Photo: www.facebook.com/sankofabeer
Photo: www.facebook.com/sankofabeer

What’s On Tap September 2018: Sankofa Beer

Ever heard of Sankofa Beer? With how large the DC brewing scene has gotten, it’s possible these brewers slipped through the cracks. However, just because they’re new and relatively small doesn’t mean their beer has failed to drum up interest. West African founders Amado Carsky and Kofi Meroe received almost $29,000 from a Kickstarter campaign last year, including donations from around the globe. Sankofa’s flagship Hypebiscus, a hibiscus pale ale, is now available in several DC locations. With two more beers on the way, On Tap decided to chat with Meroe about the pair’s unique influences, the international support they’ve received and what’s next for them.

On Tap: What West African influences did you draw from?
Kofi Meroe: The things we experimented with were cool and different and things we’d grown up with. We’ve done cola nuts, something that’s native to West Africa. [It’s] basically just a bigger nut with caffeine, so we’d use that to make porters and stouts. We used hibiscus because we wanted to experiment with that. Obviously, we’ve used spicy foods and peppers. We get these inspirations from our upbringings and it was easy for us, because it’s who we are. Sankofa is the Twi language of Ghana, and it means to go back and take. It’s not taboo to take your past to reinforce the future. You can’t have a strong future if you don’t know where you came from. For us embarking in this new industry, we wanted to be authentic.

OT: How did you get started in brewing?
KM: I relocated to DC after I graduated. I left college with a passion for exploring craft beer. I started homebrewing, thinking I could save some money as opposed to going to stores to buy six-packs. It just so happens that my business partner, who is also my cousin [Carsky], was living here as well. We were brewing a German hefeweizen and we loved that process, and the beer came out pretty good. Since then, we’ve been homebrewing together for eight years. We never really intended to have a company, but two years ago we decided to go for it.

OT: What spurred you toward turning your hobby into a business?
KM: Essentially, we thought our beer was really good, and we were finally starting to make relationships with brewers and people in the industry. We finally got to the place where we thought it was good enough to put out there. We tried to hedge our process by taking little steps. First was to establish the business, second was to share our beer to people who matter and getting feedback from professionals. For most of 2017, we took our homebrews on tour and found private events and folks who didn’t mind if we set up in the corner and did tastings. We created the hashtag #SankofaSummer, but that excitement that we generated led us to the next step, which was figuring out what we needed to start a business.

OT: Your next step was starting a Kickstarter campaign for your business. How did raising almost $29,000 change things for you and Amado?
KM: I had to ship a Kickstarter award to Denmark and other places I hadn’t been. At the end of the day, our friends really came through for us in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to imagine. Even if they couldn’t give, they were spreading the word and they were very fervent about doing that. We had a lot of help in facilitating that campaign. It was also scary, because we raised this money and now we have to do something. We have to go out and do what we know we can do. We’re excited.

OT: Why do you think you were able to get so many donations from around the world? What about your product and background do you think resonates with so many beer drinkers?
KM: We have generated a following. There’s not a lot of people that look like us in beer who own craft beer brands. A lot of people get excited when they see us for that reason. And the beer, on top of that, is really good. We’ve gone to a lot of cultural events, and we’re always in places with cultural diversity, so we’re starting to build followings in these other communities. If anything, it’s an homage to the regions here – that someone in another state or country would pick our beer up.

OT: Where are you guys right now with the process?
KM: We just launched [at the end of June], and we’re still going through our first batch. We plan to brew in the next two to three weeks [late August]. What we do now is brew at Calvert Brewing Company in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. We wanted to find someone who could work with our culture, and the technical part just involved figuring out a recipe to work with their system.

For more information about future releases or to see the entire list of places Hypebiscus is currently available, visit www.sankofabeer.com.


MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3

Wild Hare Hard Cider at Herndon Labor Day Festival
Head to downtown Herndon for this annual Labor Day Festival featuring craft beers, great music, outstanding sponsors, delicious food vendors and lawn games. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Herndon Town Green: 777 Lynn St. Herndon, VA; www.wildharecider.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8

Beer Yoga
Flow through a flight of brewery favorites during this hour-long power yoga class. Come for yoga, nama’stay for beer. Don’t forget to bring your own mat. Three-glass flights included in yoga class ticket purchase. This 21-plus class is suitable for yogis of all levels. 12-1 p.m. Tickets $15. Right Proper Brewing Company Brookland Production House + Tasting Room: 920 Girard St. NE, DC; www.rightproperbrewing.com

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9

Fairfax Beer Garden
With over 700 people in attendance at the first Fairfax Beer Garden, High Side is excited to host another round. The garden will feature a 10-tap beer trailer with an amazing lineup of brews. Try out unique Asian street food or check out what Coyote Grille’s “Roaming Coyote” food truck will be serving. Play games like life-sized Jenga, Connect Four and cornhole, and catch some football games via livestream. 12-8 p.m. Tickets $19-$23. High Side: 4009 Chain Bridge Rd. Fairfax, VA; www.fairfaxbeergarden.com

