Birdie’s Burger & Beer Bash at Dock 5 at Union Market DC featured delicious beer and burger samples and live entertainment. Guests enjoyed beef, chicken and seafood sliders, and over 30 beers, wines and ciders. Plus the Potato Chip Bar and the “Arnold Palmer vs. John Daly Tea-Off.” Photos: Mark Raker
DC Fray hosted Hungry Human Hippos on the Wharf ice rink for an awesome afternoon on the ice. The iconic kids game comes to life with teams of 4-6 people working together to collect the most “food” (balls) on the ice. Spectators grabbed a drink at Cantina Bambina and watched from the stands.
All year long, On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town in our New & Notable column. Now, we’re looking back at the year in dining, which brought buzzy new restaurants each and every month. Global influences continued to land in DC, two hip hotels championed local talent, addictive favorites like hummus and bagels won hearts and stomachs, and beloved chefs expanded their empires. Amid dozens of openings in 2017, these 20 are the ones that cut through the noise and should continue to impress in 2019.
Ellē only has four letters in common with its 80-year-old predecessor, Heller’s Bakery. The new Mount Pleasant café and restaurant from the minds behind Paisley Fig and Room 11 has reimagined the bakery concept for the modern day. From morning until afternoon, linger over coffee, unusual pastries and hearty sandwiches. Don’t forget to grab a fresh baguette or a loaf of country sourdough to take home. The real magic begins during dinner, when Chef Brad Deboy turns out forward-thinking plates like grilled kimchi toast and charred sweet potato curry, showcasing fermentation, meticulous technique and one-of-a-kind ingredients. 3221 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, DC; www.eatatelle.com
A Rake’s Progress
The LINE Hotel might just be the most Instagrammed spot of the year. What used to be a neoclassical church has been beautifully renovated into a hotel with five distinct food and beverage options. Head up the stairs and you’ll find Spike Gjerde’s hyperlocal A Rake’s Progress. A wood-burning hearth is the focus, and the flames add flavor to small game like rabbit, quail and duck, as well as pork, squash and more. Many dishes are presented tableside and then carved or finished off at the centrally located carving station to give diners a show. 1770 Euclid St. NW, DC; www.thelinehotel.com/dc/venues
After a quick set change, Ashok Bajaj opened SABABA in the space formerly occupied by Ardeo. The new restaurant’s menu focuses on modern Israeli cuisine, which has roots in both Jewish and Arab traditions. Dishes display influences from the Middle East, Turkey and Greece. Meals often start with salatim – small portions of salads and spreads to share – and then progress into hummus and small plates. The vegetarian dishes shine, from charred eggplant and roasted halloumi to fried cauliflower and Israeli salad. Kebabs and large plates are also available, like sumac- and onion-marinated steak and braised lamb shank. 3311 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.sababauptown.com
Vegans and omnivores alike rejoiced when Vedge Restaurant Group out of Philadelphia planted their first restaurant in DC. While everything on the menu is completely vegan, owners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby aren’t trying to push an agenda. They’re just serving vegetables. It’s the way they serve them that makes a splash. Each dish takes a humble piece of produce – like a radish – and elevates it with artful techniques and vibrant flavors. The menu strikes a balance between the refined cuisine at their flagship Vedge and the edgy street food at V Street, with small plates like trumpet mushroom “fazzoletti” and spicy dan dan noodles. 600 H St. NE, DC; www.fancyradishdc.com
Restaurateur power couple Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong, known for Alexandria hot spots Society Fair, Hummingbird and more, opened their latest restaurant at The Wharf last spring. Kaliwa offers three Asian cuisines that are near and dear to the duo’s hearts: Filipino, honoring Meshelle’s heritage; Korean, as an ode to Chef Cathal’s Taekwondo training; and Thai, because it’s their family’s food of choice. The menu is divided into sections for each country, with milder flavors in Filipino dishes like Kalderetang Cordero, slightly spicier funky notes in Korean Jae Yuk Gui and super hot spice levels in Thai Nuer Pad Prik. 751 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.kaliwadc.com
Erik Bruner-Yang’s second project within the LINE Hotel is unlike any restaurant you’ve visited in DC. Spoken English is modeled after the Japanese Tachinomiya – a standing-room only restaurant where people stop by for snacks and drinks after work. The casual, communal concept is situated in the kitchen with two counters facing a wood-fired Grillworks oven, only accommodating between 12 to 16 diners at a time. The menu provides a choice between having a few bites, like skewers and small plates, or enjoying a full meal of whole roast duck and chicken yakitori. 1770 Euclid St. NW; www.thelinehotel.com/dc/venues
The former chef to the Finnish ambassador opened his own café serving the food of his homeland. Mikko Kosonen got his start at his family’s restaurant in Stockholm and attended culinary school in Helsinki. In the U.S., he’s been cooking for diplomats, heads of state and royalty, but now he’s expanding his audience to include average Washingtonians. Nordic cuisine relies on simple preparations of ingredients like seafood, rye, mushrooms, berries and roots. The menu at Mikko is succinct but true to form, with specialties like house-smoked salmon, Finnish soups, Nordic pastries and Danish-style, open-faced sandwiches. 1636 R St. NW, DC; www.chefmikko.com
Vipul Kapila never ordered lamb vindaloo in Indian restaurants in the DC area because he couldn’t find a version that lived up to the fiery dish he remembers eating growing up in Delhi. When he found a truly authentic rendition at a restaurant in Falls Church, he decided to team up with the chefs behind the dish to open Pappe and finally bring a neighborhood Indian restaurant to 14th Street. That vindaloo is a star curry on the menu, which also features popular dishes like butter chicken, vegetable samosas, fish chittnad and fire-grilled baingan bartha. 1317 14th St. NW, DC; www.pappedc.com
