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Game Day Fare: Fried Chicken, Local Brews and More

Capitol Riverfront caters to some of the city’s most passionate sports fans, with the Washington Nationals and D.C. United playing home games just blocks apart. That’s a lot of hungry and thirsty people to satiate before and after games. Fortunately, the options have grown considerably in the past few years, with plenty of bars and restaurants opening for business. Whether you’re looking for a sit-down meal from an acclaimed chef, a quick bite, a locally made beer or a strong cocktail, there’s a spot to match your culinary mood all within a short walk of both stadiums.

QUICK & EASY

The Big Stick
Sausages, burgers and sandwiches are the draw at this sports pub. Satisfy hunger in true DC style with the Half Street half smoke or a Maryland crab cake sandwich. The bar offers a good amount of draft and canned craft beers from DC and around the world, in addition to wine and cocktails. 20 M St. SE, DC; www.thebigstick.com

Bonchon
Orders of Korean-style fried chicken come in all shapes and sizes here, making it well-suited to a game day meal with friends. Heat seekers shouldn’t miss the blazingly spicy drumsticks, wings or strips. Sides of rice and pickled radish are there to tame the flames. The traditional soy garlic sauce is addictive as well – but without the tears. Chicken is certainly the signature, but the menu doesn’t stop there. “We also offer traditional Korean dishes along with Asian fusion items for those looking for a more adventurous time,” general manager Jeff Chang says. “I’d wash it all down with an ice-cold beer from a local brewery like Hellbender or DC Brau.”

Happy hour is offered two hours before game time until the start for both baseball and soccer. The restaurant also offers a $13 game-day pack filled with your choice of fried chicken, side, bottled beverage and box of Cracker Jacks to go. 1015 Half St. SE, DC; www.bonchon.com

Philly Wing Fry
Located inside Whole Foods, this counter from Top Chef star Kwame Onwuachi takes game day food to another level. Fill up on decadent, dry-aged beef cheesesteak, confit chicken wings and berbere-spiced waffle fries. Vegetarians can dig into a spicy mushroom sandwich with herbed lebne, smoked provolone and pickled Fresno chilis. 101 H St. SE, DC; www.phillywingfry.com

TaKorean
This fast-casual Korean eatery serves build-your-own tacos and bowls with a focus on fresh and healthy ingredients. Proteins like sweet chili-marinated chicken, bulgogi steak and hoisin tofu can be topped with variety of slaws, crunchy toppings and sauces. A small selection of local beers is available as well. 1212 4th St. SE, DC; www.takorean.com

BAR VIBES

Bluejacket Brewery
Nats fans pack this homegrown brewery during home games, sipping pints from the bar’s extensive tap list. Choose from a rotating selection of more than 20 beers – including several cask selections – and fill up on food ranging from pretzels and fries to a half rotisserie chicken or double-patty burger. 300 Tingey St. SE, DC; www.bluejacketdc.com

Due South
Laidback Southern vibes course through this riverfront eatery. Fortify with a bourbon Shoo-fly Punch with ginger liqueur, mint, orange bitters and ginger beer, or a pour of the bar’s hand-selected Knob Creek bourbon. Food includes comforting favorites like shrimp and grits, buttermilk fried chicken, and a bacon pimento cheeseburger. 301 Water St. SE, DC; www.duesouthdc.com

Gordon Biersch
This spacious pub has plenty of room to meet up before or after a game, including outdoor seating. Beers are brewed in everything from German styles like pilsners and hefeweizens to hoppy American ales. 100 M St. SE, DC; www.gordonbiersch.com

Mission
Mission’s Capitol Riverfront location includes 20 big-screen TVs, a dining room and four bars – including a balcony. That means low wait times for drinks as well as lots of room to gather. “We are always happy to reserve space for groups going to a game or just trying to celebrate,” general manager Fritz Brogan says. Happy hour is available daily, including game days. Weekends include late-night discounts from 10 p.m. to close along with DJs and live music. Earlier in the day, pre-game crowds can take advantage of the bottomless brunch spread featuring items like guacamole, beer and margaritas.

“We believe it’s more fun to eat in a bar than drink in a restaurant.” 1221 Van St. SE, DC; www.missionnavyyard.com

Willie’s Brew & Que
Grab a pile of napkins and settle in with a platter of smoked meats and pint of beer from Willie’s. There are also several burgers and sandwiches to pick from, along with items like mahi mahi tacos and supersized nachos. 300 Tingey St. SE, DC; www.williessportsbardc.com

RELAX & STAY AWHILE

All-Purpose
The Capitol Riverfront location of this popular pizzeria offers riverfront and rooftop views with a side of Italian-inspired dishes – along with beer, wine and cocktails, including a couple of frozen options. It’s also convenient for baseball and soccer fans alike. “We are a two-minute walk from the first base gate of Nationals Park and one of the closest establishments to Audi Field,” general manager Michelle Stewart says.

All-Purpose’s current menu includes both a food and drink special to benefit charity. The first is a pizza created in partnership with D.C. United’s Screaming Eagles fan group; the “L’aquila” (eagle in Italian) pie is topped with tomato, fennel sausage, basil and stracciatella. A dollar from each pizza sold will be donated to Earth Conservation Corps. There’s also the DC Brau Full Count, brewed exclusively for the restaurant with $1 from each sale benefiting local nonprofit DC SCORES. The restaurant will open at 11 a.m. for all 1 p.m. midweek baseball games. Happy hour is daily from 4 to 7 p.m., and Steward says crowds can actually be lighter during games. “It’s like finding a hidden gem in the city,” she says of game day dining. 79 Potomac Ave. SE, DC; www.allpurposedc.com

Chloe
Chef Haidar Karoum’s lively dining room transports guests with flavors of the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and more. Most dishes come as small plates, so sharing with the table is encouraged. Larger entrees can be split as well, such as the spice-roasted chicken or the crispy whole fish. 1331 4th St. SE, DC; www.restaurantchloe.com

CIRCA
Known for its wide-ranging American bistro menu, CIRCA is a crowd-pleasing option for a meal or round of drinks. “It’s a place you can come a couple times a week for a couple different reasons,” says Matt Carlin, president of Metropolian Hospitality Group, which operates CIRCA.

Unlike a sports bar, CIRCA’s kitchen brings more of an upscale approach to its menu. Two of the most-ordered snacks include the bulgogi beef lettuce wraps and the tuna poke nachos. There’s also happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The laidback vibe is also great for anyone who wants a night out without buying a ticket to the stadium.

“Even if you’re watching the game on TV, you can enjoy it,” Carlin says. “It’s not a wild place.” 99 M St. SE, DC; www.circabistros.com

Declaration
The menu here is full of Italian and American comforts like burrata, fried meatballs and crispy calamari. Signature pizzas are named for America’s forefathers, from Thomas Jefferson to New Jersey’s John Witherspoon. 1237 1st St. SE, DC; www.declarationrestaurant.com

The Salt Line
This seafood spot takes its cues from New England coastal eateries. Chef Kyle Bailey’s fresh Maine lobster roll, stuffed clams and satisfying smash burger make stadium food an afterthought. Guests can also hang with a cocktail or glass of wine and slurp oysters from the restaurant’s raw bar. 79 Potomac Ave. SE, DC; www.thesaltline.com

What’s On Tap: April 2019 Beer Listings

Greetings, beer nerds! As you likely know, there are a number of fantastic spots in the DMV where you can grab a pint, and their menus are always evolving and adapting to your tastes. If you’d rather avoid the guessing game, check out what’s coming up at a few of these fine establishments.

