Lehrhaus, Boston’s popular Jewish tavern, to open in D.C. in 2025

The restaurant’s second location is the first step of an ambitious nationwide expansion plan that aims to have a Lehrhaus in eight locations by 2030

Soon after Lehrhaus, a self-described Jewish tavern and house of learning, opened in Somerville, Mass., last year, the accolades began to pour in — the kind of buzz that most restaurants only dream of, let alone kosher restaurants. 

Eater Boston put it on its list of the most-anticipated restaurant openings in 2023. Esquire named it to its list of the 50 best new restaurants in America. And perhaps most surprisingly, Boston Magazine placed Lehrhaus on its list of best fish-and-chips in Boston, a city where it feels like every other block has an Irish pub serving the dish fresh out of the fryer. 

Now, the popular restaurant and bar is planning to open a second location in Washington, D.C., early next year, the first step of an ambitious nationwide expansion plan that aims to have a Lehrhaus in eight locations by 2030. 

“The narrative here was always, ‘I think this is a great idea. It’s a new idea, there’s never been a place like Lehrhaus in the world, so let’s test it out and see how it works, and if it works here, it will probably work in other places, too,’” Lehrhaus’ director, Rabbi Charlie Schwartz, told Jewish Insider in a recent interview. “And it really, really works here.” 

In Washington, the Lehrhaus team sees a city that’s a similar size to Boston, and with a similarly large young Jewish population. Like the Boston area (and Cambridge-Somerville in particular), Washington has very few kosher restaurants. 

“It’s the energy of the city, and the uniqueness of it. There’s a flavor to what happens in D.C. that we think will be exciting to tap into — the amount of young people that are there and that are constantly flowing through there,” Schwartz said. “The D.C. area has some great kosher establishments, and there’s probably room for a world-class kosher cocktail bar and pescatarian restaurant.”

Washington foodies still have a ways to go until they can visit Lehrhaus, which is in the process of choosing a location, hiring a director and raising money for start-up costs. The location will likely be somewhere in Northwest Washington, probably in the vicinity of Dupont Circle, Columbia Heights and Logan Circle. The Lehrhaus team hopes to find someone who knows D.C. well and is a great manager; culinary experience is not required. 

As for someone who might lead the D.C. location, Schwartz, whose background prior to running Lehrhaus, which operates as a nonprofit, was as a Jewish educator at Hillel International and Brandeis University said: “There are certain roles in the Jewish nonprofit world that if you do them, you can basically do anything. So if you’ve run a summer camp, you can kind of do anything. If you’ve run a Hillel well, you can basically do anything.”

Lehrhaus’ menu draws from Jewish cuisine across the globe, and Schwartz said he expects there to be a good amount of overlap between the menus in Boston and D.C., while allowing room for the chefs they hire to experiment. (One point of excitement: tapping into Washington’s Happy Hour culture, since drink specials are illegal in Massachusetts.)

The establishment also offers a “house of learning,” with classes taught in Lehrhaus’ intimate library on most nights that the restaurant is open. Many are taught by local Hebrew College rabbinical students or Harvard Divinity School students. In Washington, Lehrhaus will also offer classes and events, but Schwartz expects them to have a slightly different tenor.

“The intellectualism in D.C. is a little bit different. Like, here, people are nerdy. And in D.C., people are wonky,” said Schwartz. It’s a distinction that would make sense to Washingtonians, a city of unrepentant policy wonks who show up for State of the Union-themed drink specials at local bars. “My gut is things will be a little bit more political in nature than they are here.” 

Since Lehrhaus opened in Somerville, located less than a mile from Harvard and just over the Charles River from Boston, it has become a cult hit in the local community — including among non-Jews, who Schwartz sees as an integral part of Lehrhaus’ clientele. (One FAQ on Lehrhaus’ website asks if someone can come if they aren’t Jewish. “Of course! Just like you don’t have to be French to enjoy a French restaurant, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy a Jewish tavern and house of learning.”) 

At a recent event that was part-Purim party, part-anniversary party, hundreds of people showed up to a standing-room-only gathering to drink Purim-themed cocktails, eat gourmet hamantaschen and listen to a speed-reading of the Megillah. 

“This is a real place of pride for the Jewish community,” Schwartz said. “I’m excited for what that means for another community to have a place that can be that beacon of light.” 

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