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 thirty (or so). Let’s eat.
God willing and the creek don’t rise, 2022 could be a terrific year for DC restaurants, with a range of welcome new restaurants — including a Greek fine-dining address three years in the making and a fried chicken spot so good you may have to marry it with bubbly (Veuve Clicquot, to be precise). There’s something on this list for everyone.
While this feature technically celebrates restaurants that joined the capital early this year, we’ve opted to include two spots that had just barely preheated their ovens before the doors swung resolutely shut on 2021. These include the third address from a chef whose brasseries are already beloved in Bethesda and Baltimore, as well as a Mediterranean fusion spot that knows how to turn dining out back into a spectacle.
You’re here because… maybe you already know (and love!) pit master Rob Sonderman from his Federalist Pig, or maybe you’re just a massive fried chicken fan looking for a new way to scratch that itch. Either way, Honeymoon Chicken delivers the perfect blend of retro comfort food and chic novelty at this all-day restaurant featuring a dining area, bar, and takeout window, with plans for outdoor dining on the patio come spring.
You’re dining on… the same farm-raised, pickle-brined, pressure-fried chicken that made Sonderman’s Bethesda takeout spot famous, albeit now with a wider range of buckets, sandwiches, bites, and more. Brined for 24 hours, the crispy chicken is served fresh out of the fryer, either sprinkled in “honey dust” – a sweet-and-savory combo of honey powder, garlic powder, and smoked paprika – or drizzled in smoky habanero hot honey. Sandwiches like the banh mi and even a crispy oyster mushroom sandwich for the plant-based crowd join the menu, and higher-brow plays on side dishes include four-cheese mac or kale and blue cheese slaw. Sauces are all made in-house, and drinks include delicious lemonade (plain or strawberry-pineapple) as well as more grownup options like a strawberry-basil daiquiri, a lavender mule, or even a split of Veuve Clicquot.
You’re here because… you’re a fan of Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s Michelin-starred Italian Masseria, and you want to see how he approaches the other half of his heritage at his three-years-in-the-making Philotimo, a fine-dining celebration of Greek cuisine. Through the handsome white sandstone entryway, the dining room features an open kitchen and welcoming, wood-burning hearth. These subtle nods of Greek inspiration offer the ideal setting in which to feast your eyes — and your fork — on Stefanelli’s traditional and contemporary Greek fare. A patio is set to join the restaurant come spring, sure add to the ambiance promised by the tough-to-translate name of the restaurant, which evokes honoring one’s friends via the virtue of hospitality.
You’re dining on… a five-course tasting menu featuring creative, high-end approaches to Greek stalwarts. Think savory loukoumades (doughnuts) stuffed with taramasalata and topped with golden osetra caviar or local Shenandoah Valley lamb with tzatziki. Vegetarians are more than taken care of, with plates like stewed wild mushrooms with olives and feta or exquisite dolmades. Many dishes reflect the chef’s dual heritage and the innate multicultural nature of the cuisine of the Mediterranean; homemade veal-stuffed Middle Eastern manti dumplings are served with brown butter (truffles optional); wines may hail from Greece but also from Georgia, once part of the Greek empire. The dessert course features cinnamon walnut cake and honey-doused sweets evocative of baklava — some of which will be available at the all-day coffee shop and mezze bar coming to the location in the spring.
You’re here because… you’re intrigued by the intersection between West African and Southern American food, and you trust that Gambian chef Howsoon “H.O.” Cham is the man to open your eyes to just how these cuisines converse and converge. After time spent in top local kitchens like Vidalia and helming his own Red Ginger and Lincoln Park Kitchen & Wine Bar, Cham has recently opened this white-tablecloth spot to cook the food of his hometown – with quite a few twists and turns along the way.
