Brian Miller and Jason Maringola // Photo: Trent Johnson

Streetsense Cultivates Neighborhood Hospitality

Bars are more than the drinks they serve. Behind the beer, cocktails and spirits is the lay of the land, the setting, the vibe. It goes without saying that without good product, any establishment will falter, but a backdrop that melds with its culinary offerings will only serve to heighten the experience for the customer.

One way to achieve this elevated interior ambiance is by allowing professionals to take over, because it’s often not as simple as taking the ideas from your brain and putting them into practice.

That’s where Streetsense comes in. The company is described as an experience-focused design and strategy collective, and has continually delivered spectacular interior architecture on an international level. You’ve likely seen their decadent design around the District, including at Ivy City’s Coconut Club, Shaw’s The Dabney and Penn Quarter’s Daikaya, to name a few.

Coconut Club // Photo: Rey Lopez

One step into their Bethesda office and you’re greeted with a number of creatives all huddled up, sketches adorning drafting boards, posters lining the walls and retro knick-knacks placed throughout the space. And while the Streetsense office has a certain feel, the company’s aesthetic is as diverse as their extensive roster of clients.

“We do more than just design and we think differently because we actually understand the analytics and demographics of our areas and bring people to the table,” design director of interior architecture Jason Maringola says.

Variables for the Streetsense process include the typical timeline, budget and service, but one goal that never wavers regardless of scope is the team’s ability to connect with the client. This can mean traveling to South Carolina and visiting dive bars or hopping on an international flight to tour dojos in Japan.

“There are a number of restaurant projects I’ve worked on where we’ve gotten to travel with the clients to really dig in beyond mood boards, Pinterest and Instagram and figure out what they’re trying to draw from,” says Brian Miller, senior design director of interior architecture of Edit Lab at Streetsense. “We want to know how they think people get together over food and drinks, how people socialize, about how communities are oriented around those concepts.”

Daikaya // Photo Nikolas Koenig

This part of the process is what has always driven Miller and Maringola, who both grew up with a strong unwavering desire to work in architecture. As a child, Miller’s family moved around from town to town and he took note of buildings commanding attention. And for Maringola, even at an early age he’d memorize floor plans of homes his parents toured, sketch them out and offer critiques.

The collective childhood wonderment of all things hospitality design is reflected in their day-to-day, including the neverending goal of getting inside the brains of bar and restaurant owners to render artistic mockups that reach beyond visually interesting interpretations of what could be pretty or trendy. Instead, Streetsense seeks to establish a dominant thematic concept able to operate as a focal throughline. From there, they’ll determine one clear option with secondary layouts.

“I think we try to drive an approach that’s not to get us excited or the client excited, but about the people walking in the door of that business,” Miller says. “What’s going to make a really good experience for them? Is it a quiet night out? Is it a birthday?”

Maringola adds that their design isn’t really for the client. And while discussing the looks and feels of their babies, striking a balance between doing something personal and artistic is the toughest part of the process.

“Our clients are taking a risk, they’re putting a lot of money out to create a space and to trust us. The most rewarding thing for a client to tell us is that it’s better than they imagined. Most clients aren’t visual, so when they see the space and people interacting in the space, it goes from night to day. Then, they realize we really created something unique for the community,” Maringola says.

Moxy Atlanta // Photo: courtesy of Moxy

Some of the clients they work with aren’t backed by a corporate entity with limitless coffers, Miller says. When dealing with mom and pop shops, decisions are made with an understanding that livelihood could be on the line.

On the flip side, with larger clients, out of towners might require an entire education on the culture of a location or neighborhood. What makes this particular area unique? What does it need? For this, Streetsense sets up tours and activities to help the companies learn about their future clientele.

“The work our studio does [is] with extremely neighborhood driven places,” Miller says. “Clients look to us for that understanding, and some of our more exciting projects are when we get to work on a lot of places within a small area. This allows us to kind of create an ecosystem like [we created] in Blagden Alley.”

Big or small, Streetsense’s interior hospitality designs craft unique experiences for visitors. And with backdrop details such as lighting, theme and decor under their supervision, our favorite restaurants, coffee shops and bars can do what they do best; serve you.

“I always think of it as production design for a movie,” Miller says. “If that setting isn’t right, you know it’s not right.”

“But, the big thing is we could do all the beautiful design in the world but if the food sucks, service sucks, whatever we do won’t mean a thing,” Maringola says laughing. “That’s the catalyst.”

To learn about Streetsense, visit www.streetsense.com.

The Bygone // Photo: Maxine Schnitzer
Photos: Jennifer Chase

Don Ciccio & Figli: Taste the Amalfi Coast at this New Ivy City Bar

Don Ciccio & Figli’s herbal liqueurs were born in Italy’s Campania region, thousands of miles away from their new home in Ivy City. But walk into the distillery’s new Bar Sirenis, and you’ll be awash in the colors of their Italian seaside home.

“We wanted to do something that would bring people to the Amalfi Coast,” says Don Ciccio’s owner and master blender Francesco Amodeo, who revitalized and dusted off his family brand in 2012 and started reproducing his decades-old recipes (some go back to the 19th century) in one of DC’s hippest neighborhoods.

Features of Bar Sirenis include white- and azure-patterned tiles, turquoise chairs, and deep blue walls offset by the white bar top and tables. And then there’s the lines of colorful bottles waiting to be savored. For Amodeo, the bar’s design evokes a morning sunset in his childhood home, albeit with the sleek industrial touches expected of an urban distillery.