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13

The Aslin Three-Year Anniversary Pre-Party
For those who can’t make the official anniversary party at Aslin, which will happen on September 15, come to ChurchKey on Thursday for an incredible lineup of out-of-market breweries to celebrate the third anniversary of Aslin Beer Company. ChurchKey will pour a slew of specialty beers from Aslin and friends, featuring hard-to-find kegs from nearly 15 different breweries. Highlights include Southern Grist, Dancing Gnome, Narrow Gauge, Deciduous and Resident Culture, with more to be announced. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC;
www.churchkeydc.com

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

Fonta Flora Brewery Tap Takeover at ANXO
Fonta Flora Brewery in Morgantown, North Carolina was kind enough to send seven kegs of delicious farmhouse ales and lagers to ANXO Cidery for guests to try this month for a special event. The tasting starts at 5 p.m. along with the pintxo happy hour with pairings and flights, and continues all night until close. Don’t miss this opportunity to try some amazing beer from one of the best breweries in the country. 5 p.m. – 12 a.m. ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.anxodc.com

Spontaneous: The Art of Natural Wine & Beer
Let The Sovereign introduce you to the incredible world of spontaneously fermented wine and beer by showcasing five natural wines side-by-side with five wild ales. The Sovereign proudly features a wide array of spontaneously fermented beers, from Belgian lambic to American wild ales, and a selection of natural wines from France, Italy and Austria. Don’t miss some fantastic avant-garde winemakers showcasing rarely seen varietals such as Negrette and Grauburgunder along with some American and Italian examples of spontaneously fermented ales. 5-11 p.m. Free to attend. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

Capital BrewFest
Celebrate local beer, wine and music at Capital BrewFest. Each ticket includes your own tasting cup where you’ll get to sample more than 50 rare and seasonal beers from the region’s very best craft breweries, 30 wines including a ton of rosé varietals, and tons of cider and gluten-free options. There will be seven amazing food options available for purchase, plus live music all day on the mainstage and inside to keep the party going, and lots of fun outdoor games, activities and arts. 12:30-8 p.m. Tickets $19.95-$59.95. The Fairgrounds: 1299 Half St. SE, DC; www.brewfestdc.com

End of Summer Beer Garden & Hoedown
Come celebrate the spring with a rooftop beer garden event at Up Top Acres. Standing on a roof at a farm, you will enjoy a memorable day of good beer, delicious food and live music. So bring your friends and come and enjoy an afternoon at the farm and drink and eat until the sun sets over the city. Each ticket grants entrance to the venue and unlimited samplings of four beer and food pairings. 4-7 p.m. Tickets $35-$45. The Farm at 55 M Street: 55 M St. SE, DC; www.uptopacres.com

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18

Beer Dinner & Pairing Course
Would you call yourself a foodie? Or perhaps a connoisseur of the ales? Maybe both? Heritage Brewpub will be hosting a private five-course beer dinner, handcrafted by Executive Chef Josh Ber, and expertly paired with Heritage brews by Michael Smythe. Settle in for an evening of sensory experiences as you’re taken on a journey of seasonal dishes and handcrafted treats: a total of five expertly paired courses, each accompanying an ale that was chosen to accentuate and build upon the flavors of the dish. 6-9 p.m. Tickets $88. Heritage Brewpub & Roastery: 1300-1398 N. Fillmore St. Arlington, VA; www.heritagebrewing.com

Bell’s Beer Dinner
Zaytinya is thrilled to welcome back Bell’s Brewery for an evening of beer, food and conversation. Head Chef Michael Costa has created a unique five-course menu to pair with the brewery’s delicious array of award-winning and fan favorite brews. Space is limited so be sure to book a seat soon. 6:30-9:30 p.m. Tickets $65. Zaytinya: 701 9th St. NW, DC; www.zaytinya.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22

Oktoberfest at The Republic
Republic is once again bringing the world-famous German beer festival from Munich to Woodbridge. Join them for great beer, delicious German-inspired food, traditional music, cool vendors, and fun in the tap room and outdoor biergarten. There will be a Märzen competition, featuring several locally brewed Oktoberfest lagers from the best regional breweries. Enjoy the beers and then determine which is the best – the people’s champion will take home the coveted Märzen Cup and bragging rights until next year. You’ll also get a handsome commemorative glass stein to help you remember the festival, just in case the beers make it hard to do that on your own. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets $5-$29.99. Brew Republic Bierwerks: 15201 Potomac Town Pl. Woodbridge, VA; www.brewrepublic.beer

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29

Crystal City Oktoberfest
Swing by Crystal City for Northern Virginia’s largest Oktoberfest celebration. Try over 100 craft beers from over 50 regional craft breweries. And food will be more than just sausages and pretzels: satisfy your hunger with a wide assortment of food trucks from New York-style pizza to tacos and more. Tickets include 10 4-oz. beer sampling tickets (you can purchase additional beer tickets once you’re there), entry into the festival and live entertainment. 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tickets $15-$45. Crystal City Oktoberfest: 220 20th St. S, Crystal City, VA www.crystalcity.org

