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Photo: courtesy of Sunday Morning Bakehouse

New and Notable: Corner Office, Hatoba, PLNT Burger and Sunday Morning Bakehouse

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

Corner Office
Open: September 17
Location: Downtown
Lowdown: The W Hotel’s $50 million renovation brought with it brand new dining concepts, including a convivial pizza and beer garden. Corner Office, so named for its prime location on the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue, has a spacious outdoor patio with large communal tables and a trendy underground bar indoors. The menu is overseen by chef de cuisine William Morris, who sweats the details of his pies – like the perfect dough recipe and the highest quality ingredients. There are eight different pizzas, each charred in wood-fired ovens. The combinations range from the classic artisan pepperoni to the luxe truffle hunter with buffalo mozzarella, black truffle puree and shaved truffles. The pies are the perfect companion for the extensive beer selection of nearly 50 drafts. In the warmer months, the garden is home to bocce courts and umbrellas. As the temperatures drop, the courts will turn into curling rinks and heat lamps will keep things nice and toasty. A nod to the hotel’s motto of “crossing the party line,” the patio features a mural of an elephant and a donkey enjoying pizzas and beer with their critter friends. 515 15th St. NW, DC; www.cornerofficedc.com

Hatoba
Open: October 11
Location: Navy Yard
Lowdown: When the Daikaya Group plans a new concept, they begin with a narrative. At Hatoba, their third Sapporo-style ramen shop, that narrative is one inspired by Kappabashi, a street in Tokyo overflowing with specialty restaurant supply stores. Picture a ship arriving from Japan and setting up a restaurant supply showroom inside the old navy boilermaker building – that’s Hatoba. (The owner is also an avid baseball fan, of both the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and of course, the neighboring Nationals.) Soup bowls, bento boxes, sake carafes and paper lanterns line the walls and front windows, and the bathrooms broadcast the audio from Japanese baseball games. The menu is depicted in shokuhin sampuru – Japanese food models – and it’s distinct from both Daikaya and Haikan. After an intensive R&D trip in Sapporo, where there are more than 1,000 ramen shops, the team decided they wanted to showcase the breadth of the regional cuisine, while remaining true to tradition and carrying on their characteristic obsession with details. Befitting the location and the restaurant’s name (meaning dock or wharf), there are two seafood-forward bowls: the red miso clam and the spicy red miso. Along with the more common shio (with a hint of yuzu) and garlic shoyu, there is a unique vegan offering: the tomato curry. The can-centric beverage program is a playful nod to the nearby baseball stadium, offering local and Japanese beers, sake, cocktails, wine, coffees, teas and sodas. 300 Tingey St. #170, SE, DC; www.hatobadc.com

PLNT Burger
Open: September 12
Location: Silver Spring
Lowdown: “Eat the change you wish to see in the world” is printed on signs, food wrappers and menus in the Whole Foods restaurant kiosk that houses PLNT Burger. This phrase embodies the ethos of the plant-based fast casual concept by celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn and his partners, Julie Farkas and Benjamin Kaplan. They’re endeavoring to democratize the plant-based movement by making meatless burgers available to diners from any background. The food is kosher and the prices start at $6.95 for a burger. The team is passionate about plants because of their potential to feed people in an energy-efficient manner that’s better for people and the environment. But beyond that, their goal is to make indulgent, craveable satisfying burgers – without meat, and without sacrificing flavor. The menu is succinct, with four burgers starring hand-formed patties made from Beyond Meat. One of the most popular selections is a mushroom bacon BBQ burger, stacked with vegan cheddar, mushroom “bacon,” bloomies and house BBQ sauce. The bloomies are one of the side options – incredibly addictive miniature fried onion blooms – along with herbed fries and sweet potato crinkle fries. A burger and fries isn’t complete without ice cream, so don’t skip the oat milk soft serve made exclusively for PLNT Burger by Dolcezza Gelato. 833 Wayne Ave. Silver Spring, MD; www.plntburger.com

Sunday Morning Bakehouse
Open: October 1
Location: North Bethesda
Lowdown: Though she loved to bake from a young age, Caroline Yi had always written off the idea of owning a bakery as a pipe dream. She never expected to be baking around the clock to keep up with demand at her first business. Sunday Morning Bakehouse is truly a family operation, owned by Yi and her sister Alex, with help from their parents and other relatives. Yi recalls learning to bake with her aunt, and says it feels like things have come full circle for her family, as her grandfather owned a bakery where her aunt and uncle worked long before she was born. She’s named her bakery after her favorite day of the week growing up – the day when her father, a business owner, was home for breakfast and her family would spend time together. Now it’s her busiest workday. Her journey in baking has been primarily self-taught, though she also did stints at A Baked Joint and bakeries in New York before opening a farmers market stall that would routinely sell out of fan favorites like croissants with the perfect honeycomb structure. She seems to have found a recipe for success with her warm and minimalist storefront, filled with natural light, neutral hues and light wood. The menu offers breakfast all day, with sandwiches, toasts and assorted pastries paired with Ceremony Coffee. In the coming weeks, Yi plans to keep the shop open later and transition into a wine bar in the evenings, with pizzas and baguettes to accompany cheese and charcuterie boards. 11869 Grand Park Ave. North Bethesda, MD; www.sundaymorningbakehouse.com

NOTABLE

DMV Black Restaurant Week
Dates: November 3-10
Location: Restaurants in DC, MD and VA
Lowdown: The second annual DMV Black Restaurant Week spotlights and supports black-owned hospitality businesses while creating pathways for future restaurant and bar entrepreneurs. Co-founders Dr. Erinn Tucker, chef Furard Tate and Andra “AJ” Johnson curate the event with more than 30 participating restaurants around the region. Diners can enjoy deals on prix-fixe menus or receive discounts on purchases at various hot spots, including Ben’s Chili Bowl, Calabash, DCity Smokehouse, Halfsmoke, Wicked Bloom and more. Throughout the week, there will also be signature events like a cocktail competition, a business conference and an awards and scholarship gala. Various locations around the DMV; www.dmvbrw.com

The New Trummer’s
Open: October 1
Location: Clifton
Lowdown: In just a month, Trummer’s On Main got a facelift, revamped the menu and reopened as just Trummer’s. Without erasing the restaurant’s small town charm meets fine dining fare appeal, the makeover has enhanced the welcoming atmosphere and brought new fire to the kitchen – literally, with an imported French rotisserie oven. Victoria and Stefan Trummer have owned the Austrian-influenced American bistro on Main Street for 10 years, and this renovation is the first since the opening. The simplified menu now stars spit-roasted meats, seafood and vegetables, as well as a few familiar favorites and of course, the signature Titanic cocktail. 7134 Main St. Clifton, VA; www.trummersrestaurant.com

Late Night Anonymous: Strange Drink Orders, Questionable Taste Buds and Bad Bar Etiquette

Rowdy parties, annoying drunks, terrible tips, bad decisions, strange drink orders – these are just some of what bartenders and bar employees must deal with, especially later in the night. And they have to be equipped to handle it well. They are also the folks who have seen it all. In this light look at funny stories from around town, we asked some of DC’s bar employees what their most memorable late-night customer memories were. This just-for-fun piece showcases some anonymous drink industry memories of late-night shenanigans that have left their mark.

