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Photo: Courtesy of O-Ku
Photo: Courtesy of O-Ku

New & Notable: Mikko, Pappe and More

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town and the top culinary happenings of the month. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new and notable in the DC area.

NEW

Mikko
Open: May 1
Location: Dupont Circle
Lowdown: The former chef to the Finnish ambassador just opened his own café serving the food of his homeland. Mikko Kosonen got his start at his family’s restaurant Stockholm and attended culinary school in Helsinki. In the U.S., he’s been cooking for diplomats, heads of state and royalty, but now he’s expanding his audience to include average Washingtonians. Nordic cuisine relies on simple preparations of ingredients like seafood, rye, mushrooms, berries and roots. The menu at Mikko is succinct but true to form, with specialties like house-smoked salmon, Danish-style open-faced sandwiches, Finnish soups and Nordic pastries. The café space is cozy, with dishes on display in a cold case at the entrance, a few seats at a counter facing the kitchen in the back and a street-side patio with additional seating, where I enjoyed a Karelian rice and egg pie alongside a gravlax sandwich. There’s also a small market offering a selection of Nordic cookies, chocolates, breads, jams and sauces. A note if you go: the operation is cashless. 1636 R St. NW, DC; www.chefmikko.com

O-Ku
Open: June 22
Location: Union Market
Lowdown: O-Ku, a Japanese restaurant with roots in Charleston and sister restaurants throughout the South, expanded to the Union Market neighborhood this summer. Each of the locations has its own executive chef with a distinct menu and the DC kitchen is helmed by Chef Bryan Emperor, who has studied Japanese cuisine for more than 25 years. His menu features traditional sushi and sashimi as well as modern interpretations of Japanese specialties and wood-fired, robata-style dishes from a binchotan grill. Highlights include puffed rice-crusted Japanese sea bass and an out-of-this-world king crab California roll. The industrial and minimalist two-story space has ample seating in the bar room and wood-accented sushi room, a plush Japanese whiskey lounge, and a roof deck with views of Union Market. 1274 5th St. NE, DC; www.okusushidc.com

Pappe
Open: June 4
Location: 14th Street
Lowdown: Vipul Kapila never ordered lamb vindaloo in Indian restaurants in the DC area because he couldn’t find a version that lived up to the fiery dish he remembers eating growing up in Delhi. That is, until he tried a truly authentic rendition at a restaurant in Falls Church. One bite, and he was hooked – so much so that he decided to team up with the chefs behind the dish, Sanjay Mandhaiya and Shankar Puthran, to open Pappe and finally bring a neighborhood Indian restaurant to 14th Street. That vindaloo is a star curry on the menu and I can attest, it is fiery. The menu also features three dishes that Mandhaiya learned while staging in India: butter chicken, chana pindi and taar gosht. Other popular items include vegetable samosas, prawn koliwada, junglee laal maas, fish chittnad and fire-grilled baingan bartha. The drink list draws on Indian spices like cardamom, tamarind and curry leaves for cocktails, sodas, teas and of course, mango lassis. The space is inspired by a New Delhi fabric market, with silk textiles draped over the tables, lanterns made from fabric-dyeing baskets and murals similar to those found painted on homes in Indian villages. The mural artist, John DeNapoli, is also behind the renditions of traditional Indian scenes that have been infiltrated with modern touches, such as a family in DC sports gear and an elephant marked with Uber and Lyft logos. The restaurant’s name means brother and Kapila said he wanted it to feel casual and welcoming while also capturing the bold, complex and exciting personality of his native country. 1317 14th St. NW, DC; www.pappedc.com

Tacos, Tortas & Tequila and Buena Vida
Open: May 4
Location: Silver Spring
Lowdown: Serbian restaurateur Ivan Iricanin, who popularized Balkan food in DC with Ambar and BABA, is steering his restaurant group south of the border with two new Mexican concepts in one building in Silver Spring. Both have a unique personality, but the common thread is house-made tortilla products and local, organic ingredients. Located on the ground floor, Tacos, Tortas & Tequila (TTT) is a casual taco joint that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu spotlights traditional tacos, tortas and tequila in addition to tostadas, quesadillas, taquitos, desserts, milkshakes, agua frescas, and Mexican sodas and beers. For breakfast, there are plenty of egg dishes and coffee drinks. On the second story, Buena Vida is a more upscale restaurant that offers an all-you-can-eat small plates deal for $19.99 during lunch and $35 during dinner. The dishes are more contemporary, like a mezcal-cured salmon tostada, a skate wing chicharron and fingerling sweet potato tostones. And Northern Virginia residents, fear not. Iricanin will be opening a second location of TTT and Buena Vida this fall in Clarendon opposite his Balkan spots. 8407 Ramsey Ave. Silver Spring, MD; www.tttrestaurant.com