District Oktoberfest
Celebrate Oktoberfest in style with a beer-fueled tour of Chinatown’s best venues. A different 12-oz. Oktoberfest beer at each and every venue is included in the ticket price. Start at the check-in location and then go on to five other great venues in any order and at any pace you choose. All guests receive specials on food pairings and $4 liquor pairings, and $4 specials on additional servings of the featured Oktoberfest beers. A portion of proceeds from this event will benefit local DC charities. Cheers! Check in from 12-3 p.m. Event is from 12-10 p.m. Tickets $50. Buffalo Billiards: 1330 19th St. NW, DC; www.buffalobilliardsdc.com

Photos: M.K. Koszycki
Photos: M.K. Koszycki

Behind the Bar: National Bourbon Heritage Month

Congress deemed September National Bourbon Heritage Month in 2007, and 11 years later, the nation’s capital is still celebrating one of the most American spirits each fall. The month-long occasion gives locals the perfect excuse to spend the District’s last warm days trying creative bourbon cocktails around town. We chatted with some bourbon-loving bar gurus to get you in the mood.


James Nelson BLT

BLT Steak
James Nelson, Beverage Director

On Tap: How are you using your cocktail program to celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month?
James Nelson: In the fall, we like to do an off-the-wall bourbon cocktail, but we always have our Manhattan. It’s bourbon with chai-infused vermouth and bitters. People come to a steakhouse and like to drink Manhattans, so this is our spin on that. It gives people a chance to try something different and not out of their comfort zone.

OT: BLT is known for featuring fat-washing bourbons. What does that process entail?
JN: We’ve featured an A5 Wagyu fat-washed bourbon and a foie gras-washed bourbon. For that process, you seal it with the bourbon and whatever fat you’re using and then you cook it just under the boiling point of alcohol with an emergent circulator. That way, you’re not damaging the spirit, and raising the temperature increases extraction so you’re able to pull those flavors out more readily.

OT: Have they been popular with your customers?
JN: I know it sounds a little [strange], but it works. I think the most important thing is to have the staff behind it. If they’re excited about what we’re selling, people are more likely to try what’s being recommended to them.

OT: What ingredients do you like to experiment with in bourbon cocktails?
JN: It depends on the season. During summer, my favorite drink is the Bourbon Smash. You don’t think of bourbon drinks as summer drinks [until] you add things like our house-made huckleberry syrup, lemon and mint – all fresh and vibrant flavors – and a lighter bourbon.

BLT 3

This Ginger Is The Peach
Simple syrup
Ginger beer
Peach jam
Bourbon
Lemon
Mint

BLT Steak: 1625 I St. NW, DC; www.bltrestaurants.com


Brian Nixon 2

Truxton Inn
Brian Nixon, General Manager and Bartender

On Tap: How are you celebrating National Bourbon Heritage Month?
Brian Nixon: We’ll be getting our barrel of Old Forester bourbon that we just picked out down in Louisville last week, so we’re going to do something fun with that. We’re going to do a big release party as well.

OT: You have quite a few bourbon drinks featured on your menu now. Do you prefer working within bourbon-based cocktails?
BN: I like to see what our guests like, and a lot of guests currently gravitate toward bourbon. It’s one of those things that’s in now, and that’s a great thing. It is such an American spirit, and there’s such a wide variety of cool drinks out there right now.

OT: How do you keep your bourbon cocktails creative?
BN: We have a lot of fun with a lot of different spirits. We’re always playing with different things. We’ve got a rye cocktail that’s been doing really well here, which has a really cool herbal bitter that’s made by monks with Angostura amaro and some chocolate bitters. It’s just super fun and delicious, and people have been really digging it.

OT: Have any ingredients you’ve experimented with surprised you?
BN: I’m always surprised by how things work. Our [drink made] with Cynar is really cool. I did one with pamplemousse and it came out kind of awesome. [With] a Gold Rush, you’ve got lemon, honey and bourbon, and it’s a similar cocktail [when made with] grapefruit, which for some reason is one of those things that totally works.

OT: What’s your favorite drink on the menu right now?
BN: We’ve got the Horizontal Mambo, which is a tiki drink. That’s my go-to right now.

Truxton

The Skipper
Old Forester Bourbon
Simple syrup
Pineapple
Lemon
Cynar

Truxton Inn: 251 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.truxtoninndc.com


Frankie Jones 2

The Occidental
Frankie Jones, Bar Manager and Mixologist

On Tap: The Occidental serves more traditional fare, but your cocktail program is experimental. How does the program highlight the food menu?
Frankie Jones: We’ve been delving into the history of the restaurant with the cocktails and the food. We will be 112 this year, so there’s a lot of history there. Our chef has started going back to that time period and reinventing and reinvigorating items that were on the menu or from that time period. With the cocktails, a lot of the names and mixing of the spirits goes back to historic events that have happened here. We try to not overcomplicate anything, and we let the products speak for themselves.

