We keep locals in the know about the latest and greatest food and drink locales around town, our top foodie pick for the month, and spots that have recently closed their doors.
Lowdown: The guys behind Shaw’s Tavern, The Front Page, Madhatter and The Bottom Line just opened a two-story, beach-themed restaurant at 801 Florida Avenue. 801’s dinner menu is simple, with five entrees (each for $24.95 and served with a house or grilled Caesar salad) including roasted chicken, pan-seared halibut and cauliflower steak. Partner Eric Heidenberger says the restaurant is focused on consistency and quality, which is totally believable after we recently popped in for brunch and tried the yummy California benedict, topped with some of the freshest produce we’ve had in recent memory. The clean, bright white interior and cute rooftop overlooking Shaw offer the perfect setting for a casual meal with a warm, inviting atmosphere (Heidenberger emphasizes how hands-on and friendly his staff is) or to share 801’s signature Mega Mule served out of a giant copper mug with your buds – an impressive feat indeed. 801 Restaurant & Bar: 801 Florida Ave. NW, DC;www.801dc.com
Lowdown: Ivy City continues to grow, simultaneously upping its hipster and yuppie factor with new spots like Tin Shop’s Big Chief popping up around the neighborhood. Big Chief’s “New Orleans-meets-Brooklyn” vibe complements the industrial space’s three bars and rooftop, complete with a 1970s airstream that will soon double as a pop-up art gallery for more tactile installations – think a mini-version of the Renwick’s “WONDER” exhibit. Tin Shop (Penn Social, Highline RXR) is on a roll, with several other locations around the city opening soon, and branding director Evan Rosenthal is all about throwing a good party. From Motown Mondays featuring DJ Trayze (for those who appreciate an authentic retro factor to their nights out) to Saturday cookouts, Big Chief is gaining momentum. Rosenthal says BBQ on the rooftop and crawfish boils are just around the corner, in keeping with the Nawlins theme. Try a sazerac, daiquiri, Pimm’s cup, whiskey sour or gin gimlet from bar director Tom Latterell’s drink menu, or keep it simple with $6 Abitas or $5-$6 tallboys. Keep an eye on this one – we have no doubt that Rosenthal and the rest of his team’s ambitions for turning Big Chief into a go-to location for good vibes, great tunes and Big Easy-style drinks will come to fruition in the blink of an eye. Big Chief: 2002 Fenwick St. NE, DC; www.bigchiefdc.com
Lowdown: The newest spot from Chef Michael Schlow (The Riggsby, Conosci, Alta Strada, Tico) is tucked inside Kimpton’s swanky Glover Park Hotel, offering coastal Italian cuisine and a rustic ambiance with original works of art by Adrienne (Chef Schlow’s wife) lining the walls. Schlow Restaurant Group’s Director of Operations, Steve Uhr, says Casolare is designed for customers to feel as though they’ve left Glover Park and entered Italy. He notes some customer favorites from the seafood-driven menu – the slow-cooked Spanish octopus served with potatoes and steamed clams and mussels in a spicy tomato broth (both antipasti), as well as the swordfish, slow-cooked salmon, chicken parm and margherita pizza. Uhr is currently smitten with the tagliatelle with pesto, but had to think long and hard before arriving on just one dish as his personal fave. The most buzzworthy cocktail thus far is The Big Night (vodka, prosecco, blood orange, honey and lemon), plus customers have the opportunity to use Campari and sweet vermouth as the base for up to five different cocktails. Casolare is only serving dinner for now, but will extend its hours to include other mealtimes very soon. Casolare Ristorante + Bar: 2505 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC;www.casolaredc.com
Lowdown: The District’s first vegan diner is officially open, taking H Street by storm with a menu that’s more “Eastern New York than greasy spoon,” according to founder Doron Petersan. After 10 years running vegan bakery Sticky Fingers in Columbia Heights, Petersan decided it was time to take things to the next level. Fare Well features an expanded baked goods menu with chocolate chip coconut scones, sweet and savory croissants, and a unique take on a flourless chocolate torte that’s not really flourless, just to name a few. Petersan teamed up with chef Amanda Desaulniers on a plant-based menu that runs the gamut from pierogis with cashew cheddar and mushroom-chickpea burgers to all-day breakfast items like the French toast casserole made with challah bread baked in-house. The Trinidad native says she can’t stop eating everything on the menu, and is thrilled to see how excited folks are about the almond and cashew-based cheeses. Fare Well’s drink menu offers a local theme, with four area beers on rotation – Atlas, 3 Stars, DC Brau and Right Proper – and signature cocktails like the Tiber Creek (mescal, passion fruit juice, ginger liqueur, lemon grass syrup and grapefruit bitters) and the Washington Brickyard (bourbon, dark beer, coffee, soy creamer and ice) that offer a nod to H Street’s history. Petersan says Fare Well is a diner for everyone, and is psyched to see how many people are open to trying items on her eclectic vegan menu. Fare Well: 406 H St. NE, DC; www.eatfarewell.com
Lowdown: Marcus Barnett wanted to be bold with his Dupont Circle eatery, an all-day breakfast joint that also offers a quirky assortment of tacos, sandwiches, salads and ice cream sandwiches. Named Moxie’s because Barnett’s mom always told him he had moxie (aw), he says he wanted to provide an option that was different and fun for the Dupont crowd. Dishes creating the most buzz are the bánh mì sandwich, fish tacos and of course, the ice cream sandwiches served with the cookie still warm (we tried one with Fruity Pebbles sprinkled on top and it was to die for). Barnett even had one customer rent out the restaurant for an ice cream sandwich-themed party. With each dish, he applies his own “Moxie’s twist” to it – the BBQ pulled pork sandwich features house-made kale and apple slaw, and the steak tacos are served with his signature “power slaw.” Swing by Moxie’s for a satisfying bite, and definitely take an ice cream sandwich to-go – it’s worth the caloric splurge. Moxie’s: 1020 19th St. NW, DC;www.moxiesdc.com
Lowdown: One of DC’s favorite restaurateurs, Paul Ruppert – who brought us Petworth Citizen, Upshur Street Books and Room 11, among others – just opened Slim’s Diner in Petworth. Located on the corner of Georgia Avenue and Upshur Street, Ruppert says his new diner welcomes people from all walks of life. The owner wanted to give locals a throwback to the traditional diner experience, with a lineup of options that are easily recognizable from our shared histories noshing on comfort food. Slim’s – named after carpenter James “Slim” Crawford, who has worked with Ruppert at all of his locations and is “one of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet” – offers some more modern takes on diner classics, with vegan and gluten-free options for the pickier among us. Ruppert credits Slim’s donuts – made in-house every morning – and the deep-fried Monte Cristo sandwich – as the showstoppers at Petworth’s newest foodie addition. Slim’s Diner: 4201 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.facebook.com/SlimsDiner