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Photo: Kelli Scott
Photo: Kelli Scott

NoMa’s The Eleanor Offers Bowling and Bragworthy Bites

Don’t label The Eleanor just a bowling alley. It’s much more than that, according to founder Adam Stein.

Ever since he was a student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Stein dreamed of opening a lounge with a bowling component to make it a multi-use entertainment space. That vision is realized with The Eleanor.

“You can come here for lots of different reasons,” Stein says. “You can come here because you want to bowl. You can come here because you want to play pinball games. You can come here because you want to have a three-course meal. We’ve got tons of events booked already and through the end of the year.”

Since opening June 19 in NoMa, The Eleanor has offered a place to enjoy 20 beers on tap, well-crafted cocktails, a projector for movie nights and, of course, two mini-bowling lanes with duckpin-sized balls.

The lanes are 45 feet long as opposed to the standard 60 feet, which Stein says can be harder, but it’s also a lower bar of entry. The floors aren’t waxed, so there’s no need to change shoes to play. Also, all of the balls are four pounds. While it’s best to reserve a lane and prepay online, walk-ins are accepted on a waitlist basis. Pricing is $10 per person for one hour of bowling with a $10 ball rental fee.

If you’re not interested in giving bowling a spin, choose from arcade games like Mortal Kombat 3, Pac-Man and Battle Royale, or head over to the Skee-Ball lanes.

When describing The Eleanor, Stein says he didn’t want anything “super slick” or “overly designed.” Instead, he opted for a laid-back but funky lounge with a hometown vibe. There are counter-height tables instead of low-tops to add to the casual atmosphere, and the local focus is found not only in the ingredients but in the name itself, which is a reference to DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

The menu adds humor to the spot with cocktails like Wildflowers Don’t Care Where They Grow. Other drinks are named after friends and family such as Jody’s Appletini, inspired by Stein’s mother as appletinis are her favorite cocktail. There are also two refreshing vodka slushies made with Spring 44 vodka, one with house-made horchata and Zeke’s cold brew coffee and the other with a house-made lavender lemonade.

The fare might seem typical at face value – burgers, nachos, fried chicken – but each dish has its own original twist. The buttermilk fried chicken thighs come with masala-spiced carrot puree and braised greens with a bacon and fish sauce. The chicken wings are coated in a General Tso’s-style sauce, the hushpuppies are made “elote loco-style” and the loaded hot dogs come with the optional add-on of kimchi.

Along with its quirky menu, The Eleanor offers a very convenient location across the street from the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station. There is also free, onsite parking.

Stein considered Ivy City before settling on The Eleanor’s NoMa space on Florida Avenue. He was tempted by Ivy City’s warehouse spaces because they could fit full-sized bowling lanes, but he says he ultimately chose the right neighborhood.

“[NoMa is] only going to see an explosion of growth in the next two-and-a-half to three years,” he says. “We’re looking forward to it.”

Follow The Eleanor on Instagram and Facebook at @TheEleanorDC, and learn more about the bar at www.eleanordc.com.

The Eleanor: 100 Florida Ave. NE, DC; 202-758-2235; www.eleanordc.com

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: Farrah Skeiky
Photo: Farrah Skeiky

New Notable No Longer: August 2017

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

NEW

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

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

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

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

NOTABLE

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

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

NOW OPEN

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

NO LONGER

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