THURSDAY, APRIL 4

Beer Tasting at the GAHM
Enjoy a taste of Germany with different kinds of German beer, including limited seasonal specialties, German sausage, potato salad and pretzels. In the mood for something different? Try a Bavarian biergarten specialty called obatzda. In addition, learn about the long history of Germans in the United States, their surprising contributions which go well beyond beer and bratwurst, and the strong connection that exists still today between the two countries. 6:30-9 p.m. $30-$55. German-American Heritage Museum: 719 6th St. NW, DC; www.gahmusa.org

Flying Dog Presents Unfiltered for Your Pleasure
Join ChurchKey as they celebrate all things IPA with their friends from Flying Dog. This night features seven beers from the brewery, including three unfiltered twists on Flying Dog’s flagship IPAs. Whether you love them or hate them, unfiltered hazy IPAs are here to stay. Try Snake Dog, Double Dog and The Truth side-by-side and decide which you like best. 4-7:30 p.m. Free to attend. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.churchkeydc.com

Ithaca Beer’s 20th Anniversary Party
Rustico Ballston is set to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Ithaca Beer Company. In honor of this momentous occasion, the restaurant will pour 10 exciting beers from the New York brewery, including rare kegs of Anniversary 20 and Anniversary 20/20: Hindsight. The team at Ithaca Beer Co. is bringing a remarkable lineup for the event, headlined by the two aforementioned brews. 5-11:30 p.m. Free to attend. Rustico Ballston: 4075 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.rusticorestaurant.com

FRIDAY, APRIL 5

Port City’s Ideaal Tripel Release Party
Join Port City Brewing as they tap the Ideaal Tripel. From the Flemish term meaning “quintessential or exemplary,” Ideaal is a classic Belgian-style tripel. Honey gold with a thick cap of mousse-like foam, Ideaal Tripel’s deceptively dry body provides a perfect playground for a spicy Belgian yeast character, marrying complexity and approachability. Ideaal is the perfect companion for spring in the DC area and a must have for patio season. 3-10 p.m. Free to attend. Port City Brewing: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

SATURDAY, APRIL 6

Capital BrewFest: Blossom Bash Beer
DC’s outdoor festival season is set to kick off with Blossom Bash. Your ticket to Blossom Bash gets you three hours of unlimited tastes of more than 65 delicious craft beers, 10-plus tasty ciders and more. You’ll also enjoy the best of DC’s food trucks, live music and fun games. 12:30-8 p.m. $30-$60. The Bullpen: 1299 Half St. SE, DC; www.brewfestdc.com

New Beer’s Eve
Celebrate your new favorite holiday: New Beer’s Eve. On April 7, 1933, beer production was once again made legal in the U.S., marking the imminent end of prohibition. Join at the Dumbarton House with local beer historians in tasting a wide variety of local beers, ciders and snacks. This is the day to honor your right to pursue happiness and a refreshing cold one. 3-7 p.m. $35-$40. Dumbarton House: 2715 Q St. NW, DC; www.dumbartonhouse.org

The Sovereign’s Third Anniversary Celebration
The Sovereign is celebrating its third anniversary with a huge selection of 25 world-renowned beers including favorites from Cantillon, Hill Farmstead, Allagash and more. The day brings three extremely rare Cantillon kegs, including the DC debut of Carignan.  In addition, Hill Farmstead and Allagash sent an amazing collection such as Hill Farmstead’s Convivial Suarez and Clara, as well as Allagash’s Coolship Red and Coolship Resurgam. In addition, there will also be a spontaneous collection of fermented beers. 11 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. Free to attend. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10

Zlaty Rhino Beer Release
Lost Rhino Brewing Company is bringing this back for a release in April. Zlatý Rhino (pronounced “zlah-tee”) is a classic Bohemian-style pale lager and takes its name from the Czech word for “golden.” This beer balances the delicate bitterness of 100 percent Czech Saaz hops against a sweet malty backbone, thanks to the use of a painstaking traditional decoction mash and long kettle boil. Zlatý Rhino is equally at home alongside a hearty meal or fueling a long night at the pub with friends. The tap opens at 11:30 a.m. Free to attend. Lost Rhino Brewing Company: 21730 Red Rum Dr. #142, Ashburn, VA; www.lostrhino.com

THURSDAY, APRIL 11 – SUNDAY, APRIL 14

The DC Easter Keg Hunt 2019
Celebrate Easter early this year with the first ever DC Easter Keg Hunt. Join ChurchKey, Bluejacket, The Sovereign and The Partisan for a craft beer-themed scavenger hunt across the District. The hoppy hunt is on. Each location will have a different clue hinting at a special beer on the draft list. Find the secret beer at all four locations by Sunday and win a free limited-edition commemorative DC Easter Keg Hunt 2019 hooded sweatshirt (retail value $45). Winners are automatically entered into a drawing for one of the five grand prizes. Various times. Free to participate. DC Easter Keg Hunt: Various locations in DC; www.dcbeer.net

SUNDAY, APRIL 14

The Stillwater Preternatural Cuvée Tasting w/ Brian Strumke
The Sovereign is welcoming Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales to host an intimate tasting of all five beers from the Preternatural Cuvée Project, a series of his most intriguing and special barrel-aged beer-wine hybrids. In 2014, Stillwater Artisanal procured a truckload of freshly emptied California wine barrels and filled them with a mix of blond and dark saisons. After three years in oak barrels, roughly two years of bottle conditioning, and many blending and tasting sessions, Stillwater is finally ready to release these five beautiful beer-wine hybrids. 12-2 p.m. Free to attend. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com

THURSDAY, APRIL 18

Profs & Pints: Founding Fathers in the “Friend Zone”
Presented with Cassandra Good, assistant professor of history at Marymount University, this discussion focuses on several of America’s earliest leaders and how they formed close, egalitarian relationships with women. Among them, Thomas Jefferson had warm ties with Abigail Adams, and she called him “one of the choice ones on Earth.” George Washington found a home away from home with Philadelphia’s Elizabeth Powel. These weren’t romantic love affairs. They were friendships built on emergent ideas of women as the spiritual and intellectual equals of men. 6-9 p.m. $15. Bier Baron Tavern: 1523 22nd St. NW, DC; www.inlovewithbier.com/tavern

SATURDAY, APRIL 20

DC Beer Fest
The DC Beer Festival returns to Nationals Park, bringing together dozens of craft breweries and featuring spring seasonal beers. Taking place throughout the stadium’s concourse including Centerfield Plaza, Budweiser Brew House, Bud Light Loft and Budweiser Terrace, the DC Beer Fest will have over a dozen food trucks throughout as well as lawn games, DJs and more. 12-8 p.m. $45-$75. Nationals Park: 1500 S. Capitol St. SE, DC; www.dcbeerfestival.com

Ocelot 4th Year Anniversary Party and Spring Market
After the success at Ocelot’s Oktoberfest Flea Market, the brewery decided to bring back a bunch of vendors for their 4th anniversary. So we’ll be setup out back again with tables and a cash bar, a slew of great local vendors, music by Mobius Records, food trucks and more. 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Free to attend. Ocelot Brewing Company: 23600 Overland Dr. Sterling, VA; www.ocelotbrewing.com

THURSDAY, APRIL 25

Diamondback Brewing Co. Tap Takeover
Join Lost & Found in celebrating Baltimore’s Diamondback Brewing Co. with a 10-tap takeover of old favorites and new releases. Diamondback was established in 2016 brewing small batch beer skewed towards one-off styles in the Baltimore metropolitan area. In the past two years, Diamondback Beer has started to mature and develop a firmer grip its core offerings, monthly one-offs and barrel aging experiments. 4-11 p.m. Free to attend. Lost & Found: 1240 9th St. NW, DC; www.lostandfounddc.com

Photo: Jean Schindler

Stop Sucking: DC Says “No” to Single-Use Plastic Straws

When I arrived at college, the hot rumor was that drinking alcohol through a straw was the fast-track to getting trashed. My crew worked through boxes of straws to learn firsthand it was just an urban myth.