The bar opened this April as part of the company’s new production distillery, pouring a variety of products from bitter amari of roots and spices to fruit and citrus creations made with ingredients like limoncello, prickly pear and mandarin orange.

Guests are recommended to start with a complimentary tour and tasting, including a rundown on the entire lineup of spirits on a thermometer from bitter to sweet. The next step is cocktail exploration in Bar Sirenis, where bartenders educate consumers and guide them through the best ways to incorporate Don Ciccio & Figli’s unique spirits into drinks.

“We wanted to capture people sitting down and watching the bartender make [the cocktail], asking questions about the application of it and really taste it in person,” Amodeo continues.

The menu is anchored around three classic Italian refreshments: the spritz, the negroni and the Americano. Working from those bases, guests can choose the bitter liqueur they enjoy the most from the tour and tasting and use that as the star of their drink. Bartenders on staff will then adjust the vermouth, other ingredients and ratios for the perfect flavor profile. Amaro delle Sirene, for example, typically calls for a Spanish dry vermouth, while Luna amaro works best with a traditional Italian red vermouth.

Hopefully, visitors will leave a little more familiar with this category of spirits, empowered to mix up some creations at their home bar.

As an added bonus, the Ivy City location is ideal for visiting other DC distillers and brewers. It’s across the street from One Eight Distilling, a short walk away from Atlas Brew Works, Republic Restoratives, New Columbia Distillers and City Winery.

“We really wanted to give our guests and our longtime regulars something that’s really beautiful and they can enjoy even more,” Amodeo notes.

Visit www.donciccioefigli.com for current tour times and bar hours.

Don Ciccio & Figli and Bar Sirenis: 1907 Fairview Ave. NE, DC; 202-957-7792, www.donciccioefigli.com

Photo: courtesy of Bold Rock

Summer of Seltzer: Introducing the Fruity Flavors of Bold Rock’s Hard Seltzer

Virginia’s favorite cider brand is hitting us with a whole new level of refreshing. Bold Rock is releasing their new hard seltzer, delivering a clean, effervescent taste with all-natural ingredients at a mere 82 calories per can with a 4 percent ABV. Now if that isn’t great news for this summer of hard seltzer, I’m not sure what is.

Bold Rock’s release includes two flavors, grapefruit and cucumber melon, and they’re already working on phase two with a handful of more flavors heading into 2020. We asked Bold Rock Director of New Business Development Lindsay Dorrier about the inspiration behind the simple, clean, summer-themed label design.

“We wanted to note the healthfulness and create something that looked light and refreshing to reflect the contents of the can,” Dorrier says.

Virginians and Washingtonians alike have reached for the perfect sweetness of a Bold Rock Hard Cider where they can find it in local bars and restaurants, but the seltzer packs crispness and delight like none of their other ciders have.

The very first thing you’re going to notice is that 1 gram of sugar per serving, which makes a huge difference,” says head cider maker Ian Niblock. “Next, you’re going to notice how light and refreshing it is, and without having that sugar, it’s a totally different apple blend. It’s not going to be super acidic. It’s really well-balanced and super smooth.”

Toward the end of last summer, the Bold Rock team saw an opportunity to craft something innovative in the seltzer space. 

“We’re the only seltzer on the market, as far as I know, that gets the alcohol from apple and not a fermented sugar solution or something like that,” Niblock explains. “We had the added challenge of trying to make it clear and white and not look and taste like cider. That product development took a lot of time and was ultimately really rewarding.”

After working on it for 10 months, Dorrier is proud and excited to debut the new taste this summer.

“You’ve never tasted a cleaner finish than what you get with the seltzer, which is a testament to the quality of ingredients that we’re using and the way we’ve been able to approach the innovation process,” he says. “Side by side with some of the other options out there, there’s really no comparison because of how clean and superior our finish is.”

Whether hard seltzer is just a trend or the new normal, it’s definitely captured the hearts of non-beer drinkers and health-conscious consumers.

“The health stats are resonating both with younger and older consumers,” Dorrier says. “We’re hopeful that our product will place with people that care about what’s put into their bodies [and] want something low cal, low sugar, [and] made with all-natural ingredients [and] real fruit as the foundation.”

The grapefruit and cucumber melon flavors of Bold Rock Hard Seltzer will be available in local grocery chains across Northern Virginia starting June 10 with plans to expand to independent retailers in the District soon.

For more information, visit www.boldrock.com.

Photo: Deb Lindsay

Crafty Cocktails

It’s not always what’s on the inside that counts, and these craft cocktails are living proof. Whether it be ornately etched glassware, literary inspiration or food accompanying the rims of the glass, these drinks provide something both enjoyable and tasty to imbibers.B

Photo: courtesy of Dirty Habit

Black Oleander at Dirty Habit

The Ingredients: Tanqueray Gin, Bols Genever, acai, blackberry, fromager ash, citrus earl grey foam
The Design: Flowers, foam and fun color – this summer creation from Dirty Habit’s Drew Hairston is a triple threat of delicate design elements rolled into one refreshing drink. Plus, the intricate etching on the glass provide a perfect home to all of its refreshing ingredients. 555 8th St. NW, DC; www.dirtyhabitdc.com

Photo: courtesy of Truxton Inn

The BFG at Truxton inn

The Ingredients: Infused Brooklyn gin, cucumber, mint, peppercorn, Q tonic
The Design: Inspired by Roahd Dahl’s book of the same name about a big friendly giant, this drink is served in a goblet that gives you a full view of the peppercorn, herbs and citrus that color this literary cocktail. Plus, you can customize the liquor to mixer ratio by adding your desired amount of Q tonic. 251 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.truxtoninndc.com