NOTABLE

Butterfly Tacos y Tortas
Date: May 2
Location: Penn Quarter
Lowdown: José Andrés’ restaurant group, ThinkFoodGroup, has a spot in Penn Quarter dedicated to testing out new fast-casual concepts temporarily and gathering feedback from customers before officially debuting the restaurant. This R&D space is called ThinkFoodLab, and the latest occupant is Butterfly Tacos y Tortas. Think of it like the casual little sister of Oyamel, with a menu inspired by Mexico City’s street food. As the name implies, the two staple dishes are tacos and tortas. Don’t miss standouts like the taco filled with shredded beef in a smoky chile sauce and the torta stuffed with seared pork belly, guacamole, salsa, black beans and lime. There’s also a selection of salads, snacks, desserts and agua frescas, including fried potatoes with mole poblano and strawberry-lime-chile paletas. Fans of the concept will also be able to find the Mexican fare at a second location at D.C. United’s new Audi Field. 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.thinkfoodlab.com

Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecue
Date: May 16
Location: National Building Museum’s west lawn
Lowdown: Hill Country Barbecue Market has once again taken over the National Building Museum’s west lawn for the annual Backyard Barbecue pop-up. It’s all part of the museum’s Summer Block Party, which centers on an interactive exhibit called “Fun House.” On the lawn in the afternoons and evenings (Wednesday through Sunday), the restaurant serves up sliced brisket, pulled pork sandwiches, Texas cheesesteaks and smoked hot link sandwiches, along with cocktails, wine and beer. On Fridays and Saturdays, there’s also live music. The pop-up runs through September 3. 401 F St. NW, DC; www.hillcountry.com/dc

Photo: Courtesy of The Peoples Drug
Photo: Courtesy of The Peoples Drug

New and Notable: Church Hall, The People’s Drug and More

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town and the top culinary happenings of the month. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new and notable in the DC area.

NEW

Church Hall
Open: March 30
Location: Georgetown
Lowdown: Remember that indoor mall in Georgetown with a food court? These are fast-fading memories as Georgetown gets cooler and makes an effort to keep up with the action further down the waterfront. So ICYMI, Church Hall seized the dead space and turned it into a massive, festive, friendly beer hall. The new spot might remind you of its sister bars (Penn Social, Big Chief, Franklin Hall, Highline RxR). Like the rest of the family, Church Hall is geared toward sociability with long tables, long sofas and games like Cards Against Humanity ready at your beck and call. We heart the 30-plus beers on tap (many local), booze slushies and cocktails on draft, as well as the upscale fairground food (we never say no to a funnel cake). 1070 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.churchhalldc.com

Magnolia Kitchen & Bar
Open: April 10
Location: Dupont Circle
Lowdown: The closing of Dupont Circle’s Circa was the end of an era. But we’re totally happy with the new spot that’s taken its place: Magnolia Bar & Kitchen. Magnolia comes from the same folks behind DC stalwarts Scarlet Oak and Southern Hospitality, featuring a busy menu of American fare with a little lux thrown in (think steak tacos with avocado or lamb Bolognese). And don’t overlook the cocktail menu – this is as much a place to grab a drink with friends after work as it is a dinner destination. We particularly like the Scarlet Buzz (sparkling rosé, Giffard pamplemousse, fresh squeezed grapefruit), topped with a Szechuan bud, which imparts the same tingly, mouth-numbing heat found in Szechuan Chinese cuisine. Also a winner: Birch Please (Birkir birch schnapps, blood orange juice, simple syrup, angostura bitters). The restaurant retains the patio and lots of televisions, so you can catch the big games while you enjoy those fancy cocktails. 1601 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.magnoliadupont.com

The Peoples Drug
Open: May 11
Location: Alexandria
Lowdown: Old-timers might remember Peoples Drug Store, the pharmacy chain from another era – just imagine if CVS or Walgreens had a lunch counter and soda fountain where you could order a root beer float. Or maybe a Cameron’s Kick (Pig’s Nose blended scotch, Bushmills Irish whiskey, lemon juice, orgeat), in the case of this homage to a bygone time. The Peoples chain is long gone, but this cocktail bar has resurrected its memory with some mighty fine cocktails and a delightful menu of fresh, thoughtfully prepared sandwiches and burgers. 103 N. Alfred St. Alexandria, VA: www.thepeoplesdrug.com