College drinking memories hit me recently when the District announced it would be the second major U.S. city to ban straws, effective January 2019. Establishments caught handing out contraband will get warnings until this summer, when fines come into effect.

Even though I almost never use straws anymore, I was weirdly indignant: the nanny state is telling us how to consume our beverages! But headlines were misleading. DC can use all the straws it wants – just as long as they’re not single-use plastic straws. And as it turns out, the shift to sustainable materials was already well underway.

“We try to be environmentally conscious in everything we do at Tiki TNT,” says Todd Thrasher, owner of the popular new rum bar at The Wharf. “I never even considered supplying plastic straws, ban or no ban. We already have a variety of alternative straw options from plant-based to paper.”

And in his expert opinion as a master of slow-drinking tiki cocktails: “I don’t find that the straw compromises the flavor profile of the drink.”

DC spots have been actively “greening” their bar programs for years, and plastic straws have been an easy target. Hank’s Cocktail Bar stopped providing them – unless specifically requested – years ago.  Shaw’s hip, subterranean cocktail bar 600t features reusable metal straws. Founding Farmers, which prides itself on being aggressively eco-friendly, long used compostable straws before switching to paper in 2017.

Buffalo & Bergen, the popular cocktail counter and soda fountain in Union Market, favors corn-based straws – though “many of our cocktails are designed to be served without a straw,” says owner and mixologist Gina Chersevani. “We make a dedicated effort to reduce and reuse.”

So it comes as no surprise that when Founding Farmers co-owner Dan Simons launched a campaign in early 2018 to formally do away with single-use plastic straws in DC’s hospitality industry, he found a groundswell of support. The Our Last Straw coalition incorporated as a nonprofit organization and rapidly picked up over 200 partners in bars, restaurants, hotels and nonprofits across the greater DC area.

The campaign picked up even more momentum last April when the Alice Ferguson Foundation snagged nearly 10,000 plastic straws during cleanup events along the Potomac River Watershed. Mayor Bowser’s office officially announced its support that same month, and in October, the city updated existing food service regulations to ban plastic straws (single-use foam products were banned in 2016). Maybe, some suggest, it’s time to start banning all single-use plastics.

Every year, nearly nine tons of plastic pollution float into the oceans, and experts estimate that by 2050, plastic trash will outweigh fish. This is bad news not just for fish, but also for humans: these plastics break into ever-smaller pieces until they slide into the food chain. Microplastics have been found in fish flesh, sea salt and even beer – and now in your stomach.

Though the world’s few million plastic straws are a minuscule part of the billions of plastics floating in the world’s oceans, some see the ban as another small step in a process of gradual change. Simons has suggested that a Last Plastic Fork initiative could be a reality in the near future. But he also notes that solutions to plastic pollution take time and cannot be only the product of top-down government action.

One enforcement question facing the District revolves around bubble tea, which requires sturdy, oversized straws. There are no environmentally friendly disposable alternatives available at present, and aggressive enforcement will harm at least a dozen small, often minority-owned businesses in the District.

“The challenge in finding a truly enviro-friendly straw that works for boba [bubble] tea is a perfect example of why I was inspired to start Our Last Straw,” Simons says. “We will eliminate all single-use plastic straws, and we can do it without any downside.”

Another exception is for people with disabilities who require plastic straws to drink or eat. Paper straws have limited usage time before they break apart and pose a choking hazard, while metal or glass straws can cause severe injury if someone bites down hard (as can happen during, for example, a seizure). Restaurants and bars in the District are still required to keep some plastic straws on hand for customers who require them.

“We need to work collaboratively with the supply chain, the regulators and the operators to find solutions,” Simons emphasizes. “If that means delaying or phasing in enforcement while the supply chain works to provide a true solution, so be it. We can’t pretend ideology is a substitute for reality.”

Learn more about Our Last Straw at www.ourlaststraw.org, including a list of local restaurant groups and other spots participating in the eco-friendly initiative.

600t: 600 T St. NW, DC
Buffalo & Bergen: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.buffalobergendc.com
Founding Farmers: Various locations in the DC area; www.wearefoundingfarmers.com
Hank’s Cocktail Bar: 1624 Q St. NW, DC; www.hankscocktailbar.com
Tiki TNT: 1130 Maine Ave. SW, DC; www.tikitnt.com

Illustration: Nick Caracciolo

Devoured Offers Sustainable Alternative For DC Waste

Americans excel at wasting food. According to an article on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s website, the country disposed of 37.6 million tons of food waste – with nearly 94 percent of it going to landfills or combustion facilities – in 2015. Essentially, it was rendered uneaten and utterly useless.

The simplest way to reduce these numbers is to cut back, but for most, reducing waste is not that simple. Another alternative is being realized in the District by local company Devoured, which strives to help businesses in the city be more responsible by turning what could be trash into compost.

Founder Walker Lunn set out to help the World Bank Group cut down on their waste in 2006. As a student studying hospitality management, he began piecing together a program that would help redirect food products thrown away to compost facilities rather than landfills or incineration facilities.

Lunn says, “Once we started working with [the World Bank], it became a question of, ‘How do we stop this problem?’” When food waste goes to a landfill, it ends up rotting in an anaerobic environment and produces methane. It causes global warming and takes what could be a valuable resource and loses it forever. What we do is take it to a compost facility where the waste is mixed with sticks, leaves and grass, and it’s decomposed.”

According to the EPA, compost is organic material that helps plants grow. Made up largely of food scraps and yard waste, at least 30 percent of what we throw into a trashcan could instead be used as compost. The soil supplement is sold at retail locations such as Home Depot and other gardening outlets.

“Everyone we spoke with – restaurants and hotels – were like, ‘This is cool [and] we want to do it, but we’re concerned about cost,’” Lunn says. “Cost, space, odor and training were really the things that came up at first.”

Lunn and his team began working on a model that would enable Devoured to pick up the heaviest, wettest, most challenging parts of waste to transport to compost facilities, which are generally farther than landfills or transfer stations. In order to reduce odors, the company makes frequent pickups for their client base, which is largely made up of office buildings and hotels throughout the week.

“When we started, we couldn’t get another company to haul it,” Lunn says, laughing. “I wanted to hire a contractor, but I couldn’t get anyone to do it. The only compost company was in Cambridge, Maryland, so it was really tough. So much has changed.”

One of these changes is the frequent use of biodegradable, compostable products such as cups, plates and bowls.

“It’s transformed what we transport because it used to be mostly food,” he says. “Now a huge part of what we collect is packaging. I don’t think there’s any point of buying a compostable product unless you send it to a compost facility. Like any business, we have a sales process, and our business is mission-driven.”

With the increase of waste and global warming awareness, there’s no question the business has grown. And while some companies reach out to Devoured specifically because of their own green initiatives, there are others who are still looking to minimize their hefty trash bills.

“It’s case by case,” Lunn says. “[For] some of our clients, it’s part of their mission. For professionally managed business, the interest and willingness to do it comes from the benefits it provides, but the justification is typically driven by savings – or at the very least, breaking even.”

Another change in the past decade has been the competition. With a heightened awareness of food waste and the damages it can cause to the environment, Lunn is no longer the only game in town. Despite this, he maintains that his clients are ones that other businesses envy; looking ahead, he’s largely hopeful for what’s in store for Devour.

“Scaling up is part of [growth].”

To learn more about Devoured, visit www.devoured.co. Contact Lunn and his team at [email protected] or 202-810-9751.

Photo: Nicco Page

Red Bear Brewing Co. Open To All

At the grand opening of Red Bear Brewing Co. last month, patrons exploring the space echoed the same sentiment: NoMa’s new brewery has a philosophy of being open to all.

