside, and smokey, with a kind of earthy taste from the coffee. Will approved of his pork, which looked like it was grilled perfectly (so tired of restaurants overcooking pork!). We managed to polish off both of our dishes completely in a short amount of time, so we hung around for another drink at the bar (beer for Will, another Old Fashioned for me) and kept chatting.

On our first date, I had noticed that I was talking more than him, and asking the bulk of the questions. But I figured that was just because 1) I just talk nonstop to anyone and everyone if they do not stop me and 2) it’s so easy to find things to ask about someone on the first date when you know absolutely nothing about them (besides what Google tells you). This second date, I noticed that I was, again, steering the conversation and asking him a lot of questions. A couple of times, I wanted to see if he could take over the talking, so I just did not say anything after he answered a question. Both of those times, he just looked at me, and I felt crickets hop into the tiny room and start some melodious chirping. Normally, I would take that as a sign that a guy is maybe not that interested in me, but he stayed engaged and seemed talkative when I asked him questions. After we finished our second drinks and he got the bill, he offered me a ride back down 11th street since he was heading home to Virginia, which was so sweet. As he dropped me off, we had a very sweet good bye kiss which was, just like the date, very nice and pleasant. But both the date and the kiss left me wondering whether there is an actual real connection between us, and if he was too reserved for me. I had no reason to dislike him, but was not sure if I actually liked him yet.

The following weekend, I headed to Rehoboth Beach with a couple of girlfriends. We met up with some of our guy friends for a bachelor party one afternoon in Dewey Beach, where Will also happened to be. We decided to meet up during an outdoor cover band show, and when he texted me to let me know he was across the crowd from me, I was surprised to see the reserved, put-together guy from the two dates (who had always been dressed in a button up and slacks), standing in front of me in a neon cut-off thank top, a backwards baseball cap, and bright green sunglasses. WHO is this? We ended up having a blast dancing and drinking cheap beer, and he was so friendly with my girlfriends. It was a shock to see this side of him, but I definitely appreciated it and was intrigued by these two different sides of Will. I guess the only way to learn more is to keep spending time with him….

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