OT: What are some lesser-known ingredients that lend themselves well to bourbon drinks?
FJ: I like to add other liquors like tequila and gin. There’s a classic cocktail called the Suffering Bastard, and it has bourbon and gin in it. I think [it’s important to] not just limit it to being the spirit on its own, but open it up to playing around and pulling out all the flavors in bourbon. Bourbon itself is not a flavor, it’s comprised of many different ones that occur in the aging process.

OT: What’s your go-to drink for someone who is unfamiliar with bourbon but wants to give it a try?
FJ: I would choose a bourbon sour, because you still get that bourbon flavor but it’s tart and tangy. I like to make them the traditional way with egg whites, so it’s even a little bit creamy. It’s a very easy way to be introduced to bourbon.

OT: What sets your drink menu apart from other DC spots?
FJ: The simplification of the cocktails themselves. I love all the crazy things that bartenders in the city are doing, but what I really like are simple drinks. Simple, approachable drinks with complex flavors. The main focus here is keeping it simple, clean and to the point.

Occidental 3

The Senators
Jefferson’s Bourbon
Dolin Blanc Vermouth
Aromatic bitters
Carpano Antica
Benedictine
Campari

The Occidental: 1475 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.occidentaldc.com

Photos: Trent Johnson
Photos: Trent Johnson

From Freshman Foodie to Instagram Influencer: @dcfoodporn’s Justin Schuble

It definitely feels a little meta to watch On Tap’s assistant editor Trent Johnson take photos of @dcfoodporn’s Justin Schuble taking photos of Brothers and Sisters Pastry Chef Pichet Ong’s ornate The London cake at the LINE Hotel. This feeling is only intensified by the fact that our subject is on the stairs by the LINE’s iconic, off-kilter mirror – perhaps one of DC’s most Instaworthy spots to date – so there’s two camera-wielding Schubles and two mouthwatering, crepe-stacked cakes in every photo.

All self-referential insights aside, we decided to meet up with DC’s most successful food Instagrammer – with 246,000 followers and counting – at his location of choice so we could see him in action. The LINE has been high on his wish list for some time, so we pop down to the impossibly trendy AdMo hotel one afternoon in August to pick the 23-year-old’s brain about how he turned his college hobby into a booming millennial business.

The Instagram influencer is soft-spoken and thoughtful, an adept multitasker who is constantly searching the room for the best angles while still giving us his full attention. He approaches food photography – and his entire @dcfoodporn brand – as a curated experience, bringing an artistic element to every shoot. A steady stream of decadent desserts keeps coming from Erik Bruner-Yang’s kitchen, the final one in the hands of the pastry chef himself, who chats with us for a few about photography on the LINE’s front steps.

Schuble moves deliberately during the shoot, selecting a new location in the hotel’s lobby for each dessert and experimenting with countless angles. When he is sure he has enough options, we sink into two oversized armchairs and begin to talk shop – from his creative process for keeping his content engaging to how he grew his account from 100 followers as a Georgetown freshman to hundreds of thousands of followers as the owner of a profitable business.

BEFORE THERE WAS @DCFOODPORN, there was @freshman_foodie. After growing up in a Potomac, Maryland household that rarely ate at home – save for takeout – and with zero interest in subsisting solely off of Georgetown’s dining hall options, it made perfect sense to Schuble to eat out a lot. And as millennials often do, he began snapping photos of his food and posting them to his personal Instagram account.

Countless food posts later, he created the @freshman_foodie handle and a food-only account. By the end of the year, he had 100 followers and decided to rebrand with his current handle, which has now been used as a hashtag on Instagram in almost 272,000 posts.

The business school student bought a camera that summer and taught himself some photography basics, like how to manipulate lighting. He remains a self-taught photographer even now, crediting his natural eye for knowing what elements need to come together in a successful post.

Schuble has experienced steady growth since launching @dcfoodporn, reaching the 10,000-follower mark within a year. As his account became more popular, his plans to pursue a career in finance or marketing – real estate and working on Wall Street were among his considered paths – began to dwindle until he decided to try the Instagram influencer lifestyle out for one year. Fast forward to a little over a year later, and he’s running a successful media company through the @dcfoodporn brand.

“It is crazy,” he says of his rapid rise to local fame. “I think I got really lucky with timing. I was lucky that I got to experiment with this in college. That really allowed me to let the passion drive the account and its growth. I was set up for success because I had the flexibility to do things that maybe weren’t going to work, and there was no financial pressure because I was in school.”

But now that he’s in the real world – Bethesda, to be exact – he defines success by a new set of metrics that includes being able to answer questions like, “Can I pay my rent?” in the affirmative.

It wasn’t until brands began courting Schuble that he realized @dcfoodporn was a potentially viable business. Sweetgreen was one of the first to reach out soon after the 10,000-follower benchmark, a geek out moment for him since the chain was started by three Georgetown business students. As more brands hired him for projects, he became more selective and set a standard rate for his services.