“It’s a place that really has something for everyone,” says Liz Cox, Red Bear’s taproom manager and veteran manager of the DC restaurant and bar landscape. “[Red Bear] erases that stigma of brewery culture.”

In other words, this isn’t just a bunch of white bearded guys sitting around drinking micro brews. This is an environment for people of all races, genders and sexual orientations.

Red Bear is the brainchild of three friends who were living in Seattle – Bryan Van Den Oever, Cameron Raspet and Simon Bee – all looking to change careers. Van Den Oever came from the healthcare world, Raspet has a military background and was a flight test engineer for Boeing, and Bee worked in property management.

“They wanted to do a nano-brewery but knew they shouldn’t in Seattle because it had the most brewpubs per capita,” Cox says. “They felt bringing the West Coast style to the East Coast would work and chose DC to get it started.”

Although all three owners are gay, they decided early on that Red Bear wasn’t going to be “a gay bar” but rather ultra-inclusive, encompassing more than just the LGBTQ community.

“We try to be disability-friendly, accessibly friendly, a safe space for women [and] people of color,” Cox says. “We even have a bartender who is an ASL interpreter and we are all trying to learn from him as well [to welcome the deaf community and students from nearby Gallaudet University]. The idea was to create a safe space for everyone.”

The trio also wants the establishment to embrace the outdoors and adventure, hence the brewery’s name. The bear is a central theme of the space, and the logo features an ursine figure and Washington state’s Mount Rainier in front of DC’s stars and stripes.

“Visually, our bar is very appealing, and we stick to the theme of bringing outdoors inside,” Cox says. “We have patio string lights out. Simon built a mountain range that lines the bar. The bar is very large and creates two zones; we call one the front yard and the other the back patio.”

Red Bear serves predominantly West Coast-style ales and beers from 24 tap lines in a 7,000-square-foot space.

“Simon is our brewmaster and classifies offerings in three styles,” Cox explains. “[There’s] the old, nostalgic-style beers such as an ESB, which you don’t find a lot of in DC as it’s a very West Coast, Pacific Northwest-style beer. There’s the beers you should enjoy drinking and then experimental beers.”

For example, the pub will be introducing a brut kölsch later this summer. Current on tap offerings include a Belgian wit called Marmalade Skies, Cammy Cam-Cam’s ESB, American porter DC Dirt, the pale ale Polar Bear, American amber Skookum Red Ale, American IPA Mystic Storm and American double IPA Twinsies. Seasonal offerings include Cupid’s Black Heart, a chocolate-strawberry bock, and Swampoodle, an imperial oatmeal Irish stout. In the months ahead, the bar will offer a hibiscus American wheat (Delicate Prissy Flower), cherry almond sour (Manhattan Project), rosemary saison (Something About Rosemary) and a NoMa-based SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hops) brew.

As a brewpub, Red Bear is licensed to sell food and has a small kitchen that is currently being readied to open sometime this summer. In the meantime, the owners are bringing in pop-up food places such as Roaming Rooster and D’s Fish Truck to offer visitors some menu items.

“We also have a stage for live performances and a patio that will be up and going once it gets warmer,” Cox says. “And we’ll be building out our drop lines. We opened with eight beers and have 15 beer lines and two nitro beer lines.”

Red Bear also offers cider, cocktails, wine and a full liquor menu. At the grand opening, all three owners got their pick of one special element for the night, so the party included a drag queen (Kitti Chanel Fairfield), an ice sculpture and live music.

“We’re all about having a good time and everyone here is excited about what’s to come,” Cox says. “NoMa has a ton of people but not a lot of bars, and we want people to feel comfortable here.”

Learn more about Red Bear at www.redbear.beer and follow the brewery @redbearbrewing.

Red Bear Brewing Co.: 209 M St. NE, DC; 202-849-6130; www.redbear.beer

Photo: Rey Lopez

New and Notable: Mama Chang, Rooster & Owl, TallBoy, and More

NEW

Mama Chang
Open:
March 8
Location: Fairfax
Lowdown: Ask almost any local diner if they know Peter Chang, and you’ll get nods of recognition. The names Ronger Wang, Lisa Chang and Lydia Chang may not be as familiar. Chef Peter Chang wants that to change with his newest restaurant. Mama Chang pays homage to the women of the Chang family: Peter’s grandmother, mother, wife and daughter. The restaurant celebrates home-style cooking, with many family recipes from their home in the Hubei province. Peter’s mother, Ronger, visited from China for the opening of the restaurant and her influence is seen throughout the menu, which features simple and comforting dishes like a farmer’s stir fry, stir-fried rice cake with homemade fish cake and braised pork belly with lotus root. Peter’s wife, Lisa, is known as a pastry chef, but is the star of the kitchen at home according to their daughter Lydia. Favorites from the Changs’ other restaurants like dry-fried eggplant are changed up slightly – here you’ll find dry-fried cauliflower. There are also the expected fiery Szechuan dishes like hot chili oil tofu with flounder, plus more unusual options like Chinese barbecue pig feet, dry chili pork intestines and a sweet caramel rice with thin pork belly. 3251 Old Lee Hwy. Fairfax, VA; www.mamachangva.com

Rooster & Owl
Open:
February 7
Location: Columbia Heights
Lowdown: A restaurant offering a market-driven tasting menu doesn’t sound like anything out of the ordinary. But Rooster & Owl is intriguing and satisfying in a way that very few places are. In fact, it’s something of a sleeper hit. The restaurant is the passion project of husband-and-wife duo Carey and Yuan Tang. Their opposite but complementary roles in the business inspired the name. Carey has a 9-to-5 job at Children’s National and manages the restaurant operations, and Yuan works late in the kitchen. Despite the inverse hours, the Rooster and the Owl have always made time to share a meal together. Their first restaurant together honors that commitment to communal dining with an experience that blends shared plates with tasting menus. The menu is divided into four courses, and each guest chooses one small plate for each course. When the dishes arrive, sharing is highly encouraged. The food is imaginative, taking simple ingredients – especially vegetables – and transforming them into something that makes you think twice. Carrots are seasoned with barbecue spices and served with cornbread ice cream. Sunchokes masquerade as wings with a “buffa-no” sauce. Light and fluffy Parisian gnocchi is bathed in a tarragon butter sauce. Pastry chef Olivia Green sweetens the meal with desserts like a delicate hazelnut éclair and a parting gift of a little chocolate robot. 2436 14th St. NW, DC; www.roosterowl.com

TallBoy
Open:
March 7
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: After the beloved Smoked & Stacked closed, Tin Shop partners Geoff Dawson and Peter Bayne decided to go in a different direction with their space. They realized 9th Street was in desperate need of an affordable neighborhood bar that stayed open late and felt nostalgic and playful. TallBoy was born with that goal in mind. The concept is simple: grilled cheese sandwiches, wings and tall boy (16 oz.) beers. Fans of the pastrami from Smoked & Stacked will be thrilled to hear that the house-made meat is still available in a grilled cheese sandwich with Swiss, pastrami, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. Other sandwich options include the Kim Cheese with pepper jack, kimchi and bacon and the Cuban with Swiss, bread and butter pickles, ham, and Dijon. Any of the sandwiches can be ordered with vegan cheese, and of course, each grilled cheese is accompanied by a cup of smoked tomato soup for dipping. The wings are available in various flavors, from a Memphis dry rub to a lemon pepper wing with butter and lemon pepper sauce. There’s a full bar but tall boys are the hot sellers, with nine to choose from including the OG Schlitz Lager as well as the Guinness Stout, Bold Rock Cider and Union Duckpin Pale Ale. There’s also a rotating tall boy of the week. 1239 9th St. NW, DC; www.tallboybar.com

