La Tomate Italian Bistro in Dupont Circle is celebrating 28 years in business with happy hour and dinner specials until Sept. 17.
The restaurant, located at 1701 Connecticut Ave. NW, has been serving Italian food since 1987.
For the next month, the bistro will host a $10 happy-hour appetizer buffet every day, which includes one drink. Diners will also be able to order a three course dinner for $28.
Jonathan ten Hoopen, who has served as general manager at La Tomate since 1993, says that the restaurant owes its longevity in part to its consistency over the years and its crowd of regulars who live or work in Dupont Circle.
“We’ve had a loyal following since we’ve opened,” he said. “We’ve always been very neighborhood-involved and active in the Dupont community and we’ve kept our price point the same.”
Although La Tomate has focused on consistency over the years, the neighborhood and city around them have changed a lot, especially in recent years.
“The most change has happened in the last five years where development [in the] east has really started to pull away a lot of the business,” ten Hoopen said. “The three big areas for dining and bars used to be Dupont, Georgetown and Cleveland Park, and we’re now three neighborhoods that are suffering a little in that regard due to growth elsewhere.”
As the cost of living in Dupont Circle has gone up, younger customers have moved east, and new restaurants have followed, ten Hoopen says. La Tomate is hoping to bring diners and drinkers back to Dupont with more affordable options and happy hour specials.
Last year, the bistro converted one of its dining rooms into La Tomate Caffe, which serves lighter, more affordable breakfast and lunch options.
“We’ve had a loyal following since we’ve opened, but what we’re looking for now is to create the next group of loyal customers,” he said. “That’s been a challenge because of where the younger generation is living and the number of new options people have.”
While ten Hoopen admits that Dupont is no longer the trendiest restaurant spot in town, he doesn’t worry about La Tomate’s longevity looking forward, describing the restaurant as an “old favorite” that people will always return to.
“There’s no doubt that we’ve felt the shift in the concentration of diners and drinkers because they have so many more options now,” he said. “But we benefit from being a neighborhood bistro for so long. It’s less of a trendy destination and more of a regular, comfortable place to be.”