“A lot of what I’m doing recently is paid work with brands. They’ll send me a product, and I’ll have to shoot it and do all of the creative and figure out the style and what I want to pair it with, which I love. I think that’s more fun than going to a restaurant where the chef does all the creative work and I just have to do my best to make it look good.”

A National Tequila Day-themed post with a bottle of Jose Cuervo nestled among fresh avocado halves and tortilla chips, a Potbelly Free Shake Friday promo filled with neatly stacked Oreos surrounding an Oreo milkshake, and a drool-worthy picnic shot for Voss water are among his recent brand projects.

IMG_5455

WHILE SCHUBLE LOVES TRYING his hand at art direction for brands, a huge percentage of his feed is still devoted to the local food scene.

“It’s always different. Everything about what I do is different. There’s no typical day and no typical photo shoot, which keeps it fun. I love that.”

Whether the visit is planned or impromptu, he says he always asks to be seated by a window with natural lighting. He inquires about the best items on the menu – although he usually researches options in advance – and proceeds to order both what he wants to photograph and what he wants to actually eat. This of course begs the question: how much of what he photographs does he consume?

“I’m actually very healthy, so I don’t necessarily eat every single cake or whatever it is that I post,” he says. “I do prioritize my health. If I can bring someone along with me to help eat the food and be an extra set of hands, that’s always great. I’ll usually take a couple hundred photos at each restaurant. Then I’ll eat a little bit, pack up a ton of leftovers and bring them with me.”

When he’s not saving a ton of money on groceries and eating like a king from his couch, Schuble strikes a balance between promoting hip spots he likes and maintaining a visual aesthetic. He often has to make a Sophie’s Choice between a dish that photographs beautifully but is lackluster in comparison to an unphotogenic plate of nosh that piques his palate. Another crossroads he frequently encounters is whether or not to post about an amazing spot where the food is off the charts but doesn’t have Instaworthy presentation, or the interior is void of any decent lighting options.

It’s evident he takes the role of accurately representing DC’s food scene very seriously, and as a fellow local who has watched the District transform into a burgeoning foodie city, I truly appreciate that. He makes an excellent point that while the DMV has long been home to a myriad of authentic ethnic cuisines, the ambiance was often less than optimal for foodies back in the day. But with a trendier, more millennial-driven food scene on the rise, ethnic flavors are becoming more approachable as they’re being presented in hipper locales.

“I think it’s a lot easier now for people to be exposed to so many different things while still staying in their comfort zone. I also think it’s great that people in other cities actually see DC as a real food scene. It’s been cool to grow @dcfoodporn during that same time that DC has grown. When I started, my list of places to check out was not nearly as long as it is now just because every day, something new is popping up.”

ULTIMATELY, Schuble wants locals to recognize his brand. He’s proud of his DC following, and even notes that someone recognized him in the LINE’s lobby while he was waiting for our interview and asked if he was “that

@dcfoodporn guy.” On the flipside, he says he never takes advantage of that recognition when stumbling upon a new spot; instead, he prefers to fly under the radar as a paying customer.

When we start chatting about the road ahead, he says he’d love to reach a million followers.

“I think it’s nice to have huge goals that you can strive for. And if you don’t get there, don’t beat yourself up.”

In the meantime, he’s been expanding his brand to include more lifestyle and travel content.

“I posted a photo at the airport the other day and it got more likes than any of my food photos this week. I think people are hungry for different types of content and for me, it’s about playing around with that and figuring out what people want to see, what I want to post and how it relates to @dcfoodporn. How can I elevate the brand?”

As for how long he wants to stay on the influencer career track, that’s TBD. While he loves having a profitable outlet for his creative side and enjoys the perks of frequent travel and friendships formed with other media personalities, he’s also realistic about the burnout rate of this type of gig and says that at some point, it’d be nice to settle down and keep a normal schedule. He’s even toying with the idea of starting another media company – something related to food, but the next step.

“I do love the food scene, but for me it’s more about full experiences and being creative. I think food lends itself to that, but there are other areas I’d be interested in.”

For now, Schuble is committed to growing the @dcfoodporn brand, even leading social media workshops around the DC area to teach local Instagrammers how to tell their stories in a more engaging way. Don’t miss his next class at Rosslyn-based pop-up The Alcove (19th and N. Moore Streets) on Wednesday, September 11 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. Learn more at www.rosslynva.org/pop-up.

If you aren’t already following @dcfoodporn on Instagram, you should be. Learn more about Schuble and his media company at www.dcfoodporn.com.

IMG_5479

Photo: Kelli Scott
Photo: Kelli Scott

NoMa’s The Eleanor Offers Bowling and Bragworthy Bites

Don’t label The Eleanor just a bowling alley. It’s much more than that, according to founder Adam Stein.

Ever since he was a student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Stein dreamed of opening a lounge with a bowling component to make it a multi-use entertainment space. That vision is realized with The Eleanor.

“You can come here for lots of different reasons,” Stein says. “You can come here because you want to bowl. You can come here because you want to play pinball games. You can come here because you want to have a three-course meal. We’ve got tons of events booked already and through the end of the year.”