Photo: courtesy of The Mirror

Classic Daiquiri at The Mirror

The Ingredients: Light rum, fresh lime juice, simple syrup
The Design: Jeff Coles, The Mirror’s co-owner and head barkeep, explains that this classic cocktail is served in a sherbet glass, providing an example of Bohemian crystal from the Checz Republic. The delicate glass adds a twist of elegance to any drinking experience with a style of etching called Queen’s Lace and a beautiful gold rim. 1314 K St. NW, DC; www.themirrordc.com

Photo: courtesy of Bourbon Steak

Fireside Chat at Bourbon Steak

The Ingredients: High West Campfire, English Breakfast Tea, walnut bitters
The Design: This smoky cocktail combination is both indulgent and refreshing, but what really sets it apart is the delivery – expect the drink to be hand-delivered to you tableside in a custom barrel. 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.fourseasons.com/washington/dining/restaurants/bourbon_steak/

Photo: Deb Lindsay

Bloody Mary + Bloody Maria at El Bebe

The Ingredients: Three Olives vodka (Bloody Mary), Jose Cuervo Especial silver (Bloody Maria), house made bloody mary mix, fresh lime juice, Bebe spicy rim
The Design: El Bebe is launching two variants of the boozy breakfast classic to accompany their new brunch program. While one features tequila and the other vodka, both are served in tall, embossed glasses and flanked by none other than a mini quesadilla. 99 M St. SE, DC, Ste. 120
www.el-bebe.com

What’s On Tap: June 2019

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.

THURSDAY, JUNE 6

#PridePils Launch
DC Brau and The Washington Blade are thrilled to announce this year’s winner of the third annual Pride Pils Can Design competition: local DC artist Maggie Dougherty. Her vibrant and inspiring label depicting notable LGBTQ activist and prominent Stonewall figure Marsha P. Johnson, best known for her tireless work on behalf of the homeless and transgender communities in NYC, will appear on approximately 28,000 cans of specially packaged Brau Pils this summer. Head to Dacha Beer Garden to celebrate the release. 6-9 p.m. Free to attend. Dacha Beer Garden: 1600 7th St. NW, DC; www.dcbrau.com

FRIDAY, JUNE 7

Art on Tap 2019
Craft beers from local breweries have been artfully paired with selected artwork. Local restaurants have chosen a brew-and-artwork coupling to serve as their muse to create the perfect complimentary appetizer. Sample the creative combinations while drinking from a take-home Art on Tap beer tasting glass and then vote for your favorite at the end of the event. 7-9:30 p.m. Tickets $45. The Art League: 105 N Union St. Alexandria, VA; www.theartleague.org

FRIDAYS, JUNE 7, 14, 21 and 28

Tour de Pour
Friday nights just got way more fun. Join us for a weekly happy hour ride series between Bike Lane Brewing and Lake Anne Brew House. Park and gear up at Bike Lane Brewing then take a short, fun group ride to Lake Anne Brew House for a beer and pretzel pitstop before returning to Bike Lane for another. Don’t have a bike? Contact Bike Lane about a test ride on one of theirs. 6-8 p.m. Bike Lane Brewing: 11150 Sunset Hills Rd. Reston, VA; www.thebikelane.com

SATURDAY, JUNE 8

Rooftop Pride Kickoff Party
Help Red Bear Brewing kick off their very first Pride festival with an open bar and all-inclusive party on the roof of the historic Uline Arena, directly above the brewery. Drag yourself up to the roof for open-bar brews, Stoli cocktails and delicious bites. Hosted by Desiree Dik and blasting the sounds of DJ Nico DiMarco, you might feel guilty enjoying so much fun in one afternoon if you didn’t know the proceeds were going to help fund SMYAL’s work to empower LGBTQ youth and educate their local community. 4-8 p.m. Tickets $65-$95. Uline Arena: 1140 3rd St. NE, DC; www.redbear.beer

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12

Chef Egg Live: Cooking with Astro Lab Brewing
Join Chef Egg at Astro Lab Brewing for an out-of-this-world, live cooking show. The chef will set up shop in the brewery and show you how to pair vibrant recipes with Astro Lab’s craft brews. Chef Egg will cook sweet and savory recipes while giving you the culinary skills you need to succeed in the kitchen. 7-9:30 p.m. $25. Astro Lab Brewing: 8216 Georgia Ave. Silver Spring, MD; www.astrolabbrewing.com

FRIDAY, JUNE 14

Four-Course Beer Dinner
Pinstripes is bringing craft beer lovers a taste of their chef’s culinary expertise with a special dinner inspired by and paired with selections from Heavy Seas Beer. A rep from Heavy Seas and Pinstripes’ chef will lead guests through a deliciously fun four-course dinner. 7-9 p.m. $60. Pinstripes: 1064 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.pinstripes.com

SATURDAY, JUNE 15

Old Ox & Friends
Old Ox turns five this June and they’re throwing a party. Come celebrate with new beer releases, old beer revivals, two awesome bands and delicious food all day long (did someone say free cake?) Plus, this provides the chance to be one of the first to see (and drink in) the new Middleburg location. 12-9 p.m. Tickets for a bus tour from the Ashburn location to Middleburg are $50. Old Ox Brewery: 44652 Guilford Dr. Ashburn, VA; www.oldoxbrewery.com

