Beer lovers, take note: there’s a new haunt for you. A branch of Philadelphia’s City Tap House opens in Penn Quarter today with 40 draft brews, plus an additional 20 by the bottle and two cask ales. Unlike a number of brew spots that assemble an impressive drink list but offer more generic fare like burgers and pizzas, adventurous eaters will find everything from lamb necks to foie gras.
Back to the beer for a moment, brew guy Andy Farrell aims to offer something for everyone in the 180-seat space. A few familiar names dot the list, including Sierra Nevada and Allagash, as well as local lines like Port City, 3 Stars, and DC Brau. The menu is divided by flavor profiles like “dark roasty malts” and “citrusy and light” wheats to encourage exploration into more unusual sips without getting entirely lost (smoky Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, anyone?). As for happy hour, plans are still in the works, but you may just find yourself calling and arranging specific discounts. Given the scarcity of 9-to-5 schedules, the team hopes to offer a deal where larger groups (i.e. your 15 fun coworkers) can call ahead and arrange for happy hour pricing at a nontypical hour, like 7 to 9.
The dinner menu follows a similar eclectic model, with lunch and brunch coming soon. Options run hearty. You might start with foie gras French toast or a kale salad studded with pomegranate seeds, followed by bucatini tossed with a bacon-y rabbit bolognese or Duroc pork collar over cheddar grits. Cast iron mussels like a mixture with spicy chorizo and poblano peppers arrive in single or shareable portions. You’ll also find daily specials, such as tomahawk steaks or seasonally rotating fish.
It’s difficult to recognize the former 901 Restaurant space. Gone are the clubby curtains and fire displays, replaced by warm wooden walls and floors, a copper bar, and glass-enclosed keg wall filled with various brews. Several flat-screen televisions hang around the bar and dining room (it’s a beer spot, after all). Let’s just hope things don’t get “interesting” when the Caps play the Flyers nearby.
City Tap House. 901 9th Street, NW; 202-644-9433.
Dine for good: Four Union Market affiliates— Toki Underground, Maketto, Buffalo & Bergen, and Rappahannock Oyster Bar—team up for a collaborative dinner on Monday to benefit Miriam’s Kitchen. The four-course meal is $50, with additional wine pairings available during two seatings at 6 and 8. Email email@example.com for reservations (which are limited).
Pop-up preview: Get a preview of chef Frederik de Pue’s upcoming Penn Quarter restaurant, Menu, during a three-day pop-up at Table. You’ll find three-course offerings for $45 per person Monday through Wednesday, plus optional beer pairings for another $25.
Virginia wine tutorials: The new-ish Eno Wine Room launches Enoversity on Tuesday from 6 to 8. The monthly class will highlight a variety of producers, including Virginia wineries for the first four sessions. Guests can opt to sample a glass or flight while learning about the featured grower. Up this week: Lovingston Winery.
Bountiful bubbles: The holidays call for more Champagne, and you’ll have plenty at Bastille on Wednesday with a paired tasting menu. There’s no lack of luxury ingredients—foie gras, caviar, truffle sauce—hence the $115 price tag (or $60 without the pairings).
Distillery Dinner: Ever dined in a distillery? Here’s your chance. Purcellville’s Catoctin Creek hosts a dinner on Friday at 6:30, which combines a private tour of the production facility with a four-course meal and cocktail pairings. Tickets are $125, including tip, and available online.
Whiskey 101: Serious bourbon lovers can head to Jack Rose on Saturday for an eight-hour Bourbon Academy lead by the Filson Historical Society’s bourbon historian. Tickets are $150 for the general public and available online.
Gingerbread galore: You can drop by two gingerbread house parties on Saturday. Ris hosts a workshop benefiting DC Central Kitchen, with all the ingredients needed to craft a sweet mansion, holiday desserts, and spiked cider from noon to 2 ($20 adults/$10 kids). Call 202-730-2500 to reserve space. Over at Cork Market, pick between two sessions for decorating at 11:30 and 3:30. Come for construction, stay for Christmas cookies, hot cocoa, and more ($35).