Extra Hot, Please!

This beverage director at a trendy local hotel bar is accustomed to helping guests stumble back to their rooms after last call and is therefore used to some unusual asks. But this harmless one really brought the heat.

“We get a fair amount of weird orders, especially later in the night. For a week, we had an elderly hotel guest come down after dinner and ask for warm London dry gin, neat. We actually had to put it under the espresso steamer until it was hot.”

Avant-Garde or Bizarre?

Taste buds can work in strange ways, and we all have our own idiosyncrasies. But at what point do they go beyond being “interesting” to just weird?

“We once had a guy, a regular at the time, who would add hot sauce to his glass of water. No kidding. As a Mexican spot, we have a range of salsas and house-made, bottled hot sauces, and he would try a different one each time – in his water, that is. His favorite was the green chili salsa, medium hot.”

Boom, It’s a Magnum!

Another beverage manager proceeded to tell us about this episode. We can’t tell you where this happened, but we can tell you this is an upscale bar in DC with a great – and expensive – wine list.

“It was a busy night at the bar, as we had multiple large parties seated and bottles of wine were flying off the shelf. There was one group celebrating a friend’s recent engagement, and they were going all out on some really nice, expensive bottles of wine. About two hours in, one of the guys came up to the bar and asked for a magnum bottle (1.5 liters) on his tab to toast his friends. Great idea, right? So far, yes. I said I would bring it right over, but he insisted that he would take it back to the table. Now, this was a pricey bottle, so I said, ‘I need to go and retrieve it and will bring it to the table with glasses.’ But he was persistent and said he would wait. I brought it back and opened it and handed it to him, and he started to walk away while I got the glasses ready on a tray to take to them. The next thing I heard was a huge shattering sound and a collective gasp. He had dropped the bottle.”

Loaded Tots

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a plate of fried food at 2 a.m. to soak up the evening’s indulgences, right? But literally soaking it up might be just a tad much.

“By far the oddest combination I have seen is a customer who ordered tater tots and then added on – I should say really doused them – with a shot of Jägermeister. I don’t know if the guy was drunk and mistook the shot for ketchup (he did ask for that too and it was right next to the shot), or if it was intentional. He did finish up the tots, so I guess it was good. I don’t know. I don’t think I could do it. I don’t think I want to do it.”

Pickle Juice, Pickle Juice, Pickle Juice

No order-shaming here, but he probably didn’t wake up with a hangover the next morning…

“We have specials at the bar every night, and on this particular night, it happened to be a pickleback: a shot of Jameson chased by a shot of pickle juice. It’s pretty popular and we were selling a lot of them that night. This guy came up to the bar with a couple of his friends, and they all ordered picklebacks. But then he wanted to customize the order [with] an entire glass of pickle juice instead of just the shot. I wasn’t sure how much or how big of a glass he wanted, but he told me that instead of a beer chaser, he wanted a pickle chaser. So, I gave him a pint of pickle juice. But here’s the best part: the three of them did another two picklebacks that night, and he had a pint of it each time!”

Photo: courtesy of Seven Reasons

Savory Sensations: Seven Reasons Chef Enrique Limardo Teams Up With Winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi

If you’ve strolled down 14th street in the last year or so, you may have come across the sight of a tall, handsome man plucking leaves from trees and nibbling on them. No cause for concern, folks, it’s just Chef Enrique Limardo from Seven Reasons tasting the neighborhood. 

“It’s one of my creative processes,” Limardo shrugs and smiles. “I have to taste everything. Sometimes, I get poisoned because I’m too crazy. I walk on the street and start looking for things that can inspire me.”

Everything is an inspiration to an artist like Limardo. But, if you call him an artist, he will deny it, opting instead for the descriptor “restless creative.” With his background in architecture and industrial design, he has an eye for shapes and colors. A simple leaf of a tree may beckon to him. A week later, diners might find that one of their cocktails or dishes includes an infusion of that very leaf.

“It’s not just local,” he says in all seriousness, eyes shining with vivid enthusiasm. “It’s the neighborhood!”

It might have struck me as strange to have a casual conversation about sampling potentially poisonous leaves at one o’clock in the morning but, after the dinner I indulged in, nothing seems out of the ordinary. 

The collaborative dinner with Chef Limardo and Winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi (Mendoza, Argentina) is unassumingly described as an 11-course dinner pairing flavors and wines. What the guests experience is a catapult shot far from a standard wine pairing dinner. 

Each plate is set with a hardcover book. Flipping through stunning photography of vineyards, artistic plates and wines, I kick myself for not knowing the dinner was based on a book launch between Limardo and Zuccardi, that is until I realize there is no book and no launch. I am simply perusing the evening’s menu. 

Frozen roses dangle in front of us as we are invited to clap our hands over them, showering our foie gras dolce de leche with shards of petals. An expertly executed chicken breast adorned with cheddar sauce makes me wish it was appropriate to lick plates in public. Nitro-surprises drive us to giggle like toddlers as our nostrils spew minty smoke and our palates are cleansed. And family photos, passed around by way of a recently-published recipe book, transport me from the construction-ridden streets of DC to the Zuccardi household at the foot of the Andes mountains.  

“These are my grandmother’s recipes,” Sebastian Zuccardi explains as he proudly shows us the published book that he compiled along with his siblings. Simple recipes like “lasagna” and “onion tarte” stand in strong juxtaposition with what is being served in front of us – duck confit ravioli, grapes, parmesan cloud. And yet, the two co-exist comfortably, mingling with the heat from the kitchen, the lusty caress of the wines, and the dimly lit room filled with laughter and language. It is transportive – like fine dining in a nonna’s kitchen.

Throughout the evening, Zuccardi paints a picture of a large family strongly rooted in their Italian heritage, while planting new generations of family and vines in Argentina. 

But the star storytellers are the wines. Even the most inexperienced of palates can discern the harmony of weather, water and soil in every sip. Before Zuccardi explains it, our taste buds can instinctively feel that the 2017 Zuccardi Fosil, Chardonnay, came from a high altitude, cool weather environment where the soil was almost oceanic; it was that crisp and clear. Each wine is terroir-driven; a perfect expression of place and time. 

