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Take a first look inside chef Jeff Tunks’s latest venture. By Anna Spiegel
Penn Commons, the newest eatery from chef Jeff Tunks, brings American eats and ample brews to Penn Quarter.

One restaurant’s bad fortune is another’s good luck. The eatery that was supposed to open at 700 Sixth Street, Northwest, was a beer-centric project called Townhouse Kitchen—but before it could be completed, the money evaporated. The space became available, and business partners Gus DiMillo and chef Jeff Tunks saw an opportunity to expand their empire. (The team also owns DC Coast, Acadiana, PassionFish, and Fuego Cocina, among other local spots.)

The Haight-Ashbury, a falafel-like veggie burger, is one of the many items borrowed from the Burger Tap & Shake menu.
The 290-seat restaurant strikes a rustic look with wood finishes and deep leather booths.

Penn Commons, a sister restaurant of District Commons in Foggy Bottom, will still serve plenty of craft brews through 40 draft lines when it opens Monday. Just as many seats fill the large bar area, a boon for an eatery within blocks of the Verizon Center. A snacking-friendly lounge menu offers the likes of dips and spreads with grilled bread, pulled-pork hand pies, and crispy fried oysters. Also suited for pregamers is a selection of house-ground chuck and brisket burgers—plus veggie and chicken alternatives—taken from Tunks’s menu at Burger Tap & Shake.

The bar is outfitted with 40 draft lines for an array of local and craft brews.
Old-school desserts include boozy floats and hot fudge sundaes.

The dinner—and eventually lunch and brunch—offerings closely mirror District Commons. New American and Southern influences dominate, from Korean-style pork chops with spicy barbecue sauce to shrimp and grits. At 10 each night, a bell rings for homey, family-style meals served at a communal table. The main difference on the menu here: a Thursday night “sausage fest” with a mix of grilled Stachowski’s meats, homemade kraut, and pretzel bread. A good bet to cap off the evening is a dessert menu with boozy milkshakes and three kinds of sundaes.

At 10 PM a dinner bell rings for family-style feasts at a communal table, such as platters of fried chicken or Stachowski's sausages.
(Left) Oversize onion rings on the bar menu are one of the many snacks perfect for before or after the game. (Right) Exclusive to the menu at Penn Commons are a variety of dips and spreads, served with grilled bread.

Penn Commons. 700 Sixth St., NW; 202-905-2999. 

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 01:15 PM/ET, 07/31/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every morning, we'll let you know where to find lunch on wheels. By Dora Grote

Happy Thursday, food truck followers! Where did July go? Treat yourself for making it through the month with double Madagascar vanilla red velvet cupcakes at Sweetbites or continue National Cheesecake Day (which was yesterday) with Key lime cheesecake at That Cheesecake Truck.

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Posted at 10:28 AM/ET, 07/31/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Chef RJ Cooper’s Southern-inspired eatery debuts in Fairfax. By Anna Spiegel
Chef RJ Cooper debuts Gypsy Soul, a Southern-inspired eatery in Fairfax. Photography by Jeff Elkins.

One of the biggest summer restaurant openings is upon us with the debut of Gypsy Soul, which serves its first dinner on Wednesday night. The Mosaic District eatery is the second for chef RJ Cooper, who also owns Rogue 24 in Shaw. Here’s what to expect at the travel-inspired spot.

The vibe: Modern-rustic, much like the cuisine. The 135-seat space mixes wood floors and tables with exposed pipes and cast metals. An open “show kitchen,” where you can watch Cooper and his chefs at work, is the focal point of the room.

Both the aesthetic and cuisine lean modern-rustic, while the restaurant’s name nods to Cooper’s travels.

The crowd-pleasing food: A section devoted to macaroni and cheeses, anyone? Many of the robust, Southern-inspired dishes hark back to Cooper’s days at Vidalia, where he earned a James Beard Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic. You’ll find bread baskets filled with buttery rolls and sage biscuits, jumbo lump crabcakes with homey potato salad, and short ribs atop Carolina-rice risotto. A few items also nod to Cooper’s Detroit upbringing, such as a cheffy version of a Greek diner salad (think barrel-aged feta and house-pickled beets instead of canned).

The more adventurous food: “Beef marrow/sea urchins/antler mustard/ink toast.” Menu descriptions like this one look like they’re off Rogue’s modernist menu, though you won’t find tweezers in the Gypsy kitchen. The actual dish is more rustic than it sounds (translation: roasted bone marrow topped with uni and mustard greens). Lovers of other oddities can find Asian-style lettuce wraps with crispy pig ears and fermented cucumbers, chicken-skin cracklings, and a stuffed pork head.

Barman Bryan Tetorakis crafts creative cocktails, such as the Gnome (left) with vodka, Aperol, and liquid arugula, and the rum-based Coco Loco (right).