To say Poca Madre is Victor Albisu’s passion project would be an understatement. The restaurant is a sincere homage to Mexico, celebrating the country’s history, culture, agriculture and cuisine. The menu is, simply put, an exploration of contemporary Mexican dining. But every aspect, from the sourcing to the recipes, tells a deeper story. Many ingredients are imported from Mexico to support local farmers, including sea salt, grasshoppers, cocoa nibs and dry maíz. The small plates and entrées put creative twists on traditions, like a corn risotto that conjures the flavors of elote and a shrimp and cuttlefish ceviche with flat noodles made from the two types of seafood. 777 I St. NW, DC; www.pocamadredc.com
Chef Massimo Fabbri, known and loved for his cooking at Tosca and Posto, opened his own restaurant in Shaw paying homage to his family and the cuisine of his home in Tuscany. The menu is succinct and simple, with classic Tuscan recipes and a few salutes to his time at Tosca. Start with antipasti like roasted calamari or fried squash blossoms, and be sure to sample the fresh pastas like tortelli stuffed with robiolina and black truffle complemented by a porcini mushroom sauce. Entrées range from a fish of the day to a New York strip. To finish, there’s a selection of traditional desserts like tiramisu infused with truffles and budino. 1316 9th St. NW, DC; www.sanlorenzodc.com
Matt Baker’s sophisticated restaurant is planted in the former Pappas Tomato Factory, which has been transformed into an urban oasis where minimalist fixtures, mossy accents and hanging terrariums are juxtaposed with original 1940s brick, windows and steel beams. Gravitas is the first tasting menu spot to hit the neighborhood with a selection of 15 dishes – half of which are vegetarian – that can be mixed and matched to create a custom experience. Baker focuses as much on sourcing as he does on experimentation, pulling ingredients almost exclusively from the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 1401 Okie St. NE, DC; www.gravitasdc.com
The Green Zone
After four years of popping up around town, this Middle Eastern cocktail bar found a permanent home in the diverse Adams Morgan neighborhood. The spices and ingredients showcased in the drinks are ones that are commonly found in the region’s cuisine but haven’t often been translated to cocktails. Some recipes are riffs on classic nonalcoholic beverages like the seasonal frozen mint lemonade spiked with vodka or gin. The signature creation is the Janissary Corps, made with Green Hat gin, pistachio, lemon and “silky magic.” The food menu consists of Lebanese and Levantine street food like falafel, hummus, spicy wings and mana’ish. 2226 18th St. NW, DC;
Restaurateur Alfredo Solis expanded his portfolio to include more than Mexican (El Sol and Mezcalero). He teamed up with Chef Joseph Osorio to bring a splash of Cuba to Columbia Heights. A painted “neon” sign emulating the Miami Vice logo ties together the murals covering the walls at Little Havana, featuring Cuba’s colorful streets as well as some of the country’s cultural icons. Classic dishes like ropa vieja, vaca frita and empanadas are offered alongside modern interpretations like Cuban rolls – essentially a Cubano sandwich crossed with a spring roll. Of course, Osorio also makes a traditional Cubano, which he says is perfect thanks to his godmother’s lechon recipe. 3704 14th St. NW, DC; www.littlehavanadc.com
The original iteration of Little Sesame was an instant hit, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first standalone location opened with a line out the door that has continued to form each day during the lunch rush. Ronen Tenne, Nick Wiseman and David Wiseman are behind this wildly popular fast-casual hummus shop that serves up hummus bowls, pita sandwiches and seasonal salatim (vegetable sides). The hummus quite literally holds it all together, so its recipe was tweaked unto perfection. It’s enhanced by additions ranging from whole roasted vegetables and fresh produce to herbs and spices. 1828 L St. NW, DC; www.eatlittlesesame.com
Joe Carroll, the man behind St. Anselm in Brooklyn, teamed up with restaurateur Stephen Starr and Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley to bring the grill-centric restaurant to the Union Market neighborhood. While it’s often hailed as a steakhouse, St. Anselm is about more than beef. The cooking relies heavily on fire, with everything from Spanish octopus and Romano beans to a rack of lamb and a pork porterhouse hitting the grill that sits in the center of the open kitchen. When it comes to beef, the cuts are on the unusual side – like hanger steak and flat iron. 1250 5th St. NE, DC; www.stanselmdc.com
Your Uber driver might have a hard time finding Chef Johnny Spero’s Georgetown restaurant. Reverie is tucked down a cobblestone alley in a historic building near the canal. Though the exterior is timeworn, the interior is minimalist and modern, taking after Nordic design. The cuisine follows suit, with dishes that skip overwrought techniques in favor of letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Spero refines his burger with misozuke and reimagines lovage as a granita accented with elderflower. Large-format dishes like crispy roast duck with licorice and fennel are meant to be shared. 3201 Cherry Hill Ln. NW, DC; www.reveriedc.com
Call Your Mother Deli
When Andrew Dana and the Timber Pizza team were trying to come up with a name for their new deli, they tossed around phrases that a Jewish grandmother might yell. Someone shouted, “Call your mother!” and thus the deli was born. The Boca-meets-Brooklyn shop is branded as “Jew-ish” rather than Jewish because while they are traditional in some ways by serving deli classics, they strive to put modern twists on expected dishes. Their bagels are the main event, with the production line and custom, wood-fired Marra Forni bagel oven front and center in the open kitchen. 3301 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.callyourmotherdeli.com
Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s latest project is three stories of Italian culinary exploration, starting on the first floor with a market and café, continuing upstairs with a neighborhood restaurant and amaro library, and culminating on the roof with an al fresco terrace and private dining room. Stefanelli intended each concept to have its own personality and purpose, and to be visited at different times of day for different moods. The expansive space lives up to its name – Officina means workshop in Italian – as an epicurean hub where everything from pasta-making to butchery is done in-house. 1120 Maine Ave. SW, DC; www.officinadc.com
Global brand Eaton Workshop opened their hotel on K Street last fall, with all four food and beverage concepts led by Chef Tim Ma. The main attraction on the first floor is the street-facing American Son, where Ma presents American food through the lens of immigrants. The name is a reflection of Ma’s childhood, growing up in the 70s and facing discrimination as one of the only Asian families in Arkansas. His parents tried to help Ma assimilate throughout his upbringing, even introducing him as “my American son.” Some dishes pull flavors from Ma’s Chinese heritage, while others are influenced by international cuisines like French and Middle Eastern. 1201 K St. NW, DC; www.eatonworkshop.com/hotel/dc/food-and-drink
Philly Wing Fry
Philly cheesesteaks, chicken wings and waffle fries. The combination is a curious one, but for Chef Kwame Onwuachi, it’s simple: three of his favorite things in one meal. After opening Kith and Kin to critical acclaim, Onwuachi decided to revive his fast-casual concept Philly Wing Fry with locations in the new South Capitol Hill Whole Foods and Union Market. The menu is succinct, with sandwiches, tamarind-glazed confit chicken wings, waffle fries dusted with Ethiopian berbere spice and combo options. The crown jewel is the dry-aged Philly cheesesteak, but there’s also a vegetarian interpretation with crispy mushrooms. Whole Foods Market: 101 H St. SE, DC; www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/southcapitolhill // Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.unionmarketdc.com
One way to celebrate Black History Month is with beer. Whether you consider yourself a conscious consumer or not, this vital celebration is also an opportunity to support small businesses. You don’t even have to spend money to follow those raising the bar for black beer culture – you can simply follow them on social media, and answer calls for inclusion.
Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham wears many hats. She’s an academic, a homebrewer and most recently, the first-ever Brewers Association diversity ambassador. She is also the chair of the Communications Studies department at Randolph College in Lynchburg. While she holds many titles, in the beer world, she’s known as “J,” “‘Dr. J” or simply “Doc.”
“I am absolutely an advocate of visibility,” she says. “Shining a light on people who don’t have light shined on them very often is inherently valuable.”
Mike Potter, founder of online magazine Black Brew Culture, estimates that there are 50 black-owned breweries across the nation. Jackson-Beckham agrees with this number, which seems staggeringly low when compared with a Brewers Association’s statistic indicating more than 7,000 craft breweries in the U.S.
She recognizes positive trends and sees craft brewing in general “as a kind of center of small business and entrepreneurship.”
“When we look at trends of brewery locations and where they’re going, there’s opportunity for people of color and black people in particular,” Jackson-Beckham continues.
Port City Brewing Company’s brewer Leon Harris delivers excellence in beer production. Every time you enjoy one of the Alexandria-based brewery’s drafts, there’s a chance he had his hands in the creation of that batch.
Harris got his start as assistant brewer at District ChopHouse downtown and Shirlington’s now-shuttered Capital City Brewing Company before opening – and literally building – Heroic Aleworks in Woodbridge. He was cutting concrete and installing fermenters that held 465 gallons of liquid, and jokes that his blood, sweat and tears were in the place. Next, he became brewer at Caboose Brewing Company’s flagship location in Vienna before joining the Port City production team.
“I would love to see more black people in the [beer] industry,” he says. “I think it’s a thriving industry. It’s a welcoming and accepting industry in every sense of the word.”
He’d also love to see “more black-owned businesses that cater to the community, cater to veterans like myself or cater to trying to better those around them.”
Service Bar in Shaw is another black-owned establishment improving beer culture in the DC area. A few months ago, the cocktail bar partnered with Capitol Riverfront brewery Bluejacket to create Hurricane Alley – a sour ale with passion fruit and sweet cherries. The brew mimics the flavor of fruity cocktails like the Hurricane but is imminently more drinkable at 4 percent alcohol by volume.
DC Brau Assistant Manager Myesha Cheatham’s beer journey began by chance.
“I fell into the beer world by accident,” she says. “I used to be a teacher, but I got a homebrewing kit and thought, ‘Oh, I should work in a brewery!’”
Like all good educators, she progressed via communication and critical thinking.
“I’m lucky that at DC Brau, I have people who are willing to share knowledge. Just not being afraid to ask questions has been very helpful.”
Cheatham has worked at high-volume places like MGM National Harbor, the Willard InterContinental’s Round Robin Bar and the Café Du Parc, and at some of them, she’s had to do her own beer training.
“I brought some awesome beer-related ideas to [the table], like ‘This is how we change a keg’ and ‘This is what to do with an old keg’ and ‘We need to plug our lines every night to make sure we don’t have fruit flies in the beer.’”
The knowledge she’s gained as a protector of black beer culture has enabled her to be a positive force in driving it locally. She offers up examples of people to follow online.
“Social media is taking off and they’re a lot of people on Twitter, as well as bloggers like Ale Sharpton, Beer Kutlure and Afro.Beer.Chick, who are bringing black beer culture to the mainstream.”
Follow Cheatham’s recommendations on Twitter @alesharpton, @beerkulture and @afrobeerchick. Check out Potter’s magazine at www.blackbrewculture.com and follow Jackson-Beckham on Twitter @jnikolbeckham.
Learn more about these breweries and bars below.