Tastemakers
Open: April 21
Location: Brookland
Lowdown: Anything Captain Cookie and the Milkman does is fine by us. The masterminds behind the popular food truck have opened a marketplace and incubator in a former mayonnaise factory – and it’s going to be the hit of the summer. Skip the now-overcrowded Union Market and hang here with the cool kids before this location also gets overrun. We’re totally loving Benjamin’s on Franklin, the hall’s cocktail bar, with its menu of both classics and inventions featuring local liquors. Order a Junto (Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin, aperol, Shrub District pineapple allspice, simple syrup, egg white) while you figure out whether to get meatballs or tacos from the other stands in the hall. Or both. If you are in the mood to learn, there are classes held weekly, focused on everything from “Beginner Knife Skills” to “Dinner in Thailand.” Tastemakers is also an incubator and commercial kitchen, which means that shopping and eating here supports an ecosystem of local businesses and gets new ones on their feet. 2800 10th St. NE, DC; www.tastemakersdc.com

NOTABLE

Loves Me Not
Open: April 21
Location: Adams Morgan
Lowdown: Mellow Mushroom has transformed its upstairs dining room into a haunt for hard-drinking artists and the people who love them. Filled with artwork that Everyman can afford and second-hand furniture, this is AdMo as a grownup. It is still gritty and a little rough around the edges – but jumbo slice is a distant memory and the music is a lot better. The bar menu is the brainchild of Younghyun You, who made a splash at Nocturne. Here, the menu is shorter and there are fewer fireworks, but it still wows, with cocktails named for songs and poems and books. We loved Fear and Loathing (Wild Turkey 101, green chartreuse, gunpowder tincture, demerara), while all the bloggers are swooning over All the World Is Green (mezcal, becherovka, avocado cilantro puree, lime, honey syrup). We also appreciate the “Starving Artists Menu,” which features reasonably-priced classics. 2436 18th St. NW, DC; @lovesmenotdc

The Wing
Open: April 12
Location: Georgetown
Lowdown: Sorry, gentlemen – this one’s just for the ladies (but we’re happy to tell you ALL about it). The Wing is a members-only coworking space that champions the “professional, civic, social and economic advancement of women through community.” The powder room has bottles of Chanel perfume, and there’s a lactation station and a meditation room, all housed in a canal-adjacent rowhouse that was once home to DC’s first all-female architecture firm. In terms of style, think Jean Harlow meets Geraldine Ferraro meets Amal Clooney, with lavish displays of art and books by women. In terms of edibles, look for local, women-owned businesses highlighted at The Perch, the club’s in-house café and bar. The women of DC’s Republic Restoratives stock the bar and run the cocktail menu, which features drinks like the Notorious RBG (vodka, orange, lime, sage simple syrup, cranberry) and The Filibuster (matcha, Rodham Rye, lemon juice, honey). Other women-owned suppliers on the café menu of toasts, salads and ’wiches include Baked and Wired, Vaughan Cheeses and Woolf Lavender Farm. Now ladies, you have a choice: join up, or figure out which of your friends are members (they can bring guests). You know you need that Notorious RBG cocktail in your Insta feed. 1056 Thomas Jefferson St. NW, DC; www.the-wing.com

Photo: Courtesy of Sababa
Photo: Courtesy of Sababa

New and Notable: May 2018

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

Fancy Radish (Photo - Courtesy of Fancy Radish)

Fancy Radish
Open: March 20
Location: H Street
Lowdown: Vegans and omnivores alike rejoiced when Vedge Restaurant Group out of Philadelphia planted their first restaurant in DC. While everything on the menu is completely vegan, owners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby aren’t trying to push an agenda. They’re just serving vegetables. It’s the way they serve them that makes a splash. Each dish takes a humble piece of produce – like a radish – and elevates it with artful techniques and vibrant flavors. Digging in to small plates like the Chioggia beet picnic, the trumpet mushroom “fazzoletti” and the spicy dan dan noodles, I would have easily believed they were laden with butter and cheese. The menu strikes a balance between the refined cuisine at their Philly flagship, Vedge, and the edgy street food at V Street. The restaurant’s namesake fancy radishes are adapted from the menu at Vedge. At the bar, vegetables also shine in drinks like the Peridot Meteor with gin, celery and olive oil or the Raphanus Shade with rye, radish, black vin and amaro ferro-kina. There are also a variety of natural wines and a handful of draft beers. The space has an industrial vibe, which is softened by earth tones and a mural spanning the restaurant that depicts a vegetable’s life cycle from seed to sprout. 600 H St. NE, DC; www.fancyradishdc.com

Kaliwa (Photo - Courtesy of Kaliwa)

