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Photos: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: Design Edition

In a city filled with bars touting the best craft cocktails, local beer programs or even late-night eats, what’s bound to make patrons stick around and even more importantly, come back time and time again? The atmosphere created by a bar can make or break its overall experience, no matter how good the drinks on hand.
Two new additions to DC’s ever-growing cocktail scene, however, prove that providing the best of both is possible. And while the overall style and décor of these locations is not similar at first glance, they share a common goal: unpretentious, enjoyable sips in atmospheres unlike anything else in the city.

Astoria

Eli Schwarzschild

Owner Devin Gong and Bartender // Partner Eli Schwarzschild

“I always rode trains when I was little, and I loved the dining car of the train where you had the bar in the middle and the seating on either end,” owner Devin Gong says of the narrow but inviting locomotives that inspired the look of his newest venture, Dupont Circle’s Astoria. “When I first walked in, it was a very long and narrow space, and it reminded me a lot of a train car.”

With the help of CORE architecture + design, Gong brought his childhood nostalgia to life. With nods to his flagship spot on H Street, Copycat Co., the space invokes the kind of intimate setting you’d perhaps get from a drink on a bustling train car in the midst of a grand adventure. A talented artist himself, Gong painted the three works of art that hang over large, cozy booths – they even look like train car windows at first glance.

It’s a subtle callout, however, and Gong was careful to make sure he didn’t “hit people over the head” with his interior inspirations. Similarly understated is the bar’s approach to food and drink. Astoria’s beverage director Eli Schwarzschild points out that while the concept is inherently creative, they aren’t trying to overthink things.

“It’s a combination of classics paying homage to drinks that have stood the test of time,” Schwarzschild explains. “If the drinks aren’t broken, don’t fix them is partially our philosophy. We want to respect the drinks. But on the other hand, there’s creativity in a sense. We have originals, but it’s not about us per se. We’re just trying to put out drinks that could perhaps be mistaken for a classic; not so many infusions, just going back to the basics and staying true to the ingredients, which is a very French idea.”

One thing that’s present at Astoria but not necessarily at other outposts serving classic cocktails is an array of doodles flanking the menu, hand-drawn by Schwarzschild himself. They’re incredibly detailed and time-consuming to produce, so why do it?

“Not many people notice it, but it’s the one person in a million who does that makes it worth it,” Schwarzschild says. “It’s just that characteristic of art that is almost existential. Whatever you decide and whatever matters to you, that’s what it is. It’s kind of meanderings – left-brain kind of thoughts. As long as there’s a feeling there, I let my brain go with it.”

The bar provides a welcome combination of outside-the-box elements with unpretentious but well-crafted drinks. At the end of the day, it’s clear Gong and Schwarzschild are able to incorporate personal passions into this endeavor, and the bar is even better for that energy.

“I don’t have lofty goals to change the scene or anything like that,” Gong concludes. “I know what I do, and for me this is more self-indulgent than anything else.”

Hummingbird

HUMMINGBIRD
St. Germain
Punt e Mes vermouth
Lemon
Honey
Cinnamon
GF

Astoria: 1521 17th St. NW, DC; www.astoriadc.com

Hex

Kit Yarber

General Manager Kit Yarber

The second floor of The Passenger in Shaw was home to a sporadically used space, only opened on the rare occasion that the neighborhood bar was hosting a band. Kit Yarber saw an opportunity to transform the underutilized level into what he now describes as the “a little goth, a little kitschy” Hex.

As general manager of the newly minted space, Yarber decided the décor and menu would take cues from astrology, tarot and the occult. Numerology comes into play as well, as “hex” indicates the number six and the menu is broken up into six categories. All 12 astrological signs are represented on the menu, and Yarber says he based it off people he knew when deciding what sign to name the drinks after.

“It’s been funny because people come in and want to order their sign, of course, and they’re like, ‘How did you know?’” he explains. “I just tell them I based it off of someone who was that sign.”

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can draw a rune – or divinatory symbol – from a bag behind the bar, and you’ll be presented with a drink that corresponds to the symbol hidden on the menu. There are also runes flanking the wall to the right of the bar, along with a stuffed unicorn head, lovingly called Ophelia.

“I always loved the Victorian haunted mansion, pictures on pictures on pictures look,” Yarber says of the plethora of design elements that adorn the walls and tables. “We talked about having a curio aspect. Everything kind of mismatches but it ends up working out together. We just had fun with it.”