The drinks: Inspired by travel. Cocktail expert Bryan Tetorakis (aka the “Cheftender”) has carved his own niche at Rogue 24, running a separate drinks tasting menu. Here you’ll find similarly creative sips, such as the Gnome, with vodka, Aperol, black pepper, and liquid arugula. The wine and beer list reads majority local and American. House-made sodas and fresh-brewed peach tea are on tap for the non-drinking crowd, along with a selection of La Colombe coffees.

The conversation piece: Biker-inspired bar stools. The comfy leather perches were modeled after Cooper’s own motorcycle, named Pumpkin for its orange coloring. Another fun fact: His license plate reads “BRAISE.”

Pumpkin, Cooper’s orange motorcycle, is the inspiration for the bar stools, which are biker-themed and clad in leather.

On the horizon (short-term): Lunch and brunch. Saturday and Sunday brunch are expected to start the weekend after Labor Day, with afternoon service to follow. Entrée salads and more sandwiches are planned for lunch—we’re looking forward to trying that “redneck cheesesteak”—while brunch will bring Bloody Marys galore and over-the-top dishes such as duck confit hash with duck eggs and foie gras béarnaise, and fried chicken and waffles.

On the horizon (long-term): Big dishes and an ever bigger rooftop. Once the kitchen hits its stride, you’ll find a number of platters for two in each section of the menu, such as whole roast fish, racks of ribs, and slate-roasted 30-ounce rib eye. As for outdoor dining, the restaurant’s 80-seat rooftop is scheduled to debut in spring 2015.

Gypsy Soul. 8296 Glass Alley, Fairfax; 703-992-0933. Reservations accepted. Open (currently) for dinner, Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 10, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11:30, Sunday 5 to 9. Lunch and brunch to follow.

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 12:50 PM/ET, 07/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every morning, we'll let you know where to find lunch on wheels. By Vicky Gan

Happy Wednesday, food truck followers! Today’s specials include the grilled chicken Caesar wrap at Little Italy, barbecue meat fries at Hardy’s BBQ, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies at Captain Cookie.

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Posted at 10:30 AM/ET, 07/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The W Hotel’s rooftop gets a swanky new look. By Anna Spiegel
The W Hotel's P.O.V. Lounge will reopen in September with an entirely new look and feel. Renderings courtesy of the W Hotel Washington DC.

Big changes are happening at the W Hotel Washington DC. In addition to a new southern European restaurant, Pinea, the rooftop P.O.V. Lounge is getting a revamp. The scenic bar closed on Saturday for an extensive renovation, and will debut along with the restaurant in September with an entirely new vibe.

The outdoor lounge already provides views of top Washington landmarks—including your best chance to gaze into the White House’s windows—but the redesign will incorporate more elements of the cityscape and its history. A 50-foot, glowing “red tape” wall is très bureaucratic Washington, while the city’s classical design is reflected in a rounded dome bar in the “White House corner.” Street artist Aiko has also been commissioned to design the walls to reflect DC architecture.

A “red tape” wall glows with LED lighting in the evenings.

In addition to the public al fresco space, you’ll find a new VIP seating area with space for up to 50 in the “Washington Monument corner.” Those less interested in spotting current celebs can hang at the indoor bar off the terrace, flanked by a brass mural of historical A-listers such as Benjamin Franklin and John F. Kennedy.

Design elements reflect those found elsewhere in the city, like a curved dome bar mimicking the monuments.

Posted at 09:45 AM/ET, 07/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Chef RJ Cooper goes “back to basics” with a new menu. By Anna Spiegel
Chef RJ Cooper goes rogue with an à la carte menu. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Big news from chef RJ Cooper: Rogue 24 will soon offer an à-la-carte menu. 

“Shaw has changed into this tremendously young, urban community who don’t want to spend two or three hours dining,” Cooper says. “We’re still modernist, still playful, but we have to give the community what they want.”

When the avant garde eatery opened in 2011, only two options were available: either a 16- or 24-course tasting menu. Cooper and his team have diversified the selection since, currently offering a ten-course “jaunt,” and a smaller cocktail tasting at the Spirits Bar. Now diners will be able to order more traditionally portioned, individual dishes in the main dining room from what he’s calling a “back to the basics” menu, as well as the 24-course “progression” tasting for $125. Cooper says the à la carte offerings will begin after Rogue’s version of the RAMW’s summer restaurant week (a.k.a. Restaurant Week Gone Rogue) in mid-to-late August. 

It’s a big month for Cooper, as his second restaurant, Gypsy Soul, debuts in the Mosaic District on Wednesday. Stay tuned for more details on Rogue’s new menu, as well as a preview of the Virginia project. 

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 12:39 PM/ET, 07/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every morning, we’ll let you know where to find lunch on wheels. By Vicky Gan

Happy Tuesday, food truck followers! Today’s specials include white pizza at DC Slices, pizza mac and cheese at CapMac, and coleslaw at Feelin’ Crabby.

