Hill East Burger Opens in old Wisdom Space

Photo by author

Hill East Burger [1432 Pennsylvania Ave SE, roughly 15th and I SE, Online Ordering, Twitter, Instagram, will be open 5p M-F, Noon Sat-Sun, kitchen closing at 10p daily, bar at 11p], a self-described “smoked burger saloon” quietly “soft” opened to the public Thursday, September 29th, and as of Friday October 7th, has booze though without booze for now. The spot, in the space that was previously occupied by Wisdom for a decade steps from the Potomac Ave. Metro, comes from the owners of Sloppy Mama’s (Joe Neuman) and Republic Cantina (Chris Svetlik) and opens one year after they signed a lease (which was advertised at a relatively affordable-for-DC-commercial-retail $4,800./month)

HEB’s opening menu features 3 types of burgers made with a blend of Sloppy Mama’s BBQ prime brisket trim & Roseda Farms grass-fed aged beef on a local potato bun (can get it on arugula if you so desire). I ordered the Puebla, which has poblano relish, beefonaise, smoked cheddar, mustard, and pickles – tasty. Burgers are priced $12/$15/$18 (single/double/triple patties); seasoned curly potato wedges or salad is $5 extra. The food menu also includes a fried chicken thigh sandwich, fully dressed half smoke, chili, nuggets, and basically a veggie burger made with a patty made of grits and black eyed peas. Ordering is via QR code/Toast (except at the bar it seems), with a 20% service fee “which contributes toward staff pay.”

The space is quite a departure from the dark/quirky Wisdom; the bar is in the exact same space but things have been streamlined (and the front bathroom was removed) to make it feel more spacious. Definitely a Western saloon theme pervades, and looks like an old school jukebox will be operational soon.

As mentioned above, no booze is yet being served (hence the quiet opening, as they want people to come for the alcohol), but there were a couple draft sodas (ginger chipotle had a nice kick). The booze menu isn’t set in stone yet, but expect a mix of classic and unique ~$13 cocktails (including a couple rotating on draft), and eventually a curated selection of sipping liquors of many different types. There will also be a couple beers on draft, and expect the DC Brau-made Old Time lager to be the cheap can to get.

I was told by manager Ben Alt (formerly of Reliable Tavern) that they should be able to serve booze very soon. Wisdom’s tavern liquor license was sold to the landlord, so no new license is necessary, but there likely needs to be paperwork submitted to remove the license from safekeeping and/or transfer it formally to the owners of the bar itself. So far, this request has not shown up in the ABRA board agenda, but this could happen early as the middle of this week.

The spot advertised on its Instagram stories that they would have online takeout orders Saturday and Sunday. Alt told me were planning on closing for a few days then reopening soon after.

[Note unlike most new openings I report on, I wasn’t invited to eat/drink for free and I paid for food/drink; got a tip they were soft opening so I swung by]

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