The resulting space is a nod to the supernatural and spiritual without feeling spooky. It’s overall feel is intimate and inviting. Since opening, it’s been a mix of lovers of the elements present at the bar and those who are completely unfamiliar that have stopped in for one of Yarber’s creations. The spot has even caught the attention of local pan-Pagan group The Firefly House, who plans on hosting a handful of regular happy hours at the spot. You can also catch occasional tarot readings.

Whether you’re the type to pull a daily tarot reading and analyze everything through the lens of the zodiac or just want to enjoy a drink in an inviting space, Yarber wants Hex to be a place where you can sit, relax and connect.

“I wanted Hex to have a different ambiance,” Yarber says. “I love the craft cocktail scene and craft cocktail bars, but I feel like they get stuck in a certain era. I don’t want it to feel pretentious. I just want it to be chill. I want to get people up here who love talking to people and [offer] a different ambience that can still be appreciated as something unique.”

The Incantation

THE INCANTATION
Rittenhouse Rye
Sacred Bond Brandy
Averna
Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
Punt e Mes vermouth
Orange bitters
Angostura bitters

Hex Bar: 1539 7th St. NW, DC; www.hexbardc.com

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

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

Photos: Courtesy of Wolf Trap

Caboose Brewing Company’s Wolf Trap Summer Ale Makes Its Return

There is something about seeing a concert in the outdoors that makes a show so much more enjoyable. Maybe it’s because there’s more room to breathe and dance around, or perhaps it’s because an open-air show is a sure sign that summer has arrived. Whatever it is that draws you to an outdoor gig, the promise of new drinking options makes Wolf Trap the place to go this summer.

The music venue is prepping the rollout of the newly updated Wolf Trap Summer Ale, a fairly light pale ale made for easy summertime drinking in collaboration with nearby Caboose Brewing Company. The partnership has been going strong since early 2016, not long after Caboose first opened its doors in Vienna.

In search of a middle-of-the-road beer that wasn’t like anything else they offered, Wolf Trap Director of Food & Beverage TJ Pluck worked with Caboose’s co-owner Matt Greer to create a brew that used the venue’s outdoor elements to inspire the Summer Ale’s flavor profile. In early discussions, Pluck, Greer and Wolf Trap Executive Chef Chris Faessen would talk “about the Wolf Trap experience and what’s unique here.”

“You’re sitting in this oasis of trees in nature in the middle of the city,” Pluck says of the venue.

With the abundance of cedar trees, pines and Faessen’s bee apiaries in mind, the brew was born. As for changes to the batch available for the 2019 season, Pluck and Greer agreed to tone down the bitterness of last year’s recipe.

“We typically bitter with Warrior [hops], but we’ve reduced that quite a bit and introduced some Falconer’s Flight into the mix, which is another kind of aromatic hop,” Greer says. “But other than that, the base malt build has pretty much stayed the same.”

He adds that these changes will make the 2019 batch an ale that is more with the times but anticipates that the team will continue to tweak the ale as they go. While Pluck had long envisioned serving a proprietary beer at Wolf Trap, it was not until Caboose opened its flagship location that he felt he had found the right brewery to work with.

The timing was perfect as Wolf Trap was looking to focus their beer program on local brews, now including Starr Hill and Devils Backbone. Greer adds that a collaboration with Wolf Trap made perfect sense on Caboose’s end – as soon as he and Pluck’s team sat down to talk, the two groups just clicked. Since then, the national park and brewery have only grown closer.

“They are literally a mile-and-a-half down the street from us,” Greer says. “We talk all the time and I’m constantly going to shows. TJ [Pluck] could call me tomorrow and say ‘Matt, I love this beer I had a dream about and I need to make it,’ and of course I would make it for him. It’s become more of a friendship than a business situation.”

Not to mention that as a brewer, Greer is always looking for new projects to work on with local groups.

“Honestly, we live for collaborations. It’s a lot of fun.”

With the summer ale collaboration going so well, Greer and Pluck both mention there’s a good chance the collaboration could grow in the future. While nothing is set in stone, Pluck says the two groups have started talking about potential projects down the line – including adding more Caboose beer at Wolf Trap as the brewery has recently started canning their beer and using the honey produced by Wolf Trap’s bees.

“We’re all hyperlocal, we like participating in each other’s events and we’re just really blessed with having so many like-minded people in the area,” Greer says.

The revamped summer ale isn’t the only drinking option to look forward to at the park this year. Wolf Trap will also be offering Richmond-based Väsen Brewing Company’s Guava Otter Gose.

“[Väsen’s] beers are all named after animals because they’re all about the outdoors, which fits in with us being a national park,” Pluck says. “We’ll actually be one of the very few places in Northern Virginia to have it in cans.”