While everyone sighs and gesticulates over the impressively plated dishes, I find myself being critical. Visually stunning, each element was delicious but, together, there is a sense of imbalance… until the wine pairing. Every sip brings synergy.

“We spent five hours tasting the wines,” Limardo tells me. “We [identified] every single element you can find in the wine and then we tried to pair every single flavor.”

When it comes to pairing wines, the thought is usually about what wine would best elevate the dish for the guest. In this case, the concept of pairing was overturned; wine became the primary ingredient both in and with the dishes. 

“If you taste the dish by itself, probably you can feel it’s unbalanced but when you try the wine it’s going to be the missing part of the plate,” Limardo admits. I AHA-ed in triumph. “That’s the idea!” he points at me with glee.

Despite the lateness of the hour, Limardo’s energy radiates. It’s not hard to imagine that this is the chef who changed his entire opening menu – on opening night – out of sheer boredom. 

“Now the staff trusts me a lot,” he chuckles. “They understand my process of changing the dishes…it’s gonna be better.”

 Co-owner and managing partner Ezequiel Vazquez-Ger is equally fast-paced. When I ask, “Why do so many new things when you’ve barely been open for six months?” his response is, “Why not?”

Limardo, who recorded a rock album amidst his architecture and graphic design and culinary studies, likens his process to that of famous musicians.

“It’s like the Rolling Stones,” he explains. “They know they’re always going to have to perform their greatest hits. But they’re always having new releases.”

For more events at Seven Reasons, visit here.

Seven Reasons: 2208 14th St NW, DC; 202-417-8563; www.sevenreasonsdc.com

Photo: Joshua Goodrich

New Kitchens On The Block: A Taste of DC Culture and Community

Everyone gathered under a tent as it rained outside on October 20. We were all waiting for part six of New Kitchens On The Block (NKOTB) to begin. If you are not familiar with NKOTB, it is an event where people can try food from new restaurants. The only twist is: These restaurants have not opened yet.

Nevin Martell and Al Goldberg host the scrumptious event in Mess Hall DC. Here, their goal is to help chefs promote their restaurants at one location and so local foodies don’t have to travel across DC for a taste of new cuisine. At this year’s edition of NKOTB, guests got to sample food from Maialino Mare, Hi/Fi Taco, Cranes, Tabla, Soko, Pearl’s Bagels, Bubbie’s Plant Burgers & Fizz, La Famosa, Emmy Squared and &pizza.

While the food was the main attraction, this was a time for the DC community to shine. People engaged in conversations as they mingled, drank and, of course, ate. Not to mention, the background included a bevy of popular music.

This event gave everyone the chance to taste DC culture, literally. La Famosa’s Chef Joancarlo Parkhurst shared his Puerto Rican food. His restaurant has family roots and gives Puerto Rican representation in the DC food scene.

Bubbie’s Plant Burgers & Fizz showed how veggies are capable of satisfying people’s burger cravings. This take on burgers reflects what we are seeing with restaurants offering new vegetable alternatives. These two different restaurants are just an example of how the featured chefs captured a mix of DC’s traditional and modern culture.

Food brings us all together. Attendees Moo and Josh liked listening to the playlist and watching chefs prepare their food. Sharmeen and Pinar described NKOTB as an awesome weekend activity, before excusing themselves because they were excited and wanted to continue to “stuff their faces.”

Mwame, Nana, and Nina were repeaters who returned because they enjoyed the top-notch food and meeting the people behind their meals. After attending their first NKOTB event, they even visited one of the newly opened restaurants featured. They applauded the diversity at the event but wished for an African restaurant to get featured.

At the end of the successful lunch session, Al Goldberg said, “the DC food scene is alive more than ever. [NKOTB] shows new chefs reinventing cuisine.”

The event was a delight, and many attendees expressed that they would go to these restaurants when they opened. People who attended NKOTB got a taste of good food, DC culture and the community. It was a genuine experience that will make everyone appreciate what the DC food scene has to offer.

For more information about Mess Hall DC’s s events, visit here.

Mess Hall DC: 703 Edgewood St. NE, DC; www.messhalldc.com

What’s On Tap: October 2019

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

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6

D.C. United Pre-Game Oktoberfest Happy Hour
It is the last game of the season, so D.C. United is hosting the best pre-game party. Come celebrate Oktoberfest with beers, games and raffles. Your first beer is on the house. After the party, take your seats to watch D.C. United take on FC Cincinnati. 2:30-4 p.m. Tickets $25. Audi Field: 100 Potomac Ave. SW, DC; www.dcfray.com

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8

Beer Dinner: Go Big or Go Home
Chef Bart celebrates 15 years of Belga Café. This time, the experts have dug deep in the beer cellar and have come up with a very personal selection of hard to find beers in big bottles, from 1.5 to 6 liters. Expect exceptional bottles like Gouden Carolus Van De Keizer Blauw vintage 2009 and Liefmans Gouden Band vintage 2000 and more. From the kitchen, you’ll enjoy a traditional Belgian food feast. 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tickets $76.96. Belga Café: 514 8th St. SE, DC; www.belgacafe.com

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10

Four Course Beer Dinner
Pinstripes Georgetown is bringing craft beer lovers a taste of their culinary expertise, with a special dinner inspired by, and paired with, selections from DC Brau. A DC Brau representative and Pinstripes’ chef will lead guests through a deliciously fun four-course dinner. Tickets for the event include the dinner, beer pairings, tax and service. 7-9 p.m. Tickets $60. Pinstripes Georgetown: 1064 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.pinstripes.com/georgetown-washington

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12

Bring a Guitar to the Bar: Battlecross, Gloom, Eyes of the Nile
Join bands Battlehouse, Gloom, No Tomorrow  and Iron Maiden tribute band Eyes of the Nile, as they rock out in support of the Witt Black Music Foundation’s third annual Bring a Guitar to the Bar Fundraiser. You can also enjoy craft beer, tacos and raffle prizes. Donations of gently-used guitars for at-risk kids enrolled in the Foundation’s guitar classes are also being accepted at the door. 6:30-11 p.m. Tickets $15. Atlas Brew Works: 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, DC; www.atlasbrewworks.com

Cigar and Beer Pairing
7 Locks Brewing will transform into a cigar lounge for this one of a kind event, highlighting the first release in their new Barrel Aged Bottle Program, the Lockhouse Cellar Reserve. Enjoy three Davidus cigars paired perfectly with three 7 Locks beers. Two of the beers will be full 16 oz. pints, and the third beer is their new 26 oz. barrel aged bottle. 2-5 p.m. Tickets $45. 7 Locks Brewing: 12227 Wilkins Ave. North Bethesda, MD; www.7locksbrewing.com