Christmas cooking class: Get a head start on your holiday meal at Osteria Marzano, which hosts an Italian Christmas cooking class on Saturday from 11 to 2. After whipping up a variety of dishes, you’ll sit down to lunch and gratis Champagne. Reservations are $85, and limited to 20 guests.
Holiday cooking “light”: Looking to cut calories this season? Westend Bistro chef Devin Bozkaya hosts a health-minded cooking class on Saturday from 2:30 to 4, which includes recipes and tips for creating lighter versions of holiday classics. Reservations are $65, and include wine pairings.
Treme cookbook “eat and greet”: Get a taste of the Big Easy on Saturday and meet Lolis Eric Elie, author of Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans. Bayou Bakery hosts a party with Elie from 5:30 to 7:30, where you’ll find copies of the cookbook available to purchase ($30) alongside cocktails, food specials, and live music.
Pre-holiday dinner: Get in the festive spirit (without the immediate holiday stress) at Sonoma on Saturday, which serves a special three-course menu with an amuse and optional wine pairings ($70). Guests can also enter to win a free wine flight with the meal.
Santa Brunch: Take the kids to the Kennedy Center on Sunday for the annual Brunch with Santa at the Roof Terrace Restaurant. The afternoon includes a breakfast buffet, a gratis mimosa for adults, and photos with the North Pole’s main man for kids ($45 adults; $20 children).
Bourbon Steak’s fifth anniversary: The big ticket event next week falls on Monday, so you’ll want to plan ahead. Bourbon Steak celebrates its fifth anniversary with a reunion dinner of past and present chefs, including owner Michael Mina, David Varley, Adam Sobel, and more. A cocktail reception starts at 7, followed by a six-course meal with optional pairings ($165, or $250 with wine). Call 202-944-9173 or email BourbonSteak.WAS@fourseasons.com for reservations.
Happy Monday, food truck followers! Despite the inclement weather, there are a few committed trucks hitting the streets today. So brave the cold and stop by Tin Heaven for an oven-roasted turkey breast sandwich or head to Dangerously Delicious Pies for a spinach and goat cheese quiche, it'll be worth it.
A gyro, in the usual sense, means a kind of grayish-brown mystery meat shaved from a conical spit, stuffed into a dry pita, and folded into a sandwich. It’s often serviceable, but hardly more than that. Certainly not something you’d crave returning for, like the marvelous pork gyro ($10) at YiaYia’s Kitchen in Beltsville.
Pork is the meat of choice in Greece, rather than the typical lamb/beef blend you see in the States. At YiaYia’s, you can spot it immediately among the three upright spits. It’s the one that looks charred beyond recognition.
Not to worry. The black amounts to a kind of bark, not unlike what you’d find atop a properly tended rack of ribs, and has much more going for it than smoke. The cooks rub the meat with oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic, and paprika, among other seasonings, before setting it on its rotating spindle, where it slow-roasts at an almost glacial pace, for five or six hours. The finished product summons memories of the best dry-rub barbecue, lip-smacking and luscious. For the gyro, the sliced meat is nestled in a warm, griddled pita, along with tangy tzatziki and a dice of onions and tomatoes. For an extra $3, you can add another detail from the Greeks—a fistful of hot, hand-cut French fries.
This is an order-at-the-counter operation with a sit-down aesthetic. Owner Michael Harrison was previously a general manager at the Rockville and Clarendon locations of Cava Mezze, and before that he ran the floor at his father’s Parthenon Restaurant in Chevy Chase DC. Harrison’s aim was to come up with a place that could service the grab-and-go needs of his audience—YiaYia’s sits almost at the nexus of busy Route 1 and the Beltway—while functioning as a sort of latter-day Greek diner.
