The 7 Best Restaurants That Opened in DC in December
Including the latest from a chef who earned his first Michelin star at 22
Despite entering into the final month of the year, a handful of notable restaurants managed to open their doors just in time for the holiday season. This collection of seven spots includes everything from French fine dining to a new Chinatown sports bar and even a karaoke spot. Dive into our round-up of the best of the best.
The sophomore D.C. effort of Mélange chef Elias Taddesse is Doro Soul Food. The tiny but mighty carryout counter near Howard University is focused on blending soul food with traditional Ethiopian flavors. The location also puts Taddesse back near his roots, as the Mélange burger pop-up started at Wet Dog Tavern before settling into its final spot. At Doro, you’ll find fried doro plates with white and dark meats, mixed with Ethiopian clarified butter and three different heat levels. Vegan eaters will find crispy chicken tenders made with jackfruit. But the crème de la crème is probably a gooey doro-wot flavored mac and cheese that I’ve dreamed of for weeks now.
Live-K is the latest (and aiming to be the greatest) karaoke bar in town. Boasting a futuristic design, it’s the child of restaurateur Chris Zhu of Rockville’s China Garden and Barracks Row’s BBQ Spot. Considering so much of karaoke is about putting on a show, Live-K has an atmosphere to match with a 22-square meter LED “mega-screen” lobby, four different theme rooms, and a larger bar area complete with a main stage. Private rooms can be rented for groups as small as four or as big as 40, while the menu features Japanese BBQ, cake rolls, bubble tea and more.
Drawing its namesake from Duke Ellington Park (located across the street), this new French bistro arrives from chef Frank Morales of Zola and Rustico fame. The restaurant is a return to form of sorts for chef Morales, who got his start at New York’s Le Cirque. Ellington Park features all kinds of bistro staples, including French onion soup, beef tartare, charcuterie and cheese boards, along with surprises like Arctic char and rotating specials tied to a day of the week (i.e., duck confit Tuesdays). Meanwhile, the cocktail menu draws inspiration from Ellington’s songs like the “Prelude to a Kiss.”
Chef Colin McClimans and Danilo Simic, the masterminds behind Nina May, are back with Opal, which offers “a unique coastal American menu.” That translates into a collection of ingredients grown around the coastline with a specific focus on seasonal veggie-forward dishes like butternut squash agnolotti and turmeric spiced basmati rice with — you guessed it — seasonal veggies. The interior is bright and inviting, encouraging you to come in and try their brunch or dinner menus.
Locals take note: Yasmine is the newest project of chefs Chris Morgan and Gerald Addison of Bammy’s — and more notably, Maydan (!) — fame, as the duo rejoins Said Haddad on the beverage side inside Union Market, in the former Rappahannock Oyster Bar space. Named after Haddad’s grandmother, Yasmine offers Lebanese-style bites like lamb kebabs, pita sandwiches with plenty of tasty herbs, and even hummus plates. Those willing to expand their drink palettes will want to taste some arak, a Middle Eastern spirit that you can get in either glass or pitcher form, alongside add-ons like herbed mixed olives and even carrots.
Michelin-starred chef Gilles Epié’s L’Avant-Garde is finally open after a long delay. The adjourning cocktail bar, L’Annexe, managed to get going pre-pandemic, but the French bistro took a bit longer to settle. Chef Epié is notable for a myriad of reasons, not only for the names he’s cooked for (Princess Diana and Bruce Springsteen, among others) and for earning that famed star at a staggering 22 years old. Now, he’s aiming to transport D.C. denizens to France with a menu that includes mains like Atlantic cod, Saint-Pierre filet, seared branzino with duck foie gras, and more.
Over the last few years, there was an exodus of sports bars in the Chinatown area, with stalwarts like Penn Commons closing their doors. But in the last 12 months or so, those looking to pre-game a Capitals or Wizards match have found a number of new options, including Tom’s Watch Bar, which just opened its doors in the old Circa space. It’s perhaps antithetical to the mission here to cover a chain landing in the area, but for sports fans, there’s a lot to love about Tom’s — including the fact that nearly every available wall space is covered with a television set. The effect is to (ostensibly) offer a 360-degree view of all the most important sporting events happening at a given time. Tom’s offers typical bar food — wings, nachos, etc. — but the real standout is their signature Prime Rib Dip.
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