Snallygaster 2019
Snallygaster is the District’s beastliest beer festival, bar none. Returning for its eighth year, festivalgoers can expect an unbelievable array of no fewer than 400 highly sought after brews on draft. There will be more than 150 of the finest American and international producers, set against a backdrop of local food trucks and two stages of live music. This awesome event will benefit the Arcadia Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system. 12-6 p.m. Tickets start at $50. Downtown: Pennsylvania Avenue in NW, DC; www.snallygasterdc.com

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13

Granite City Presents: Kegs and Crabs
Enjoy delicious Maryland crabs and hoppy pints at Granite City’s Kegs and Crabs. The brewery has partnered with Krewe of Pyros to host this tasty event. Twenty percent of proceeds will be donated to each company’s chosen initiative. Make sure to take advantage of the cigar friendly patio while you sip on a beer. 3-7 p.m. Tickets start at $50. Granite City Food and Brewery: 200 American Way. Oxon Hill, MD; www.gcfb.com/location/national-harbor-maryland

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17

ChurchKey’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration: Vol. 4
ChurchKey turns 10 years old this October. In true ChurchKey fashion, they’re celebrating with a series of huge events, massive tap takeovers and unbelievable beer dinners until the end of the year. Join them as they continue their 10th anniversary series with their close friends from Allagash Brewing Company. Free to attend. 4-7:30 p.m. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.churchkeydc.com

Hop Jam
If you’re looking to expand your craft brewery experience beyond DC, head to Sinistral Brewing Company in Manassas, Virginia. Savor local Northern Virginia brews and music at a hop jam. It’s a great way to get a head start on your weekend festivities. 7 p.m. Free to attend. Sinistral Brewing Company: 9419 Main St. Manassas, VA; www.sinistralbrewingcompany.com

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19

2nd Annual Shucktoberfest Beer & Oyster Festival
The second annual Shucktober Beer & Oyster Festival will take place in Arlington, Virginia, right in the heart of downtown Shirlington Village. At this year’s festival, you can expect more than 40 craft beer tents, double the oyster tents from last year’s event, and local food and merchant vendors. Bring your pup to enjoy the fun, because the festival is pet-friendly! 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Free to attend. Village at Shirlington: 2700 S. Quincy St. Arlington, VA; www.copperwoodtavern.com

Capital BrewFest: Fall Seasonal Beer, Wine & Music Festival
Capital BrewFest is a celebration of the very best time to drink delicious seasonal craft beer: the fall. For this year’s event, the best newly released fall brews available from your favorite breweries will be available to try. You’ll get a tasting glass, and enjoy unlimited tastings of more than 40 carefully selected beers, amazing food options, music from a DJ, games, arts, activities and more. 12:30-8 p.m. Tickets start at $17.95. The Bullpen: 1201 Half St. SE, DC; www.brewfestdc.com

Photos: courtesy of Oyster Oyster

Oyster Oyster Joins Sustainable Dining Scene, Pushes for New Movement

Oyster Oyster grew out of a dream. Not just a vision for the future of the restaurant, but a disturbing image chef Rob Rubba conjured during slumber. He dreamt that his daughter fell while hiking and broke her leg.

“When I looked at her leg, it looked like a piece of chicken thigh or chicken leg,” he recalls. “It really grossed me out, and I was like, ‘Well, I would never eat my child. Why would I eat an animal?’”

He went cold-turkey vegetarian after that.

“It’s a little dark, but it’s an interesting illustration of this formative moment,” owner Max Kuller, who has been a vegetarian for his entire adult life, says with a laugh.

Rubba’s nightmare aside, Oyster Oyster – opening in Shaw next month – has been a long time coming. The two plant eaters had wanted to create a restaurant focused on vegetables, and the idea solidified after reading an article in Saveur Magazine that outlined the future of dining given the bleak realities of climate change.

“It was really centered around mushrooms and bivalves,” Rubba explains. “Both of them are extremely sustainable proteins and easy to produce and use almost no resources to create. From there, it just kind of stemmed off and kept growing.”

Kuller adds, “I think there was this real ‘a-ha’ moment for us when we were exploring this idea of a quote unquote vegetarian restaurant. If we frame this around sustainability instead, we can still be very much true to our ethos and our philosophies.”

That’s how oysters – and mussels – wriggled their way into Kuller and Rubba’s vegetarian diets.

“It was brought to my attention by Max originally because I had noticed he had started eating oysters,” Rubba says. “One day I was on his Instagram and I was like, ‘Why is this guy eating oysters? I thought he was vegetarian?’”

Rubba learned that oysters don’t feel pain like humans and animals because they lack a central nervous system and brain. The language used to describe an oyster’s lifecycle is also more plant-like than animal-like: they grow from seed, latch onto reefs and never move. On top of that, raising oysters is incredibly sustainable. Oyster farms have very little negative impact on the environment, and they are in fact used to improve water quality.

Kuller describes his first time trying oysters as a magical experience. Beyond the ethical and ecological rationale, he grew to love these bivalves because of their kinship with grapes and wine.

“I became incredibly fascinated with oysters as a sommelier because oysters also have ‘merroir.’ They reflect where they’re from in a way that no other protein I know of does.”

With that knowledge, it all started to click.

“That ability to kind of gerrymander oysters and mussels into a plant-based concept, it really is like we can pretty much have everything we want,” Kuller says.

Oyster Oyster’s driving philosophy is sustainability, with extra attention paid to sourcing and waste reduction. Instead of a blanket statement about a sourcing radius or set of requirements, Kuller and Rubba prefer to take everything on a case-by-case basis.

“We certainly favor Chesapeake oysters and we certainly favor relationships direct with farmers when we’re sourcing oysters,” Kuller says. “But we’re not going to try to claim that we’re only going to ever use a local oyster because the reality may be, based on the farming season and what’s going on, we may want to go further into the Northeast occasionally.”

The same goes for wine – natural, organic and local wines will be featured, but not to the exclusion of up-and-coming producers who are working hard to grow responsibly but may not be certified. Rubba is working to eliminate both food waste and plastic waste in the kitchen.

“I had always used sous-vide [low-temp, long-time cooking using plastic pouches],” he says. “I made the decision a long time ago that we weren’t [going to] because I just don’t know where these bags go.”

Plastic wrap and other disposables are also being kicked out of the kitchen. For organic material, the beverage program was a natural outlet for scraps and trimmings. That’s an opportunity to shine for Adam Bernbach, the bar director at Kuller’s Spanish restaurant Estadio.

