Washington City Paper
Sundevich and A&D chef/owner Ali Bagheri began quietly serving poutine, fried catfish, and pulled pork from his no-frills Park View shop Small Fry last week. But this is just phase one of his plans. In the next few months, Bagheri will open a sizable bar, which technically occupies three street addresses, next door and above the restaurant called Union Drinkery. The bar will be to Small Fry what A&D is to Sundevich.
Small Fry takes global inspirations like Bagheri’s Shaw sandwich shop but applies it to mostly smoked and fried street foods. There are St. Louis ribs and pulled pork, but also Scotch eggs, peel-and-eat shrimp with Cajun remoulade, and breaded and fried haloumi cheese (served with a wedge of lemon and some parsley). “This was kind of more personal for me, all the greatest hits,” Bagheri says. He wanted a place where he could make favorites like smoked chicken or some decent barbecue—”not even American-style, but good smoked food that’s overbearingly smoked.”
The menu—and its prices—are still a work in progress. Bagheri wants to do more smoked fish, which he says not many others are doing. He currently has smoked bluefish on the menu, but he plans to try other types as well (except for the usual suspects like salmon and trout). The large kitchen gives Bagheri a lot more room to play. He plans to do some “serious pickling” and maybe some dehydrating (like beef jerky) going forward. It also gives him space to expand the business new ways in the future. “This could be a commissary for Sundevich and other Sundeviches. This could branch out and form a catering division,” he says.
When Union Drinkery opens, patrons will be able to order from Small Fry’s menu there. Beyond that, the bar will be similar to A&D: “neighborhood bar, unpretentious, chill, no dress code, no bullshit, just come in and have a good time,” Bagheri says. “I think even A&D, I try to tell those guys, ‘Tone it down. Don’t take it so seriously. It doesn’t have to be tincture and shrub and this and that. Just make a fucking good cocktail.'”
The bar is deceptively large. Around every turn is another nook or another room with additional stools and seats. The layout is more like a house than your typical watering hole. “It reminds me of 18th Street Lounge,” Bagheri says. He plans to eventually build a staircase in the back that goes down to a large lot that will become a patio with picnic tables. He envisions having an outdoor grill for Sunday luaus or burgers and half-smokes during football season. (There will be a TV upstairs.)
Bagheri hopes the place will be a boon for the neighborhood, which has seen a small uptick in development in the past year with the likes of Walters Sports Bar, Colony Club, and Heat Da Spot Cafe.
“I want the UPS guy and the FedEX guy just like the guy in the suit and tie coming,” Bagheri says. “It’s just about the food and I want to have something for everyone.”