There’s a calmness to Andrew Dana and Daniela Moreira, a laidback vibe that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a young couple running two businesses daily. The pair are the driving force behind Petworth’s Timber Pizza Company and the newly opened Call Your Mother Deli in Park View, adding to DC’s growing community of local foodie spots with a mom-and-pop, neighborhood feel. Their “Jew-ish” deli has garnered much buzz since its October opening with lines out the door every weekend, yet another new business putting Park View on the map. We sat down with Dana (founder) and Moreira (head chef and partner) to pick their brains about how they put their own spin on a Jewish deli, why their bagel shop is at the top of every local foodie’s brunch list, and what supporting the local community means to them.
On Tap: Why does Park View feel like the right fit for your second business together? How do you think the area is changing?
Andrew Dana: I grew up in Mount Pleasant, so I’m very familiar with the neighborhoods. For a long time, I’ve said that DC has been great at opening big, fancy restaurants and hip, new restaurants. But what it’s not good at is the neighborhood staples that have been around for generations because it’s such a transient city. We were really attracted to [Park View] because there’s not a lot of other noise going on. It’s really residential. People are putting down roots. The funny thing about this building is we looked at it before we opened Timber and then we found this really cute, perfect spot up in Petworth. Then we started turning the wheels on this bagel idea and this was coming back on the market, so it seemed like it was a sign from the bagel gods that they wanted us to open [our deli here].
OT: I heard you had lines down the block and couldn’t keep up with the crowds the first week you opened, so you closed for a little bit to rework your menu. Were you surprised at the spot’s overwhelming success right out of the gate?
AD: We truly thought this was going to be like a neighborhood bagel shop and we’d have to do a lot of wholesale and catering to make it work. The kitchen’s not really set up for there to be a 100-person line, and that’s exactly what happened the first weekend. We had to shut down for a couple of days and make the menu a little bit more manageable. We had to keep up with the demand. We had to trim the fat and just go with the best of the best.
OT: How’s the buzz been since then?
AD: Every weekend, we’ve had a line out the door down to the alley. Now, we’re really proud of the menu. It’s much tighter and more concise.
OT: DC’s seeing a resurgence of mom-and-pop foodie spots in up-and-coming neighborhoods, and they’re wildly popular. Why do you think that is? Why does it feel important to be part of that scene?
AD: I’m from here so what I want above all is just for DC to be awesome. I went to grad school in New York and lived in Brooklyn, and [when] you walk around there’s pizza shops that have been around for 50 years. I want my hometown to have that same vibe, so that is what it is at its core. And the food, Dani and I just do what we like. We like the staples: pizza, bagels. And if creating stuff we really like resonates with people and helps the neighborhood out, that’s awesome. There’s not some sort of bigger master plan. It’s make food that we really, really like in neighborhoods we like and be here for the people.
OT: Did you hesitate at all with the “Jew-ish” theme? How did you decide to walk the line between the authenticity of a traditional Jewish deli and putting your own spin on it?
Daniela Moreira: I’m not even Jewish. I was like, “I don’t know anything about Jewish traditions or anything.” So I was scared.
AD: I like “Jew-ish” because I’m half Jewish. I [don’t] think that binds us to traditions. If somebody says, “Why don’t you have chopped liver or pumpernickel?” We’re like, “Oh, it’s ‘Jew-ish.”’ And I think Dani is selling herself short. I think what Dani likes the most is the creativity and reading a ton and doing trial and error, which she got to do. She didn’t have all of these preconceived notions of what a bagel had to be. She’s from Argentina. They don’t have bagels. It was fun watching her start from scratch and learn what a bagel was supposed to be. We probably went through 100 recipes – that’s no exaggeration. She became a scholar of the bagel.
OT: I read that you did lots of research, including some trips to NYC. Was iconic Jewish deli Barney Greengrass on the list?
AD: We went to New York. We did go to Barney Greengrass, which was awesome. We ate so many bagels, it was ridiculous.
OT: You also brought in bagels from other cities, right? What motivated those choices and what areas did you draw inspiration from?
AD: We had bagels flown in from Montreal. We actually went to South Florida because that’s where all the older Jews retire – Boca [Raton], Delray. We were sort of taking it all in. Actually, how we finalized our [bagel] recipe is every weekend, we would do a blind taste test [versus] New York bagels that we would ship in. We didn’t stop until we were consistently beating that taste test.
OT: What staples of a Jewish deli were important to you to maintain?
AD: The Rihanna-Flex is sort of like your classic salmon bagel, which we actually didn’t have the first week. The first week we were open, we had a classic pastrami with mustard on rye bread that we were making. It was just so crazy, it was too much, so we said, “Alright, let’s do a pastrami brisket cheesesteak” [The Greenberg]. There’s nothing totally classic on there – all twists.
OT: What personal twists did you each take? Dani, can you walk us through some of the Argentinian influences?
DM: Well, we opened with a soup. It was a South American vegetable soup. But again, we had to change the menu to make it easier for the kitchen to execute so we took it out for now. We have black and white cookies – alfajores – filled with dulce de leche. That’s super traditional.
AD: It’s one big ass cookie.
DM: There’s no bagels in Argentina, not at all.
AD: But we have a za’atar bagel, which obviously isn’t Argentinian, but that’s also not classic. And I think we arrived there because when Dani is thinking about bagel toppings, it’s not classic, classic, classic. She’s like, “I like za’atar. I like bagels. Let’s make za’atar bagels.”
OT: What has been the most popular bagel on the menu?
AD: At the farmers market, people do love the za’atar bagels. They [usually] sell out. And in the shop, our bacon, egg and cheese or pastrami, egg and cheese with spicy honey [The Shyne].