SATURDAY, JUNE 22

Silver Spring Block Party
Mark your calendars and join as Silver Branch Brewing Company releases their Gold Line Classic American Pilsner. Hill Country Barbecue Market will be on hand to serve delicious barbecue, and Hill Country LIVE will be producing live music on the plaza with The Dirty Grass Players. 12 p.m. – 12 a.m. Silver Branch Brewing Company: 8401 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.silverbranchbrewing.com

SUNDAY, JUNE 23

Pints and Paws
Studies have shown that pet ownership and beer drinking may contribute to a longer life. In that spirit, DC Brau will be hosting the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA) for a meet and greet of some of DC’s most eligible kitties and canines. Join for a dog and cat adoption event. Enjoy a brew ($1 per pint will be donated to the HRA) while shopping the newest pet gear and treats from The Big Bad Woof, and maybe even go home with your new best friend. 12-3 p.m. DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com

TUESDAY, JUNE 25

Profs and Pints: The Real Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is one of the most popular in television history. Come learn the history from which the show draws. It might not feature real dragons or Khaleesi, but it does have nearly all the violence, treachery and strange family relationships. It was called the Wars of the Roses because it involved a protracted fight for England’s throne between two branches of its royal family: one represented by a red rose and the other by a white one. 6-9 p.m. Tickets $12-$15. The Bier Baron Tavern and Comedy Loft: 1523 22nd St. NW, DC; www.bierbarondc.com

Photo: courtesy of Mi Vida

Beautiful Bathrooms: The Cool, The Creative + The Selfie-Ready

Photo: courtesy of Call Your Mother

Call Your Mother

Park View’s bagel shop has become a fast favorite for delicious bagel creations worth waiting in lines out the door for. In keeping with the theme of being a “Jew-ish” deli, the spot pays homage to another Jewish icon – musician, rapper and overall cultural phenomenon Drake. Photos of Drake and his mom are on view throughout the bathroom, complemented by the pastel wallpaper and kitschy colors Call Your Mother is known for. 3301 Georgia Ave. NW, DC www.callyourmotherdeli.com

Photo: courtesy of No Kisses on Instagram

No Kisses

No Kisses’ lush rainforest-meets-the-70s vibe is apparent even in their three differently designed bathrooms. In one, lemurs, owls, peacocks and more watch over you while you do your business, or can perhaps star in your next social post. The spot’s overall use of wallpaper is enough to make me want to plaster my own home with the most interesting patterns I can find and accent everything with jewel tones. Come for the cozy neighborhood bar vibes, stay for the bathrooms and their woodland creature stars.
3120 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.nokissesbar.com

Photo: courtesy of Bayou Bakery

Bayou Bakery

Arlington’s Bayou Bakery brings Southern charm to the DMV. Its bathrooms are plastered with old-school recipes torn from the pages of Southern cookbooks. Ladies can look upon desserts and pastries, and guys can get the inside scoop on the savory side of Southern cuisine. 1515 N. Courthouse Rd. Arlington, VA; www.bayoubakerydc.com

Photo: courtesy of Satellite Room

Satellite Room

The classic Shaw bar has four bathrooms, but you know you’re in for a good night when you find yourself in a stall that’s plastered with stickers. You can spot Stranger Things’ Eleven, NSYNC-era Justin Timberlake and Keith Haring drawings on the wall in this bathroom. There’s something new to be spotted with every trip. 2047 9th St. NW, DC; www.satellitedc.com

Photo: courtesy of Mi Vida

Mi Vida

The Wharf’s destination for modern Mexican fare is visually stunning across the board, and the bathroom is no exception. The bold colors and low lighting make the spot the perfect background for your next Instagram story or selfie. Don’t just take it from us, though – last summer, People Magazine included it in a roundup of best bathrooms nationwide, and the bathroom was up for supply company Cintas’ award for “Best Bathroom in America.” 98 District Sq. SW, DC; www.mividamexico.com

Photo: courtesy of Maydan

Maydan

Maydan quickly became a favorite in the city’s burgeoning dining scene upon its opening in late 2017. The large oven that centers the restaurant is a design element itself, as is the colorful food the travel-inspired spot serves. Its bathrooms feature a fish-shaped faucet, graffiti-like drawings and even a depiction of a tiger asking, “Please let me watch.” Don’t worry, he’s just a drawing and he can’t actually see you snap a selfie. 1346 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.maydandc.com

Photo: courtesy of Kendra Kuliga

Drinkable Designs

“What I’m trying to do is provoke a reaction. What I see in the world, I’m trying to reflect that back.”

Michael Van Hall describes contemporary art as reflective. His work is found in all corners of the DMV, but not in galleries or on brick walls. Rather, it’s on shelves, in refrigerators and, after encounters with thirsty observers, in trash cans.

His canvas – no pun intended – is beer cans and he’s not the only artist dabbling in the craft brew world. As beverage options crop up around the city, one way for them to stand out is by having an aesthetically appealing product beyond taste.

Michael Van Hall’s Design for Stillwater Artisanal

“There’s a fandom around beer, kind of like music,” Van Hall continues. “It’s recognized as a venue for creativity. It allows and enables. In beer, the novelty doesn’t wear off because we’re always pushing.”

Van Hall has commissioned work for a number of breweries including DC Brau, Vanish Farmwoods Brewery and Aslin Beer Company, to name a few. He views each project as a chance to create art rather than branding, which allows him to take risks others may forgo.

“One of the primary things I tell them is you’re working with an artist, not a design company. You have to be ready to take risks and do things that are seemingly in contrast with good business. No board is going to approve what I do, but the customers will approve.”

