Photo: Scott Suchman
Photo: Scott Suchman

New Notable No Longer: September 2017

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town, the top culinary news of the month and recent closings. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new, notable and no longer in the DC area.

NEW

Bistro 1521
Open: July 31
Location: Arlington
Lowdown: This new restaurant from Jo-Jo Valenzuela and Manny Tagle is feeding the DMV’s passion for Filipino food. Bistro 1521, named for the year Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippines, serves up home-style dishes made by Filipino cooks. Valenzuela likens it to food you might enjoy if you were invited to eat at a Filipino family’s dinner table. Staples include sisig (grilled chopped pork ears and pork belly), lumpiang Shanghai (deep-fried chicken spring rolls), ukoy (deep-fried veggie fritters with shrimp) and various iterations of pansit (noodle salad). Valenzuela and Tagle are also branching out with their own takes on kare-kare (ox tail in peanut sauce) and mechado (braised beef short ribs). The backdrop for the cuisine is a spacious, 220-seat dining room (formerly Applebee’s), with a large bar and additional seating for 300 on the outdoor patio. As a barkeep, Valenzuela was most excited about the drink menu, which puts the focus on Filipino beers and cocktails made with Filipino flavors like jack fruit, tamarind and white pepper. I was enamored with the Rizal, a Rickey variation made with Edinburgh Gin, spiced guava-calamansi soda and lime. 900 North Glebe Rd. #100, Arlington, VA; www.bistro1521.com

Falls Church Distillers
Open: July 8
Location: Falls Church
Lowdown: Falls Church is now home to the first new distillery to open in Fairfax County in over 80 years. Father and son duo Michael and Lorenzo Paluzzi are behind the craft distillery and restaurant hybrid. Michael’s Italian heritage provided a strong background in wine and liqueur production, while Lorenzo learned the art of fermentation and distillation during his time at Longwood University studying biochemistry. Now, Lorenzo handles the distilling, while Michael, with his decades of experience in IT sales, handles the business. Their compact but sophisticated distillery pumps out bourbon, vodka and gin, with plans to expand to rum and fruit brandies in the coming months. These spirits are available for sale in the official ABC store onsite, which doubles as a tasting room. Distribution will expand to local bars in the near future. On the other side of a wire wall, the restaurant offers Italian wines, draft beer and Italian small plates, sandwiches and entrees made from Michael’s grandmother’s recipes. 442-A South Washington St. Falls Church, VA; www.fcdistillers.com

Fox Loves Taco
Open: Late August
Location: Brookland
Lowdown: Jena and Matt Carr, the owners of Little Red Fox, say they practically live on breakfast tacos, so it makes sense that the crowd-pleasing dish is the star of their next endeavor. Fox Loves Taco aims to be a playful neighborhood staple, with plenty of seating, a family-friendly atmosphere, and affordable food and drink. Their beverage menu features Coava Coffee from Portland, Oregon, with espresso drinks, pour-overs and drip coffee, as well as aguas frescas like watermelon basil and horchata. There are plenty of tacos to choose from, with many vegan and vegetarian options including the cauliflower chorizo taco with carrot and jalapeño slaw and salsa verde, and the migas taco with scrambled eggs, tortilla strips, hominy, cheese and hot sauce. The flour tortillas will be made in-house, while the corn tortillas will be sourced from Moctec, a local tortilleria. Of course, Little Red Fox’s pastries and pies are also on offer. 716 Monroe St. NE, DC; www.foxlovestaco.com

ThinkFoodLab
Open: July 11
Location: Penn Quarter
Lowdown: José Andrés and his team are angling to dive further into the fast-casual restaurant scene, so they’ve created a test kitchen to try out their new concepts. The space, called ThinkFoodLab, hosts a rotating series of pop-ups that will evolve based on feedback from customers. The ultimate goal is to launch each concept permanently after perfecting the menu and service. The first restaurant to call the lab home is Pepe, the group’s casual Spanish food truck. The test menu includes crispy pan de cristal sandwiches, satisfying salads, zesty gazpacho, patatas bravas and creative soft serve flavors like leche merengada. These items will be available until Executive Chef Joe Raffa decides Pepe is ready for its permanent debut. In the meantime, I’ll be coming back again and again for the addictive Pepito Ternera sandwich, with flat iron steak, roasted peppers, caramelized onions and cheese. 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.thinkfoodlab.com

NOTABLE

The last few months have marked some big changes in popular restaurants across the region. Here are a few new chefs and menus to check out.