OT: What’s your personal favorite, or the one you’re proudest of?
AD: I love the Craig D. We made a nectarine cream cheese with fresh nectarines that we got from the farmers market. [It’s] sliced nectarines, jalapeno, bacon and potato chips, so it’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s crunchy. And now that nectarines are out of season, we use apples, so [it’s made with] apple cream cheese and sliced apples.
DM: The Amar’e. The Amar’e is a za’atar bagel with candied salmon cream cheese and then a salad of pea shoots, cucumbers and crispy shallots. It sounds healthy. It makes you feel better when you eat it [laughs].
OT: You’ve got pizza and bagels checked off the list, so what’s next? Do you have a dream spot you’d like to open, either as a team or individually?
AD: I mean, we’re animals and we eat nachos all the time. I don’t know if that’s a full-scale concept or not. Woodfired nachos would be a real thing too. That’s going to be a ways off. [Running two businesses] is taking a lot of energy and focus. We’re hunkering down here for a little while.
OT: What do you guys like to do when you’re not working? Do you hang mostly in Park View and Petworth?
AD: We live in Petworth. We like exercising, travel, eating of course. We go out to eat all the time. We work out a good amount. Travel – she just got back from Costa Rica [and] I just got back from New Zealand. We’re trying to pick up squash this year. She wants to take lessons.
DM: Yeah. It’s fun.
AD: I’ll start taking lessons when she can compete with me.
DM: We’re not really fun.
AD: Yeah, we’re not that fun.
DM: We just go to sleep, eat, and that’s it [laughs].
OT: What cocktail bars and restaurants are on your radar right now?
AD: I love Indigo, the Indian restaurant in NoMa, [and] Don Juan’s in Mount Pleasant.
DM: I love Amsterdam Falafel[shop].
AD: She’s a French fry fanatic. It’s pretty scary, actually.
DM: Bars? No. We don’t really drink that much. I only drink once a year when I go back home and that’s enough for the whole year [laughs], so I don’t really go out to bars here.
AD: We were at Players Club yesterday, love Players Club. My two great loves in life are basketball and food, and they have pop-a-shot basketball, so I played like 25 times yesterday [and] ate some Shake Shack. Life is good.
To learn more about Call Your Mother Deli’s menu, check out www.callyourmotherdeli.com.
Call Your Mother Deli: 3301 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.callyourmotherdeli.com
While you were away on vacation or bundled up in your homes over the holidays, you may have missed the opening of Georgetown’s newest beer hall The Berliner. The 4,200-square-foot establishment was inspired by modern Berlin, Germany, offering comfort food, a spacious venue and, of course, delicious brews. To get an inside look at the selection process for beers and better understand the vibe of DC’s newest German-themed beer spot, On Tap spoke with operating partner Mike O’Brien, who also serves as The Berliner’s chef and beverage director.
On Tap: What did you find alluring about The Berliner?
Mike O’Brien: I wanted to get away from the high cost of living [in the San Francisco Bay Area]. I first became involved with The Berliner in June 2018. I’ve been making sausage for 10 years, and a lot of those are German-style because it’s such an integral part of the culture and cuisine. As far as German beer, I really have a passion for it.
OT: You feature a myriad of German-style beers. How did you settle on the final list?
MO: I wanted to include smaller producers that I knew about and had tried. The list was constantly changing, but some of the smaller German beers were directly imported. I’m very happy with the Kulmbacher’s EKU Pils – those are exemplary German pilsners.
OT: How often will you change up the beer menu?
MO: Ideally, the menu changes pretty much daily. They’re small changes, but I’m not going to have dedicated lines. It’ll change organically, and I’ll start to bring in larger German producers like Hofbräu. The local beers will rotate. We reprint our menu maybe once a week, but we expect changes to pick up in the summer. The one I’m most excited about is just solid lagers. For a place concentrating on German styles, [solid lagers are] great for us. And [lagers are great] for me personally, because those are the kinds of beers I like to drink.
OT: How do you think the décor adds to the modern, industrial vibe of The Berliner?
MO: We wanted to have more of a modern German feel. My business partners have a lot of family in and around Berlin and are in the know as far as the trends there. We wanted to be different. We didn’t want it to feel like a typical German bar. We wanted it to feel like something special. The space isn’t dark. It has high ceilings, [is] airy and the wood is a lighter shade.
OT: What sets the two dining areas apart from one another?
MO: They definitely have different, unique feels to them because the downstairs color is white and natural light comes through, while the upstairs is darker green and the ceiling is dark. It provides a different feel. Once the weather clears up, then it’ll be emphasized even more.
OT: How important is it to you that the food menu complements the beers you offer?
MO: One of the great things about beer is there’s so many varieties and it lends itself to food really well. We have 24 taps and you can vary the flavor profiles enough that something will pair up. I’ve kept the food menu pretty tight, which lends [itself] to pairing.
The Berliner: 3401 Water St. NW, DC; 202-621-7000; www.theberlinerdc.com
Greetings, beer nerds! As you likely know, there are a number of fantastic spots in the DMV where you can grab a pint, and their menus are always evolving and adapting to your tastes. If you’d rather avoid the guessing game, check out what’s coming up at a few of these fine establishments.
