Cause, which opened in October, doesn’t shout to make itself heard. Yes, its front window declares the business a “philanthropub.” But the only pitch you get from your server is for a drink or some food, and it might not be until the end of a meal that you realize all your chewing and sipping are for good causes. After the restaurant pays its expenses and salaries, remaining profits go to four charities that have been identified by Cause’s advisory board. Diners vote for their choice when they pay their bill. The current options are Agora Partnerships, Common Good City Farm, Higher Achievement and Martha’s Table.
Less than $140,000 was spent to open Cause. Much of the sweat to get it up and running was donated, Ratwani explains. The green walls of the narrow first floor showcase the painting skills of young area artists, whose portraits of Harvey Milk, Mahatma Gandhi and Sojourner Truth, among other activists, also inspire some of the cocktails at Cause. A larger upstairs dining room finds papier-mache tree branches spreading across the ceiling, tall tables created from repurposed wood and stools crafted from old apple barrel bottoms. I’ve never dropped by that there wasn’t a party on the second floor. Admirably, Cause does not charge revelers to host a function, nor does it require a minimum food or drink order.
All involved know good intentions won’t sustain Cause. “We have to compete with every bar and restaurant” in the neighborhood, Ratwani says. Heading up the kitchen is executive chef Adam Stein, who has the same title at Light Horse, Jarecki’s restaurant in Alexandria. Adam Litchfield, a veteran of Trummers on Main in Clifton and New Heights in Woodley Park, serves as Cause’s chef de cuisine. Theirs is a short menu, augmented by chalkboard specials, that plays up innards and sandwiches and aims to put out food that does not, as Ratwani says, taste as if it were “off a Sysco truck.”
Everyone is doing wings these days, but not everyone makes them so compelling you want to order a second batch. Cause salutes General Tso with its super-juicy appetizer, the recipe for which starts with brined chicken and emerges from the fry pan racy with ginger, garlic and Sichuan pepper and glossy with caramelized Chinese red sugar. The only extra these beauties need is a moist cloth for cleaning up sticky fingers afterward.
Hush puppies are popping up left, right and center as well. The snack here is crisp and fluffy, dusted with queso fresco and zapped with pickled peppers and lime zest, brighteners that elevate the fried food from the usual.