Since opening June 19 in NoMa, The Eleanor has offered a place to enjoy 20 beers on tap, well-crafted cocktails, a projector for movie nights and, of course, two mini-bowling lanes with duckpin-sized balls.

The lanes are 45 feet long as opposed to the standard 60 feet, which Stein says can be harder, but it’s also a lower bar of entry. The floors aren’t waxed, so there’s no need to change shoes to play. Also, all of the balls are four pounds. While it’s best to reserve a lane and prepay online, walk-ins are accepted on a waitlist basis. Pricing is $10 per person for one hour of bowling with a $10 ball rental fee.

If you’re not interested in giving bowling a spin, choose from arcade games like Mortal Kombat 3, Pac-Man and Battle Royale, or head over to the Skee-Ball lanes.

When describing The Eleanor, Stein says he didn’t want anything “super slick” or “overly designed.” Instead, he opted for a laid-back but funky lounge with a hometown vibe. There are counter-height tables instead of low-tops to add to the casual atmosphere, and the local focus is found not only in the ingredients but in the name itself, which is a reference to DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

The menu adds humor to the spot with cocktails like Wildflowers Don’t Care Where They Grow. Other drinks are named after friends and family such as Jody’s Appletini, inspired by Stein’s mother as appletinis are her favorite cocktail. There are also two refreshing vodka slushies made with Spring 44 vodka, one with house-made horchata and Zeke’s cold brew coffee and the other with a house-made lavender lemonade.

The fare might seem typical at face value – burgers, nachos, fried chicken – but each dish has its own original twist. The buttermilk fried chicken thighs come with masala-spiced carrot puree and braised greens with a bacon and fish sauce. The chicken wings are coated in a General Tso’s-style sauce, the hushpuppies are made “elote loco-style” and the loaded hot dogs come with the optional add-on of kimchi.

Along with its quirky menu, The Eleanor offers a very convenient location across the street from the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station. There is also free, onsite parking.

Stein considered Ivy City before settling on The Eleanor’s NoMa space on Florida Avenue. He was tempted by Ivy City’s warehouse spaces because they could fit full-sized bowling lanes, but he says he ultimately chose the right neighborhood.

“[NoMa is] only going to see an explosion of growth in the next two-and-a-half to three years,” he says. “We’re looking forward to it.”

Follow The Eleanor on Instagram and Facebook at @TheEleanorDC, and learn more about the bar at www.eleanordc.com.

The Eleanor: 100 Florida Ave. NE, DC; 202-758-2235; www.eleanordc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Buffalo Trace Distillery
Photo: Courtesy of Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace Spills on Why Bourbon Stays Strong

September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, a celebration of the uniquely American whiskey distillers have been producing and perfecting for hundreds of years. And while plenty of goods grow stale with age – passed over in favor of the shinier, modern creations (see: mezcal) – interest in bourbon has no ceiling.

Take DC for example, where bourbon-based drinks like the Old Fashioned and Mint Julep are fast becoming menu staples. And many bars and liquor stores now make a point to appeal to customers with a variety of bottles, from the rare to the everyday.

Some may take that as proof that society has reached peak bourbon. But there’s plenty of evidence its trajectory is still on the rise.

“We are seeing growing demand driven in many ways by consumer recognition that Americans can make world-class whiskey [that’s] highly crafted and deliver an amazing array of enjoyable drinking experiences, whether neat or mixed,” says Mark Brown, president and CEO of Frankfort, Kentucky’s Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Few sources are better plugged into the bourbon world than Buffalo Trace, which runs the oldest continually operating distillery in the U.S. The Buffalo Trace name was adopted in 1999 with the release of its namesake bourbon, but bourbon has been produced at the site for over 200 years. More than 200,000 visitors a year travel to its headquarters, which was named a national historic landmark in 2013.

What started as a small, 50-employee operation has grown to 450 employees and earned more awards than any other distillery. The rapid growth is a telling snapshot of bourbon’s momentum as a coveted liquor.

When asked what he loves most about bourbon, Brown points to its versatility and flexibility. Bourbon drinkers aren’t afraid of having a little fun.

“I love the approachability, taste and mixability of bourbon,” he says. “We are not tied to stuffy traditions around how whiskey should be consumed.”

As its popularity has grown, bourbon has also become a bridge connecting likeminded drinkers who bond and share experiences tasting and collecting new and favorite bottles. Creating those experiences is the result of art, science and many crafty hands. Just ask Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, who’s worked at the distillery since 1995.

“[Bourbon] is produced from the fields of farmers and brought to the table of consumers by craftsmen that are truly passionate about producing a quality product,” he says.

Wheatley still sees an opportunity to educate customers about the history and intricacies of bourbon. In addition to the manual work involved, for example, there are legal requirements to follow for a whiskey to be designated a bourbon. Among them: the spirit must be produced in the U.S., it must come from at least 51 percent corn and it must be aged in new American oak barrels.