Kendra Kuliga, 3 Stars Brewing Company’s designer, established her niche in the craft brew world by working on murals at Meridian Pint before moving onto posters, branding and labels. When 3 Stars founder Dave Coleman decided to begin bottling and canning their beer, he reached out to Kuliga to collaborate on the look.

“I wanted to see how the new craft beer scene was trying to identify itself as more independent and less corporate,” Kuliga says. “It was very clear that the canvas for a label was extremely art-friendly. You can make cartoons or intense battle scenes. It’s really up to you. It’s about finding a balance in detail and something that captures a customer’s eye.”

Unlike Van Hall, Kuliga works almost exclusively with 3 Stars as far as can design, so each creation carries an aesthetic she and Coleman developed and built from scratch.

“[Coleman] gives me ideas for what he wants. He’ll explain and then I’ll do the research and add details. There are label artists who are sought out for their art, but at the end of the day, I want to represent the people I’m working for. It takes a lot of people to come up with a beer and a label, and I want everyone to feel good.”

While Kuliga and Van Hall have made can design part of their careers, crating both one-off releases and year-round staples, there are other avenues for beer can art.

Image: courtesy of Maggie Dougherty

This month, DC Brau is set to distribute their third annual Pride Pils just in time for the District’s Capital Pride celebration. Like previous iterations of the limited brew, the famed beer company held a contest for what design would adorn the aluminum containers. This year’s winner was local artist Maggie Dougherty.

“I have been following the competition the last few years and I had a sketched design for the past two competitions, but I didn’t submit it,” Dougherty says. “With this year’s theme about Stonewall and its 50th anniversary, I thought it was a challenging mechanism to tell a story.”

Dougherty’s bright yellow design displays different colored flowers, each carrying its own significance, wrapped around an illustration of notable transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson. As with any artistic depiction of a weighty subject, Dougherty spent countless hours reading and learning. 

“I’m really honored to be the third design in this line, and I did feel the pressure to represent a community that I’m an ally to,” she says. “I wanted to highlight the life of someone who gave their life to this in a way I couldn’t possibly understand.”

But getting creative with cans isn’t exclusive to the craft industry. Pabst Blue Ribbon has held their annual Art Can contest since 2014 in an effort to inspire creative cans for their iconic beer. One of this year’s winners was DC visual artist Tenbeete Solomon, perhaps best known as Trap Bob.

“I was hoping to get my name in front of them, not even considering actually winning,” Solomon says. “I’ve never designed a beer can before but I am a beer drinker, so I’ve always wanted to.”

Her design will adorn 5 million of the company’s 24-oz. cans distributed starting on October 1. Rather than the traditional ribbon look, these special editions feature a more science fiction appeal featuring a spaceship and a large hand reaching out. 

Image: courtesy of Tenbeete Solomon

“Hands and space [and] aliens have always been major inspirations for me,” she says. “I wanted to really get out of the box and weird with my design, because I knew that was something not only PBR would appreciate but also people just walking through the grocery store. The design on a beer can is the most distributed form of branding for a [beer] company so having something creative, eye-grabbing and on top of that, supportive of the creative community, is the best branding you can have.”

Both Daugherty and Solomon indicate that designing a beer can was an enjoyable experience and one they’d revisit. Just as there are countless brewers behind the scenes working on new ways to bring you explosive flavors on the inside, there are now just as many hungry artists looking to make a splash on the outside.

Van Hall has noticed the growth in the medium and is on board for more people joining him in pushing the boundaries. For him, it’s justification for the work he’s become known for.

“It’s a magnet for artistic creativity and in a way, that’s very harmful to my business but I love it,” he says. “When I come up with a good label, it’s because I’m being pushed by the industry. There are so many people that are doing very good work, and that brings everybody up.”

Maggie Dougherty: @dockerty_creative; www.dockertycreative.com
Kendra Kuliga: @cielo.productions; www.cieloproductions.com
Tenbeete Solomon: @trapxbob; www.trapbob.com
Michael Van Hall: @opprobriations; www.opprobriations.com

Punjab Grill // Photo: Greg Powers

DC’s Vibrant Restaurant Designs: An Ode To Culture + Instaworthy Photo Ops

As we reach the halfway point of 2019, we’re finding that chefs and restaurateurs are prioritizing interior décor as highly as their culinary offerings. To some, like chef Adam Greenberg of the island-fantasy restaurant Coconut Club, “the décor was as equally important as the brand of stoves I wanted in the kitchen.” For others, like James Beard Award nominee Erik Bruner-Yang of Spoken English, Brothers and Sisters, and Maketto, it’s all about looking at space from a nontraditional standpoint. Here are our top picks for one-of-a-kind, stunning restaurant décor.

Coconut Club

Since opening in late January, Coconut Club has been on every single hit list in the city. Known for whimsical, island-style cuisine, a pup-friendly patio and summertime cocktails, the NoMa spot that’s just a stone’s throw from Union Market also happens to be an Instagrammer’s paradise. In keeping with its tagline “Vacation starts now,” you can walk into Coconut Club in the dead of winter and feel like you’re on vacation in Hawaii.

“My architects [at Edit Lab at Streetsense] did an amazing job of getting to know me, the concept and what we were going for,” owner Adam Greenberg explains. “Design Army did our branding as well as the exterior signage.”

The floating bar, the shamelessly grammable bathroom décor, the lush greenery and the adorable swing chair vibes all lend themselves to a relaxed, tropical paradise feel. The piece that ties all the little details together is a massive mural that covers an entire wall of the restaurant. Greenberg and his wife searched for ages to find the right artist for this mural.

