Photo: Farrah Skeiky

New Notable No Longer: August 2017

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


Chicken + Whiskey
Open: June 20
Location: 14th Street
Lowdown: The name of this hybrid concept from Star Restaurant Group says it all: a fast-casual Peruvian chicken joint meets a craft whiskey bar. Upon entering the restaurant, there’s a counter where you can order pollo a la brasa and a host of sides, sandwiches, salads and desserts. Chef Enrique Limardo, recruited from critically acclaimed Alma Cocina Latina in Baltimore, brines and then slow roasts the locally sourced whole chickens in Peruvian charcoal ovens. I devoured a platter of juicy dark meat, crispy yucca fries, seasoned black beans and bright guasacaca. Walk past the kitchen and you’ll see a silver refrigerator door that leads to the bar, which boasts more than 60 whiskies, including bottles from lesser-known American distilleries and underrepresented international destinations like India and Australia. Opt for a dram or a classic cocktail made with the spirit of your choice. Partners Kris Carr, Charles Koch, Desmond Reilly and Stuart Damon wanted the bar to feel like a true neighborhood spot with affordable prices and quality alcohol. Koch, an international DJ, has lent his personal vinyl collection to the bar and frequently invites DJ friends to man the booth. 1738 14th St. NW, DC;

Open: July 7
Location: Barracks Row
Lowdown: Chefs Scott Drewno (formerly of The Source) and Danny Lee (of Mandu) have combined their areas of culinary expertise – Chinese and Korean cuisines, respectively – to create a fast-casual concept that’s serving some of the most innovative and delicious food in the city right now, but at a surprisingly affordable price tag. The pair, along with their third partner, Drew Kim (of Matchbox Food Group), wanted ChiKo to be a place where they could let their creative fantasies run free, and the result is dishes like chilled acorn noodles with kimchi, gochujang and egg, as well as Wagshal’s chopped brisket with a soy-brined egg, furikake butter and rice. They’ve also taken the idea of orange chicken into their own hands and created “orange-ish chicken,” crispy fried meat accompanied by a sauce that’s actually made with the namesake fruit. No reservations are needed to order a la carte, but I opted to sit at the chef’s counter, where Drewno and Lee serve nearly the entire menu for just $50. Drink choices are beer, soju, wines, build-your-own cocktails, and non-alcoholic sodas, teas and juices. 423 8th St. SE, DC;

Maxwell Park
Open: June 26
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: One of DC’s favorite sommeliers has struck out on his own with a wine bar unlike any other in the city. Brent Kroll recruited two young somm friends, Daniel Runnerstrom and Niki Lang, to be his partners in Maxwell, which is named after a park in Detroit that Kroll frequented during his childhood. The 1,050-square-foot spot has a playful vibe, with a chalkboard bar so guests can doodle or write notes about their wine. The wine list, however, is taken very seriously. The three somms all have equal say in making the 50 by-the-glass selections, which are divided into two categories: a monthly theme and a rotating list of the partners’ favorites. The intent of each theme is to help guests explore a certain category of wine. August’s is “How Big Is My Bubble?” and it’s all about non-champagne sparkling wines – perfect for the oppressive summer heat. On the menu itself, there’s one unexpected number alongside the prices. The bar’s refrigeration system has five distinct temperature zones to chill the wines, and the proper serving temperature is listed next to each glass. Kroll and his team are eager to please, so guests can always ask for a custom flight based on their preferences. In the future, winos can look forward to guided tasting classes by the Maxwell team. As for food, Maxwell will host different local chefs, like Lonnie Zoeller and Tony Conte, to create small plates for the menu. 1336 9th St. NW, DC;

Sushi Gakyu
Open: June 27
Location: Downtown
Lowdown: The crown jewel of Chef Yoshihisa Ota’s latest sushi spot is the omakase tasting menu, where diners let the chef steer the ship for the evening. The experience incorporates the familiar nigiri as well as more unusual styles of sushi. For a la carte dining, Ota encourages guests to order off the menu. During the grand opening celebration, I was in heaven as I made my way through Ota’s custom platters laden with dozens and dozens of rolls. Ota’s primary focus is sushi, since he has been practicing the art for over 30 years, but he is also a kikisake-shi, which translates to master of sake. This means there’s a top-notch selection of sake available. Guests may already be familiar with Ota’s sushi skills from his Bethesda restaurant, Yuzu Japanese Dining. 1420 New York Ave. NW, DC;


Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecue
Hours: Thursday and Friday at 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 12 p.m.
Location: National Building Museum
Lowdown: Hill Country has brought back their popular Backyard Barbecue pop-up, serving up Central Texas-style barbecue, beer, frozen drinks and live music. New menu offerings include a Texas cheesesteak, which is loaded with shredded brisket, serrano peppers and caramelized onions. There’s also pulled pork sandwiches, hot links and classic sides like coleslaw and baked beans. The lawn is adorned with lounge chairs, tents and yard games, and it’s all dog and family-friendly. 401 F St. NW, DC;

Porrón by ANXO
Hours: Thursday 7-11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7 p.m. – 1 a.m., and Friday through Sunday breakfast 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Location: Barracks Row
Lowdown: DC’s only cidery is continuing to expand their empire with a summer pop-up featuring the most entertaining way to drink cider: out of a porrón hoisted high above your head. The glass vessels are filled with shandy-style drinks, and there will also be house ciders available, including the newest ANXO collaboration made with Snowdrift Cider Co. The food menu is all about the grill, with wood-fired meats and vegetables from Executive Chef Alex Vallcorba, plus rotating pop-ups from local chefs. The menu from the Kennedy Street Cidery is also available, along with breakfast from Timber Pizza Co. and Lost Sock Roasters. The space emulates the outdoors, with turf flooring and blue skies covering the ceiling and walls. 525 8th St. SE, DC;


Across the Pond: 1732 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC;
BBQ Bus: 5830 Georgia Ave. NW, DC;
Bibibop Asian Grill: 710 7th St. NW, DC;
BGR in Mosaic: 3129 Lee Hwy. Arlington, VA;
Blue Bottle: 1046 Potomac St. NW, DC;
Continental Beer Garden: 1911 North Fort Myer Dr. Arlington, VA;
Crimson Diner: 627 H St. NW, DC;
Dolcezza pop-up at Hirshhorn: 7th and Independence Ave. SW, DC;
Falls Church Distillers: 442 S Washington St. Falls Church, VA;
Imm Thai: 1414 Ninth St. NW, DC;
Jenkins Capital BBQ: 3365 14th St. NW, DC
Library Tavern: 5420 3rd St. NW, DC;
Lilise Pizzeria: 1824 Columbia Rd. NW, DC;
Pizzeria Paradiso: 4800 Rhode Island Ave. Hyattsville, MD;
Qualia Coffee: 151 Q St. NE, DC;
Roti: 1251 First St. SE, DC;
Santa Rosa Taqueria: 313 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, DC;
Tortas y Tacos La Chiquita: 2911 Columbia Pike Arlington, VA
Thaiverse: 101 S Madison St. Middleburg, VA;
ThinkFoodLab: 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC;
Vitality Bowls: 1515 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA;


Bar Civita at Woodley Park
Boundary Stone on H Street
Conbini Café at Florida Avenue
Grapeseed in Bethesda
GTown Bites in Georgetown
Halal Guys on H Street
L’Enfant Café in Adams Morgan
L’Hommage Bistro on K Street
One Block West in Winchester
RFD on 7th Street
Rumba Café in Adams Morgan
Straw Stick & Brick Delicatessen in Petworth
The Tomato Palace in Columbia
zpizza in Silver Spring

DC Dining Scene 2016 top spots

The DC Dining Scene: 2016’s Top Spots with Staying Power

2016 was another dizzying year for DC’s restaurant scene – summer alone saw 85 new openings and Bon Appétit named Washington its “Restaurant City of the Year.” Burgeoning food trends solidified their hold: ethnic eats (Filipino, Basque and more) continued blossoming into mainstream American dining habits, while hotel bars sustained their transformation from drab transit stations to glam destinations. The District upped its quotient of establishments anchored by alcohol, and local talent built on past successes to grow empires and open new concepts.

Very few “bad” restaurants opened in or around DC – a random stroll now through any given neighborhood will probably yield a delicious meal. The more interesting quandary is: how many of these new restaurants will survive? After all, the media is predicting that the restaurant industry is in a “Bubble About to Burst” (Thrillist) and “About to Implode” (GQ).

These headlines might be overly grim, but the realities of rising labor costs, intensified competition and highly price-sensitive diners mean that survivors will need more going for them than a great meal. There’s a reason why soulless corporate chains survive: economies of scale and the ability to carry a location through a lull in business can anchor the business’s long-term viability.

Local restaurants that survive and thrive will have to have their own anchors. In DC, I boldly predict four broad categories of survivors: concepts centered on craft alcohol (DC is a hard-drinking town!), those based in hotels or other larger businesses (such as MGM at National Harbor), those established as part of existing local restaurant groups or by industry vets with strong business acumen, or by local talent snagging major awards (who then go on to grow their own empires).

So in alphabetical order, here’s our list of the best new restaurants of last year that you’ll probably still be eating at next year – and maybe even the year after. Bon appétit.