Each bourbon brand also comes with its own quirks, pedigree and way of doing things. That’s all the more important in 2018, when the sheer amount of bourbon choices can be overwhelming even for its biggest fans.

“I think once people understand the history and stories behind the brands, they begin to respect and appreciate the brands a little more,” Wheatley says.

Experimentation has become a bigger part of the bourbon world, too. As general interest expands, distilleries across the country – including One Eight Distilling in Ivy City – are inventing their own twists on the classic bourbon profile. Wheatley says that while it “would be easy to be distracted,” by these new offerings and styles, Buffalo Trace plans to stay the course going forward.

If there’s one downside to the bourbon craze, it’s that consumers are seeing their unquenchable demand met with higher prices. Enjoying bourbon can become a rather expensive and overwhelming hobby. It’s not hard to find bottles for a hundred dollars or more.

It’s a challenge Buffalo Trace, along with all American distillers, must embrace in 2018 and beyond. But as long as there are tasty bourbons being produced, its popularity seems far from peak.

“We are only at the very beginning of bourbon,” Brown says.

Follow Buffalo Trace on Instagram at @buffalotrace and learn more about the distillery at www.buffalotrace.com.


Pearl Dive’s Bardstown Derby, A Bourbon Hit

Photo: Scott Suchman

Photo: Scott Suchman

Buffalo Trace bourbon is the featured spirit in the Bardstown Derby, a cocktail mainstay at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace in Logan Circle. The featured libation on our September cover takes its name from the historic town of Bardstown, Kentucky and has been on the restaurant’s menu for a number of years. It’s a clear customer favorite.

“It’s a riff off a Brown Derby,” says George Sault, bar director for Black Restaurant Group, which owns Pearl Dive.

The drink tweaks the standard Brown Derby formula of bourbon, grapefruit and honey with additions of tart fresh lemon juice and a floral, rich, house-made orange blossom honey syrup.

“It’s our most popular cocktail after the Pearl Cup, which is a gin-based cocktail,” Sault says.

Along with mixing up plenty of Bardstown Derbys on busy nights, Sault has plenty of experience steering bourbon drinkers of all levels toward a great cocktail or dram from Pearl Dive’s menu of both approachable and complex whiskeys. When it comes to bourbon newcomers, Sault says to “dive into what they usually drink.”

Some people gravitate toward citrus-forward drinks or stirred boozy cocktails like an Old Fashioned. Others prefer a simple pour of whiskey, neat or with some ice. From that point, there are endless bottles to explore and taste.

“If someone is well-versed in whiskey, then you start diving into some of the whiskeys that you don’t see on the everyday bar shelves,” he says.

Follow Pearl Dive Oyster Palace on social media at @PearlDiveDC and check out their cocktail menu at www.pearldivedc.com.

Photo: Scott Suchman

Photo: Scott Suchman

The Bardstown Derby
2 oz. Buffalo Trace bourbon
0.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
1.5 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
0.75 oz. orange blossom honey syrup

Add all ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace: 1612 14th St. NW, DC; 202-319-1612; www.pearldivedc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Brabo
Photo: Courtesy of Brabo

New and Notable: Augie’s, The Green Zone and The Meatball Shop

New

Augie’s
Open: August 1
Location: Old Town Alexandria
Lowdown: For the next several months, Alexandria has a hip new outdoor hang. Augie’s, a forthcoming restaurant from the team behind Mason Social, is temporarily serving mussels, frites, beer and more on their spacious brick patio draped with string lights. The building is undergoing renovations in preparation for a spring opening, but the team wanted to take advantage of their al fresco dining space during the favorable weather. The menu during the pop-up represents about a third of what will be offered when the full restaurant is complete. There’s a selection of small plates and entrees, but the main attraction is the various preparations of mussels in sauces ranging from a house broth with garlic-herb butter, bacon and beer to a fiery Thai green curry with purple eggplant, Thai chilis and coconut. To complement the mussels and frites, the beer selection focuses on Belgian and Belgian-inspired brews. The selection will expand to include approximately 200 bottles and 25 drafts when the restaurant officially opens. While the patio is the real draw, there’s also some indoor space upstairs with high top tables, bocce ball and board games. The pop-up will close in early winter. 1106 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.eataugies.com

The Green Zone
Open: July 26
Location: Adams Morgan
Lowdown: After four years of popping up around town, this Middle Eastern cocktail bar found a permanent home in the diverse Adams Morgan neighborhood. Owner Chris Francke says The Green Zone is, in part, an attempt to dispel the stereotype that people in the Middle East don’t drink or party. The spices and ingredients he’s showcasing in his 12 original drinks are ones 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. I found it to be the ideal patio sipper, especially when enjoyed via the bar’s stainless steel straws. His signature creation is the Janissary Corps, made with Green Hat gin, pistachio, lemon and “silky magic.” Downstairs, the colorful tile bar is the anchor of the neighborhood hangout, while the second floor turns into a dance club with featured DJs on weekends. In addition to cocktails, sample beers and wine from Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Georgia and Turkey. The food menu consists of Lebanese and Levantine street food like falafel, hummus, spicy wings and mana’ish, a thin flatbread that envelopes za’tar, labneh and vegetables. 2226 18th St. NW, DC; www.facebook.com/thegreenzonedc