“Collaboration is what excites me,” Bernbach says. “A lot of it is thinking about what we’re doing, and Rob’s food. I’m trying to do more closed-loop kind of things and using more of the resources that we have available to us.”

That led him to experimenting with low-ABV beverages like aromatized wine and “taking that template and those traditions and using [them] as a way to utilize the ingredients that are trimmings, but also as a way to highlight what the cuisine is.”

These drinks will make up an alternative beverage pairing option in addition to a more traditional wine pairing – “stuff that you would see in someone’s home, pre-modernization.” Expect infusions of herbs, vegetables, fruits and “anything that’s consumable that would be used in cooking.” The food will be offered exclusively as a three- or four-course tasting menu.

“I feel the best way to show a meal that’s based around plants and oysters wouldn’t be ordering à la carte,” Rubba says.

Each menu will start with light canapes followed by slightly larger dishes, then robust entrées and ending with playful desserts – sans refined sugar. Of course, oysters and mushrooms will feature prominently. One composed oyster preparation includes fresh-pressed black walnut oil, cider and radishes. There will also likely be a whole roasted oyster mushroom on the menu in some form.

“Another fun dish that we’ve been experimenting with and [are] very happy with is our carrot steak,” Rubba adds.

It involves dozens of layers of slow-roasted carrot tightly rolled together, paired with roasted farro, fermented fennel and a vegetable demi-glace.

“I believe that dish is one that could change people’s perception of what a vegetable can be.”

In addition to meticulous sourcing, Rubba is also taking some ingredients into his own hands.

“We want to press our own oils out of nuts and things like that because we know where it’s coming from, and then we [can] upcycle what comes out of that. It’s important to have a purpose for everything.”

He’s also growing and dehydrating plants for the menu, like coriander berries to make coriander capers, fennel crowns to be pickled and marigold flowers to use in a farmhouse curry in place of turmeric. They have plans to make their own bread and butter, and potentially even mill their own grains for flour or grow their own mushrooms in the restaurant down the road. The menu will change six times a year in tandem with six seasons that Kuller and the team have delineated.

“We want to have these six special seasons that we’re thinking about in their own ways, where we’re adding things that are – to us – special about those times of the year,” Kuller says.

They plan to open at the beginning of holiday season, which runs from the middle of November through the end of December. This season will celebrate special or luxury items. Then comes mid-winter in January and February, playing with preserved items and root vegetables. The subsequent seasons highlight the produce available exclusively during that time of year: early spring, late spring and mid-summer. Harvest season, from September through mid-November, showcases the bounty of the harvest.

The restaurant is located in the City Market at O development in Shaw. It will be intimate, with just 35 seats inside and a covered outdoor annex they’re calling the Oyster Garage because it used to be the entrance to a parking garage.

“It’s a simple space,” Kuller says. “I would say it definitely has a little bit of a minimalist vibe.”

Gray, white, pink and soft green hues pair with wood, natural materials and living greenery.

“There’s a lot of reclaimed things,” he adds.

The back bar is made from recycled skateboard decks and there is a mosaic of weathered tiles that Kuller personally harvested from a beach in Italy. After many long months of development and construction, the Oyster Oyster team is more than ready to enter the sustainable dining scene.

“The underlying trends are staggering,” Kuller says. “There’s moments where we’re worried we’re behind the trend. We started by thinking, ‘Okay, we are totally on the forefront of this,’ but we feel like every time we open our browser now, it’s another chef who’s like, ‘Okay, we’re going to go vegetarian for a month or we’re going to focus on high-end veggie dining.’”

Rubba says he doesn’t think there’s really any other way to operate a restaurant.

“If you look in a 10-year span, it’ll be too expensive,” he continues. “You just financially could not run a restaurant with the prices you have now 10 years from now. For us to sustain living here and having restaurants and living comfortable lives, we have to change how we operate restaurants and create new concepts. We don’t have a choice.”

Kuller hopes that this is just the beginning of a movement.

“We’d love to ultimately teach things about technique in terms of reducing food waste. We’d love to be able to teach workshops on foraging, even urban foraging. It’s not about trying to carve out this thing and be special and unique. We want more restaurants like us.”

Oyster Oyster: 1440 8th St. NW, DC; www.oysteroysterdc.com

Kevin Tien and Carlie Steiner Focus on New Culinary Concepts

As rising stars in the restaurant industry, Kevin Tien and Carlie Steiner created a supernova in late 2016. Their debut restaurant in Petworth garnered an impressive mass of accolades during just three years in business, and then suddenly, Himitsu was gone.

The ending wasn’t as dramatic as a star exploding. It was abrupt yet amicable – the best choice for all parties involved as each owner grew their own empire. Many are mourning the loss of the quirky, welcoming restaurant, but the death of Himitsu marks the birth of two even more interesting concepts.

Tien announced his new restaurant last year. Emilie’s has a much larger footprint than Himitsu, and expectations are high.

“It’s pretty ambitious, what we want to do,” he says. “It was only right to me to focus my attention all on Emilie’s or else I don’t think we would be able to open a really great restaurant.”

Though Himitsu was Tien’s first restaurant, in partnership with Steiner, it wasn’t the one he first dreamed of opening.

“When I originally wrote up the plan for a restaurant many, many years ago, Emilie’s was actually that original business concept, with a cart-style service.”

Now, he’s poised to open Emilie’s on Capitol Hill in early to mid-October. His vision for the concept is to cultivate a dining experience focused on sharing.

“Growing up, sharing meant going out to eat dim sum with my family,” he says.

Emilie’s will feature carts roving around the dining room, as well as large-format, family-style entrées with shareable sides. The menu will incorporate flavors and dishes from around the country and the world, while reflecting from the kitchen team’s backgrounds. He’s calling it new American, but not in the sense you might expect.

“Before, I think American was very steak and potatoes and roast chicken or casseroles, but I think American looks very different now,” he continues. “There’s Italian food, there’s Ethiopian food, there’s Asian cuisine. That’s what American food really is now.”

As a nod to Tien’s Louisiana upbringing, there will be a fried chicken dinner with caviar deviled eggs. His Vietnamese heritage will be represented by family-style woven noodles served with various fish sauces and grilled items. Himitsu fans won’t find Tien’s famous hamachi crudo – but he promises there will be a crudo of some sort – honoring the 12 years he spent cooking Japanese cuisine.

His kitchen management team’s influence can be seen in various aspects of the menu as well, like Davy Bourne’s house-made breads and Autumn Cline and Mikey Fabian’s seafood prowess. When Emilie’s opens, Tien wants to capture the feeling that made Himitsu special.

