Summer is officially at its end, even if the temperatures outside stubbornly suggest otherwise. The rush of the fall season is nearly here — so let’s take a moment to explore all the past season’s best restaurant openings, and grab a bite before things get too busy. Here, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best new restaurants in D.C., including a luxe-minded sushi spot, a taco counter that’s bound to be a must-stop after nights out, a top-notch NYC cocktail import and lots more.
The unexpected pops of color at Purl don’t extend only to its interior but to its drinks and food menu, too. The debut outing of Lemon Group Hospitality, Purl is all about comfort food, whether we’re talking about the short rib pappardelle, burgers (ground each day from short rib and brisket) or the lobster-and-truffle mac and cheese. The real zaniness comes from the drinks: You’ll find not just candy-colored confections but cocktails with actual candy in them, like a mezcal number with raspberry syrup and Campari that’s topped with Nerds. Desserts include beignets and the “90s Baby Sprinkle Cake,” which is composed of sprinkles, sponge cake and strawberries — and would fit right at home in Barbie Land.
Longtime D.C. residents will likely remember the Luna Food Hall space, once home to the famous Vapiano in Chinatown. With 140 seats, this new food hall positions itself as a global culinary adventure under a single roof, offering fried chicken (with Eastern flavors via the cooking techniques of the West), bubble tea from Kung Fu Tea, soup dumplings, Peruvian charcoal chicken and lots more.
U Street revelers, take note: Cinco Tacos is quite possibly your new drunken-eats spot. If you’re not in the mood for a sandwich at the adjacent Capo Deli, Cinco Tacos’ street-style eats come in a range of flavors and bites, including the classic carne asada, al pastor, nopales and a rotating special of the week. Chef Jose Candelero hails from Veracruz and bases the dishes on the recipes he received from his grandmother. The counter stays open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, so prepare for a (well-deserved) wait next time you need some food in your belly after a night at Service Bar.
14th St. Corridor
The latest membership-based eatery to hit the district is After8, right in the midst of the bustling U and 14th Street corridor. For a $100-per-month membership fee, After8 doubles as a social club, offering benefits like complimentary appetizers, curated events and access to a private event space. Anyone looking to drop in for a meal will find takes on Mediterranean eats, like Spanish prawns in saffron butter, poached Moorish chicken with crushed olive agrodolce, shishito peppers doused in Tunisian spices and spicy hummus. The chef’s table experience provides a two-person sharable portion of surf and turf (broiled lobster and drunken ribeye) or Moroccan lamb chops. In what appears to be a D.C. first — to my knowledge, at least — After8 diners can indulge in an unlimited dessert menu for $20, with plenty of tasty treats like limoncello, sorbetini, ganache and more. The drinks selection includes a healthy wine edit, while cocktails feature surprising combinations like a matcha margarita and three different martinis (reposado espresso?!).
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Those still reeling from the abrupt shuttering of Georgetown sushi mainstay Kintaro will find a new haven in Kyojin Sushi. Nestled in Cady’s Alley inside the former L2 Lounge, Kyojin Sushi aims to provide a more extravagant dining experience than Kintaro. Led by chef Saran Kannasute of Arlington’s Yume Sushi, Kyojin is bigger and bolder, with premium touches like caviar and gold (yes, the 24-karat kind). You’ll also find signature nigiri, curated by the chef himself, including Japanese white fish, A5 wagyu and lavender-smoked salmon. If high-end delights aren’t your bag, don’t worry — there’s an extensive roll menu, with plenty of tried-and-true classics.
San Matteo is the product of the braintrust behind Osteria Al Volo, and a self-described “taste of Italy, right in the heart of Petworth,” featuring homemade pasta and traditional dishes like cacio e pepe, Bolognese and lasagna. Those looking for something heavier will want to take a look at the whole branzino (accompanied by broccolini) or duck leg confit — and then consider adding one of the six cocktails (including a prosecco and rosolio spritz).
Ask any bartender in D.C., and they’ll likely tell you they’re obsessed with the crazy cocktail wizards at Death & Co. The legendary New York cocktail bar debuted in the old Columbia Room space, a full-circle moment as one craft cocktail space becomes another. The story goes that the East Village original inspired Columbia Room to begin with — and that when it closed, owner Derek Brown reached out to Death & Co to see if they wanted the space. Now they’re here serving a 28-drink menu that’s wholly distinct from what you’d find at their New York, Denver or Los Angeles locations. Standouts include a smoked apple brandy Old Fashioned made with Baltimore apples and a pineapple juice piña colada with a horse-like kick of, well, horseradish.
Coming from the restaurateur of the same name, Philippe Chow just opened the doors on its first location outside the New York area. With interiors just as stunning as those at the nearly two-decade-old Upper East Side original, the new Wharf location features the famous tableside Peking duck alongside a host of other showstoppers, including honey-glazed ribs, lobster and more. An extensive appetizer section features mainstays like Peking duck spring rolls, lettuce wraps and no fewer than eight takes on the dumpling; vegetarians will find plenty to love, with dishes like salt-and-pepper eggplant and tofu lo mein. It’s all on the ground-floor level of the swanky new Amaris luxury condo complex.
Joon is the brainchild of cookbook author Najmieh Batmanglij and Christopher Morgan, former co-executive chef at Maydan. That’s one hell of a star-studded duo, and enough to make the Tysons outpost a must-visit. The focus here is on Iranian dishes, which means shared plates of dishes like lamb sanbuseh (pistachio-encrusted turnovers with powdered sugar and rose petals) and fried sardines with chile, oranges, pomegranate and onions. Heavier options include whole roasted branzino (with sour orange, walnuts, barberries, Aleppo chile, onion, fava bean and dill) and the duck beryan platter, with 14-day, dry-aged duck, sour cherry rice with tahdig, mast-o musir, barberry preserve and sour orange. The bright and cheerful interior further positions the space as one for communal gathering and sharing.
Kevin Kelley’s Kitchen + Kocktails recently opened its third restaurant of the same name in the gigantic former Toro Toro space — a staggering 7,500 square feet — downtown. As you’d expect, it specializes in upscale Southern food. Standout menu items include favorites from the Chicago and Dallas locations, like fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, lump crab cakes and more. The drinks menu includes plenty of theatrics, like a literally lit rum concoction that’s set on fire when it arrives at the table, and a play on an Old Fashioned that appears in a cloud of smoke.
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