By Hope Nelson, contributor to EdibleDC
Washington D.C.'s authority on Swedish meatballs, pierogi, aquavit, and all other things Scandinavian, the venerable Domku in Petworth is closing its doors by the end of the month, owner Kera Carpenter says.
It’s not a decision she made lightly – nor one she necessarily even wanted to make. But the market climate required it.
“The rent is going up so much I can’t afford it,” Carpenter says, adding that the building’s landlord aimed to raise the rent by 75%. For a small business like mine, that’s just not sustainable.”
And so it’s come to pass that Domku must close. This has been the final week of service, ending with a final dinner and garage sale on June 26. Since the announcement was made several weeks ago, the community has come out in droves for one last bite of their Scandinavian favorites.
“The community support has been really amazing,” Carpenter said. “We’ve been very busy because everyone’s coming to show their support and get their last favorite meal, and it’s been really touching to know that this place has been an important part of people’s lives.”
Since taking root in Petworth, at 821 Upshur St. NW, nearly a dozen years ago, Carpenter and her restaurant have seen the neighborhood change and grow.
“When I opened in 2005, I think I was the first sit-down restaurant that had opened here in about 30 years,” she said. “I think that’s true not only for Petworth, but Ward 4 in general. There wasn’t a lot in Ward 4 at all.”
But the restaurant gained traction and the neighborhood began to open up. With it, Domku’s popularity grew – and the restaurant made some unexpected connections with its former history.
“A year ago, I was contacted by a woman who lives in Kensington, MD. She wrote me this very nice letter after reading about me in Washingtonian, and she said that her family ran the hardware store that was in this building back before the riots for many, many years,” Carpenter said. “She remembered running through Upshur Street and playing with her friends and it was a very different neighborhood before then. She’s in her 80s now, and she brought her family to have brunch one Sunday, and it was lovely. Her reaction was that she was so happy to see what had become of the space.”
It’s anybody’s guess what kind of business the niche on Upshur Street will host next – but Domku’s not locking the door just yet. Dinner service continues through June 24, and the final brunch will be held on June 26.
Hope Nelson is a tofu-loving food writer who's happiest in the kitchen (or watching college football). She lives in Alexandria, Va., with her husband, Mike, and their cat, Lucky Abigail. Check out her food blog at www.kitchenrecessionista.com or email her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.