Welcome to October, food truck followers! It's a bit dreary outside, so perk up with some organic coffee aboard Crepes Parfait, and refuel for the afternoon with grilled chicken or a falafel sandwich from Fava Pot.
Happy hour at Pop's SeaBar
1817 Columbia Rd., NW
Beachy discounts begin at Pop's on Wednesday, and will run Monday through Friday 3:30 to 6:30. Early drinkers (or late lunchers) will find $3 beers, $1 oysters, and all cocktails marked at $5.
Cheesesteaks return to Taylor Gourmet
Winter is coming, as are belly-warming Taylor cheesesteaks. Three varieties all include a choice of shaved rib eye or chicken breast and toppings such as melty American or provolone cheese, grilled onions, and mushrooms. Sandwiches can be ordered on hard or soft rolls.
Chesapeake watershed pop-up at Water & Wall
3811 Fairfax Dr., Arlington
The lunchtime pop-ups continue at chef Tim Ma's Arlington restaurant. Starting Wednesday you'll find an afternoon menu focused on ingredients and dishes from the Chesapeake watershed, such as fried oysters, crab salad with endive and chilies, and a country ham biscuit with house-made apple butter. Dishes are gently priced, generally $5 to $10, and there's a lunchtime happy hour with $3 to $5 beers and wines. Regular hours are Monday through Friday 11 to 2.
Free burritos at the new California Tortilla Alexandria
3672 King St., Alexandria
The Mexican chain debuts in Alexandria's Bradlee Shopping Center on Thursday with two rounds of free burritos: lunch, from 11 to 1:30, and dinner, from 5 to 7:30. In addition the first 20 customers in line that morning will get free burritos for an entire year (or 365 burritos).
New brunch at Del Campo
777 I St., NW
Chef Victor Albisu goes bottomless for brunch starting this weekend. Guests can order an unlimited number of plates such as bacon, egg, and cheese empanadas and a chivito pizza ($45), and wash them down with select brunch cocktails. Let's hope that octopus and squid-ink-spiked Bloody is among them. The menu runs Sunday 11:30 to 2:30.
Halloween candy sundaes at Dolcezza
1418 14th St., NW
The Logan Circle shop gets in the spooky spirit for the entire month of October with Halloween candy coppettas. Combinations include crushed Butterfingers with black-sesame gelato and Reese's cups with house-ground peanut butter gelato and sea salt ($7 to $8).
Oyster and prosecco happy hour at STK
250 Connecticut Ave., NW
Discount bivalves and bubbly join the steakhouse's happy hour deal this Friday. The best time to go is between 4 and 5, when oysters are priced at $1 and Prosecco at $4. The cost of each goes slightly up each hour until 7, when they're $2 and $6, respectively. Other deals include $7 Belvedere cocktails and wines by the glass.
Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.
For the past 37 years, Washingtonian has taken the pulse of the local restaurant scene by asking you, the reader, to play critic.
What’s your favorite all-out splurge? Who crafts the smoothest cocktails? And which places are most overhyped and overpriced? Weigh in on our survey.
Your answers will be revealed in our December issue. A little incentive: Anyone who submits an entry is automatically qualified to win a free restaurant dinner for two.
Lower Dupont is becoming a prime spot for meatless dining, with brick-and-mortars such as Soupergirl, Protein Bar, and Science Club and frequent stops from the Woodlands Vegan Bistro food truck. Add another to that list as of Tuesday: Native Foods Café, a 116-seat vegetarian and vegan chain out of California opening near 18th and M streets, Northwest.
Don’t confuse the restaurant with Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe, located in the National Museum of the American Indian. The new spot is entirely meat-free, though you couldn't necessarily tell that from a look at the globally inspired menu. A mix of sandwiches, salads, and bowls include items like an Oklahoma bacon cheeseburger (made with house-made seitan and smoked tofu "bacon") and a taco salad with faux ground meat, roasted corn, and salsa fresca. There are also plenty of purely veggie dishes for those who don't like eating mock mammals, such as a summer roll with braised lemongrass tofu and a supergreens salad. Vegans can also opt for "native cheese" fashioned from cashews and sunflower seeds.
Native Foods also brings a few new elements to veg-friendly, fast-casual dining. Its tempeh and seitan are house-made daily, as are dressings, sauces, and desserts. The restaurant offers a separate kids menu with dishes like soy and gluten-free pastas and "chicken" nuggets (all gently priced at $4.95), while adults can opt for local brews and Parducci wines.
