The Hawk ‘n’ Dove, a Capitol Hill mainstay where congressmen and clerks, lawyers and foremen, college students and pensioners rubbed elbows over beers and burgers, reopened Thursday as a sleek, sophisticated version of its former self after a 15-month renovation that came with a change in ownership.
The new faces inside promise an updated version of the neighborhood institution, but some veteran barflies were skeptical about whether the stylish destination would live up to its predecessor’s lowbrow reputation.
“We’re still trying to be a friendly neighborhood place,” said Jeremy Magnanelli, the restaurant’s executive chef. “We want the crew back, to come in here.”
The Capitol Hill watering hole opened in 1967 as a place where pro-Vietnam War “hawks” and anti-war “doves” could eat and drink on neutral territory.
It’s official address is 329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, and for the past 44 years, the dark old bar drew in staffers, lawmakers, lawyers and Hill residents, and even got a taste of the limelight when the TV show “The West Wing” filmed a scene in its dim light.
The man behind the renovation is Xavier Cervera, the owner of several other bars and restaurants along Barracks Row that are known for their shiny wood interiors, champagne-colored light, and flat-screen TVs playing the day’s sporting events.
The Hawk ‘n’ Dove, however, was known for its ramshackle interior that included a collage of bumper stickers on the walls, empty beer bottles on its mantles, and dusty animal heads that surveyed patrons.
The bar changed hands in October 2011 when the longtime owners lost the lease. It closed for remodeling, and regulars of the original will find few things where they left them when the place was shuttered.
The bottles and taps are still housed behind a bar that runs along the east wall, but the shelves and cupboards are polished, gleaming wood. Bright chandeliers hang from the ceiling, which itself is an ox-blood color.
While the menu at the original Hawk ‘n’ Dove was limited to burgers, Mr. Magnanelli said patrons will have their choice from wings, sandwiches and fancier entrees.
Mr. Magnanelli admitted the place had a “completely different feel,” but the hope is to bring back the fans and return that familiar atmosphere.
“We want it to be comfortable,” he said.
Munching on a sandwich and fries at the neighboring Tune Inn, a Capitol Hill staple in its own right, Louis Clark, 57, said he was skeptical about the new version of the old standard.
“That’s not going to happen,” said the Capitol Hill resident, who went to the Hawk ‘n’ Dove for decades. “It’s way too different there.”
“In the back room you could play pool or darts, there was a band for the kids to dance,” Mr. Clark said, adding that he used to jump between the neighboring bars and trust he could leave his tabs open.
He mentioned the June 2011 kitchen fire at the Tune Inn, which caused enough damage that the bar had to be renovated.
“When they remodeled [the Tune Inn] they remodeled it for the customers,” he said. The Hawk ‘n’ Dove, “they’re doing for different reasons.”
The Hawk ‘n’ Dove’s new owners bid on the same animal heads and original sign from the bar, and they are hung throughout the remodeled site.
“They had an auction, but nobody picked me,” said Phil Panitch, 69, who was a patron at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove for 30 years and now goes to Tune Inn.
Mr. Panitch said he had been past the redeveloped bar and it looked nice enough for him to try out his old standby.
“We’ll see what it brings,” he said.