“I needed something I could look at every day and not feel like I’d be sick of it in a year.”

Enter artist Meg Biram, who they reached out to over Instagram. A baby pink background lays a beautiful canvas to teal, blue and aqua palm trees and fronds, drawing palette inspiration from Coconut Club’s signature branding colors. The entire mural was brush painted by hand solely by Biram and took three weeks to execute perfectly.540 Penn St. NE, DC; www.hellococonutclub.com

Photo: courtesy of Kaliwa

Kaliwa

From Bad Saint to Thip Kao, Filipino restaurants are becoming all the rage in Washington. But Kaliwa, located on the Wharf, is a true immersive experience into Filipino culture.

At its heart, Kaliwa is a love letter in restaurant form. It embodies the love of a culture, the love of a grandmother’s family recipes, and the love between a husband and wife who choose to work together every day. It’s the concept of Meshelle (Meshe) Armstrong, wife to award-winning chef Cathal Armstrong, and was inspired as a call to remember the indigenous beauty of where she’s from: the Philippines.

“All the graphics and furniture, including our coco-shell chandeliers, came from artists and designers from various islands of the Archipelago,” Meshe says.

All across the restaurant and even in the logo, diners will see tattoo designs.

“These are represented as the ancient people of the Philippines, who believed that tattoos were a token of passage into the afterlife.”

A tattoo mark allows a spirit to be easily recognized and embraced by ancestors after passing to the other side of the veil. 

A large painting hangs above the chef’s counter, depicting a tattooed woman in repose. It’s called “Binukot sa banig.” The traditional symbols and the style with which they’re arranged on her body are from the central and western Visayan regions of the Philippines. Each of the individual motifs convey her relationship to her ancestors, as people of the Philippines believe that their ancestors’ spirits appear specifically in recognized animal forms. The fact that these symbols are tattooed on the woman signifies that their memories have been internalized within her skin.

Two other prominent paintings along the walls are of ancient Baybayin characters. These individually translate into Lakas (strong) and Mahal (love).

“The goal of Baybayin art is to strengthen unity within our community by telling the rich history of the motherland,” Meshe continues.

These displayed paintings are the works of artist Kristian Kabuay. On one side of the restaurant, white blossoms are painted across a teal backdrop. These depict the Salingbobog tree, which is similar to Japanese cherry blossoms but a native species to the Philippines.

Go for the incredible food. Stay for an illuminating lesson on a culture’s vibrant history. 751 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.kaliwadc.com

Photo: courtesy of Jennifer Hughes

Punjab Grill

Before its doors even opened, Food & Wine dedicated an entire article to Punjab Grill, calling it a “game-changing Indian restaurant.” The Penn Quarter restaurant’s approach to elevating Indian cuisine to a fine dining format isn’t the only aspect that makes it so unique.

“I wanted to redefine what the U.S. market thinks of when they think of Indian food and Indian fine dining,” says owner Karan Singh.
“I wanted to do traditional Indian food in a tasteful, classy and relevant-to-2019-Washington, DC way.”

Singh chose to collaborate with Amit Gulani of Incubis, Ayush Kasliwal of AKFD and Jose Toha of Grupo-7 to bring this concept to life. After realizing that the elements needed to set the scene were very specific, the decision was made to build the entire restaurant in Rajasthan, India.

“The whole thing was built there and then taken apart – the entire ceiling, the entire private dining room, the overbar, the stone structure – every element.”

The “Sundowner” bar with high-top food service is a low-lit, stunning structure of tiger marble. The main dining room is designed to reflect the royal saloon train car from E.M. Forster’s classic A Passage to India. Each table is pure marble structure, adorned with bespoke crockery and cutlery. Inlaid along the walls are gemstones reminiscent of the Taj Mahal’s stunning ancient craft of inlay work and marble carving.

Still, all that beauty pales in comparison to Punjab Grill’s pièce de résistance: the Palace of Mirrors. Guests are led through thick, ornately carved doors into a “palace of mirrors,” referred to in Hindi as Sheesh Mahal, where 150,000 glass and mirror pieces have been meticulously hand-laid across the entire room to create the same striking effect as the prominent Amer Palace of Jaipur.

In the center is a long, black table made from one singular piece of marble that seats up to 10 people. The table is set with Hermès dishes – the patterns on which mimic the pattern of mirrors on the ceilings – and surrounded by chairs that were each individually custom-upholstered by Peter D’Ascoli. Yes, each chair was designed specifically. So are the drapes. 

“It’s over the top but in a tasteful way,” Singh proudly explains. “It’s a lot to take in but it’s not sensory overload. It all comes together nicely.”

If your experience should take you to the bar or the dining room, you can always request a tour of the opulent Palace of Mirrors. Prepare to be wowed. 427 11th St. NW, DC; www.punjabgrilldc.com

Photo: courtesy of Service Bar

Service Bar

In keeping with its quirky vibe, Service Bar just added a wall-long mural to add brightness to the normally darker atmosphere. Co-owner Chad Spangler reached out to Henley Bounkhong, a 31-year-old, self-taught painter, on Instagram in search of something “different.” He was in luck as Bounkhong had just begun experimenting with a new style of painting.

“When I first went in to check out the space, I loved all the cool cups they have, the colors and the vibe of the space,” Bounkhong describes. “I suggested an octopus serving drinks because, having worked as a server, I feel like the octopus is the best representation [of] someone who has to do a million things at once. So, we ran with that.”