Look for more locations to debut within the next year, including a Penn Quarter branch soon.
Zentan has made several big changes in recent years, transitioning from celebrity chef Susur Lee's restaurant to a pan-Asian eatery helmed by Jennifer Nguyen. Nguyen departed in August, and now a new toque is taking the restaurant in a different direction. Yo Matsuzaki, who began last week, will release a more traditional Japanese menu for lunch and dinner, following an izakaya theme.
The Shikoku, Japan, native comes to DC from a corporate chef position at Northern California's Ozumo, as well as stints at Nobu. While sushi and sashimi will remain on the menu, Japanese small plates will become the focus at dinner. Matsuzaki says he plans to serve charcoal-grilled robata skewers and larger proteins like pork ribs and whole fish, as well as dishes inspired by his home country such as slow-braised meat with miso and dashi broth. Look for more noodles, as well, especially spicy ramen at lunch.
Matsuzaki's izakaya-style dishes will begin to roll out soon, with a full menu change projected for November. The five-person, omakase-style chef's table will resume on October 16 for $65 per person.
Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.
Free apps: The Diner reopens Monday after a brief closure to remodel the 13-year-old space. Head there between 4 and 7 for a look at the digs and a taste of the new cocktails and food. Free appetizers will be served.
Bar chefs: The final installment of Chefs Behind Bars happens on Monday at the Gryphon from 6 to 8:30. The competition benefiting No Kid Hungry pits eight chefs against one another in a challenge to whip up the tastiest cocktail. Tickets are $40, and include sips of all eight drinks.
Boozy dinner: Devil's Backbone Brewery and Catoctin Creek Distillery are behind a beer-and-whiskey dinner at Graffiato on Monday from 7 to 10, which features a menu of Italian small plates. Tickets are $97.50, all-inclusive.
Drink Mediterranean: Wine director James Horn uses the Coravin system to pour rare vinos at G on Tuesday from 6:30 to 8, showcasing Italian and Greek varietals alongside shareable antipasti platters. Tickets are $65.
No silverware allowed: The F**k Forks fundraiser makes a splashy return on Thursday at 6 with a fleet of big-name chefs, bartenders, and deejays. Industree's benefit for F**k Cancer is the first event held in Brookland's food incubator, Mess Hall, so you can take in all the finger foods and booze while admiring the new space. Tickets are $80 for general admission, $130 for VIP.
Farm fundraiser: Jackson 20 hosts Soil & Soul on Friday, a seasonal food-fest benefiting the Old Town Alexandria farmer's market SNAP Dollar Matching Program. Local restaurants such as Brabo and Society Fair serve bites, while the cash bar includes Virginia wines, brews, and farm-inspired cocktails. Several market vendors will also participate. Tickets are $35, or $40 at the entrance.
Gourd season: The Black Squirrel celebrates autumn with the Smashing Pumpkin Fest on Friday at 5. Pumpkin beers flow from 15 tap lines, and a variety of dishes star the orange gourd, including soup and mac and cheese. There's even a pumpkin ice cream float. Admission is free.
Oktoberfest bash: One of the area's biggest Oktoberfest celebrations goes down on Saturday from noon to 7, courtesy of Capitol City Brewing Company. A projected crowd of 10,000 samples beers from 65 mid-Atlantic breweries at the Village of Shirlington location, served alongside Germanic eats like brats and soft pretzels. Admission is $30 for drinkers, which includes a glass and ten drink tickets (kids and designated drivers enter free).
Laugh your dumplings off: One of the best weekend events goes down at the Source on Saturday from 11 to 1, where nationally acclaimed comedians Tig Notaro and Jena Friedman join chef Scott Drewno for a hands-on dumpling class followed by a family-style brunch. The afternoon session is part of Brightest Young Things' Bentzen Ball comedy fest, which is worth checking out even when there aren't edibles involved. Tickets for the brunch ($75) benefit the George Washington Mobile Mammography Unit.
Play at the table: The newly opened Shake Shack Tysons starts a table tennis league on Saturday at 3. Admission is free and open to the public, but only 16 slots are available for the tournament. Gratis Shack wristbands and shades are given to all, as well as food and drink specials throughout the day.
Bloody battle: Del Campo launches a new brunch menu this weekend--which includes an all-you-can-eat option for $45--and throws a Bloody Mary throwdown on Sunday from 1:30 to 2:30 to mark the occasion. Tickets are $45 and include the meal, and samples of Bloodys from Graffiato, Mandu, and more. That crazy octopus concoction pictured above is available for the brave.
Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.
Washington bartenders put a creative twist on cocktail garnishes that go way beyond lemon peels, including house-made sausages, flaming oranges, and liquid arugula.
1. The Gnome with arugula oil at Gypsy Soul
8296 Glass Alley, Fairfax
We've seen plenty of salad-like garnishes in our drinking day, but few in liquid form. Bryan Tetorakis took inspiration from citrus peels, which are prized by bartenders for the color and perfume-y oils they lend to cocktails. Instead, he blends peppery arugula and grapeseed oil, strains and freezes it, and then squeezes droplets onto a herbaceous mix of vodka, Cocchi Americano, and Aperol.
2. Cold War "dumpling shooter" at Chaplin's Restaurant and Bar
Oysters have cornered the bomb market for way too long (except one, see below). Bar-bros Ari and Micah Wilder make a citrusy shot with gin, Pimm's liqueur, ginger, and lemon, to which they add a house-made shrimp dumpling. We suggest chasing one with the other, unless you have a large mouth.
3. District Mary at the Source
575 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
What's more Washington than a half-smoke? A brunch-time Bloody crowned with said house-made sausage, plus an Old Bay rim. Dim sum can't get any better.
4. Oyster Back at Eat the Rich
1839 Seventh St., NW
This oyster shooter is sure to put barnacles on your chest. First, take the shot of Old Overholt Rye, then chase it with the mixture of pickle juice and a freshly shucked Rappahannock oyster. Part bivalve-bomb, part pickleback, and all awesome.
5. I Am Virginia with dried ham at Restaurant Eve
110 South Pitt St., Alexandria
Todd Thrasher creates an ode to the Old Dominion with Wasmund's single-malt whisky, Madeira, and local figs. The finishing touch: Virginia ham, which he dries, grinds, and combines with salt for the rim.
6. Toki Monster at Toki Underground
1234 H St., NE
This pork belly beauty is one of Toki's signatures. It's tempting to eat the kushiyaki skewer immediately, but that's doing the drink an injustice. Let the grilled meat marinate in the bourbon and pepper-honey liqueur, which adds smokiness to the cocktail and a boozy finish to the carnivorous garnish.
7. Volcano Bowl at the Passenger
1021 Seventh St., NW
Order this showstopper during Tiki Tuesday. The four-person drink comes loaded with light and dark rums, fresh juices, house-made syrups, a scattering of flowers, and a tower of flaming oranges. Burning citrus: not just a good band name, but delicious.
8. Pom Cosmo at Stone's Cove Kitbar
2403 Centreville Rd., Herndon/10997 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills
Everyone loves popsicles. Most everyone (secretly) loves cosmos. Put a house-made pomegranate pop in a pom-vodka cosmo and everyone's happy.
Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.
Mike Isabella is going big. The Washington-based toque just opened Graffiato Richmond and is poised to debut a fast-casual version of G sandwich shop in Newark's Prudential Center in October. Now he's taking his brand South and West with a version of Pepita set for Los Angeles International Airport; the Mexican cantina is also slated for Ballston next year, near Kapnos Taverna, due in December. A new concept, The Beach Bar by Mike Isabella, will also debut in the Pensacola, Florida airport.
"My goal is to be the next Wolfgang Puck," says Isabella. "He has restaurants, catering, equipment, food in the grocery stores. He has everything you could possibly want as a chef."
News came earlier this week via the Washington Business Journal that Isabella will also open a version of Kapnos at Reagan National, along with other eateries like Richard Sandoval's El Centro D.F. and a Cava Grill. While Isabella is unable to confirm the DCA eatery, he says it's likely Washingtonians will see spinoffs of Kapnos and G in Reagan and Dulles come 2015.
Each Isabella airport eatery will reflect the given city's cuisine or one of his restaurants located there. For LA, it means tacos and margaritas. Pensacola's Beach Bar will serve dishes from the Florida Panhandle and bordering states, like crawfish hushpuppies, pimiento cheeseburgers, and crispy oysters with comeback sauce. Isabella says he sees potential in the concept, which he may evolve and eventually bring to Washington.
"We keep pushing," says Isabella. "We're doing restaurants, we're in stadiums, and now we're going into airports. Our concepts have been successful, and we're going to do new ones."
Learn more about Isabella's rise in our October issue, out on newsstands now, which includes a behind-the-scenes photo essay featuring the chef.