photo credit: Jai Williams
Maybe Seinfeld gave us unrealistic expectations, but all we really want is a place we can be regulars. A place where we can drop by on a low-key Tuesday, tip our hat off to the host, go to our usual spot and say to the bartender, “Arthur, it’s been a day.” Then Arthur tells us to stop wearing fedoras already and makes us our favorite drink.
A lot of restaurants promise this exact scenario (more or less). But then you end up with an hour wait and a $150 check for two people. Arthur doesn’t really exist, but we’re pretty sure he wouldn’t approve of that. So we’re glad to report that we’ve finally found a spot that lives up to our 90s sitcom-fueled imagination.
Around the corner from the convention center on a charming block that’s also home to Smoked & Stacked, Espita Mezcaleria, and a grocery store selling eight types of almond milk, All-Purpose is an Italian comfort food spot you can actually get comfortable in. Instead of an Instagram-optimized Blagden Alley type of space, there are dark wooden booths, warm lights, and an excellent marble bar. It’s not trying hard to be approachable - it just is.
The menu is mostly made up of antipasti, with both heavier options and lighter ones - there’s fried calamari and garlic knots, but also caesar salad and salumi. None of the dishes will be new to you, but it’s not often you have them done this well. Pizza makes up the bottom half of the menu, and although it’s really solid, it’s not the best in DC. Get one on the table, but go heavy on the antipasti to start. Dessert comes from Buttercream Bakeshop (also next door), so don’t skip out on that either.
If you’re here for a solo meal or with one other person, opt for the bar. The service is fast, and the few seats that look out onto 9th Street are great for people watching. If you’re with a bigger crew, All-Purpose is a make-everyone-happy spot for a group dinner too. The plates are all shareable, and the booths are spacious and divided in a way that makes them feel semi-private. One night, we witnessed three different birthday dinners here.
Maybe you’ve heard of All-Purpose because it’s from the same team behind Red Hen. Or because your mother-in-law won’t stop talking about the article she read about that “hip new neighborhood” it’s in. Either way, if you’ve been looking for a go-to after work spot or a reliable place for when you don’t feel like cooking, it should be in the running. Will you get in at 8pm on a weekend? Probably not, but you shouldn’t have a problem Sunday through Thursday.
And if Arthur doesn’t make you too many Old Fashioneds, you can walk out of All-Purpose spending around $30. That’s why having a meal here is so great - because you know you can come back next week. Preferably without the fedora.
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Stracciatella is basically burrata innards, which makes you wonder why burrata ever has an “outer part.” Even though you’re eating a bowl of cheese, this dish feels light.
One of our favorite things here. It comes with mozzarella bits and breadcrumbs, and it’s definitely not healthy.
We heard a lot about this pepperoni pizza before eating here. And although it’s a really good one, it’s not quite best in show. The big slices of pepperoni are great and the chili honey is a nice touch, but the crust is a little too doughy at points.
Usually, eggs on pizza sound good in theory but end up making a huge mess. This guy actually pulls through. In addition to an egg in the middle, it comes with basically a salad and plate of prosciutto on top, which help keep the yolk from getting everywhere.
This has chicken confit and artichoke salsa on it, which scared us in a good way initially. It’s rich, but a great option if you’re a white pizza fan.
This is not some cute “dessert pizza” - it’s actually just pie. A chocolatey, dense, delicious pie topped with ricotta.