You’re dining on… West African dishes with a Southern accent; dishes from the American South with West African flair. Plates run the gamut from North Carolina head-on shrimp and grits to jollof rice to pepper soup with oxtail, goat, and cow foot to jerk chicken with jicama and harissa aioli. Of course, the namesake moi moi makes an appearance — the traditional street food is described on-menu as a “seafood tamale” topped with fresh mackerel and baby arugula. Cocktails continue in this fusion flair vein and include the tamarind-spiked margarita or a “Banjul” Manhattan with burnt orange and bitter truth.
You’re here because… maybe you’re already a fan of chef Paolo Dungca’s food from Kaliwa, Bad Saint, or ABC Pony, or maybe you’re just intrigued by the idea of an Asian-Italian mashup, with flavors like sesame, chile, and soy joining the fresh pasta expertise Dungca gleaned at Alexandria’s Restaurant Eve. Either way, you won’t need to shell out the same big bucks at this counter located within the Block food hall, which shares a kitchen with Dungca’s fast-casual Filipino Pogiboy. The prices at Piccoletto are almost criminally reasonable, starting at just $8 for the peanut butter tagliatelle featuring earthy sesame and chili crisp.
You’re dining on… a selection of four exquisite fusion pastas made fresh daily: Think mafaldine with creamy cod roe, nori, and black sesame or rigatoni tossed with Chinese sausage, Thai basil, and grana Padano. And for those who aren’t that into pasta (…who are you?), there are other choices on offer, like fried calamari with five spice or a laab rice bowl.
Duck Duck Goose
You’re here because… you’re already a fan of one of chef Ashish Alfred’s two other brasseries by the same name in Bethesda or Baltimore — or you’re a recent convert to his totally bomb blueberry jam and foie gras cheeseburger, which he recently shared with InsideHook. Alfred has been candid that if you’re a part of the former camp, there’s a lot to be surprised about at his new venture, though it will maintain some of its star dishes as well as its phenomenal non-alcoholic drink selection. Five zero-proof cocktails join nine higher-octane ones, and sober nights, a stalwart of other DDG addresses, will come to Dupont Circle, too.
You’re dining on… a creative interplay between brasserie classics and slightly off-the-wall approaches to French fare. Think escargots, steak frites, and steak tartare, but also bucatini with rabbit ragu and foie gras butter, charred broccoli agnolotti, or spice-roasted confetti eggplant with labneh and pickled Fresno chilies. Of course, duck is prominently represented: duck leg confit is served with hearty Alsatian cabbage choucroute; Rohan duck breast is cooked two ways and comes with carrots and gooseberries. And then, of course, there’s that namesake DDG Burger, topped with ethically farmed foie gras from the Hudson Valley and a sweet-and-savory combo of house-made blueberry jam and Swiss Gruyère cheese.
You’re here because… you miss the pomp and circumstance that “dining out” used to connote, and this new Mediterranean spot is pulling out all the stops, from the wood-fired oven taking pride of place in the massive dining room (400-seat at peak, though currently capped at less than half that) to little details like fresh flowers on the tables. The spectacle is half of the appeal of this space, lined in rustic brick and bedecked with chandeliers and murals. Expect plates to feature Insta-friendly cloches, domes, and smoke aplenty, not to mention showy garnishes that almost border on distracting. Almost.
You’re dining on… pan-Mediterranean fare inspired by owner Med Lahlou’s Franco-Moroccan heritage. Uruguayan Chef Juan Olivera more than rises to the challenge, adding Spain, Italy, and Greece to the mix, for a menu that features dishes like flaky egg roll-shaped spanakopita, octopus gnocchi with spicy ‘nduja sausage, or melt-in-your-mouth lamb shank served with harissa and garlic. For dessert, churros are served with three different dips, perfect for sharing with your masked-and-vaxxed crowd, and cocktails from bar manager Daniel Omana include terroir-driven choices like the Italian Peppino Sorrentino with limoncello and prosecco or a Moroccan spritzer with mint syrup, mandarin, and gin, which join a vast and varied 150-bottle wine list.
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