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.
From grab-and-go options to a fried chicken joint complete with a Michelin-starred team (and its own backyard-style dining area), D.C.’s newest arrivals are nothing if not enticing. And that’s not even including a new speakeasy with Mediterranean-inspired mezze or a hotel restaurant serving fresh fusion fare with local flair.
You’re here because… like founder Mike Bramson, you’ve long craved an NYC-style social club in the capital, so you’re thrilled he’s opened Alias on 14th. A partnership among Bramson, his wife Christal, and restaurateur Med Lahlou, this new cocktail concept occupies the bar area below Dolce Vita, with a speakeasy access revealing a dining room designed by David Anthony Chenault. Neon signage, back-lit stained glass and an exclusive area complete with turquoise velvet sofas make any guest feel like a VIP.
You’re dining on… Mediterranean-inspired bites from Dolce Vita’s Executive Chef Elier Rodriguez. Think spanakopita and beef tenderloin souvlaki, but also sashimi-grade tuna with Moroccan spices and harissa-spiked yogurt, or scallops with taramasalata and artichoke purée. Drinks-wise, signature cocktails are all about the pizzazz, with creations from Evan Cablayan including a “Bubble-icous” blend of citrus vodka, raspberry and fresh lemon, or a Thai-influenced, tea-based cocktail made with vanilla vodka and condensed milk. A consequential bottle service menu including several top Champagnes seals the deal.
You’re here because… maybe you’re already familiar with Brandon Gaynor’s local burger concept thanks to its Capitol Hill location, or maybe you’re just jazzed to try a quality-driven burger chain where you can mix and match toppings and seasonings to your heart’s content. Either way, you’re excited to try the burgers Michelle Obama fell for back in 2019 at this new, sleek, 53-seat spot steps from the Capital One Arena.
You’re dining on… burgers, of course! Start by choosing a potato bun, cauliflower bun or kale bowl base. From there, opt for a beef, chicken or Impossible patty, and add mix-ins like cheddar or blue cheeses, meats like bacon or chorizo, and veggies like bell peppers, mushrooms or jalapeños. Finish things off with your choice of seasoning (Bombay, Buffalo, pesto and more are on offer) and a dipping sauce like queso or garlic aioli. Too overwhelmed by choice? Opt instead for one of the signatures, like Mexico City with chorizo, red onion, bell peppers, jalapeños, Oaxaca cheese and taco seasoning, or the Greek, with Kalamata olives, cucumbers, sun-dried tomatoes, feta and Greek seasoning. Add a side of fresh fries or crispy-fried Brussels sprouts and a draft cocktail like an Old Fashioned or elderflower spritz.
You’re here because… this sandwich pop-up from the Beuchert’s Saloon team gave you life during lockdown, and now that it’s found its forever home you’re ready to check out the brick-and-mortar iteration. The new spot, just steps from Beuchert’s, leans into its irreverent vibe, with murals from Nate Mann and accoutrements like a Street Fighter arcade game and a Pop Art portrait of Danny DeVito. For now, Fight Club is only open for weekday lunches, but expect an evening service in the weeks to come.
You’re dining on… the sandwiches made famous from the pop-up: everything from Black Forest ham with onion fondue, braised mustard greens and aged cheddar on rye, to Maryland blue crab and egg salad with crab fat dressing and spicy pickle relish. Vegetarians can dig into a tempura cauliflower hoagie with Tso sauce and veggie slaw, or a cashew and tofu falafel naan with ramp raita and benne seed tahini. Sides include house-made onion rings with fermented chili powder or an everything-bagel-spiced wedge salad with blue cheese dressing.
You’re here because… the concept of a fusion of fresh, local flavors and international appeal is just too good to miss, and Executive Chef James Gee is delivering on the promise at this new spot at the Viceroy Washington DC.
You’re dining on… a rotating seasonal menu capitalizing on Chef Gee’s relationships with local purveyors and producers, albeit with an international spin. Think hushpuppies with orange blossom honey butter, deviled eggs with kimchi and Korean pepper, or a matcha-scented tiramisu. Some offerings nevertheless stick closer to home: A buttermilk fried chicken thigh sandwich is served with Alabama white sauce, while salmon is glazed in sorghum and paired with crispy grits, smoked pork belly, braised kale and pecan brown butter. Wash it all down with one of the house craft cocktails like the Taj Mahal with Basil Hayden bourbon, watermelon and curry leaf, or the Raspberry Beret with Chopin vodka, banana liqueur, raspberry and avocado water.
You’re here because… the fried-chicken trend shows no signs of stopping, and when Michelin-starred chefs get involved, you know it’s gonna be good. This new chicken joint from Grazie Grazie owner Casey Patten and chefs Gerald Addison and Chris Morgan boasts a low-key ambiance and high-quality fare. Pull up a swing chair in the backyard-style bar, grab a pitcher of micheladas to share and dust off your shuffleboard cue — this is the perfect place to spend the first balmy days of summer.
You’re dining on… fried chicken, of course. Crispy chicken pieces (bone-in or “tendies”) are coated in a garlic- and black-pepper-spiced breading, ready to be dunked in one of nine different sauces ranging from Alabama white to pepper jelly. Or snag a sandwich like the Pinky’s Out (with crispy garlic sauce) or the Chuck Norris (with jalapeño pepper dip and pepper jelly). Pair your choice with three-bean salad, mac and cheese, or waffle fries, and be sure to save room for homemade pie (apple, banana cream or shoofly) or frozen custard. You can even opt for a mashup of both in the form of a “Pyclone.”
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