“A lot of the magic from Himitsu came from everyone working together as a team,” he says. “My biggest hope is that with the staff that we have here, with everyone working together on the menu and the service, we’re able to recreate some of that same magic.”

 Now the sole owner of a popular restaurant on Upshur Street, Steiner has also turned her attention to building a team.

“We are not a chef-driven restaurant,” she says. “We are a team-driven restaurant.”

She tapped chef Amanda Moll and beverage director Lauren Paylor to reopen the restaurant as a new concept: Pom Pom. In just 36 hours, they redesigned the space, adding a forest green accent wall and upholstery as well as an explosion of brightly colored pom poms.

“I hope that we can continue to make that meticulous, beautiful food,” Steiner says. “What we’ve added is a lot more whimsy.”

She says Pom Pom feels like the living room of her home – a joyful, playful space for everyone. Just as Steiner wants her guests to feel at home, she wants her staff to feel safe.

“Most of our staff actually identifies in some way as queer,” she adds. “It’s naturally become a very welcoming space for queer people.”

In the coming months, she plans to offer benefits for staff.

“Safety is probably number one and that, for me, is about protecting my employees. My employees then come back and do an incredible job protecting the guests.”

Part of that is staying true to the team mentality. Instead of championing one individual, Steiner appreciates the value in all her staff.

“What about the service members? What about the cooks? What about the dishwashers? Those are the people making this place run.”

Moll takes that literally by calling everyone chef – a habit she formed long before joining Pom Pom.

“It’s a respect thing,” she explains. “We’re all on the same level. We all are just as important in this restaurant.”

The menus at Pom Pom are similarly collaborative. Steiner, who previously oversaw the beverage program at Himitsu, now has a 50 percent influence over both the food and drink menus along with Moll and Paylor. They’ve designed the offerings so you can enjoy a refined meal to celebrate a milestone, or a burger and a beer after work. Steiner describes the food as international cuisine, or “cuisine nonconforming.”

“I will not put one cuisine on it, because a) I don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves and b) I’m not claiming to cook any classic dish at all whatsoever,” she says. “We are not claiming to do anything except put out food that we like to eat.”

There are Southeast Asian dishes, which reflect Moll’s time as a sous chef at Doi Moi, as well as Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, which is what Steiner likes to cook. Highlights include Moll’s Balinese roast duck, Steiner’s take on hamachi crudo with house-made labneh, za’atar and pomegranate seeds, and their collaborative tahdig – a crispy Peruvian green rice. This is Moll’s first executive chef role, and she has embraced the opportunity to set the tone for kitchen culture.

“I’m excited that I’m able to be in a position where I can help build up other people now, [and] just be able to have a safe environment for people to learn, feel supported, grow and test out different ideas,” Moll says.

With the new concept well underway, Steiner hopes neighbors and visitors will give Pom Pom a chance.

“I’ve always been here,” she says. “The team is amazing and I’m hoping that people are excited to get onboard this f–king happy train, because we’re just here to throw a damn good party every night and we just want you to be a part of it.”

Emilie’s: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, DC; www.emiliesdc.com

Pom Pom: 828 Upshur St. NW, DC;  new website TBD, check www.himitsudc.com in the meantime

RASA dishes // Photo: Rey Lopez

DC’s Fine Fast Casual Scene

Fast-casual food is hot and shows no signs of slowing down. Since the explosion of the fast-casual segment, DC diners have started expecting even more from these quick options – and restaurants have delivered. They are incorporating creative bites, hanging menus, well-plated dishes, interesting décor and extensive beverage services into the casual dining experience. This new niche, referred to as elevated fast casual or fine fast casual, combines the familiar elements of fast casual with aspects of fine dining. In DC, we have plenty of choices when it comes to fine fast casual, with diverse cuisines at modest price points. Here’s what seven local spots, each truly highlighting the best in the fine fast casual space, have to say about the trend.

RASA

This Indian restaurant has cemented its spot in DC’s fine fast-casual market with its innovative and accessible flavors. It continues to make waves in the space with upcoming new locations and celebrity endorsements.

According to Sahil Rahman, co-owner of RASA, “Fine fast casuals are continuing to innovate and push the market forward. The big trends we are seeing today include the promotion of unique ingredients, elevated interior design and an increase in healthful offerings.”

All of these are at the forefront of RASA’s brand. Rahman believes this is the fastest-growing market segment because it solves multiple consumer needs at once.

“The brilliance of the model is that it maintains the quick service while also offering guests the opportunity to eat delicious and nutritious meals, all at an affordable price point.”

1247 First St. SE, DC; www.rasagrill.com

CHAIA

Co-owners Bettina Stern and Suzanne Simon have been ahead of the curve not just on the fine fast casual trend, but also on the plant-forward movement. What started off as a market stand now has two storefront locations in DC featuring vegetarian tacos with local, seasonal vegetables served in homemade tortillas to diners.

“Fast casual is the perfect fit for serving best-quality, fresh, delicious, local, seasonal vegetables to everyone,” Stern says. “It is convenient, easy and affordable.”

Indeed, this is what makes them appealing to diners. Interest in the fine fast casual and quick-service side of the restaurant industry is only growing.

As Stern puts it: “It appears that deliciousness is at the intersection of health, sustainability, cultural discovery and business insight.”

3207 Grace St. and 615 I St. in NW, DC; www.chaiatacos.com

SHOUK

Plant-based options are one of the fastest-growing segments in the food industry, and the Israeli-focused Shouk caters to this with delicious hummus bowls, salads and sandwiches.

Ran Nussbacher and Dennis Friedman of Shouk say that, “In the past, when people wanted to grab a quick bite, the majority of their options were highly-processed, sugary foods with unknown ingredients.”

By offering highly craveable, nutritious options at modest prices, Shouk has truly managed to win locals’ stomachs – the eggplant burger is one of the best vegetarian sandwich options around.

655 K St. NW, DC and 395 Morse St. NE, DC; www.shouk.com

Beefsteak

Big name chefs are keen to be part of the movement, too. José Andrés’ Beefsteak is a plant-based concept that has proven popular. Getting creative with using plant-based ingredients remains ever important to keep diners interested. Eric Martino, COO of ThinkFoodGroup, also sees another direction for some companies as ghost kitchens become more of a trend.

“As third-party deliveries continue to increase in metro markets, I could see multi-concept units doing delivery only out of kitchen-only spaces,” Martino says. “Engaging with guests digitally through apps and online strategies are no longer a “nice to have” but more of a necessity.

1528 Connecticut Ave. and on GWU’s campus at 800 22nd St. in NW, DC; www.beefsteakveggies.com

Stellina Pizzeria

Antonio Matarazzo, co-owner of Stellina Pizzeria, agrees that “the growing interest in fast-casual dining has led to more well-known chefs opening concepts in this space and service style.”