The fluorescent lights and cold, open room are not selling points, nor are the black plastic plates, but the food has more than enough rustic warmth—and finesse—to make you want to pull up a chair and stay. The spanakopita ($6), far from the sodden mass that so many versions end up as, is all lightness, flake, and crunch, despite its generous allotment of spinach and feta. The avgolemono ($5), a Greek version of chicken-and-rice soup (with a generous spike of lemon juice), has the roughly chopped carrots and celery that usually signal a grandmother’s homey efforts. (Yia yia means grandma; Harrison named the place in honor of his own, who passed away not long ago.) The Bolognese ($9) is a massive mound of well-cooked macaroni drenched in a cinnamon-spiced tomato-and-meat sauce.
The night I ordered them, the pork chops ($15) were a touch overcooked and the green beans alongside them had an institutional look. As it turned out, the beans were excellent, the dull green color a result of having been simmered slowly in a good sauce of tomatoes, onions, chicken stock, and dill.
The green beans also arrived one night on a plate with pastitsio ($10), a dish that often invites comparison to lasagna. The huge, dense square of ground beef and macaroni is topped with béchamel and haloumi cheese. Nothing subtle or fancy—just good, simple cooking at a reasonable price. The kind we can never have too much of.
YiaYia’s Kitchen. 10413 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville; 301-595-1855. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
This article appears in the December 2013 issue of Washingtonian.
Slushie at Shoo-fly Diner
Imagine a Slurpee. Only with a smoother, more sophisticated texture that delivers the wetness, coldness, and density but not the spiky crunch of pulverized ice.
And instead of Coke or that candy-tasting cherry—101-proof bourbon.
And to balance the booze, a generous pour of fresh pear cider from Reid’s Orchard in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
I’ve had a lot of terrific cocktails in 2013, and I think DC has pretty well staked its claim to being called the Cocktail Capital of America. But I can’t think of another drink I had this year that was better, or more fun, than this amazingly simple twist on the trashiest treat of summer.
Only problem is, it disappears as fast as a Slurpee on a brutally hot day, and you immediately feel the need for another—until the buzz overtakes you and you realize it’s an hour-plus drive back home.
What to do? Order another, then head downstairs to the playroom to sober up with a few games of pinball.
Vongole Pizza at 2 Amys
At my first magazine job in New York, I worked with a guy who had grown up in DC and by his late twenties had become a caricature of the droll, jaded New York editor. He rarely had a non-snarky word to say about, well, anything. So it surprised me one day when he a) smiled, and b) asked the following question: “Have you had the pizza at 2 Amys with the cockles? It’s amazing!”
I made a point of trying it on my next trip to DC, and since then I’ve been hooked. I can’t go to the place without ordering the Vongole, with its stretchy crust, slightly caramelized layer of Grana Padano cheese, and tiny, briny-sweet cockles baked in their shells. Unlike many sauceless clam pies, it isn’t inundated with garlic, and it has just the right amount of chili-flake burn. I had it the night before Thanksgiving (the restaurant was packed and the Blue’s Clues set was out in full force, per usual), cramming it onto a whole tableful of small plates. A decade later, it still has the power to make even the most sullen of folks talk in exclamation points.
Bún bò huế (Vietnamese noodle soup) in the Maketto pop-up at Union Market
It’s officially soup weather. If your weekend plans involve heading to the Eden Center for pho or slurping noodles at Daikaya, consider one more possibility: the Maketto pop-up at Union Market, which serves as a testing ground and preview for Erik Bruner-Yang’s upcoming H Street restaurant/market.
The recently ended Maketto “residency” at Hanoi House was a comparative commitment: $30 for a six-course meal, which had to be reserved in advance. Now you can now drop by Maketto’s temporary stall at the NoMa market, sit at one of two one-sided tables, and order whatever chef de cuisine James Wozniuk is able to produce with two induction burners. I hate to draw comparisons, having visited the residency in its first week, but let’s just say I’m left craving Woznuik’s version of the Vietnamese soup, bun bò huế. The steaming, aromatic bowl swims with noodles, brisket, pork knuckles sourced from Harvey’s Market across the aisle, and “blood cake”—essentially a house-made mixture of pork blood, sugar, and fish sauce that enriches the dish. A scattering of fresh herbs and bean sprouts adds brightness to the complex broth, a spicy-sour brew that draws flavor from simmered beef bones and a mixture of fried garlic and lemongrass, shrimp paste, and chilies. So yes, vegetarians won’t be pleased, but don’t be scared off by the odd bits. None are potently flavored, and even if you push aside the “cake,” the heady broth is worth an order itself. If you’re intrigued, hurry—the pop-up is over at the end of December, and soups change frequently.