Kaliwa
Open: March 28
Location: The Wharf
Lowdown: Restaurateur power couple Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong, known for Alexandria hot spots Society Fair, Hummingbird and more, opened their latest restaurant at The Wharf. The pair are serving three Asian cuisines that are near and dear to their hearts: Filipino, honoring Meshelle’s heritage; Korean, as an ode to Chef Cathal’s Taekwondo training; and Thai, because it’s their family’s food of choice. The menu is divided into sections for each country, with milder flavors in Filipino dishes like Kalderetang Cordero, slightly spicier funky notes in Korean Jae Yuk Gui and super hot spice levels in Thai Nuer Pad Prik. Most dishes are heavily sauced and meant to be eaten with rice, but there are also a few noodle dishes, hearth-roasted proteins and other classics like lumpiang. With minimal descriptions on the menu, the restaurant provides a glossary of commonly used terms (gochujang, calamansi) and servers are always available to elaborate. The pamphlet also offers some conversational phrases in Tagalog, Korean and Thai. The name Kaliwa means left, which Cathal promises is not a political statement, but rather a nod to his left-handedness and to the restaurant’s departure from the norm. Meshelle designed the space, featuring woven basket light fixtures, rope netting and bright blue hues to emulate a night street market. 751 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.kaliwadc.com

Sababa (Photo - Courtesy of Sababa)

Sababa
Open: March 15
Location: Cleveland Park
Lowdown: After a quick set change, Ashok Bajaj opened Sababa in the space formerly occupied by Ardeo. The new restaurant’s menu focuses on modern Israeli cuisine, which has roots in both Jewish and Arab traditions. Dishes display influences from the Middle East, Turkey and Greece. Meals often start with salatim – small portions of salads and spreads to share – and then progress into hummus and small plates. I couldn’t get enough of the vegetarian dishes, from charred eggplant and roasted halumi to fried cauliflower and Israeli salad. Kebabs and large plates are also available, like sumac- and onion-marinated steak, shakshuka and braised lamb shank. The restaurant’s name comes from the Hebrew slang for cool, and the design reflects this, evoking the port of Tel Aviv with Mediterranean tiles, canvas sails on the ceiling and wood paneling to represent a grape arbor adorned with string lights. The beverage program consists of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean wines, plus house cocktails that showcase Israeli spices and flavors.  3311 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.sababauptown.com

Spoken English (Photo - Courtesy of Spoken English)

Spoken English
Open: March 30
Location: Adams Morgan
Lowdown: Erik Bruner Yang’s second project within the LINE Hotel is now open for business, and it’s unlike any restaurant you’ve visited in DC. Spoken English is modeled after the Japanese Tachinomiya – a standing-room only restaurant where people stop by for snacks and drinks after work. The casual, communal concept is situated in the kitchen with two counters facing a wood-fired Grillworks oven. It can only accommodate between 12 to 16 people at a time, and the close quarters encourage guests to socialize with their dining companions and strangers. The menu provides a choice between having a few bites, like skewers and small plates, or enjoying a full meal of whole roast duck and chicken yakitori. The whole chicken yakitori consists of eight courses, each a different cut of the bird such as thighs, stuffed wings, crispy skin, bone broth, liver mousse and more. To drink, there’s a selection of sake and beer, as well as a few cocktails. Reservations are not accepted. 1770 Euclid St. NW; www.thelinehotel.com/dc

NOTABLE

Truckeroo (Photo - Courtesy of Georgetown Events)

Truckeroo
Dates: May 11, June 15, July 13, August 10, September 14
Location: The Bullpen
Lowdown: Once a month throughout the summer, a flock of food trucks converges at The Bullpen fairgrounds in Navy Yard for a massive festival. The event offers live music, cold drinks, games and a full lineup of food trucks to choose from. At the May event, guests can enjoy mac and cheese from CapMac, crêpes from Crepe Love, empanadas from DC Empanadas, frozen custard from Goodies, lobster rolls from Red Hook, and more. It’s open to all ages until 9 p.m., at which point it shifts to 21 and over. Admission is free. 1201 Half St. SE, DC; www.thebullpendc.com/truckeroo

Wines Over Washington
Dates: May 17, June 21, July 19, August 16, September 20
Location: BLT Steak
Lowdown: The rooftop of this downtown steakhouse has stunning views of the city, the Potomac River, the Washington Monument and the White House. This makes it a prime location to enjoy a glass of wine while watching the sunset. BLT Steak’s Wines Over Washington gives winos a chance to explore new wine varietals al fresco paired with classic fare by Chef de Cuisine Michael Bonk, as well as live music. The series takes place one evening per month through the summer. The first event will feature selections from Lanterna Wines. Tickets are $65 per event, or $275 for the entire series. 1625 I St. NW, DC; www.bltrestaurants.com/blt-steak/washington-d-c/winesoverwashington