Zeppelin
Open:
March 4
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: The meaning behind the name of this sushi and cocktail bar is twofold. The space is designed to look like the famed airship, and there are references to the legendary rock band hidden throughout. Zeppelin is the latest project from beverage bros Ari and Micah Wilder and their partner Adrian Williams of Chaplin’s, in addition to Tokyo native and chef Minoru Ogawa of Sushi Ogawa. The new Japanese concept offers two experiences: a lively bar and dining room for sushi, charcoal-grilled yakitori, cocktails and karaoke, as well as a secluded omakase counter with top-quality seafood hand-selected from Toyosu Market in Tokyo. The à la carte offerings range from shrimp dumplings and various tempura to skewers of chicken meatballs or beef and maki made with cucumber and plum paste or fatty tuna. The cocktail program is built around a highball machine that adds “baller bubbles” to drinks inspired by the Japanese highball. Wine, beer and 80 premium sakes are also available to complement the à la carte and omakase menus. 1554 9th St. NW, DC; www.zeppelindc.com 

NOTABLE

Georgian Wine Wednesdays
Location:
Supra
Lowdown: Since opening, DC’s first Georgian restaurant has been lauded for introducing Washingtonians to the little-known world of Georgian wine. Now they’re making it a little more affordable to explore the country’s wine regions and grape varietals with themed specials on Wednesdays. Each month, they’ll offer a $20 discount on select bottles. This month, they’re channeling the element of surprise in honor of April Fools’ Day. Every Wednesday, guests can try three of the restaurant’s most unexpected bottles, including an amber wine that isn’t what it seems and a sparkling wine that combines 8,000-year-old Georgian techniques with the champagne method. 1205 11th St. NW, DC; www.supradc.com

Hank’s Cocktail Bar in a New Home
Location:
Dupont Circle
Lowdown: Jamie Leeds’ cocktail bar, formerly located in Petworth, has a new home in Dupont Circle. It sits right above the flagship Hank’s Oyster Bar and has an extensive menu of more than 40 different cocktails. The drinks are divided into five categories: Market Fresh (seasonal creations), We Invented the Remix (twists on the classics), New Fashioneds (what it sounds like), Size Matters (large and small options like shareable drinks and shooters), and Food Production (starring ingredients from the kitchen). In addition to these themes, there’s also a very useful diagram that plots each of the drinks based on flavor and booziness so you can find your perfect match depending on where your tastes fall on the cocktail spectrum. You can feel good about ordering one of the most interesting selections because it repurposes kitchen waste into a delightful cocktail. Revisionist History is a rum milk punch made with leftover tea, coffee and citrus rescued from the kitchen and bar at the end of the night. 1624 Q St. (second floor) NW, DC; www.hankscocktailbar.com

Chaia taco lineup // Photo: Maya Oren

Power Plants: The Rise of Vegetables as a Main Source of Energy, Not Alternative Fuel

It’s no secret there’s been a recent uptick in healthy dining options in the nation’s capital. Plant-based and vegetable-forward restaurants have taken root in the District, and they’re championing the idea that healthy food can also be tasty food. From local expansions to international brands, DC is adding more and more vegetable-friendly options to an already growing list of new restaurants. Just don’t call it a trend.

Homegrown taqueria Chaia recently opened its second location in Chinatown this January. From slinging tacos at farmers markets to their first location in Georgetown to the newest spot downtown, owners Bettina Stern and Suzanne Simon have always remained committed to utilizing seasonal ingredients.

“Our business really wants to get people to eat more vegetables more than anything,” Stern says. “Support your local farmer and eat foods in season. What grows together goes together.”

In addition to serving up seasonally inspired tacos, Chaia’s newest location offers a lineup of local brews, ciders and draft cocktails. The ambiance and new offerings are key to the restaurant’s goal of making vegetables more fun.

“[Ten] years ago, being vegetarian or vegan or going into a restaurant that focused on that had the perception [that] there was no joy; you were just stripping your life of all the good things,” Simon says. “But that’s all changing with places like Chaia. We’re trying to make vegetables fun.”

Another component of their business model? Sustainability. Leftover tortillas are repurposed as the base for their spin on Oaxacan street food tlayuda. Cilantro stems are given new life as a sauce ingredient and discarded items are composted when possible. Hummus purveyor Little Sesame also looks to high-quality ingredients and seasonality for menu inspiration.

“The region that inspires our food is so built on fresh vegetables and big spices, and lots of ferments and pickles,” co-owner Nick Wiseman explains. “How we feel and shape the menus at Little Sesame is all around this idea of, at the end of the day, does it make you feel good?”

The hummus shop added its second location in Chinatown this March (the flagship spot is in Golden Triangle), where guests can order vegan options including their popular hummus bowls, pita sandwiches and dairy-free soft serve. More than just providing an exceptional in-restaurant experience, Wiseman and co-owner Ronen Tenne hope to build a community that transcends the walls of the physical space.

The owners even have an offshoot project, Wild Sesame, as “a way for us to strengthen the community we’re starting to build around these ideals of travel, outdoor cooking and storytelling.” It’s equal parts weekend getaway and outdoor adventure – an exploration of food and community.

“Food is the center, the focus of travel and this sense of adventure around food,” he continues. “We’re trying to really bring that spirit to Little Sesame and certainly what inspires us.”

H Street fast-casual concept Pow Pow made the switch to a completely plant-based menu last spring after two years in operation, and co-owner Shaun Sharkey believes DC is ready for more.

“I think DC has always been known as a city full of intelligent, forward-thinkers,” Sharkey says. “Plant-based food just makes sense in every aspect, whether you’re cutting back on a regular meat-based diet a day or two a week, interested in its benefits for the environment, or just interested in new flavors. Some chefs are really pushing the boundaries with plant-based food.”

Sharkey has a meat allergy and Chef Margaux Riccio has a dairy allergy; Pow Pow’s menu is a reflection of the foods they missed eating.

“Most of the menu items are developed that way,” he says. “This is more about fun food than anything else.”

The popular trolley fries are now topped with cashew cheddar and plant-based protein, the disco stick egg roll now features plant-based chicken, and their bowls have all switched over to plant-based chicken and seitan as protein options.

“We create all of the proteins and cheese in-house from scratch. Our focus is making good, plant-based food.”

Shouk founder Ran Nussbacher wants to remind the world that vegetables have been a mainstay of our diet for centuries, and it’s time to make a reconnection with the freshest produce possible.

“Eating a plant-based [diet] is a very positive experience, and it’s tasty and not lacking in any regard,” Nussbacher says. “I wanted to demonstrate that by bringing a compelling, appealing product that people would get hooked on, and that’s exactly what we’ve done with Shouk.”

The Israeli street food-inspired menu at Shouk’s Mount Vernon Triangle and NoMa locations features an oyster mushroom shawarma, fresh salads, pita and the famous Shouk burger. One of the healthier items on the menu, Nussbacher notes that despite chowing down on a burger, “You’re not eating health food; you’re eating delicious, decadent food that’s healthy.” And the recent addition of falafel to the menu has already proven to be a popular move.

“There used to be this perceived compromise that you could either get food that was really tasty or food that was really healthy, but you couldn’t get both,” the founder continues. “And what we do at Shouk – as well as others in the industry today – is eliminate that compromise and offer food that is exciting, tasty and healthy at the same time.”

Glenn Edwards, U.S. managing director of international fast-food chain LEON, shares a similar sentiment.

“I want to eat food I enjoy,” he says. “I don’t want to feel compromised in eating food that’s better for me. I want to eat food that’s delicious and oh, by the way, it’s better for me. Food should taste good and do you good.”

LEON opened its first North American outpost last summer on L Street and is hoping to change the way people view fast food. Fries are baked and the recently added, vegan-friendly LOVe Burger is quickly becoming a fan favorite.