Tamer eaters, take note: Freshly steamed cha siu bao, buns stuffed with barbecue pork, are also on offer and make a good side dish. Snag one literally steaming and redolent of yeast and sweet meat.
See also: Previous Best Things I Ate
When it comes to gelato, being freshly made isn’t necessarily a requirement—unlike, say, bread. It’s frozen regardless, right? But once you’ve tasted the cold stuff right out of the spinner—especially in flavors such as pomegranate, salted caramel, and local Honeycrisp apple—opinions change.
“It’s so much better than what you get at the shop, which is still good,” says Robb Duncan, co-owner of Dolcezza. “We taste it multiple times a day and say, ‘If only people could eat this.’”
Now people can. Duncan and wife/business partner Violeta have moved Dolcezza’s home base from a Georgetown shoebox to a 4,000-square-foot factory, tasting room, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters lab tucked behind Union Market. The facility will serve the four Dolcezza shops, as well as the restaurants and retailers who carry the line. The business will open to the public this Saturday between 2 and 6 for complimentary samples of gelato and coffee. Come March, the space will officially open, meaning guests can drop by for behind-the-scenes tours and perch in the 20-person bar to sip espressos and taste whatever cold sweets Duncan and his team are making from a variety of locally grown fruits, vegetables, nuts, and herbs.
The reason newly spun gelato excels over the packaged version has to do with temperature and texture. Tasting food at extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, tends to mask the flavor. The samples of Valrhona chocolate, ginger-cardamom-pistachio, and Honeycrisp apple are more robustly flavored as well as airier pre-deep freeze. (We could have eaten multiple scoops of the creamy pomegranate gelato made minutes earlier during our visit.) Once the operation is fully open in the spring, guests will be able to order bowls for $5.25, along with a variety of Stumptown pour-over coffees, specialty blends, and espresso drinks mixed with the same Perrydell Farm Dairy milk from Pennsylvania used to make the gelato.
Dolcezza factory. 500 Penn St., NE.
Happy Friday, food truck followers! It might be rainy out, but some trucks are still hitting the streets with specials such as flame-broiled chicken from Ooh Dat Chicken, apple cider doughnut bites from Mama's Donut Bites, and three empanadas for $7 from DC Empanadas.
In a situation that’s more lease revival than lease renewal, Georgetown’s venerable La Chaumière restaurant announced it will serve its loyal patrons their beloved cassoulet, quenelles, and calf’s liver for another ten years. The co-owner of the French restaurant, Martin Lumet, said he’s not kidding about the cassoulet. “If one day I am out of cassoulet, I get phone calls, e-mails,” he says. “They want to know, ‘How could you be out of cassoulet?’”
La Chaumière was opened in 1976 by Gerard Pain, who sold it to Lumet and chef Patrick Orange in 2006. They renewed the lease in 2011, but then had to deal with tax issues that arose between the building’s owner and the city. The restaurant’s fate was in doubt. Now, Lumet says, the landlord has resolved the issues with the DC Office of Tax and Revenue, and it’s all clear for the next decade.
In the list of Georgetown restaurants, La Chaumière is the quiet power spot, the hangout of the cave dwellers and old guard. It’s one of the last of the white-tablecloth bistros, where provenance is more important than flash. On any given night, sitting at one of the choice tables near the fireplace might be Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, lawyers Brendan Sullivan, Bob Bennett, or Tommy Boggs, architect Hugh Jacobsen, or Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn. One famous night, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones walked in and settled in a banquette in the back.