All-Purpose Pizzeria
Anchored by:
Local talent
All-Purpose brings together a powerhouse team drawn from Red Hen and Boundary Stone, and features desserts from Buttercream Bakeshop (which saves manpower in the kitchen from being spent on the low-margin dessert course). The modernized Italian-American was named as critic Tom Sietsema’s favorite new restaurant. All-Purpose: 1250 9th St. NW, DC;

ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar
Anchored by: Hard cider
This is DC’s first licensed winery since Prohibition, though ANXO actually focuses on hard ciders (the process is similar enough that DC licensed it as a winery). Business models anchored in alcohol production have slightly stronger margins (once they get past exorbitant equipment prices and costly regulations, that is), particularly if they can add wholesale to their business plan. Opened by industry vets from a handful of DC establishments (including Meridian Pint and Smoke & Barrel), ANXO also provides a tour of Basque country culinary riches. ANXO: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC;

Bad Saint
Anchored by: Awards and local talent
Ownership by the talent behind Room 11 means this is a well-grounded business; a Bib Gourmand shout-out and the #2 placement on Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurant list means the lines will not get any shorter. It also means they will be able to stay in business for the foreseeable future, which is great news both for creativity in cooking and for a cuisine that rarely gets attention in the U.S. Bad Saint: 3226 11th St. NW, DC;

Anchored by: Empire
Bindaas, the latest project from the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group (Rasika, Oval Room), features Indian street food, which means no curry (making it very different from Rasika). It replaced the Bardeo half of Ardeo+Bardeo, the group’s modern American restaurant that has long been a Cleveland Park classic. The larger business provides a cushion (however thin) to repurpose one venue without freezing all revenue across the business. Bindaas: 3309 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC;

Anchored by: Industry veteran
The second restaurant from Chef Cedric Maupillier is rightfully gaining the same rapturous attention Mintwood Place got when he opened it in 2013. When Convivial got shade from a local foodie, DC rallied to Maupillier’s side – Convivial’s reputation is immune from one cranky diner on an off night, which bodes well for its long-term survival. Convivial: 801 O St. NW, DC;

Cotton & Reed
Anchored by: Booze
DC’s first rum distillery rode a wave of crowdfunding to build out the distillery and its glorious tasting room/bar. With an exceptional range of rums, Cotton & Reed will have no problem getting shelf space in liquor stores. Visit the tasting room/bar to learn what to do with it – I really liked the Redbeard (rum, Campari, lemon and a spicy house-made ginger soda). Full disclosure: yes, I participated in the crowd-funding campaign. Totally worth it. Cotton & Reed: 1330 5th St NE, DC;

District Distilling
Anchored by: Booze
Thanks to a new distillery pub law, this is DC’s first combination distillery, bar, retailer and restaurant. I will admit I was initially a little skeptical – kitchen sink concepts are difficult to pull off. But the venue is attractive, the cocktail menu is thoughtful, the food is good – and the cachet of “District-made” is hard to resist. District Distilling Co.: 1414 U St. NW, DC;

Duck Duck Goose
Anchored by: Industry veteran
Bethesda has long labored under a reign of chain restaurants and staid locals, so the arrival of DDG was a flash of culinary lightening. Owner-chef Ashish Alfred’s first venture was the nearby 4935 Kitchen and Bar, where he learned what it takes to keep a restaurant alive. He took that knowledge, and opened his dream: a bright, adorable brasserie serving contemporary French food. Duck Duck Goose: 7929 Norfolk Ave. Bethesda, MD;

Duke’s Counter
Anchored by: Local talent
Everyone knows (and loves) Daniel Kramer from his days running booze walks in Dupont Circle. When he and his partners opened Duke’s Grocery, he continued to be an easy cause to support – the London-inspired menu was outstanding from day one. Now, a new iteration on the Duke’s theme – this one with an even bigger bar – livens up the strip across from the Zoo. Here’s hoping the empire continues to grow. Duke’s Counter: 3000 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC;

Espita Mezcaleria
Anchored by: Booze
No, Espita does not produce mezcal, but they are the go-to and final word on the spirit in DC – the bar has almost 100 different bottles selected by a certified master mezcalier. While the menu is not cheap to produce (Oaxacan heirloom corn is flown in from Mexico to make tortillas – yes, I initially rolled my eyes too), the food is delectable. Espita Mezcaleria: 1250 9th St. NW, DC;