Edwards says, “When we launch dishes, [we ask ourselves], ‘Does it taste really delicious? Would your best friend ask you for a recipe? Is it better for you?’”

It seems DC denizens agree that fast food can be good food; a second LEON restaurant is coming this summer. But you won’t find any marketing or advertising efforts to promote these restaurants as vegan joints. Instead, the focus is on preparing first-rate food offerings.

Chaia’s Stern notes, “You have to have a delicious product, and that’s why people are going to come.”

Regardless of protein preferences, get people in the door. And if they like what they eat, they’ll come back.

Chaia: 615 Eye St. NW, DC (Chinatown) // 3207 Grace St. NW, DC (Georgetown); www.chaiatacos.com
LEON: 1724 L St. NW, DC; www.leon.co
Little Sesame: 1828 L St. NW, DC (Golden Triangle) // 736 6th St. NW, DC (Chinatown); www.eatlittlesesame.com
Pow Pow: 1253 H St. NE, DC; www.eatpowpow.com
Shouk: 655 K St. NW, DC (Mount Vernon Triangle) // 395 Morse St. NE, DC (NoMa); www.shouk.com


Plant-Forward picks

Fare Well
Doron Petersan’s vegetable-centric bakery, diner and bar on H Street offers plant-based comfort dishes like Southern fried wings, pierogies and a steak platter made with Southern fried chickpea seitan. And don’t walk out the door without dessert: indulge in a brownie sundae and a daily rotating lineup of cakes from Petersan (of Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats fame). 406 H St. NE, DC; www.eatfarewell.com

Flower Child
Championing feel-good food, the national chain landed in Foggy Bottom at the start of the new year. The fast-casual joint features bowls, salads and wraps that come as vegan and vegetarian-friendly in a hip, colorful atmosphere. 2112 Pennsylvania Ave. Suite 101, NW, DC; www.iamaflowerchild.com/locations/washington-dc

HipCityVeg
The Philadelphia import arrived in the District in 2016 and serves up a 100 percent plant-based menu including burgers, salads, milkshakes and sandwiches. There’s even a Philly steak, an homage to the brand’s hometown. 712 7th St. NW, DC; www.hipcityveg.com

Photo: Daniel Lempres

Leading The Way With Glass In Hand

DC’s wine scene continues to expand and innovate, with new restaurants and bars pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo. Gone are the days of stuffy wine lists. As consumers become more educated and adventurous, wine programs must evolve to keep up with hot trends, new regions and unique varietals.

The wine industry has long been male-dominated, but that too is rapidly changing. More women rise to the top and thrive within all areas of the wine industry – from winemakers to business owners to sommeliers at the hottest dining destinations. We sat down to chat with a few of the amazing women driving the District’s wine scene.

Photo: Marissa Bialecki

Photo: Durazo Photography

Stacey Khoury-Diaz
Owner, Dio Wine Bar

Originally from Sonoma County, Stacey Khoury-Diaz fell in love with the natural wines movement she’d experienced across the country and abroad. She opened Dio Wine Bar in the H Street Corridor in September 2017 to fill the natural wines gap she felt was missing in DC.

On Tap: Your menu indicates wines that are made by female winemakers. Do you find there are any notable differences between wines made by women and wines made by men?
Stacey Khoury-Diaz:
When I opened Dio, I wanted to highlight other women in the industry, so about 20 percent of our list is made up of wines that are from woman-owned wineries or wineries with a woman winemaker. I tend to see a lot more elevated wines made by women.

OT: What advice would you pass along to women beginning their career in the wine industry?
SKD:
Men can walk in and simply say, “This wine is awesome.” But a woman has to be more prepared with facts and statistics to prove her knowledge base. This applies on many levels in business. We have more obstacles and have to work harder to prove ourselves.

OT: What’s your go-to wine at the moment?
SKD:
I can’t stop drinking a winter rose by Daniel Ramos from Spain. It’s 100 percent garnacha and a very deep, fragrant rosé. It tastes like roses, vanilla and baking spices. It’s beautiful!

OT: What sets Dio apart from other local wine bars?
SKD:
We really highlight the fact that we’re a natural wine bar, meaning the wines are all organic or biodynamic with little added. I’m socially and environmentally driven, so natural wines fit how I live my life. We’re eclectic as far as countries represented and have a lot of fun bringing in wines that aren’t available elsewhere.

Dio Wine Bar: 904 H St. NE, DC; www.diowinebar.com

Photo: Marissa Bialecki

Photo: Marissa Bialecki

Niki Lang
Partner and Sommelier, Maxwell Park

Niki Lang has years of experience in the wine and hospitality industries, and most recently embarked on a venture with business partners Brent Kroll and Daniel Runnerstrom. Shaw’s Maxwell Park opened in June 2017 and continues to garner praise and accolades from locals.

On Tap: What wine can you not get enough of lately?
Niki Lang:
I’ve been nerding out over Northern Piedmont recently. My favorite is La Kiuva, a Picotendro [local name for the Nebbiolo grape] from Valle d’Aosta [in Italy]. It’s a lighter, more delicate style but still very interesting and complex.

OT: How did you find your way to the wine industry?
NL:
I grew up with my grandmother and wine was part of everyday life for her, so I was always exposed. When I took the first course from the Court of Master Sommeliers, it opened up a whole new world. I went into wine sales for a few years, worked at other fine dining restaurants in DC, and even worked at a distillery to learn mixology and the distillation process to broaden my knowledge of the beverage world.

OT: What’s the collaborative process like with your business partners?
NL:
Brent, Daniel and I have different backgrounds, so we bounce ideas off each other constantly. We have 50 wines by the glass that change monthly. March’s theme is “The Upside Down” – Southern Hemisphere wines. It’s collaborative and fun, and we try to keep it clever.

OT: How do you think the DC wine industry has evolved throughout your career?
NL:
DC feels like it’s been exploding with fine dining restaurants. I’ve seen a trend toward value-driven, approachable wine lists that focus on obscure varietals. At Maxwell Park, we work with almost 50 different distributors because we change our list so often and we want unique, experimental wines that are popular among consumers.

Maxwell Park:1336 9th St. NW, DC; www.maxwellparkdc.com

Photo: Daniel Lempres

Photo: Daniel Lempres

Vanessa Cominsky
Sommelier, St. Anselm

With its namesake location in Brooklyn, St. Anselm expanded to the District last fall and was an instant success in the up-and-coming Northeast area near Union Market. Vanessa Cominsky was part of the opening team and currently oversees a wine program of more than 700 options.

On Tap: What’s your top priority as a sommelier?
Vanessa Cominsky:
Our goal is to challenge perceptions and take people on an adventure. There’s truly something for everyone, from classics to more funky picks. This area is also so vibrant and people are excited to come in and explore, which helps me as a sommelier.

OT: What’s in your glass today?
VC:
My honest answer is a double shot of espresso. Blue Bottle saves my soul. I’m also into Sicilian and Southern Italian wines right now like Azienda Agricola COS, one of the original wines from Sicily that’s imported in the States.

OT: What challenges do you face as a female wine professional?
VC:
I’m almost numb to the “Oh, you’re the sommelier?” looks at this point. I hope eventually I won’t have to list my accomplishments to justify that I’m qualified to do my job. Until we don’t have to do that, we’ll have a lot of work to do within the industry.

OT: What makes St. Anselm relevant in DC’s ever-changing foodie scene?
VC:
We have Joe Carroll [the restauranteur behind St. Anselm] in New York, and he always gives input on what’s coming. I also eat out a lot and listen to people. Writing off trends seen on social media and Instagram would also be a big mistake. It’s a big part of how we connect with [customers] in regards to food and wine.

