Petworth Citizen refocuses with a new chef and a great bar menu

Chef Jamie Rutherford and bar manager Jeremy Schleif hanging in Petworth Citizen's kitchen.

by Yuliya Panfil

Over the last year, the openings of Himitsu, Ruta del Vino, Taqueria del Barrio and Timber Pizza have transformed the dining scene on Upshur drag. Not to be outdone, long-time stalwart Petworth Citizen has now stepped up its game with a new chef and a new, veggie-centered menu.

Petworth News caught up with Petworth Citizen bar manager Jeremy Schleif and new chef Jamie Rutherford as they were prepping for a Thursday dinner shift. Jamie recently joined the restaurant in March, after having worked at the Dabney and critic’s darling Tail Up Goat.

Why leave a Michelin-starred restaurant for an uptown outpost?

“I have a chance here to step into a head chef position, and really learn how to make a restaurant run,” Jamie says.

And what is it, that makes a restaurant run?

“A lot of hours…” she says, laughing. “And a lot of heart.”

Jamie hasn’t always been a chef; in fact, she’s spent more time in the dirt than in the kitchen. Before getting into cooking, Jamie worked as a landscaper in the Bay Area for 12 years. She credits that experience with her appreciation of agriculture, and her emphasis on local purveyors. At Petworth Citizen, she sources from the Pennsylvania co-op Tuscarora Organic Growers, as well as Owl’s Nest Farm , which sells veggies at the Petworth Community Farmers Market every Saturday.   

Chef Jamie Rutherford is cooking up a new menu with fresh ingredients.

Jamie has brought a veggie-centric twist to Petworth Citizen’s menu, replacing heavy bar food with items like the “Summer Sun Salad,” featuring grilled romaine lettuce and fried sun chokes.  But don’t worry, she isn’t trying to turn Petworth vegetarian: the pulled pork sandwich and the steak still feature on the menu, albeit with higher-quality, locally sourced meat.

Chef Jamie’s arrival seems to have breathed new life into Petworth Citizen, with staff excited at her expertise and collegiality.

“I like that [the restaurant] is becoming more food-focused,” says bar manager Jeremy Schleif. “Jamie is really professional, but also fun.”

In addition to their joint appreciation for the menu transformation, Jeremy and Jamie seem to be in complete agreement on what defines Petworth Citizen’s clientele: locals, locals, locals. Jeremy pegs the percentage of regulars at 60 percent; Jamie agrees she sees the same faces week in and week out.  The early shift is families and couples in their mid-30s, followed by couples on dates and groups of friends and co-workers.

“It’s the kind of place where everyone can come in jeans and a cut up t-shirt, but eat well and be treated to a good cocktail,” Jeremy says.

Tempted by the suggestion, yours truly couldn’t not ask: so… what is the bar manager’s favorite cocktail?

“A Manhattan.”

Made how, exactly?

“A few dashes of bitters, one ounce of sweet vermouth, two ounces of whiskey (preferably rye, ideally WhistlePig, 10 year) stirred, and strained into a glass with a cherry inside," Jeremy replied.

So there you have it folks. A summer full of whiskey and veggies.