MONDAY, JANUARY 28
Bend & Brew at Mad Fox
Do you love yoga? Do you love beer? Regardless of your answers, why not combine the two? In this 60-minute introductory class, the group will flow while sipping on flights of delicious Mad Fox brews made in the very same building. The best news? Happy hour goes until 7 p.m., so you’ll have time to hang out and grab a pint of your favorite beer. 5-6 p.m. Tickets $25, bring your own mat. Mad Fox Brewing Company: 444 W. Broad St. Falls Church, VA; www.madfoxbrewing.com
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30
Join Capitol Cider House Cidermaker Jared Fackrell for a 90-minute, hands-on, interactive workshop and learn how to make cider from the comfort of your own home. Not only will guests enjoy a sampler flight of Mid-Atlantic ciders during the workshop, they’ll also receive a cidermaking starter kit. 7:30-9 p.m. Tickets $39. Capitol Cider House: 3930 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.capitolciderhouse.com
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1
Après Ski at The Sovereign: Colorado Beers & Spirits
Join The Sovereign as they feature some of their favorite beer and spirits producers from the Rocky Mountains. On this night, they will showcase wonderful wares from Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Casey Brewing and Blending, Breckenridge Distillery, and Leopold Bros. Whether you are a lover of beer, cocktails or both, this event is for you. 4-10 p.m. Free to attend. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7
Fair Winds Beer and Dessert Pairing
Throw away your resolutions and come join Fair Winds for the ultimate beer and dessert pairing. No one does it better than Out of the Bubble Bakery in Springfield, Virginia, with goods baked 100 percent nut- and dairy-free. This event sold out last year, so don’t hesitate to capitalize on the amazing desserts. 6-9 p.m. Tickets $30. Fair Winds Brewing Company: 7000 Newington Rd. Lorton, VA; www.fairwindsbrewing.com
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9
DC Homebrewers: February JamBEERee Meeting
The DC Homebrewers Association’s February meeting will once again be a joint meeting with other area homebrew clubs. The association will be debuting the latest SMaSH beer experiment at this meeting, plus there’s an IPA competition and a food pairing competition sponsored by various clubs. You’re also welcome to bring other food to share and, of course, bring homebrew to share. 1-5 p.m. DC Brau Lodge: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14
Valentine’s Beer Dinner
True Respite Brewing Company and Say Cheese! are bringing you a Valentine’s Beer Dinner for craft beer and grilled cheese lovers alike. The dinner will include four pairings and a bag of chips to use as a palate cleanser. Each pairing will consist of an 8-oz. beer and one-quarter of a specialty sandwich from Say Cheese! There are four options to choose from. 6-8 p.m. Tickets $28-$53. True Respite Brewing Company: 7301 Calhoun Pl. Suite 600, Rockville, MD;
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Love Thy Beer Winter Warmer Showcase
Join the Brewers Association of Maryland at Love Thy Beer, the signature event of FeBREWary: Maryland Craft Beer Lovers Month. This must-attend event for the craft beer enthusiast features exclusive beer releases you won’t find at your local craft beer store and a selection of specialty beers brewed specifically for FeBREWary. Brewers are being challenged to come up with their own individual “Cupid’s Curse” brew for you to taste and vote on your favorite. 6-10 p.m. Tickets $50-$75. Silver Spring Civic Building: 1 Veterans Pl. Silver Spring, MD; www.visitmaryland.org/article/febrewary-maryland
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 16
Cupcake and Beer Pairing
For the love of friends, family and that someone special, head to Tucked Away Brewing. Indulge in some delicious cupcakes from The Lemonade Bakery while enjoying a flight of beer, perfectly paired to complement one another. The bakery will also be onsite selling other tasty treats. 1-4 p.m. Tickets $16-$20. Tucked Away Brewing: 8420 Kao Cir. Manassas, VA; www.tuckedawaybrew.com
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21
Southwest Neighborhood Happy Hour
Join the tap room at Union Stage for a neighborhood happy hour featuring 16 taps of local and national craft beers, handcrafted pizzas, and an extensive liquor list. Happy hour specials include $1 off select drafts and $10 for a pint and half pizza. Event starts at 5 p.m. Free to attend. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23
Battle of the Barrels
Passing from hand to hand, liquid to liquid, season to season, the complexities of barrel aging can be endless. Want to see who does it best? Dive into a battle of the barrel with 3 Stars Brewing, Charm City Meadworks, Don Ciccio & Figli, Oliver Brewing Co., One Eight Distilling and Supreme Core Cider where you’ll taste a collection of barrel-aged beer, mead, cider and amaro, each finished in a District Made Straight Rye Whiskey barrel. 1-6 p.m. Tickets $25. One Eight Distilling: 1135 Okie St. NE, DC; www.oneeightdistilling.com
Celebrate winter at part four of Pizzeria Paradiso’s Four Seasons Beer Festival at its Georgetown location. This festival will feature seasonal drafts, beer slushies, snow cones, popcorn, and games including skee-ball, pinball, darts and more. 1-5 p.m. Tickets $15. Pizzeria Paradiso Georgetown: 3238 M St. NW, DC; www.eatyourpizza.com
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 24
9th Annual Barleywine Festival
Don’t miss the largest barleywine festival in the Mid-Atlantic. Mad Fox will showcase more than 30 barleywines from around the region and across the county, with multiple sessions on Saturday and a single session on Sunday. 11 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday. Free to attend. Mad Fox Brewing Company: 444 W. Broad St. Falls Church, VA; www.madfoxbrewing.com
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25
The Paradiso Blackboard: Pizza and Beer Class
Learn about the intricacies of matching the right beer with your food or the right food with your beer, then try your hand at creating the perfect pairing. 6-7:30 p.m. Tickets $30. Pizzeria Paradiso Spring Valley: 4850 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC; www.eatyourpizza.com
You may recognize Dangerously Delicious Pies from their aptly named operation spanning pie sales in food trucks, coffee shops, and their brick-and-mortar H Street outpost. While the pies themselves are now fully part of the fabric of the DC fast-casual scene, the shop expanded into something else last summer: a full-fledged music venue, affectionately named the Pie Shop. On the surface, this might seem like an odd pairing, but co-owner Sandra Basanti says the dual-purpose digs were always part of the master plan.