“That translates into greater quality and care of the food served in fast-casual restaurants,” he says.

At Stellina, the counter service model has been received positively as diners become familiar with the idea that a space could be causal in terms of service but with a menu, quality and prices closer to traditional restaurants.

According to Matarazzo, “Cutting out some steps in the service allows us to deliver amazing dishes at great value.”

We agree – the food speaks for itself.

399 Morse St. NE, DC; www.stellinapizzeria.com

Bandoola Bowl

Aung Myint, owner of the Burmese salad shop, says that “guests are trying to get in and get out, and don’t have time to make myriad decisions.”

By having a selection of composed bowls with ingredients and flavors that work together, the guesswork is eliminated for the diner. This also leads to consistency – a big advantage.

“If you find something you love, you know what you’re going to get upon each visit,” Myint says.

And you will find something you love.

1069 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.bandoolabowl.com

Poke Papa

At Poke Papa, value and convenience are the focus. When it comes to fresh raw fish, there is no compromise. Food is consistently prepared throughout the day so they can serve guests meals in relatively quick time frames while still maintaining a high quality.

From “the start of our ordering process to finishing payment, it’s right around two minutes on average,” owner Kerry Chao says.

Health-conscious diners are seeking fresh options that aren’t heavily processed, and that’s exactly what Poke Papa offers.

806 H St. NW, DC; www.pokepapa.com

Photos: Scott Suchman

Kwame Onwuachi Continues to Cook Life Story

Just a few weeks after national media outlets broke the news that Kwame Onwuachi’s memoir Notes from a Young Black Chef would become the basis for an A24-produced film adaptation starring Lakeith Stanfield, I sat down with the chef at Kith/Kin.

We chatted in a private dining room tucked away in a back corner of his award-winning restaurant, located inside The Wharf’s InterContinental Hotel, on an afternoon in late July. He looked completely at ease as one of DC’s most notable photographers, Scott Suchman, snapped pictures of him sitting in an Eames-esque green leather chair. It was one of the few times I’d seen the chef without his prominent Malcom X hat. But the iconic X was still present, freshly tattooed in black on his left wrist, the same color as his painted nails.

If you haven’t heard of Onwuachi yet, perhaps the most accurate one-line description is: the hottest chef in DC. The 29-year-old is a phoenix, rising from the proverbial ashes after his first restaurant Shaw Bijou quickly shuttered in 2016, to become a New York Times best-selling author, Forbes 30-under-30 honoree, and a RAMMY and James Beard Award winner all in the span of about six months.

“It’s kind of like exploring a new facet of what this restaurant industry has to offer,” Onwuachi elaborated, leaning slightly forward. “When you talk about your story, you never think of yourself as interesting. I mean, there are certain people who view themselves as extremely interesting, but for the average person, you don’t know how someone is going to react to your story. To see how [mine] has been embraced by the world, I couldn’t have imagined it.”

Onwuachi’s story has always held the intrigue of diners and viewers alike, from Shaw Bijou menu items reminiscent of dishes from his childhood like fish pies and Butterfingers to his well-received appearances on Top Chef. It made sense to turn his background into a book: the tale of a young man who was in a gang and sold drugs before graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and opening a restaurant in the nation’s capital – all before the age of 30.

The published memoir ends before the story of his successes at Kith/Kin and fast-casual spot Philly Wing Fry reach the pages, but the ongoing narrative has played out in the various 2019 press coverage singing his praises. These accolades have led him to travel the globe – from Mexico to Chicago to Africa – to cook and appear at events and conferences, take calls with Issa Rae, and DM Ava DuVernay. And yet, he’s still perpetually in the kitchen.

“I definitely have days where I feel as if nothing is going right,” Onwuachi said. “Despite all these things happening, I’m still doing something I love. I’m still doing something I believe in. I’m still just cooking. I have this other side of my life now, which is very open, raw [and] vivid, that other people feel very connected to and are inspired by, which is a really cool feeling.”

An Open Book

Onwuachi’s memoir, released this spring, is described as “an intersection of race, fame and food.” The book begins and ends with the chef’s thoughts on his-then most recent project Shaw Bijou: the excitement, jubilation and exhaustion he felt before its opening and the utter disappointment that followed its closing – and the accompanying negative murmurs from the public. However, the chapters in between reveal more than his thoughts on culinary life.

“I don’t think it’s ever easy doing a new thing you’re not familiar with – a new medium. I have been exploring this for awhile, telling my story. But there are certain parts that aren’t glorious, ones you don’t share with people. You tuck it somewhere where you don’t have to talk about it ever again. This book is not for just young chefs. This book is not just for young black chefs. It’s not just for black people. It’s not just for people in the culinary industry. It’s for everyone.”

The writing process forced Onwuachi to divulge details he’d previously hidden. He talked to his family and friends to recreate scenes. He penned detailed accounts of his times as a 10-year-old in Nigeria fetching water and raising livestock, and the days he sold candy to passengers on the subways. Readers connected to these stories. He tells me he gets about five letters per day, often thanking him for being vulnerable. His mother, who ran a catering company while raising him in the Bronx, cried upon first read – and so did he.

“It brought back moments she was trying to forget. My grandmother was finding out things she never knew about me and crying for other reasons. Close family friends that didn’t really know my life story, how I got to where I am – it was eye-opening for them. It was different based on the person. I was crying when I first held the book in my hands. It felt really powerful. There was a weight to it. I didn’t know what the rest of the world would think [of] my story. I’m living it.”

Afro-Caribbean + Cheesesteaks

When Shaw Bijou closed after two short months, Onwuachi took the brunt of the blows. Criticism ranged from the price of the food to his lack of experience. Despite the headlines and hot takes, he said the restaurant worked. If it had more capital to survive the opening stages, he said it would have survived and thrived in DC’s market.

“It was money. That’s why restaurants close. We had plenty of people come to the restaurant. It was just that the investors didn’t have the capital they said they had. They didn’t have enough to get through the tough times, which is the beginning. I didn’t ask the right questions. I was young and excited. I was coming from a line cook position. I was excited to have a new life.”

Ten months later in October 2018, Onwuachi opened Kith/Kin as its executive chef. At first, he attempted to once more use his story as a foundation for his menu. Shortly after, however, he shifted the spotlight. He began to focus on emphasizing a vision built on Afro-Caribbean roots, inspired by his family’s history and an extensive amount of research.

Another impetus for change was his need to grow. When the restaurant was in its infancy, he labored long hours – from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. – overextending himself and his creativity. He suffered a car accident because of exhaustion. Frankly, it wasn’t working.