Farmers & Distillers
Anchored by: The farmers of North Dakota
Founding Farmers is a Washington institution. Owned by a cooperative of North Dakota farmers, its family of restaurants are all beautifully built and feature large and lavish menus. The newest member of the family, in Chinatown, opened on an even grander scale. There are more than 300 seats, around 150 dishes for lunch and dinner, and 40 cocktails on the drinks menu. The “Founding Spirits” of rye, gin, amaro and vodka are used at the bar, and bottle sales will follow shortly. Can this behemoth dominate the neighborhood? Farmers & Distillers: 600 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC;

Ivy Room
Anchored by: Booze
Part of the woman-owned Republic Restoratives Distillery, the beautiful Ivy Room is an industrial-style space with lots of windows and plants. Cocktails feature the Distillery’s Civic Vodka; while the concept might evolve as the distillery adds new products, the bar itself will be here for a long time. Ivy Room: 1369 New York Ave. NE, DC;

Anchored by: Empire
Tim Ma made his name with award-winning restaurants in Virginia, and promptly snagged a Bib Gourmand shout-out for his DC debut. I still remember swooning over the ice cream and scallops (served over risotto) at Maple Ave, so I was excited to see it make an appearance here. When Ma was able to salvage his first restaurant and make it profitable, he set the groundwork for his growing culinary empire today. Kyirisan: 1924 8th St. NW, DC;

La Jambe
Anchored by: French wine
Fresh flowers and graffiti, French wine and happy hour specials – this is our favorite wine bar in DC. Opened by a French expat and a former political fundraiser, La Jambe proves that not every noteworthy new bar is cocktail-centric (though La Jambe has some good ones). Though margins on wine have shrunk, a good wine bar still attracts R&R-focused consumers, rather than just budget-conscious booze hounds. La Jambe: 1550 7th St. NW, DC;

Little Coco’s
Anchored by: Empire
The legendary Jackie Greenbaum (El Chucho, Bar Charley) tends to fly under the radar in DC’s personality-obsessed food scene, but her restaurants make up for it with outsized pizzazz. Her hallmarks: quirky venues, strong drinks and food that is trendy without trying. Little Coco’s comes through with a menu ranging from fried pizza to smoked rabbit pasta, and a stellar cocktail list that includes the mesmerizing Quack-quack-erac (bourbon, rye, rum, duck fat, St. Germain, bitters). Little Coco’s: 3907 14th St. NW, DC;

Anchored by: Kimpton Hotel
Just off the bustle of 14th Street, Radiator feels like an oasis of cool. Inside, the bar is sleek and sophisticated; outside, the patio has soft lights and shuffleboard. Wherever you sit, the cocktails are charming – bartender Sarah Rosner (Copycat Co.) crafted the opening menu. Hotel bars used to be dismal affairs; now, they are opportunities for hotels to show some flare – and anchor some creativity in a more secure business foothold. Radiator: 1430 Rhode Island Ave. NW, DC;

Anchored by: Empire
This is the fourth culinary adventure for power couple Fabio and Maria Trabocchi (Fiola, Fiola Mare, Casa Luca), this one focusing on handmade pasta and a more casual vibe. We’ll definitely be back for the ligurian corzetti with white pork ragu and foraged mushrooms. The couple is known for combining lush aesthetics with a shrewd business sense, so we see a long life in the cards for this pasta joint. Sfoglina: 4445 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC;

Anchored by: Empire
Sovereign focuses exclusively on Belgian beers in a sprawling venue with an extremely sophisticated, multi-floor tap system. And as part of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (Bluejacket, Birch & Barley and many more), Sovereign draws from deep business experience in creating unique neighborhood-oriented venues, as well as the support of an economic powerhouse. If anyone can stay in business long enough to get Americans to move beyond IPAs, it will be Sovereign. Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC;

Tail Up Goat
Anchored by: A Michelin star and local talent
More than almost any other award, a Michelin star guarantees the avalanche of customers that allows small restaurants like this Mediterranean superstar to survive and continue to be creative. And being opened by local talent (veterans from Komi, Little Serow) makes that star all the more fabulous. It might be harder to snag a reservation to get our fix of goat lasagna and cashew cardamom sorbet, but it’s worth it to keep them in business. Tail Up Goat: 1827 Adams Mill Rd. NW, DC;

Union Drinkery
Anchored by: Empire
As the latest from Ali Bagheri (A&D, Sundevich), Union Drinkery knew how to connect with its neighborhood from day one: friendly local bartenders serving top-notch cocktails at good prices in a building that retains its bones. I liked the Gray Hat (vodka, maraschino, crème de violet, lemon), but the bartenders are happy to quiz you on your taste and come up with something special. No corporate drones here – but Bagheri’s business experience means that Union Drinkery will know how to keep the doors open for a long time. Union Drinkery: 3216 Georgia Ave. NW, DC;