“The pie and rock ‘n’ roll thing isn’t a schtick,” Basanti says. “A lot of musicians do work here, and it is ingrained in the business. Last year, we opened the bar and music venue on the second floor, which used to be my apartment. It’s kind of come full circle.”
Although Dangerously Delicious Pies as the DC area knows it has been in its current form for a decade, the pies and the music have been important parts of the owners’ lives for much longer.
“The whole concept came about from the Glenmont Popes, the band my husband [co-owner Stephen McKeever] and [founder] Rodney Henry are in,” Basanti continues. “They’ve been touring for many years, and Rodney grew up baking pies in Indiana. He would spend summers with his grandmother there, and so a lot of our recipes are her recipes. He had it in him – he was just raised on pie.”
The trio opened the shop in 2009 – Basanti manned front of house, her husband ran the kitchen and Henry lent his passion for pies to the shop. She fondly refers to McKeever and Henry as the “brains and the brawn” behind the operation; they’d often sell pie at merch tables or trade the treats for a couch to crash on while on tour with their band.
“One day, [Henry] thought if rock ‘n’ roll isn’t paying the bills, which we know it doesn’t for a lot of musicians, then maybe pie will pay for rock ‘n’ roll,” she explains. “And it has – the Glenmont Popes are still going strong.”
In fact, Basanti and the band had just returned from playing shows in Ireland the day before we chatted about the group’s new ventures. And it was pies that brought them back to the apartment-turned-bar and venue that now boasts live music alongside top-notch food and a refreshingly unpretentious beer and drink menu.
While opening the venue was always part of the pie and rock ‘n’ roll business plan, Basanti and company took their time to open it. As musicians who’ve been part of the local scene for many years, the trio wanted to get things right and fill a void in the realm of DC live music.
“There’s a lot of these big, beautiful clubs opening up, which is amazing, but they mostly cater to touring bands and acts that have kind of already made it,” Basanti says as she describes the ethos that drives Pie Shop. “To offer a room that is also beautiful and has excellent acoustics – and to treat the smaller bands who are on the up and up with the same respect as a super famous band – is our goal. I didn’t want to be a basement, taped-together place where bands could just play. I wanted it to be a room that gives these artists justice. We put a lot of time, effort and thought into how it’s laid out.”
Dennis Manuel is Pie Shop’s sound engineer, with help from Melina Afzal. Manuel even helped design the venue, and hand-selected the space’s equipment. The stage boasts a full backline of equipment, and prides itself on the high-quality sound it can provide smaller local bands and touring acts.
The spot also accommodates comedy shows, literary workshops and burlesque shows, among other eclectic events supporting the local creative community. Basanti started out booking Pie Shop shows on her own but is now assisted by Jon Weiss of Union Stage and Babe City Records; the two consistently collaborate on what bands are the best fit for the team’s vision for the venue.
“We want to offer that smaller room for bands who are on their way up – to have that space to build a following, especially with local bands, which has been a lot of our focus,” she says. “It took us a while because we didn’t have the money, and we wanted to do it right. We try to treat all the artists with lots of respect and offer them top-notch hospitality.”
All of that and a dazzling array of delectable pies is sure to satisfy the appetite of local music lovers and foodies alike for years to come. Follow Pie Shop on social media @dangerouspiesdc to learn about upcoming shows.
Pie Shop Bar: 1339 H St. NE, DC; 202-398-7437; www.dangerouspiesdc.com
Jon Schott is a rare breed of professional, the kind of person whose brain is never really turned off. From coming up with some of his best cocktail ideas while walking his pups in the woods to making every orgeat and tincture on his expansive drink menu from scratch, he brings a level of enthusiasm and thoughtfulness to his work that seems unparalleled. The best part? He’s completely unpretentious about the art and consumption of craft cocktails. His creations are jotted down A Beautiful Mind-style in an old-school notebook that he’s happy to share with cocktail nerds, and he loves nothing more than to answer questions from customers about some of the more layered or complex concoctions on his menu.
Enter The Peoples Drug, the retro-inspired, neighborhood cocktail bar and food spot where Schott wears many hats as both beverage director and general manager. The Old Town, Alexandria locale modeled after the nostalgic local drugstore chain of the same name has steadily picked up buzz since opening last summer, with rotating seasonal and classic cocktail menus from Schott and a brand-new food menu launched earlier this month. We caught up with the man behind the well-crafted drinks about the labor of love that goes into each new creation and the casual, community vibe of his bar, among other cocktail-related things.
On Tap: You’ve got a lot of cleverly named cocktails on your winter menu like the Schrute Farms Margarita with spiced beet agave and Pistachio Mustachio with pistachio orgeat, to name a few. What’s your creative process for naming them?
Jon Schott: I like people to step a little bit outside of their comfort zone, and I think a great way to do that is to have a clever or comforting name. We get their guard down a little bit and then get a new drink in their hand, and now they’re trying new things. And who knows if that sparks this whole new journey of them trying new drinks and stepping outside of their comfort zone, which is the fun thing about food and drink – there’s infinite possibilities.
OT: As someone who grew up here and has worked in the bar industry for nearly two decades, how do you think NoVA’s cocktail scene has shifted in recent years?
JS: Everything seems to have shifted toward [being] more casual, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality or atmosphere. Just because you want a good drink doesn’t mean you have to make plans to do it. That’s what we were hoping for here, where you’d see everyone come in – whether you’re dressed up and on your way to a date or running errands and still in your sweatpants. We’re always open to the public. We never do reservations. You just walk in.