St. Anselm: 1250 5th St. NE, DC; www.stanselmdc.com

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Darlin Kulla
Beverage Director and Sommelier, KNEAD Hospitality + Design

After returning to DC for an internship in climate change, Darlin Kulla quickly realized office life wasn’t her path. She soon began working with various fine wine programs throughout the District, and now she’s gearing up to sit the advanced exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers this fall while leading the wine programs at Succotash and Mi Vida.

On Tap: What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to the beginning of your career?
Darlin Kulla:
I wish I’d know that it’s okay to ask for help, advice or mentorship. It’s easy to forget we’re not in this alone. There are so many people in DC that are driven and talented; it’s a great community and very supportive.

OT: Tell us a bit about the wine programs at Succotash and Mi Vida.
DK:
Succotash is Southern American food, so think bold, structured wines that can stand up to the food. Southern food is not shy! Mi Vida’s menu is more varied in terms of styles, even though it’s a smaller list. We went heavier in Spanish and Iberian wines. There are some fun Portuguese wines and also a Mexican Chardonnay by the glass.

OT: Wine perhaps isn’t the first pairing people think of with Mexican cuisine. How do you help guests select wines to pair with more complex dishes from the menu?
DK:
We have descriptors for all the wines printed on the list so the consumer is able to get a snapshot of the wine before they order, which is helpful with more eclectic wines. People are becoming more adventurous and what they’ll try continues to exceed expectations.

OT: What wine is currently on your short list?
DK:
I drink a lot of Beaujolais – that tends to be my go-to.

Learn more about KNEAD at www.kneadhd.com. Two new spots, Gatsby in Capitol Riverfront and The Grill at The Wharf, will join the restaurant group’s existing locations later this year.

Mi Vida: 98 District Sq. SW, DC; www.mividamexico.com
Succotash: 915 F St. NW, DC; www.succotashrestaurant.com

Photo: Greg Powers

New and Notable: Olivia, Vim and Victor, Urbano 116 and More

Olivia
Open: January 10
Location: Penn Quarter
Lowdown: Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj has performed yet another extreme restaurant makeover. This time, Olivia replaced American brasserie Nopa Kitchen + Bar. Executive Chef Matt Kuhn is still running the kitchen, but his cooking is now influenced by flavors from Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy and Greece. The new restaurant takes its name from the Latin for olive tree, evoking Mediterranean imagery like round glass wine vessels hanging from the ceiling draped in fishing net, a whitewashed brick wall and a panel of wooden slats dotted with flower pots. The menu features spreads like tzatziki labne and roasted carrot hummus, as well as various small plates including creamy chickpea ravioli, classic dolmades, octopus carpaccio and chicken bastille – a savory Moroccan phyllo pastry. If you’re really hungry, consider a large plate like the Portuguese seafood stew or braised short rib tagine. The showstopper on the dessert menu is a grand hazelnut profiterole crowned with gold leaf. 800 F St. NW, DC; www.oliviawdc.com

Vim & Victor
Open: January 10
Location: Springfield
Lowdown: Since becoming a father, celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn’s career has moved away from television, fine dining and fast casual concepts and into the wellness space. His latest concept at the St. James (a 450,000-square-foot sports and wellness complex) is a natural fit for the longtime hockey player. He’s distinguished Vim & Victor as a disruptor when it comes to food in the fitness scene, as it encompasses a grab-and-go counter, a full-service restaurant and a bar. Overseeing the dining option at this facility was a tall order to fill because it needed to provide something for everyone who might find themselves working out, watching their kid’s soccer game, getting a treatment at the spa, taking a dance class, training for an elite event or playing in an adult basketball league. The guiding philosophy for his menu is healthy, hearty and hydrating. That means you’ll find a seared salmon filet, an ancient grain salad and smoothie bowls alongside cauliflower nachos, a lobster salad toast, and a burger topped with American cheese and special sauce. The drinks range from wellness lattes and teas to smoothies and cold-pressed juices, plus cocktails, wine and beer. The counter menu offers breakfast sandwiches and pastries in the morning as well as personal pizzas and Beyond Meat sandwiches during the day. The St. James: 6805 Industrial Rd. Springfield, VA; www.vimandvictor.com

Urbano 116
Open: January 21
Location: Old Town Alexandria
Lowdown: Alexandria is now home to an authentic taste of Mexico City thanks to the arrival of Chef Alam Méndez Florían. The owners of Mason Social, Augie’s Mussel House and Catch on the Avenue crossed paths with Méndez Florían while on a research and development trip in Mexico City for their newest restaurant Urbano 116. Méndez Florían has been recognized by both national and international media for his restaurant, Pasillo de Humo, and he has cooked in Michelin-starred kitchens like Noma Mexico and Arzak in Spain. Here in the U.S., Méndez Florían is using imported ingredients like heirloom Oaxacan corn, which is nixtamalized, ground and turned into supple and flavorful tortillas. His menu borrows family recipes for complex sauces that take days to create, like black mole on grilled Cornish hen and pipián sauce on butternut squash. You’ll also find various tacos, zippy ceviches, saucy enchiladas, bar-friendly starters like grilled tlayuda and plantain molotes, and of course, fresh fried churros to be dipped in sauces like chocolate and guava cinnamon. Drinks heavily skew toward agave spirits and syrups, including Mexican spins on classic cocktails (think Mezcamule and Old Oaxacan). The space feels like an ode to luchadores, with murals and masks displayed prominently. 116 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.urbano116.com

Coconut Club
Open: January 25
Location: Union Market
Lowdown: If there’s one thing celebrity chef Adam Greenberg hopes you experience at Coconut Club, it’s fun. He may be an undefeated Food Network competitor with two decades of industry experience, but that’s not why he thinks his new restaurant and bar is worth visiting. He’s trying to recreate a simple kind of bliss: the way he felt drinking a frozen cocktail in a pool in Hawaii on vacation with his wife. The food and drink menus are playful but unfussy, with coastal small plates and island cocktails laid out on colorful patterns that mimic the bright and leafy mural on the wall. Dishes let the high-quality ingredients like fresh fish flown in from Hawaii overnight or local pasture-raised pork speak for themselves with simple but creative preparations. You’ll want to try the crowd favorites, which so far include the ora king salmon poke and the spam fried rice. Pair that with a frozen Mahalo at You Later cocktail or the Waking Up From a Disco Nap cocktail for two and you’ll instantly feel like you’re relaxing on a tropical beach. Instagrammers are welcome here, as evidenced by the social media handles and emojis accenting the menus, the whimsical serving ware (coconuts, plastic pineapples, sparkly disco balls) and the decals on the bathroom mirrors. Greenberg calls the concept “authentically me” and equates it to welcoming guests into his own home. Above all else, the chef wants anyone who walks into Coconut Club to find an escape and feel free to be themselves. 540 Penn St. NE, DC; www.hellococonutclub.com

NOTABLE

New Flavors at Hazel
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: After debuting global, Asian-leaning small plates to much acclaim, Hazel has changed its culinary compass to point towards the Mediterranean. Chef Robert Curtis took over the kitchen last summer and introduced his new direction this winter. Curtis worked internationally at Noma, as well as locally at Bourbon Steak and Restaurant Eve, before joining Neighborhood Restaurant Group to helm Hazel. The new menu he developed is inspired by a trip to Turkey to visit his fiancé. Each meal should begin with laffa flatbread topped with condiments like whipped tahini, smoked catfish and muhammara. The dishes, all intended for sharing, are laid out in four categories: Greens & Beans, Grains of Various Names, Animal Kingdom and Feast. Vegetables like roasted carrots, crispy potatoes and fried Brussels sprouts take center stage, complemented by Middle Eastern flavors ranging from harissa oil to za’atar. 808 V St. NW, DC; www.hazelrestaurant.com

Selva Pop-Up at El Techo
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: The trendy rooftop above Rito Loco has once again debuted a tropical pop-up to elicit vacation vibes and this time, they’re taking you to the rainforest. Selva is inspired by the Amazon with woven lanterns made from repurposed fishing baskets, a Mayan calendar wall mural and naturally, plenty of vegetation. The space has been upgraded with additional insulation to keep in the heat and make you feel like you’re in a balmy jungle. The food and drink match the mood with tacos, spicy chicken soup, breakfast nachos, hot cocktails and shareable spiked Jarritos served in skulls. A portion of the proceeds from Selva will be donated to the Amazon Conservation Team and other global organizations to protect rainforests worldwide. 606 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.ritoloco.com/el-techo

Photo: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: Women’s Issue Edition

DC has risen in the ranks as one of the most exciting bar scenes in the country as of late. At the helm of many of the buzziest bars in the city are women leading award-winning teams to craft the best and brightest cocktail programs. Whether they’re mainstays, newcomers or home to a specific spirit, each one is worth taking note of – not just because of the world-class drinks, but for the noteworthy ladies at the helm, too.