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Posted at 11:20 AM/ET, 07/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus Southern-Jewish fare at DGS Delicatessen’s “schmutz and schmaltz” series. By Nelson Billington
Catch Giada De Laurentiis at the Appetite Festival this weekend. Photograph by carrie-nelson / Shutterstock.com.

Celebrate Peru: Local Peruvian restaurant Las Canteras celebrates Peruvian National Day on Monday with a special menu featuring traditional dishes such as ceviche and prime beef lomo saltado ($39.50 for four courses). An incentive to arrive early: The first 50 guests receive a Pisco sour for $5. This is the only menu for the evening, and seatings are available at 5, 7, and 9:30.

Southern takeover: DGS Delicatessen features two collaborations this week for its Southern-Jewish mashup, “schmutz and schmaltz.” Louisiana chef Wes Morton, formerly of Art and Soul, offers a three-course menu with dishes like smoked whitefish salad and jambalaya on Tuesday from 5 to 9:30 ($35 per person). On Thursday you’ll find a tap takeover from Three Stars Brewery and “meat and three” on the menu for $19.95, with choices such as smoked brisket and grilled corn with pastrami butter.

Chef-ologists: Six local chefs try their hand at mixology on Wednesday for the second iteration of Chefs Behind Bars, a fundraiser at Buffalo & Bergen for Share Our Strength. Sample drinks and bites from Union Market vendors between 6 and 8:30, and vote for your favorite cocktail. Tickets ($40) are available online.

Korean for night owls: Mandu continues its series of late-evening “anju” pop-ups on Friday, this month led by chef Katsuya Fukushima of Daikaya. Expect more Korean-inspired bar snacks and plates from 10 to 1 at the K Street location.

Biscuit heaven: New biscuit purveyor Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. teams up with Dolcezza for a pop-up at its Union Market-adjacent factory on Saturday and Sunday from 11 to 3. Stop by for biscuit sandwiches stuffed with Benton’s bacon or fried chicken, platters smothered with gravy, and several spreads and jams for slathering. You’ll also find a biscuit sundae with sweet-corn gelato and blackberry jam.

Cool down: The historic Mount Vernon estate hosts ice cream-making demonstrations every Saturday in August from 10:30 to 12:30. Unusual flavors include those popular at the time of George Washington, such as oyster, Parmesan cheese, or tea ice cream. This event is free with a paid admission to the property ($18 for adults, $9 for children ages 6 to 11, free for children under 5).

Bon appetite: Strathmore presents the Appetite Festival, featuring food celebs including Giada De Laurentiis and Andrew Zimmern. A variety of chefs lead talks, tastings, and cooking demos, and you’ll also find food trucks, live music, and more. Tickets range from $50 up to $225 for an all-access weekend pass.

Planning Ahead:

Celebrity chef tour: The James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour returns to Washington with an all-star dinner at the Source on Monday, August 4. Toques including CityZen’s Eric ZieboldPeter Chang of China Cafe, and Top Chef winner Kristen Kish cook for guests; the menu includes special drinks and pairings. Tickets are $200 per person.

Posted at 03:57 PM/ET, 07/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus craft brews for the sandwich shop. By Anna Spiegel
Craft brews and tasting menus are coming to Bub and Pop’s. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Chef Jon Taub already mixes high and low brow at his Dupont deli, Bub and Pop’s. The popular finalist of our Great Sandwich Smackdown may be located in a no-frills basement, but you’ll find lines for hearty sandwiches such as slow-roasted porchetta with hazelnut gremolata and bolognese Parm. The shop’s next foray: Supper at Bub’s, a weekly dinner club Taub is planning for Friday and Saturday evenings. 

The team previously played with tasting menus at Bub’s Sunday Table, where Taub prepared elaborate, 11-course meals for guests on a near-monthly basis. The next generation, expected to start in September, will be a regular affair on Friday and Saturday. Taub says fewer courses (think five or seven) and slightly larger portions can be expected. The menu will change frequently, and may feature anything from a chilled avocado soup with uni and compressed watermelon to a deconstructed cheesesteak. 

“I want it to be special, but I don’t want it to be pretentious,” says Taub.

One key element to the dinner series: a liquor license, which Taub expects to come through soon. While you’ll have to wait until the fall for tasting menus, a craft beer with your chicken Parm may not be far away. 

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 01:41 PM/ET, 07/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every morning, we’ll let you know where to find lunch on wheels. By Dora Grote

Happy Monday, food truck followers! Take a break from the office on this sunny summer day for specials such as a pork belly sandwich and hand-cut fries at Brandon's Little Truck and the Island Refresher (Ting grapefruit soda poured over lemon ice) at Carmen's Italian Ice.

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Posted at 10:43 AM/ET, 07/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()