OT: Why do you think Old Town is the right location for Peoples?
JS: People in Old Town know good food and they know good drinks. They’re a really tight, really cool community. We’re a nightcap or before-you-go-out, happy hour [spot] because we’re casual. Come in here, let your hair down, relax and [enjoy] the good vibes.
OT: Walk me through the classic versus seasonal menus, and how you came up with the concepts.
JS: I like balancing a list with classics. If you know cocktails, you can look at the classics and see we know what we’re doing. It lets people know you can get good classics here and we’re following script.
OT: What about going off script for the seasonal menu? What inspires those selections?
JS: It’s really important for guests to have a well-crafted and constructed cocktail, because it’s built with love. Time and energy goes into these, totally. We juice citrus every morning. Everything you see on the menu – like an orgeat or tincture or fusion or syrup – I made it myself. If it’s a syrup or an orgeat, I’ve made it within the last [few] days. Like the dehydrated fruit, I do that in my house and bring it in. That’s why I love the seasonals. These are all things that we have made [where] I started with a thought for a drink and as a team, we knocked it down into a really fun, well-balanced and creative drink. Enjoy yourself and don’t be pretentious about the cocktails.
OT: Does the classic menu stay the same or is it dynamic?
JS: I change it every season because there’s certain classic cocktails that I think fit certain seasons. This season, they’re big because it’s winter. There’s a lot of Manhattan- and martini-style drinks, and spirit-forward ones. I also do barrel-aged [cocktails] where I age the cocktail in an oak barrel for 32 days and then bottle and serve it. I spy on people when they have a sip of their drink to see their first reaction. That will [tell me] the most honest feeling they have about the drink.
OT: What seems to be the customer favorite right now?
JS: The most popular one is the Schrute Farms Margarita. People relate to the name of it and the color of it is super bright.
OT: Can you give us a sneak peek of the spring menu?
JS: There’s one drink I dedicated to my mom. She told me, “If you’re going to succeed in this industry, you need to appreciate gin, and that’s when you’ll get all the real drinkers.” And she was right. So [this cocktail] plays with gin, tea and fresh things like orchids, lavender and roses. I’d love to introduce cucumber bubbles. It’s a way of stacking up bubbles. I can layer them on top of the drink. You know what I’m really excited for? [My] team to submit original ideas [they’re] working on. I love to open the menu up to the whole staff. It has to be a team effort.
OT: What about funky ingredients? What flavor profiles are you intrigued by at the moment?
JS: I love playing with orgeats, so any syrup with any type of nut in it. I’m looking forward to playing with cedar and gin and sage [on the spring menu]. Those things together remind me of walking in the woods. And then maybe sneaking an amaro in there.
OT: Any food options you recommend pairing with cocktails?
JS: We have a lot more sharable snacks [on our new menu], like finger foods. I think the truffle fries go well with any cocktail. A little bit of salt also helps all the flavors pop. Our sandwiches are really tasty too.
Tito’s Vodka infused with wasabi
Snow pea and sea salt tincture
Domaine de Canton
Learn more about Schott’s classic and seasonal cocktails and the spot’s revamped food menu at www.thepeoplesdrug.com.
The Peoples Drug: 103 N. Alfred St. Alexandria, VA; 571-257-8851 www.thepeoplesdrug.com
The Wharf hosted its annual Fire & Ice Festival on District Pier, featuring WAFF Ice House, 11 whiskey sampling stations, ice sculptures and games, flame thrower performers, a DJ and more. Proceeds from the KO Distilling shot ice luge benefit the Washington Area Fuel Fund. Photos: Mark Raker
Imagine chowing down on a large spread of brunch and mimosas as a drag queen does a split at your feet to Rihanna. At Nellie’s Sports Bar drag brunch, this scenario is exactly what you’ll get.
Every weekend at Nellie’s, patrons are welcomed with open arms to celebrate birthdays, marriages and even divorces, or maybe you’re just looking for a new Sunday brunch spot. Whatever the reason, attendees are treated to a brunch where pancakes and grits are the side dish and the queens are the main course.
As brunch-goers enter the premise, they are ushered to a high top and handed a mimosa or bloody mary to start the experience. But late-comers beware: anyone who shows up 10 or more minutes late (give or take a few) will be greeted at the front door with a chant of “b*tch you’re late!”
Once everyone has arrived, attendees are shown the buffet of unlimited eggs, bacon, pasta and all the brunch favorites. But following the rush of hungry people at the pancake station is when the real fun begins.
Chanel Devereaux, Nellie’s drag brunch host and main star, kicks off the show with a welcome and opening group performance by all the queens in cheerleader outfits. Then each queen takes turns on the floor, dancing in between tables and hanging off ceiling beams in acrobatic fashion as patrons shove dollar bills in their bras.
The occasional audience participation occurs to everyone’s delight, including queens twerking and dancing with those sitting closest to the open floor, but the favorite targets are usually the brave men who have accompanied their wives and girlfriends. And those celebrating a birthday, divorce or having a bachelorette party get a little something special as well.
From singing along to Beyoncé with the queens to sipping on Hawaiian Punch cocktails with your friends, Nellie’s offers a unique brunch experience unlike any other in the District.
Experience Nellie’s Drag Brunch every Saturday, Sunday and some Mondays with shows at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets are $41.91. For more information about Nellie’s Drag Brunch, visit their ticket page.
Nellie’s Sports Bar: 900 U St. NW, DC; 202-332-6355; www.nelliessportsbar.com