Devils Backbone’s new Hibiscus Hard Lemonade will be offered, as well as two new cocktails created by Wolf Trap – vodka-and-orange puree concoction the Blood Orange Breeze, and cucumber and Spindrift cucumber sparkling water combo the Cucumber Refresh. On the nonalcoholic side, the national park struck up a collaboration with Caffe Amouri in Vienna to create the Wolf Trap coffee blend – a mix of artisan coffee beans from Papua New Guinea and Guatemala – served hot or iced and sold in to-go bags in the gift shop.

Whatever you’re looking for in an outdoor concert venue, Wolf Trap has something for everyone with their numerous local drink options, natural beauty, and stellar lineup of bands and performances.

“There’s nothing better than great music [and] beer together in one place,” Greer says. “I’m just excited that we’ve got this national resource right next to us.”

Wolf Trap’s summer season kicks off on Thursday, May 23 with a three-night lineup of The Avett Brothers, coinciding with the release date of the revamped Wolf Trap Summer Ale. For more information about the venue’s summer season, visit www.wolftrap.org. For more on Caboose, go to www.caboosebrewing.com.

Caboose Commons: 2918 Eskridge Rd. Fairfax, VA; www.caboosebrewing.com
Caboose Tavern: 520 Mill St. NE, Vienna, VA; www.caboosebrewing.com
Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts: 1645 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org


Artist Picks

Concertgoers aren’t the only ones who like to enjoy a beer during – or before or after – a show. Check out what a few artists coming to Wolf Trap this summer like to sip on during a performance and how they celebrate post-show.

Lake Street Dive
Drummer Mike Calabrese

Favorite pre-show drink:

Honestly, water. Pee clear, sing clear, drink after.

Go-to beer on tour:

Some [members of the band] are IPA people, or NEIPA people. Others prefer something yellow, like a classic German lager or pilsner.

Post-show spot:

The bus! The venue usually hooks up the local stuff for us backstage and then we go into the lounge and ask the bigger questions about life, love and Game of Thrones.

Lake Street Dive plays Wolf Trap Saturday, June 8. Gates open at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $35. Learn more about the band at www.lakestreetdive.com.

Toad the Wet Sprocket
Bassist Dean Dinning

Go-to beer on tour:

I enjoy a Toad the Wet Hop Ale from Green Man Brewery. Either that or a nice, light Mexican beer like Modelo with a squeeze of lime.

Favorite pre-show drink:

I enjoy a shot of decent tequila like Maestro Dobel or Casamigos with a squeeze of lime – never heavy, always refreshing.

Post-show spot:

I always go to [U Street soul food spot] Oohh’s & Aahh’s when I’m in DC. Never miss the opportunity!

Catch the band at Wolf Trap on Sunday, June 30. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets start at $25. Learn more at www.toadthewetsprocket.com.

Photos: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: Neighborhood Classics

With DC’s craft cocktail industry on the rise and more and more mixologists digging deep in their bag of ingredients for new flavors, it’s understandable that some creations at local haunts might seem intimidating. However, if you’re in search of a place with a unique atmosphere and a laid-back list of offerings, Grand Duchess in Adams Morgan and the newly opened Jake’s Tavern in Shaw are two of the best, so allow us to take you behind the bar at two of the District’s neighborhood spots.

Grand Duchess
Co-owner Rory Adair

Lined up among the other rowhouse businesses on the Adams Morgan end of 18th Street sits Grand Duchess. Though the name conjures images of mystique and royalty, the location is much more subdued. Upon entering the building adorned with a diamond logo, you’re greeted with the look and feel of a 50s or 60s diner – complete with a jukebox, and assorted memorabilia and art adorning the walls.

“That’s what we’re going for – an old-time comfort you don’t really get anymore in bars – especially because we’re a neighborhood cocktail bar,” co-owner Rory Adair says. “We kind of just pick up what’s cool. The jukebox actually came from a diner that was closing in Southern Delaware.”

Owned and operated by Adair and Vinnie Rotondaro, Grand Duchess opened in 2017 and has since offered AdMo a lowkey place to enjoy vinyl, read a book or hang out with friends for a few hours.

“We’re rock ‘n’ roll vinyl nerds,” Adair says. “We play a lot of records. We have a jukebox full of 45s. I think it adds something. A lot of times, guests will see us put on vinyl and they’ll ask to see the actual covers.”

In fact, the first thing highlighted on the Grand Duchess website is the phrase “Cocktails & Vinyl.” The bar interlinks the two subjects whenever possible – from events and vinyl-only DJ sessions meant to bring in new audiences to cocktail crafting sessions in the “beat lab” inspired by music.

