Two and a half years after shuttering The Press Bistro, David English is back with a new concept, a new restaurant and a new location. His latest venture is Juju Kitchen & Cocktails, serving small plates and craft cocktails at the corner of 15th and L streets, across the street from Capitol Park.
Juju is a departure from The Press, a popular midtown dinner house that served upscale fare. Concerned about rising costs and staff shortages, English declined to renew The Press Bistro’s lease when it came up for renewal in December 2019. He was only a couple of months ahead of the pandemic curve, which closed down every restaurant in town in mid-March 2020. English used the pandemic period to consider his next move. He decided to take the tapas portion of The Press’s menu and build a restaurant around that. Those tapas—things like meatballs, patatas bravas and arancini—were low priced, relatively easy to make (at least compared to complicated entrees) and had always been popular with diners.
Juju’s menu is a simple affair, with about a dozen small, shareable plates, all priced at $7. The Press’s meatballs, patatas and arancini are back, supplemented by dishes such as grilled calamari with romesco sauce, crispy falafel with roasted pepper tahini sauce, and beef barbacoa tacos.
Like the menu, the restaurant itself is a pared-down operation. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 4–10 p.m. There’s no telephone, no host and no reservations. Customers seat themselves. It’s all part of English’s idea to keep things simple. It also enables him to hire fewer staff. “The more staff we have, the more expensive your cocktail,” he explains.
He’d been thinking about this model for a few years before closing The Press. Again, he was ahead of the curve; since the pandemic, lots of restaurants have limited their hours and menus. Earlier this year, Bacon & Butter’s Billy Zoellin opened The Green Room, a restaurant focused on happy hour, in East Sacramento.
As for the name Juju? English says it’s a play on the French word joujou, which means “plaything,” and it’s meant to evoke both sophistication and fun. 1501 L St.; www.jujukitchenandcocktails.com