Now that Lumet is assured of his lease for another ten years, we wondered whether he plans any changes. Lumet is adamant: No. He says his customers know what they like. “It’s true. My clientele doesn’t like change. I’ve received very severe warnings from them. I guess we won’t be serving sushi anytime soon.”
Takoma Park is about to get a new neighborhood—and possibly destination—restaurant. Restaurateur Jeff Black, who’s behind BlackSalt and Pearl Dive, among others, has teamed up with longtime chef and Takoma Park native Danny Wells for a seventh venture. Here’s what to look for in the funky space.
A collaborative menu
You’ll find influences from both Black and Wells on the menu. As at every Black Restaurant Group spot, the kitchen houses a wood-burning grill, local bivalves star on the raw bar, and Addie’s mussels are a mainstay. Wells started as a line cook at the now-closed Rockville restaurant and worked his way up through the ranks at BlackSalt, eventually becoming executive chef at Pearl Dive. Signatures from each stop are present, including Pearl Dive’s wood-grilled oysters with garlic-red-chili butter. Wells says his own style is influenced by ten years with the company, meaning robustly flavored dishes such as whole black bass with pancetta and smoked greens, Portuguese-style fish stew with roasted shellfish and chilies, and citrus-brined brick chicken.
Vegetarian and vegan offerings
Fitting for the neighborhood—and a time when “meat as garnish” is a culinary trend—you’ll find plenty of ways to eat your vegetables. Options change seasonally. You may find roasted acorn squash with chestnuts and brown butter, a smoked-vegetable-studded johnnycake with poblano cream, or an ancient-grain salad tossed with pomegranate seeds and pistachios. Certain veggie items may look like they’re better suited for omnivores—say, braised kale and garbanzo beans with Surryano ham—but Wells says the dishes can be ordered sans meat and/or dairy to taste.
Takoma Park style and a Cash bathroom
One of Washington’s funkier neighborhoods calls for a restaurant with a similar aesthetic. Designer Molly Allen and the team traveled about the East Coast, hunting for vintage finds and salvaged wood. To that end you’ll find (slightly) unlevel floors of North Carolina reclaimed pine, banquets fashioned from reupholstered Victorian sofas, and a classic stereo filled with vintage toys, which Black happens to collect. Johnny Cash fans should head to the unisex bathroom—which isn’t as weird as it sounds—where the musician’s image is plastered on the walls and his music plays exclusively.
A Fascist Killer cocktail—and beer, of course
Noting that a bar stocks craft brews these days is like mentioning the soda on tap. Still, bar manager Brett Robison is more of an expert than most, having worked at a local brewery, written a beer blog (Divine Brew), and continued as an active home-brewer. Cocktail fans aren’t left dry, with a lineup of drinks named after the politically “free-spirited” nature of the neighborhood. Think along the lines of the Fascist Killer and former Takoma Park mayor Sammie Abbott.
Outdoor music and (fingers crossed), a double-decker food bus
While a December opening isn’t ideal for al fresco dining, Republic will debut with a back patio equipped with heat lamps that will eventually seat around 40 diners. Once dinner and the soon-to-come lunch and brunch services are running smoothly, you’ll find live music in the restaurant and outdoors. The patio looks out onto a spacious lot, and Black is currently plotting options for it. Among the considerations: a double-decker bus, a regular bus outfitted with a dining table, or a food truck that’ll hit the streets for lunch. Black is pretty tight-lipped about the concept (and no, it won’t be po’ boys), but says he’s currently partnering with two former college friends for a quick-service operation in his home state of Texas that could be adapted to street vending when it arrives in Washington. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for a wagon blasting Cash and serving Sammie Abbotts.
Happy Thursday, food truck followers! It’s snowing in some areas down South, so take advantage of this beautiful day in DC and enjoy specials such as stuffed meatballs with prosciutto and mozzarella from Ball or Nothing, smoky Angus brisket from BBQ Bus, or soft-baked gingerbread cookies with ginger-molasses glaze from Sweetbites Truck.