“I looked in the mirror. There was too much money being spent on labor costs or things the guests didn’t realize. I had to make it less about me and more about the environment and my team. I was so hands-on, and it wasn’t working for anyone. I wasn’t the best version of myself and my food wasn’t the best version of itself. I needed to change so we could grow and become the restaurant I knew we were capable of becoming. I think trying to take from other models just didn’t work. It was tough, because I had to peel back the layers of my own cooking so that it would make sense.”

The restaurant’s high quality has helped land the chef both James Beard and RAMMY Awards this year, as well as other culinary accolades. And Kith/Kin isn’t the only thriving restaurant under his purview either, as Union Market’s Philly Wing Fry quickly became a favorite for locals. The little eatery specializes in the three words forming its title – cheesesteaks, chicken wings and waffle fries – plus other treats like fried Brussels sprouts. As of this summer, it’s even serving up egg-and-cheese sandwiches for breakfast on the weekends.

“I just thought, ‘Why isn’t there a place where I can get a cheesesteak, chicken and waffle fries in one spot?’ so I was like, ‘I’m going to make it.’  We had aged beef from Shaw Bijou, and we needed to [use it]. I think [these are staples] every American knows, and I thought it was a really good idea.”

Taking A Lap

From creative menus to a movie in the making, most of Onwuachi’s recent ideas have proven to be excellent. But if his book and the Shaw Bijou experiment are any indication, life ebbs and flows. When you’re flying highest is when you’re suddenly grounded. Onwuachi acknowledged some pressure in juggling his numerous projects, but he handles it all with a calmness.

“It keeps me going. I think I have a responsibility because I’m out there now. I have to. I felt it when I did Shaw Bijou. That’s why I didn’t want to close so bad. Being some of the first to do things, it’s tough. It’s a double-edged sword. But at the end of the day, I have to make sure I’m setting a great example for the rest of the people that want to do it so when they see me and they look like me, they know they can attain it.”

That’s how he felt when he saw President Obama walk across the stage during his election win in 2008. Though he’s not planning to walk across that stage anytime soon, you can often see Onwuachi taking a walk of his own at Kith/Kin – clad in his chef coat, bouncing from table to table, checking on his guests.

“People are finally able to celebrate their culture while celebrating a special experience. It’s why I do it. When it gets tough, I can take a lap around the dining room and see a rainbow of faces with food in their hands.”

Catch Onwuachi’s interview with Questlove at the Food & Grooves Festival at Union Market’s Dock5 on October 26 or at Miracle Theatre on November 1 with “The Sporkful Podcast.” Follow him on Twitter @chefkwame and on Instagram @chefkwameonwuachi.

Kith/Kin: 801 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.kithandkindc.com

Philly Wing Fry: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.phillywingfry.com

The Hangover Special // Photo: courtesy of Succotash

5 Go-To Dishes to Cure the Ultimate Hangover

Waking up after a late night of drinking can feel like a game of roulette. Maybe you’ll hop out of bed feeling none the worse for wear, or maybe, your head will be heavy as an anvil with a churning stomach and strong desire to do nothing but take it easy until your body can get itself in order. Hangovers often lead to cravings for foods loaded with carbs, grease and fat that can soak up the alcohol from the night before and fuel the next day. A bit of sweat-inducing spice never hurt, either. These five dishes were chef-built to help ease the pain and replenish the soul with a heavy dose of all things comforting.

Taco Bamba’s Hangover Torta

Tacos are understandably the main draw at this local taqueria chain from chef Victor Albisu. But if a thumping headache has you craving something a bit greasier, grab the Hangover Torta at Taco Bamba’s Fairfax location.

“I don’t get many hangovers these days, but when I do, I’m on the lookout for eggs and potatoes, salt and spice, and a little bit of fat,” Albisu says.

His sandwich was designed to hit all the right notes, from bacon carnitas and avocado to fried eggs and beans.

10629 Braddock Rd. Fairfax, VA; www.tacobamba.com

The Smith’s Breakfast Pot Pie

This New York City export has comfort food for all times of day. If you can’t decide what your hangover requires, go for The Smith’s Breakfast Pot Pie available at both DC locations – Penn Quarter and U Street. The skillet is loaded with bacon, sweet Italian-style sausage, a homemade cheddar biscuit crust and two runny eggs.

“For me, it’s all the best parts of biscuits and gravy packed into a pot pie vessel,” says Michael Kollarik, The Smith’s culinary development chef. “It helps jumpstart your afternoon.”

901 F St. and 1314 U St. in NW, DC; http://thesmithrestaurant.com

Succotash’s Hangover Special

Chef Edward Lee’s Penn Quarter restaurant blurs the line between Korean and Southern American cuisines – a recipe for spicy, fatty, wholesome cooking to turn around the groggiest of mornings. Lee says that his aptly named Hangover Special has all of those elements in one cast iron skillet: spicy pulled pork, potato salad, fried eggs and gravy with a biscuit.

“The Hangover Special is combination of everything you need to get your day started,” Lee says. “Together, they are fuel for your body and joy for your soul.”

915 F St. NW, DC; www.succotashrestaurant.com

Bar Deco’s Hangover Sandwich

A breakfast sandwich can be a hangover savior, especially when it’s packed with eggs and salty, fatty bacon and sausage. Look no further than Chinatown spot Bar Deco’s Hangover Sandwich and its spin on the classic. The one here is loaded with scrambled eggs, short ribs, white cheddar cheese and more between two buttery brioche buns. A spicy jalapeño bacon mayonnaise gives it an extra spicy kick.

“The Hangover Sandwich is the perfect amount of sodium and fat between a buttery bun,” says Bar Deco Bar Manager Luke Lamb. “It’s exactly what your body is craving when your body is hungover: salt to help you retain water and that fat to keep you going.”

717 6th St. NW, DC; www.bardecodc.com

Matchbox’s Brunch Pizza

Matchbox restaurants are much more than pizza these days, but the thin-crust brunch pie is still one of the best ways to soak up the pain of a long night on the town. Spicy Italian sausage brings the heat, tempered by fresh pico de gallo, smoky gouda cheese and scrambled eggs. It’s part of the many carb-heavy options on the restaurant’s bottomless brunch menu.

“The Brunch Pizza has been a popular favorite on the Matchbox menu for years now,” says chef Jim Drost, who’s also director of culinary operations. “Even when we’ve tried different versions [and] began a brunch program without the Brunch Pizza, we’ve had to bring it back by popular demand.”

Four Virginia locations, two in Maryland (and a third opening in Bethesda), and three in DC; www.matchboxrestaurants.com