Spend the Rest of the Summer at DC’s Best New Restaurants
You’re literally minutes away from top-notch Thai, Caribbean, Mexican and more
To keep tabs on every D.C. restaurant and bar opening is folly. But to keep tabs on the most worthy? Yeoman’s work, and we’re proud to do it. Thus we present Table Stakes, a monthly rundown of the five (or so) must-know spots that have swung wide their doors in the past 30 (or so). Let’s eat.
You’ll have to forgive us, for this month, in addition to our new openings, we’re highlighting a couple of equally laudable addresses whose openings somehow eluded us earlier this summer. Forgive us — we promise they’re worth including, as D.C. is now the proud home of new spots for international fare from as far afield as Mexico, Thailand and the Caribbean.
U Street Corridor
You’re here because… You’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of this much-teased sister to Cane for what feels like years. Jeanine Prime tapped Cane veteran chef Emma Hernandez and chef Alfredo Romero Contreras (ex-Fiola Mare) to helm the Caribbean kitchen.
You’re dining on… a panoply of dishes reflecting the diversity of Caribbean cuisine, with European, Asian and African flavors mingling and marrying. A play on traditional oil down features breadfruit, yams, taro and pork in coconut sauce, while pepper shrimp is hot and flavorful thanks to its scotch bonnet chiles. The Paratha Platter is perfect for sharing, featuring an assortment of curries accompanied by paratha flatbread. Desserts from fellow Trinidadian Winnette McIntosh Ambrose, owner of award-winning Capitol Hill bakery The Sweet Lobby and Souk, include ginger-infused chocolate mousse or tropical fruit-flavored profiteroles, while the cocktail list may feature the Pineapple Chow with Trinidadian rum and black pepper, or the West Indian Old Fashioned infused with curry and chai.
Mount Vernon Triangle
You’re here because… you’re already a fan of the bold, innovative flavors at Rebel Taco’s other outposts, so you’re excited to check out this new address from the brand, complete with an outdoor margarita garden and tequila “library” full of hard-to-find bottles to pair with the creative tacos. Soft openings in July pave the way for the restaurant’s true grand opening August 16.
You’re dining on… Mexican classics like guacamole, fajitas and house-made queso blanco, but also quite a few more modern spins. The “Shrimp Gone Wild” sees shrimp breaded in cornflake crust and served with a cilantro slaw and secret sauce, while the “Buffalo Soldier” pairs crispy chicken with house buffalo sauce and blue cheese crumbles. And for more consequential appetites, carne asada fries or birria quesadillas made with braised brisket and served with beef consomme for dipping will ensure you don’t leave hungry.
You’re here because… you bemoaned the loss of this neighborhood restaurant at the beginning of the pandemic, so you’re pleased as punch to see it’s returning following extensive renovations. The iconic, vibrant bar offers a varied beverage program: Food-friendly wines join seasonal cocktails, a local craft beer selection and a 75-bottle-strong whiskey list. It’s the perfect thing to whet your palate for the specialties emerging from the kitchen.
You’re dining on… chef Ben Pflaumer’s incisive explorations of top-quality local ingredients, where even quotidian products are elevated to the status of luxury caviar and oysters. A blend of large and small plates offers a wide variety of options: A mushroom steak may be paired with black soy beans and bordelaise sauce, while beef carpaccio is topped with watercress and celery. Add fried chicken, house-made pasta and more, and you’ve got yourself the makings of an excellent local.
You’re here because… You’re a huge Thai food fan — especially when the team from Fat Nomads is behind the range. Sura Thai is a permanent pop-up offering the Fat Nomads ghost kitchen a brick-and-mortar location.
You’re dining on… dishes inspired by the Bangkok Chinatown night market: Think quail egg wontons with house-made pickles or a Thai play on chips-and-dip with rice crackers and coconut curry dip with ground pork. The menu changes regularly, but the duck larb is a mainstay (and a total crowd-pleaser), as is the spicy shrimp crudo with a garlic-scented chile sauce. There are also loads of meatless options, including a crispy tempura tofu. Pair your choices with cocktails from Andy Thammasathiti of Baltimore’s Mayuree Thai Tavern, like a lychee Collins or passionfruit daiquiri.
You’re here because… authentic Mexican fare is on the menu, so you have every intention of being first in line at this new spot from KNEAD Hospitality + Design, with a kitchen helmed by Mexico City native chef Roberto Santibañez.
You’re dining on… dishes inspired by both traditional and contemporary Mexican fare. Guacamole is a no-brainer and tacos are phenomenal, but be sure to dig into less familiar dishes too: Whole roasted fish is served butterflied with two adobos, while zarape de pato sees slow-braised duck layered between corn tortillas and topped with spicy roasted habanero cream. The salmon is served in a swoon-worthy ancho-pineapple sauce with pineapple pico, and don’t forget the citrus tres leches for dessert.
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