Megan Barnes (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Megan Barnes

Beverage Director + Partner, Espita Mezcaleria

Notice mezcal popping up across the city over the past few years? You probably have Espita Mezcaleria’s Megan Barnes to thank for that. The Shaw spot’s menu highlights the spicy and smoky spirit’s best qualities, converting even the most stubborn drinkers into passionate connoisseurs who keep diaries around their favorite varieties.

“I loved it from first sip,” Barnes says of the spirit.

She got her start at Columbia Room working under Drink Company’s Derek Brown, who introduced her to mezcal.

“After work, I would walk down to Oyamel because at the time, that was the only place you could get mezcal. Now, I go down to Mexico about three times a year, and that’s also opened the door for me to learn about different ranges, styles, techniques and flavors. And meeting the families who are producing the mezcal – it’s really kind of a romance.”

Although Barnes’ time at Espita so far has been a well-awarded one, including a RAMMY last year for best bar program, she credits the bar team behind her and the city’s supportive cocktail scene for her continued successes.

“The DC bar scene is probably the best in the entire country. We’re so tight-knit and we’re always rooting each other on, especially the women in the city. We love each other so much.”

Espita Margarita (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Margarita
Tequila
Lime
Ligit Triple
“Nogave” syrup

Espita Mezcaleria: 1250 9th St. NW, DC; www.espitadc.com

 


Alex Bookless (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Alexandra Bookless

Beverage Director, Eaton Workshop

Eaton Workshop’s ambitious pursuit of creating a social justice-minded hub for travelers and locals alike is a perfect match for seasoned beverage director Alexandra Bookless.

“We’ve got four concepts including the cafe [and] the coworking space, and we do events as well, so there’s a lot going on,” she says of the bars she oversees within the multi-use downtown space, which sees about a 50/50 split between natives and visitors.

Bookless and her team develop detailed menus for Allegory, American Son, Kintsugi, Wild Days and a soon-to-open bar within their coworking space. Not only do they make it seem effortless, but Bookless has helped usher in a new wave of luxury hotels as spots for community and craft cocktails.

“People really support our ideas and allow us to have a strong creative voice, which is really on theme for Eaton Workshop in general – just supporting art in all forms. It’s kind of a holistic approach to supporting creative outlets here.”

Allegory drink (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

2666 from Allegory
Pechuga mezcal 
Reposado tequila
Sherry 
Creme de cacao
Mole bitters
Chocolate-covered fig made in-house 

Eaton Workshop: 1201 K St. NW, DC; www.eatonworkshop.com

 


Alejandra Martin 2 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Alejandra Martin

Bartender + Manager, Gaslight Tavern

Alejandra Martin credits her family with her love of the food and beverage industry. Her parents owned a Mexican restaurant in California, and she says the restaurant world has always been in her blood. A bartender of 11 years, she joined the team at Shaw’s Gaslight Tavern when it opened last January.

“It’s been great to have been here from the beginning,” she says of the Art Deco-inspired bar. “We base our cocktails on the setting, so a lot are classic cocktails or spins on them. We stick to that time period but still get creative with them.”

Martin’s creativity shines in drinks she creates outside of the pantheon of classics, too. She crafted a current special called the Mezcalito, an homage to her love of the spirit. She keeps the retro feel with a float and an ornate glass.

“I like it because it’s a little different and it’s layered, with a fernet float on top. It’s cute and flavorful – a complex yet simple cocktail.”

The warm and inviting space is filled with – as the name would suggest – fireplaces, and its location sees locals stopping in to be guided into the arena of old-school drinks by Martin.

Mezcalito (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Mezcalito
Mezcal
Agave syrup
Pinch of salt
Fernet float
Dehydrated lime
Fresh-squeezed lemon

Gaslight Tavern: 2012-2014 9th St. NW, DC; www.gaslight-dc.com

 


Columbia Room (Photo - Daniel Lempres)

Photo: Daniel Lempres

Suzy Critchlow

Head Bartender, Columbia Room

Suzy Critchlow has risen to the top of the industry thanks to her curiosity, creativity and initiative. Despite reverence for the history of the craft, change is part of the ethos of Columbia Room. Critchlow and her team are constantly reimagining and refining their menu at the award-winning Blagden Alley spot, pushing the boundaries of classic cocktails. Their current menu Distortion is no exception.

“We’re distorting ingredients, flavors, visuals and sound,” she says. “Another menu I really loved was one called Women Rule. It was all inspired by female chefs, mixologists and bartenders. Pretty much as soon as we release a menu, we hit the ground running designing a new one.”

And although there’s no shortage of innovation in her current role, she says DC’s fast-paced drink scene keeps her on her toes and always challenges her to be even better.

“There are new places opening all the time, [which] challenges you to make sure that you’re still keeping your standards very high because there are so many people out there who are so talented and have a lot to bring to the table. It gets better [in DC] every day.”

Columbia Room_drink (Photo - Daniel Lempres)

Photo: Daniel Lempres

The Prose Punch
Gin
Fino
Pear
Roses
Whey
White vermouth

Columbia Room: 124 Blagden Alley NW, DC; www.columbiaroomdc.com

 


Erin Adams (Photo - Courtesy of AC Hotels)

Photo: Courtesy of AC Hotels)

Erin Adams

General Manager, AC Hotel National Harbor

On Tap: Tell us a bit about the offerings at AC Lounge within the hotel.
Erin Adams: AC Lounge is our bar area where guests can enjoy local craft beers, expertly made signature cocktails such as locally inspired gin and tonics, specialty wines sourced from around the world including Spanish Albarino and Rioja, and a curated selection of tapas-style small bites.

OT: Any mainstays or customer favorites on the drink menu?
EA:
To kick the evening off, we offer a nightly ritual of passing the porrón – a tradition started because of our Spanish roots. The porrón is a traditional glass wine pitcher filled with wine and tipped directly into mouths as a conclusion to the work day and kickoff to the evening.

OT: Why should local drink enthusiasts visit the lounge?
EA: AC Lounge is unique from other National Harbor bars as we highlight our Spanish roots and culture in the experience. Our bar shelves resemble National Harbor’s picturesque sunsets, and the space offers floor-to-ceiling window views of the destination as well as an outdoor terrace that can be enjoyed year-round.

AC Hotel cocktail (Photo - Courtesy of AC Hotels)

Photo: Courtesy of AC Hotels

Cherry Blossom Sour
Sloop Betty Vodka
St. Germain
Simple syrup
Cherry brandy
Oloroso sherry
Lemon juice

AC Hotel National Harbor: 156 Waterfront St. National Harbor, MD: www.marriott.com/hotels

Daniel Lempres contributed to this article.