Little Havana
Open: August 10
Location: Columbia Heights
Lowdown: Restaurateur Alfredo Solis has 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. At Little Havana, a painted “neon” sign emulating the Miami Vice logo ties together the murals covering the walls, featuring Cuba’s colorful streets as well as some of the country’s cultural icons like Celia Cruz, the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez, revolutionary Che Guevara and Osorio’s godmother Mimi, who was the inspiration behind the restaurant. Mimi taught Osorio the art of Cuban cooking, and her recipes have come to life on the menu. 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 Mimi’s lechon recipe. Flashes of Colombia are present as well, with ají picante from Osorio’s parents’ hometown. The compact bar in the back of the restaurant is stocked with all kinds of rum from the Caribbean and Latin America, plus tropical ingredients like mango, hierbabuena and guanabana. There are original creations like La Vida es un Carnaval with papaya, raspberries, ginger syrup, lime and a blend of rums, but I’ll never turn down a classic daiquiri. The spot-on rendition at Little Havana hit all the right notes. 3704 14th St. NW, DC; www.littlehavanadc.com

The Meatball Shop
Open: August
Location: 14th Street
Lowdown: New York City’s Meatball Shop has rolled into town, bringing with it a menu of build-your-own meatball meals. Start by choosing your balls – classic, spicy pork, chicken, veggie or rotating specials – and then dress them in sauces like tomato, spicy meat, gravy, Parmesan cream or pesto. Next, pick a style: naked, in a bowl, over a bed of greens or in a sandwich. The customizable menu also has a few recommended plates, including combinations like spicy pork balls with Parmesan cream sauce over broccoli and rigatoni with an added kick of hot sauce. Round out your meal with appetizers and sides like crab cake balls, veggies, polenta and pastas. In addition to the saucy food offerings, expect a selection of beers, wines and cocktails – plus plenty of ball jokes. The 14th Street location is the first shop outside of New York. 1720 14th St. NW, DC; www.themeatballshop.com
NOTABLE

Burger Board at BLT Steak
Location: BLT Steak
Lowdown: This downtown steakhouse recently added adventurous new burgers to their lunch menu, each satisfying carnivorous cravings. The Burger Board goes beyond the standard dry-aged beef burger with recipes like the Duck Double stacked with two beef and Moulard duck patties, cheddar, pickles and a zesty mayonnaise sauce. The Harissa Lamb Burger pairs a seven-spice lamb patty with tahini cucumbers, tomato and garlic labneh. The Crab Bama Burger is an amped up crab cake topped with chicken-fried smoked salmon, cabbage slaw and Alabama white barbecue sauce. The king of the board is the “American” Wagyu Burger, which blends trimmings from the restaurant’s various steak offerings into a rich patty rounded out by American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and dijonnaise. 1625 I St. NW, DC; www.bltrestaurants.com/blt-steak/washington-d-c/

Steak Frites Program at Brabo
Location: Brabo
Lowdown: Chef Sebastien Rondier has launched a new offering that is a mouthwatering study of an iconic French brasserie dish. The Steak Frites program consists of four distinctive, dry-aged butcher cuts from Creekstone Farms: ribeye, filet mignon, hanger steak and the show-stopping, 22-ounce bone-in côte de boeuf for two. Each of the steaks is served with whipped Roquefort butter or a black peppercorn sauce. And of course, every steak is accompanied by double-fried frites and dipping sauces. The menu will continue to grow with new cuts and sauces depending on market availability. 1600 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.braborestaurant.com

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Rosslyn Farmers Market with Brent & Co

Rosslyn’s Farmers Market with FRESHFARM DC featured smoothie bowls, beer tastings from Old Ox Brewery, live music from Brent & Co. and more on Central Place Plaza. Photos: LAFlicks Photography

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La Unica at the Fort Totten Concert Series

The Fridays at Fort Totten Summer Concert Series concluded last Friday with Latin Celtic rock group La Unica. Guests enjoyed bites from El Pollo Submarine and upbeat live music outside The Modern at Art PlacePhotos: Mike Kim

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Hot August Festival 2018

Hot August Festival took place on August 18 at Oregon Ridge Park at Maryland. Photos: Shantel Mitchell Breen

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DC Burger Battle 2018

The DC Burger Battle 2018 at Hill Country Backyard Barbecue featured all-you-care-to-enjoy Budweiser and samples of the best burgers in the city from Due South, Hill Country, Bullfeathers, Blackfinn, Stoney’s, Capital Burger, b DC Penn Quarter, Hard Rock Cafe, Rebellion, Sign of the Whale and Penn Commons. Battle attendees voted for their favorite and had a blast listening to live music from Justin Trawick & The Common Good and Trailer Grass Orchestra. Proceeds from the sold-out event benefit SOME (So Others Might Eat). Photos: Mark Raker