ANXO Pintxos Bar and & Cidery
Photos Courtesy of ANXO

Along Came A Cider: A Look at ANXO, D.C.’s First Pintxos Bar and & Cidery

What does it mean to eat and drink like a Basque? Head over to ANXO (pronounced ahn-cho) at the corner of Florida Ave. and 3rd Street NW, and you’re sure to receive a delicious crash course.

This new bar and cidery is the first of its kind in the District, and the team there is hard at work perfecting their local spin on a cultural cuisine that spans millennia. Anchored by executive chef Alex Vallcorba’s beautifully executed take on authentic Basque dishes and energized by the elegant and diverse cider, wine and beer offerings curated by beverage director Tim Prendergast, ANXO is quickly establishing itself as a favorite neighborhood gathering place for the residents of Truxton Circle. It’s surely a destination for foodies and cider hounds throughout the DMV. In late October, the cidery announced their beverages would be available in four DC Whole Foods stores. The venue is a spectacularly renovated, spacious row house, with a full dining room on the second floor, a bar on the first and ample seating on the patio. The decor is neo-rustic, highlighted by a 600-gallon chestnut cider cask that stands watch over the bar area.

“Anxo” is a colloquial nickname for Basajaun, the mountainous Basque region’s version of Bigfoot, and there’s a reason why this mythical figure was chosen to represent the bar. According to director of operations Sam Fitz, Anxo “taught the Basques the skills they needed to civilize, most specifically iron-working, shepherding and agriculture. Our logo is a depiction of grass and earth that rural Basques twisted into the form of Basajaun in homage to him.”

And if anyone ever asks you, “what does Pyrenean Bigfoot like to drink?” the answer is most definitely: cider.

Interest in cider has been enjoying a recent surge nationwide, and ANXO is riding the curl of that wave. Their goal, according to Prendergast, is to “break down misconceptions about what cider is.” Like the Basque people, cider is elemental, convivial, and rooted deeply in a sense of place. Order a tasting flight at the bar, and one of ANXO’s friendly bartenders will take you through a flavor experience that morphs from “bright” to “structured,” to “fruit forward” to “rustic.” The beverage menu highlights numerous ciders from both the U.S. and abroad, including several excellent in-house collaborations with Millstone Cellars Cidery in Maryland.

Not in it for the apple nectar? Order a glass of dry, refreshing Xiakoli (pronounced cha-ko-LEE), the signature wine of Basque country, or sip on some artisan vermouth, which is half-price on Saturday and Sunday. To make a good situation even better, thanks to the well-hopped and carefully malted professional backgrounds of several ANXO team members, the beer and cocktail options are also quite good.

But if it’s a hankering for cider that brings you to ANXO, it’s the pintxos that will keep you coming back. Pintxos (pronounced PEEN-chos) are savory snacks normally skewered on a toothpick or served up on a slice of hearty bread. Most have both a meat and a vegetable component and are meant to be eaten as finger food — you can think of them as casual, mini-tapas. Pintxos tend to be rich and savory, and according to Prendergast, dry ciders are the perfect complement to the salty treats. In addition to these small bites, which run between $2-$5, ANXO has a full selection of small plates and a “Cider House Menu,” which is the chef’s tasting menu for two, complete with cider.

If Fitz had to choose one word to describe the food program at ANXO, he would call it “honest.”

“I know that’s not a flavor,” he explains, “but it’s the common theme throughout Basque food. Respect the quality of the ingredients by letting them speak for the dish.”

In the end, isn’t this what we want from our food and drink? A spot with flavors that are honest and good, and have stood the test of centuries. An atmosphere that inspires warmth, geniality, and eye contact. A space that can be lived in, and not simply passed through. To be sure, the lessons that Basajaun taught the ancient Basques may have faded into the dusky realm of legend, but we still have their flavors; that is surely something to celebrate.

ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC; 202-986-3795; www.anxodc.com


Where to go to become a Cider Insider
Homestead : 3911 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.homesteaddc.comLocated on Georgia Ave. NW in Petworth next to Qualia Coffee, Homestead is a great new destination for soul food and cider in D.C. Three of their 16 local (DMV) taps are dedicated to Virginia-sourced cider full-time, which means you’re guaranteed a great selection.

Millstone Cellars and Cidery : 2029 Monkton Rd., Monkton, MD; www.millstonecellars.com; Located in Monkton, MD, Millstone Cellars and Cidery has been producing high-quality, handcrafted ciders since 2011. Take a trip to their tasting room and sample a diverse selection of ciders, meads, and “cysers” (cider-mead hybrids), or head over to Glen’s Garden Market in Dupont and grab a bottle.

Potter’s Craft Cider : 22940, 4699 Catterton Rd., Earlysville, VA; www.potterscraftcider.com; Based in Free Union, VA (just outside of Charlottesville), Potter’s Craft Cider makes delicious, “aromatically intense” ciders without ever adding sugar or water. You can pick up a bottle of their cider at Wegmans and Whole Foods locations across the DMV. They’ll also be hitting the road soon in a converted Airstream that will serve as their mobile tasting room.

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Eric Kozlik

Eric Kozlik is a writer, flavor scholar and beverage professional. His passion for delicious drinks is surpassed only by his desire to articulate the many ways in which they enhance our lives. When he is not writing for On Tap Magazine, Eric is busy running Embitterment, a craft cocktail bitters company based in Washington, D.C.