Reverie Chef Johnny Spero on His Ideal Day of Eating in DC
Here are his 8 favorites, from "super traditional" sushi to late-night cheesesteaks
“There’s a reason I’ve kept coming back to D.C. on and off for the last 10 years,” says Johnny Spero, who’s made his career working for highly acclaimed chefs around the world, from José Andrés at D.C.’s Minibar to René Redzepi at the uber-famous Noma in Copenhagen.
The once-nomadic chef has finally unpacked his bags for good here in the nation’s capital: he’s now the owner and chef of Modern-American Reverie as well as a husband, father and dog owner. (His dog’s name is Nacho, which we feel the need to tell you.)
“It’s cool to see how fast this city has grown, and defined itself beyond the outside perspective that the D.C. dining scene is all steak and potatoes. It’s really evolved into its own and I think it will just continue to grow. That’s what I love most.”
We recently asked Spero, also an alum of Netflix’s The Final Table, where he likes to eat on his days off. If you’re a fan of hot pastrami, authentic sushi and late-night cheesesteak, we encourage you to read on.
Neopol Savory Smokery (Georgetown)
“I don’t have breakfast or brunch too often, but when I do and I’m at the restaurant, I typically go to Neopol Savory Smokery, which is a few doors down from Reverie. There, I always order an everything bagel with lox, cream cheese, onions, and capers.”
Etto (14th Street)
“Last time I went to brunch it was at Etto. It’s hands down one of my favorites in D.C. no matter what time it is — brunch, lunch, or dinner.”
This intimate restaurant, pizzeria and wine bar is stylish yet unpretentious. Sit back with a glass of wine and one of their wood-fired pizzas made with house-milled flour and perhaps some house-cured salami. Anything is a good choice here, really.
Jaleo (Penn Quarter)
“On a day off I’d go to Jaleo, and not because I’ve worked so closely with José [Andrés]. I always recommend it when people ask where to go. My go-to order is the Croquetas de jamón (ham croquettes) and the Coca con erizos (sea urchin toast).”
Jaleo was celebrity chef José Andrés’s first ever restaurant opening in the city. The food is legendary, effectively showcasing the flavors of Spain in a modern-yet-authentic way.
“If I’m in Georgetown, I frequent Stachowski’s — it’s close and delicious, with large portions that allow me to have it for both lunch and dinner. It’s a toss-up between the Four Meat Grinder and the Hot Pastrami sandwiches.”
Stachowski’s Market is a local favorite butcher shop that offers fresh and cured meats along with Spero’s favorite sandwiches. It’s hard to beat a place where you can grab a meatball sub for now and a NY Strip for later.
2Amys (Cathedral Heights)
“2Amys is an easy choice. For as long as I’ve been in the industry, it’s been one of my favorites. I typically go with my wife and daughter and we order everything on the specials, plus a pizza. I’ve never had anything that I didn’t like here, absolutely love it.”
It’s hard not to love 2Amy’s. The bustling Neapolitan pizzeria is a true neighborhood spot, but also attracts long-time admirers from all over the city.
Sushi Taro (Dupont Circle)
“Also, Sushi Taro. When I worked at Komi it was right next door so I would frequent it more often and really fell in love with it. It’s not Americanized like a lot of Japanese restaurants, it’s super traditional and you experience things other than just sashimi.”
There’s a reason why Sushi Taro made the 2019 Michelin Guide — because it’s that good. Can’t get a res? Try it out during happy hour, when they offer a ridiculous deal of half off all regular sushi and all alcoholic beverages from 5:30-7 p.m.
Drinks & Late-Night Eats
Columbia Room (Blagden Alley)
“Probably Columbia Room, not due to my affiliation. It really is a special and unique place in itself.”
Columbia Room, which was voted the Best American Cocktail Bar in 2017 and at which Spero serves as an advisor, isn’t just a unique place but a one-of-a-kind experience. If you want the full monty, book ahead for their seasonal four-course tasting menu and you won’t be disappointed.
George’s King of Falafel and Cheesesteak (Georgetown)
“One thing D.C. lacks is late-night spots, but if I did find myself needing something at 2 a.m., I’d go to George’s King of Falafel and Cheesesteak, which is open until 2 on weeknights and 4 on weekends. I had never known about it until the designer for Reverie, John DeNapoli at Edit Lab, recommended it. It’s the perfect pit stop in between the restaurant and home, and they make a damn good cheesesteak.”
A place where you can get both falafel and a bangin’ cheesesteak? Count us in. This small and unassuming joint is perfect for (almost) any late-night craving you may be experiencing.