Bounkhong’s new paint style consists of multiple panels laid out, almost like the pages of a comic book. The Service Bar mural contains several separate paintings that are all ultimately connected through the tentacles of the octopus. Throughout are other little elements inspired by those cute cups Bounkhong loved so much.

“I felt it would be right to have cherry blossoms and the monument there to represent DC and then the rest of the panels were of flowers and nature. Everything flowed together naturally, and the end result was a little more than I imagined.” 926-928 U St. NW, DC; www.servicebardc.com

Photo: Rey Lopez

Spoken English

This standing room-only restaurant within AdMo’s LINE Hotel stole the hearts of the DC dining community when it opened early in 2018.

According to founder and chef Erik Bruner-Yang, “we always had the intention of doing Spoken English. It was originally going to be more sit-down, fine dining. When we got closer to opening, we realized it didn’t fit with who we are as chefs overall. So, we made a massive pivot to do the tachinomiya service style.”

Spoken English shares a kitchen with Bruner-Yang’s Brothers and Sisters. His company Foreign National worked with Design Army to create custom branding for the intimate space, like a bright floral wall that’s the perfect Instagram backdrop for the spot’s chicken skin dumplings. The mural is actually custom wallpaper that was designed specifically for the Spoken English space.

“When we were looking at the floor plan, we saw that there was enough space to do what we needed with Brothers and Sisters that we didn’t need an overly large kitchen. So we took that box of space to do something interesting and different.”

Diners can enjoy a variety of memorable, Hong Kong-style street foods while gazing out at Adams Morgan or watching the chefs run both restaurants through one small kitchen. While many tachinomiyas are more bar-style, this space highlights the best of the cooking that Foreign National is known for.

“Spoken English has its own unique energy that comes from the space, the style of restaurant that it is and the people that work there,” Bruner-Yang says. “It somehow all came together as a unique restaurant experience.”
1770 Euclid St. NW, DC; www.spokenenglishdc.com


Foodie Design Inspo

DBGB Kitchen + Bar

Chef Daniel Boulud’s “great bistro” concept in CityCenterDC holds a fun surprise for first-time visitors and an exploration activity for regulars.

“Daniel arranged to send all his chef friends a set of permanent markers together with an unadorned, plain white plate, along with a personal note asking them to customize the plate for DBGB [when it first opened],” says Michael Lawrence, executive director of operations for The Dinex Group. “Some chefs simply signed the plates, others drew pictures of their favorite ingredients and a few of them sent back designs that were quite abstract and hard to decipher.”

931 H St. NW, DC; www.dbgb.com

Espita Mezcaleria

Another Oaxacan-inspired spot with attention-grabbing artwork at every turn, each mural in Shaw’s Espita Mezcaleria was hand-painted by renowned Oaxacan artists Yescka and César Chávez as commentary on political issues facing the world. 1250 9th St. NW, DC; www.espitadc.com

Hanumanh

The highly anticipated new installment from mother-and-son duo and chefs Seng Luangrath and Bobby Pradachith holds more than a stellar Laotian menu. Cheeky murals in reference to the monkey deity that inspired the Shaw restaurant’s name surround the restaurant. These are also done by Henley Bounkhong.

“It was a super interesting project to paint because being a Laotian myself painting for Laotians, I actually had to do research and learn about my own country since I was born and raised as an American,” he says.

1604 7th St. NW, DC; www.hanumanh.com

Mi Vida

This 9,500-square-foot waterfront restaurant has a panoramic view of the Potomac River with its floor-to-ceiling windows. The Wharf spot’s design mixes industrial aesthetics with historic Mexican décor for a modern, elevated feel. The star of the show is the “Arbol de la Vida,” a 19-foot clay sculpture of the tree of life adorned with Oaxacan-inspired flowers and designs.

98 District Sq. SW, DC; www.mividamexico.com

Photo: courtesy of Junction

New and Notable: Bandoola Bowl, Cane, Chop Shop Taco and More

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town and the top culinary happenings of the month. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new and notable in the DC area.

New

Bandoola Bowl
Open: April 23
Location: Georgetown
Lowdown: The team behind Mandalay in Silver Spring has moved into the fast-casual game with a new Burmese salad shop named after two national heroes: General Maha Bandoola (or Bandula) and his namesake elephant. Bandoola Bowl takes the most popular recipes from the restaurant and gives them the bowl treatment. A staple of Burmese cuisine, the salads are all about texture. They start with a base of shredded cabbage and thinly sliced vegetables like carrots, peppers and onions. Each salad is customized with a star vegetable, fruit or protein like green beans, tomato, ginger, papaya, mango, fried tofu, steamed shrimp, grilled chicken or roasted pork. To finish it off, they are dressed in a mix of citrus and fish sauce and topped with toss-ins like fried garlic and shallots, crispy yellow split peas, chopped peanuts, and sesame seeds. The menu offers a curated selection of bowls, but you can also make each your own by adding protein or veggies. The salads can be made to order, or you can grab a ready-made one if you’re in a hurry. You can pair the bowls with naan-style breads plus seasonal soups and specials. End on a sweet note with a shweji: a Burmese semolina cake. 1069 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.bandoolabowl.com

