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 days (or so). Let’s eat.
Summer is ripe for new restaurants. This month, not only has Washington welcomed a casual Italian spot in the heart of downtown, a new flexitarian mainstay and a Greek-influenced wine bar from a Michelin-starred chef, but it’s also borrowing a few concepts from NYC. The city is now home to both its first outpost of the taco-bus-turned-taqueria that took New York by storm in 2010 and a French-influenced bakery and café with one of Oprah’s favorite cookies on the dessert menu.
You’re here because… you’re already a fan of the varied Mexican cuisine Tacombi has been serving all along the East Coast of the U.S. since upgrading from a taco bus in the Yucatán to a taqueria in NYC back in 2010. So you’re thrilled to find a new location has come to Bethesda. The Maryland outpost of the taqueria provides guests with a front-row view into the kitchen, where one can sip on a cocktail and watch the skilled taqueros make tacos to order. With views over the Capital Crescent Trail, it’s truly the ideal place to spend summer evenings.
You’re dining on… a panoply of choices including the popular corn esquites and Baja fish tacos, as well as a range of quesadillas and burritas, all made with Tacombi’s own line of fresh tortilla products. Vegans can dig into the burrita vegana with sweet potato, kale and poblano peppers, while carnivores will love the quesadilla gringa stuffed with Mexico City-style pork al pastor. Wash it all down with margaritas or micheladas, or if you’re looking for a zero-proof tipple, opt for a house-made agua fresca.
You’re here because… maybe you’ve visited the beloved NYC locations of this French-influenced bakery and café, or maybe you’re just hoping to surprise your lady with a place she can channel her inner Emily in Paris without actually moving to France. Either way, the new Bethesda Row outpost of Maman is the ideal spot to snag salads, sandwiches and pastries this summer. The newest location boasts the same vintage, floral aesthetic as the original, as well as an outdoor patio where you can soak up the sun and imagine you’re on the French Riviera.
You’re dining on… a unique blend of Marseille-meets-Madison Avenue, with choices including quiches, truffled croque monsieur and tuna pan bagnat. Croissant sandwiches are piled with ham and Comté cheese, and for dessert, the nutty chocolate chip cookie is a must — and not just because it featured on Oprah’s favorite things in 2017. Be sure to save room for the exclusive-to-Bethesda Crogel: a mashup of a bagel and a croissant topped with smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill and pickled onions.
You’re here because… you’ve been on the lookout for an approachable spot for Italian comfort food fare, and Il Piatto, which has replaced French-influenced Mirabelle, is the new table to try. Sophisticated yet approachable, it’s the perfect spot for a first date that will impress without breaking the bank.
You’re dining on… starters like crispy zucchini flowers, arancini or house-made meatballs, followed by mains like fettuccine alla Bolognese or eggplant parm. On the lighter side, salmon is served with fresh veggies and potatoes, or an arugula and parmesan salad can be topped with your choice of protein. Pair it all with an Italian bottle or aperitif, and don’t miss the weekday happy hour, where prices are slashed on small shared plates like fried calamari or chicken parm crostini from 4 to 6 p.m. At brunch, round up a crowd and double down on a build-your-own spritz kit.
You’re here because… you’ve been on the lookout for a new flexitarian mainstay, and you’ve found it in this West Coast-inspired seafood-and-veg-focused restaurant and bar. With a soft opening on June 10 that will soon pave the way for a full menu closer to the end of the month, this new spot, two years in the making, is already enticing locals with its laid-back vibe, low-intervention wines and 125-seat patio in the shade of crepe myrtles.
You’re dining on… local, ingredient-focused fare, inspired in large part by chef/owner Nathan Beauchamp’s time dining at Northern California stalwarts early in his career. Local oysters are paired with a pink Champagne mignonette; a summer squash panzanella is enriched with creamy stracciatella. Small plates to share may include spiceberry braised octopus with orange and spring onions or mackerel with eggplant XO; more consequential entrées include Amish hen with sunchokes and foie jus or lamb two ways with sumac fiddleheads and honey. The cocktail menu features both high- and low-proof offerings from Ian Fletcher, and a casual kiosk area serves coffee, pastry and nitro iced tea from Lancaster’s Passenger Coffee. Expect brunch and lunch to join the menu later this summer.
You’re here because… whether he’s embracing his Italian heritage on one side or Greek on the other, it seems chef Nick Stefanelli can do no wrong. After Masseria, Officina and Philotimo, the chef has now opened his Kaimaki, a wine and cocktail bar across the breezeway from its Greek fine dining sister. Named for the micro-bubbled layer atop Greek coffee, this light-filled space boasts a lively atmosphere and delicious menu of cocktails, drinks and small bites to share.
You’re dining on… elevated Greek street food ranging from classic dolmades and gyros to fried loukoumades with taramasalata and caviar. Don’t miss the Greek fries, made with Kennebec potatoes and seasoned with oregano. Pair your selections with Greek wine or original craft cocktails like the Red Dragon made with gin, cucumber habanero shrub and pomegranate or the Medicane with Kleos Mastiha, Jamaican rum, fassionola, lime and bubbles.
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