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.
It’s spring, and suddenly anything feels like fair game, from a food truck peddling Mediterranean-style barbecue in a Captains Market parking lot to a ’90s-themed pizza-and-beer joint inspired by Saved by the Bell. And we’re here for all of it. Here are the new D.C. spots we’re most excited to try.
You’re here because… you heard “barbecue food truck” and you hit the ground running. And it’s no surprise! This new food truck from chef Jarrad Silver has debuted in the parking lot of Captains Market in Bethesda (Wednesdays and Saturdays, 4:30-7:30 p.m.). Silver takes a novel approach to an American classic: His barbecue was developed and refined during the pandemic, when he began serving up a smoked feast for his family on the reg.
You’re dining on… Silver’s unique ‘cue influenced by his Jewish upbringing and professional training in Mediterranean restaurants. Think short rib pastrami brined for seven days or brisket chili made with burnt ends, charred poblanos and chickpeas. More familiar faves feature too, like baby back beef ribs smoked over Virginia oak and hickory the chef cuts himself from his in-laws’ farm. And veggies don’t fade into the background: Hickory smoked beets are dressed with pumpernickel crumble and pomegranate-sumac sauce, while potatoes are drizzled in lemon and schmaltz. No matter what you order, you’ll get a side of fresh challah, based on Silver’s grandmother’s time-tested recipe.
You’re here because… You’ve always wanted to visit Saved by the Bell’s The Max, and now is the time: this pizzeria-brewery hybrid from Reverie chef Johnny Spero, Arlington bar owner Scott Parker and Virginia brewery Aslin Beer Company was actually inspired by the silver screen hangout. The result: a 10,000 square-foot space perfect for nostalgic Millennials.
You’re dining on… Chicago-style tavern pizza with whole-milk mozzarella and your choice of toppings ranging from sausage to pepperoni, hot honey to confit potato with bravas sauce. But the buck doesn’t stop at pizza! There are also smash burgers, panko-breaded cheese curds, hickory-smoked Buffalo wings and a pit beef sandwich with cheddar cheese whiz. Wash it all down with one of Aslin’s 10 on-tap brews, wine, cocktails or even a house-made root beer.
You’re here because… You can’t get enough local seafood, so the promise of a surf-and-skate-inspired restaurant with Chesapeake-sourced choices is pretty much perfect. The first East Coast location of the spot from Denver-based Sage Restaurant Concepts, Hello Betty brings Oceanside, California to Grand Park Avenue. A massive patio will soon feature a full-service bar and play host to events like live music and lawn game tournaments; the dining room, meanwhile, is located on the lobby level of the Canopy by Hilton and boasts loads of surf-and-skate flair.
You’re dining on… sustainable, regional seafood ranging from blue crab and chorizo queso fundido to she-crab soup. Bonfire-inspired dishes include fire-charred oysters or fire-roasted Chesapeake Bay blue crabs, and the cocktail menu features frozé, three unique margaritas and more. The signature Betty’s Crush cocktail — a play on Orange Crush — marries citrus-infused vodka, vanilla and fresh OJ.
You’re here because… Maybe you grew up in New Haven, or maybe you just had a cousin who went to Yale. Either way, ever since you tried the coal-fired thin-crust pies at this Connecticut staple, you’ve never looked back. Frank Pepe opened his first New Haven pizza parlor back in 1925, and the restaurant has since become famous — particularly for its white clam pies. This new branch of the family-run spot at Bethesda’s Westfield Montgomery Mall is one of two slated for the D.C. area, with the second landing in Alexandria in July.
You’re dining on… pizza, of course! The new location features a replica of the coal-fired oven at the New Haven original, meaning pies here boast the same charred crust New Havenites flock here for. The famous clam pie featuring clams, garlic and pecorino is only the beginning. A simple tomato pie is topped with a dusting of pecorino; meat lovers will go gaga over the mozzarella and pepperoni, mozzarella and sausage, and mozzarella and bacon. Or you can start from scratch and build your own.
You’re here because… You already loved Santa Rosa’s bomb tacos from its original location just a few steps away, and you’re thrilled to discover that the team has crafted a brand-new menu at their brand-new space, which features vibrant colors and a Day of the Dead-inspired mural from local artist Rodrigo Pradel.
You’re dining on… contemporary Mexican dishes inspired by classics: Think a Piled High Volcano Nacho Bar with house-made tortilla chips or plant-based roasted cauliflower with harissa. The menu also features some more familiar fare, like cheesy birria tacos. Wash it all down with one of several margaritas ranging from Guava Mango to a creative Blue Lagoon option featuring dehydrated seaweed.
This article was featured in the InsideHook DC newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Beltway.