“Vinnie and I will be in here after hours, and we’ll just put some tunes on and figure out what the songs mean and how they translate into a cocktail,” Adair says when describing the pair’s beat lab. “The majority of our cocktails are named for albums. The Louder Than Love is a Soundgarden album. We were thinking something outrageous, and Chris Cornell had a very unique voice. We also have the Twin Infinitives – that’s a Royal Trux album, so we were thinking a little sweeter and juicier.”

Though music and cocktails can be intricate in nature, Adair favors a simpler approach to both. While vinyl collectors and cocktail aficionados can sometimes be intimidating, Grand Duchess is trying to pull in a laid-back clientele with a warmth and openness reflected in the decor and drinks.

“We like to riff on the classics because they’re the best. That’s pretty much our outlook on everything. We don’t get too crazy.”

Adair also has a list of canned beers, wines and happy hour classics, but he always encourages folks to try out one of their creations.

“I have seen a lot of people who otherwise might not have stepped into a cocktail bar who discover that [Grand Duchess] is approachable and cool, and maybe they’ll try a cocktail.”

Grand Duchess: 2337 18th St. NW, DC; www.grandduchessdc.com

LOUDER THAN LOVE
Yellow chartreuse
Gin
Amaro
Lemon


Jake’s Tavern
Bartender Jason Fellman

The name Jake’s Tavern sounds like a neighborhood spot that might be featured in a modern-day rendition of Cheers. Though you won’t find Ted Danson drinking a Pimm’s Cup at the bar, the casual establishment in Shaw has already found a niche since opening in late January.

“The thing we kept hearing over and over again after we opened the doors was, ‘We’re so happy you’re here,’” bartender Jason Fellman says. “There was an appetite for a simple, honest place that was doing things at a high level of service with a low level of pretense. [We’re] just trying to do things well.”

Unlike other neighborhood taverns, Jake’s is extremely bright with white walls and blue trim. The bar is lit by a large window, and the outdoor patio recently opened for warm weather months. The bar’s simple decor is reflected on the menu, which features a plethora of beers from local to national favorites as well as classic cocktails.

“We’re not going to have a ton of esoteric amaros on the list,” Fellman says. “We’re not going to be bending the curve with ingredients. When I go out to a cocktail bar and look at the ingredients list, I may not know some of them. As a consumer, that can be off-putting or intimidating and we’re trying to get away from that. We want you to feel comfortable with a nice, well-prepared Old Fashioned or a Tanqueray and tonic. We want to be as approachable as possible.”

Before the bar established its aesthetic, they wanted to put feelers out to gauge consumer preferences. There was no preconceived notion other than wanting to give locals what they desired most.

“[We have] a tremendous dexterity to engage,” he says. “One of our big objectives was to come here without being steeped in a concept, with the flexibility to be open to feedback from the community. There’s an effort here to simplify service and always be smiling and responsive. People love Manhattans and Old Fashioneds, and that’s where we want to be.”

The current menu features those classics along with variations on the Orange Crush, Martinez and Pimm’s Cup.

“I think it’s spirit-driven and season-driven. You’re going to see a lot more gin-focused stuff as we head into the summer. I’m not trying to show you something you’ve never seen before. What I’m trying to do is [make] what you like the best I can.”

Jake’s Tavern: 1606 7th St. NW, DC; www.jakestaverndc.com

PIMM’S CUP NO2 BOURBON
Pimm’s
Fresh-squeezed lemon juice
House-made mint syrup
Ginger beer

Jake’s Orange Crush
Vodka
Triple Sec
Fresh-squeezed orange juice
Sprite


Big Changes Ahead for Virginia Happy Hour Ads 

Have you ever noticed that happy hour specials outside of Virginia can seem a bit more adventurous than those in the Old Dominion? Starting July 1, that’s slated to change. After an embattled ordeal between the state and area restaurants – many of which had to alter their advertisements between DC, Maryland and Virginia – bars and restaurants now have more creative liberty with which to advertise their offerings.

Actual drink prices can now be listed, along with fun or alliterative drink special titles that allude to the type of alcohol on special. This will no doubt give businesses better ways to entice customers, and in turn give customers a better picture of what their favorite watering hole will have to offer in the summer months and beyond. There are certain things remain unchanged, though. Namely, you won’t find any happy hours past the witching hour of 9 p.m., and two-for-one drink specials remain off the table.

For more information on these changes, visit www.abc.virginia.gov/licenses/retail-resources/happy-hour.