BLT Steak
Location: McPherson Square
Lowdown: This power dining steakhouse appointed Michael Bonk as the chef de cuisine in July. Bonk’s resume includes Vidalia, Sonoma and most recently, The Pig. In his new role, he plans to focus on whole animal butchery, off cuts and house-made sausages. 1625 I St. NW, DC; www.bltrestaurants.com

Blue Duck Tavern
Location: Georgetown
Lowdown: The Park Hyatt’s Michelin-starred restaurant brought on Daniel Hoefler as the chef de cuisine in August. He’s worked at restaurants around the world, including the Mesa and Tizian restaurants at the Grand Hyatt in Berlin and Traiteur at Park Hyatt in Dubai. He hopes to add international influences to Blue Duck Tavern’s locally-sourced menu. Guests can meet Hoefler at the communal Chef’s Table dinner on the garden terrace on September 29. 1201 24th St. NW, DC; www.blueducktavern.com

Bourbon Steak
Location: Georgetown
Lowdown: Drew Adams was tapped as executive chef at Michael Mina’s steakhouse. Adams’ has cooked at Marcel’s, Plume and Rose’s Luxury, and the Maryland native will now showcase his style of modern cuisine influenced by traditional techniques at Bourbon Steak. 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.bourbonsteakdc.com

Espita Mezcaleria
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: After a research and development trip to Oaxaca, Espita’s new executive chef, Robert Aikens, will unveil his new menu of Mexican cuisine with a twist in September. Aikens has previously cooked at Rainbow Room and El Vez in New York. 1250 9th St. NW, DC; www.espitadc.com 

The Source by Wolfgang Puck
Location: Penn Quarter
Lowdown: After eight years cooking at The Source, Russell Smith took over as executive chef in May. In July, Smith updated the menu to include new vegetarian dishes like crystal chive dumplings and Malaysian jackfruit curry, as well as meat and seafood options like honey-glazed ma-la chicken and stir-fried squid ink noodles. The team just won a RAMMY award for Service Program of the Year. 575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.wolfgangpuck.com

Vermilion
Location: Old Town Alexandria
Lowdown: Thomas Cardarelli joined Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s farm-to-table spot as executive chef the end of May, and launched a new menu in July. Highlights include hand-rolled pastas, heirloom tomato pie, and a nightly tasting menu and wine pairing. Cardarelli came to NRG from Chef Michael White’s Altamarea Group. 1120 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.vermilionrestaurant.com

Via Umbria
Location: Georgetown
Lowdown: Georgetown’s Italian market, café and event space snagged Liam LaCivita (of the recently shuttered Bar Civita) as their executive chef in July. LaCivita and his pastry team have debuted specialties such as fresh doughnuts, cannoli and house-made breads and cheeses. 1525 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC;  www.viaumbria.com

NOW OPEN

Bob & Edith’s: 2310 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA; www.bobandedithsdiner.com
Cookie Dough & Co.: 7101 Democracy Blvd. Bethesda, MD; www.cookiedoughandco.com
Four Oaks and Sidecar (inside Washington Hilton): 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.hilton.com
Honeyfish: 1615 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD; www.honeyfishpoke.com
La Limena Grill: 765 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD; www.lalimenarestaurant.com
Lei’d: 8032 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA; www.leidpoke.com
Roti in Pentagon City: 1211 S Fern St. Arlington, VA; www.roti.com 
Zenebech Injera: 2420 18th St. NW, DC; www.zenebechdc.com

NO LONGER

Avocado Café in Georgetown
Bowl’d in Arlington
Grapeseed in Bethesda
Hail & Hog in Ashburn
Lovely Yogurt on U Street
Maki Shop at Logan Circle