Cane
Open: April 22
Location: H Street
Lowdown: After rave reviews of his jerk wings and smoked meats at Spark at Engine Company 12, chef Peter Prime now has his own restaurant where he can share his family recipes and the flavors of his heritage. The Trinidadian chef opened Cane with his sister Jeanine Prime, and the two are serving Caribbean street food paired with tropical cocktails. There is some overlap from the menu at Spark, but there are plenty of new things to try like cow heel souse and spicy oxtail stew. The most fun way to dine is with the paratha tiffin box, a stack of stainless-steel tins filled with curries – either veggie (potato, channa and butternut squash) or meat and poultry (beef and chicken) – and Indian flatbread. Street food classics like doubles topped with cumin-spiced chickpeas are represented as well. The bar is stocked with the Prime family’s favorite rums, which can be enjoyed with fresh juices made in-house or in Caribbean cocktails like the Carnival with two kinds of rum, coconut orgeat syrup, pineapple shrub and angostura bitters and the Purple Poison with white rum, sorrel-basil syrup and lime.403 H St. NE, DC; www.cane-dc.com

Chop Shop Taco
Open: May 1
Location: Alexandria
Lowdown: An old chop shop in Alexandria has gone from garage to taco joint. The original garage door and floor remain, the old lift is being used for table legs, the banquettes look like the seating in a classic car, the dining chairs resemble old-fashioned sports car bucket seats, and the plateware is reminiscent of hubcaps and mirrors. The rest of the mechanical operation has been replaced by knives and gadgets for a different kind of chopping. The menu mixes and matches various cuisines, fusing them into one. Choose from tacos like pork roasted in banana leaves topped with cilantro, radish, salsa and pickled red cabbage or quirky small plates like “fried rice” – cheese croquettes with huitlacoche and porcini mushrooms – and smashed avocado with pomegranate and za’atar. The casual spot invites you to order food at the counter and seat yourself. Beverage director Jon Schott designed the seasonal cocktail menu, using only homemade ingredients and citrus juiced daily. His current menu features variations on margaritas like a mezcal version with orange juice, agave and Tajín or the Garden Grove with jalapeño, mint, lime and cucumber bubbles. There are also twists on classic cocktails like the Corpse Reviver with mezcal, plus wine and beer including a house Mexican-style golden lager by Founders Brewing Company. 1008 Madison St. Alexandria, VA; www.chopshoptaco.com

Nicoletta Italian Kitchen & Brew’d
Open: April 19
Location: Mount Vernon Triangle
Lowdown: James Beard Award-winning chef Michael White has expanded his restaurant empire in DC. White’s Altamarea Group is behind Osteria Morini in Navy Yard, and now he’s brought Midwestern-style pizza and Italian “lunchables” to Mount Vernon Triangle. Nicoletta Italian Kitchen is an evolved version of the Nicoletta Pizzeria concept, adding house-made pastas, fried snacks like arancini and veggie fritto misto, three types of meatballs, and rotating parms to the menu. Pizza is still front and center, and the thick crust (made with dough fermented for three days) is sturdy enough to stand up to heaps of toppings like fried eggplant and mozzarella or thick-cut pepperoni and fennel sausage. The cooking is classic and comforting, evocative of the spirit of the Italian piazza that White aimed to bring to life. Next door to the neighborhood restaurant, you’ll find Brew’d coffee shop. An oval coffee bar is the heart of the compact space, serving espresso drinks, fior di latte soft-serve affogatos, cold brew soft-serve floats, DC-made snacks, and to-go boxes of Italian meats, cheeses and olives. Pastries and breads are made fresh daily, ranging from biscotti, muffins and scones to Sicilian pizza bread and ciabatta breakfast panini. 901 4th St. NW,DC; www.nicolettakitchen.com & www.drinkbrewd.com

Notable

The Conservatory at Gravitas
Location:
Ivy City
Lowdown: Chef Matt Baker already goes to great lengths to keep things Gravitas, but he’s taking it one step further with the opening of  The Conservatory, a garden café on the restaurant’s roof. The space includes 16 open-air seats surrounded by a functioning garden brimming with edible flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs in raised garden beds and hydroponic planters. Curation and maintenance of the garden is a joint effort between Gravitas and Up Top Acres. There are also 32 seats in a glass-enclosed bar and lounge designed to resemble a greenhouse. The rooftop will be open Thursday through Sunday for evening cocktails and bites, as well as brunchtime weekend service. The menu offers tartines, raw bar standards, cheese, charcuterie, cocktails, house-made pastries, coffee and tea. Of course, the food and drink menus feature seasonal produce, herbs and microgreens, much of it from the roof itself. 1401 Okie St. NE, DC; www.gravitasdc.com

Dinner Service at Junction Bakery & Bistro
Location:
Del Ray
Lowdown: Soon after chef James Duke joined pastry chef Jonni Scott and the team at Junction, they launched a dinner menu that extends the daytime coffee shop and bakery into a family- and wallet-friendly evening gathering space. Duke changes the menu often, but many of the offerings are Asian-inspired and there are several simple but quality family-style dishes designed to feed a crowd on a budget. Highlights include the Thai street noodle bowl with vermicelli, shredded chicken and red curry, the General Tso’s cauliflower, and the Memphis-ish slow smoked pork ribs with spiced honey glaze. Don’t skip dessert because Scott’s pastry selection is divine, from pistachio red fruit mousse to butterscotch eclairs. 1508 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.junctionbakery.com

One Night One Goal at Audi Field

Fans received the ultimate experience at One Night One Goal, with tour exclusive areas of the stadium, a live auction with one-of-a-kind items and experiences, the chance to mingle with D.C. United players, and specialty cocktails and cuisine. Proceeds benefit DC SCORES, official community partner of D.C. United. Photos: Kimchi Photography