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Ballston gets a sunny spot for paella on the patio, daily sangria happy hour—no tapas needed. By Anna Spiegel
SER brings traditional Spanish dishes like seafood paella (above), sangria, and a big outdoor patio to Ballston. Photography by Andrew Propp.

It's unusual for a Spanish restaurant to open in Washington without tapas—or any eatery given the popularity of share plates, snacks, and "nibbles." As of this week there's one breaking from the small plate pack: SER, where co-owners Christiana Campos-Candon, Javier Candon, and chef Josu Zubikarai choose to highlight the many other aspects of Spain's vibrant dining culture. The Ballston restaurant, whose name is both an acronym (simple, easy, real) and the verb "to be" hopes to offer something for everyone—outdoor dining and a lunchtime grab-and-go shop, homey servings of paella and exotic eats like lamb sweetbreads and steamed barnacles. And yes, you can still share if desired.

The restaurant soft-opens Thursday, March 5, and offers diners a 20-percent discount while it gets up and running through Wednesday, March 11. The grand opening is slated for Thursday, March 12. Here's what to look for in the sunny, 140-seat space.

Seafood platters and grandmother-style paella.

Chef Josu Zubikarai, a Basque native and the original head toque at DC's Taberna del Alabardero, created a menu (sample copy) that draws from various regions. Guests can start out with platters of meats and cheeses, or more unusual arrangements from the Spanish seafood bar such as fresh oysters with gazpacho granita, octopus picadillo, and crab cocktail. Entrees fall into three main categories: seasonal, frequently changing items like fresh whole fish or a market cut of beef; a rustic lineup "from our grandmothers" such as seafood paella or chicken braised in garlic and white wine; and travel-inspired dishes (pasta tossed with caviar, a cheeseburger with bravas sauce). Certain items are served in large portions for two or more.

Regional dishes include garlic shrimp and effervescent Txakolí wine (left), traditionally poured from on high.

Eels and other eats for the adventurous.

Classics like croquetas and tortilla dot the menu, but there're plenty of options for diners looking to explore traditional Spanish foods less common in the US. Seafood platters can boast steamed gooseneck barnacles or "Spanish caviar," baby eels with garlic and olive oil. Lamb sweetbreads and codfish jaw with salsa verde join the appetizers, while txipirones, squid cooked in a sauce of its own ink, makes for an exotic entree.

The 140-seat space channels Spain's warm coastline, while an outdoor patio fits 100 in warm weather.

Sangria on a 100-seat patio.

The best way to defrost after a long winter: sip sangria on a spacious outdoor patio. Once the weather warms you'll find plenty of space to linger outdoors, where both humans and neighborhood dogs are welcome. Until then drinkers still have plenty of options: effervescent Txakolí wine and Mahou beer, local cider and Sherry, house cocktails, and three kinds of sangria (red, white, and sparkling). The restaurant also plans to serve wine by the boda, a shareable wine bag traditionally fashioned out of goatskin.

Certain dishes are inspired by the owners's family cooking, like cod in an olive oil emulsion (left); a cheese and charcuterie bar is the place to snack and sip wine (right).

Fried chicken sandwiches and DYI salads to go.

Lingering over seafood and cava is the ideal dining scenario, but the restaurant also offers a grab-and-go lunch counter for weekday reality; it's open Monday through Friday until 3. A menu of sandwiches runs the gamut from traditional combinations (Serrano ham and manchego) to creative options such as fried chicken with Spanish bleu cheese, or a PB&J with sliced bananas and persimmons. Diners can also make their own salad combinations with various vegetables and proteins, and grab soups, snacks, and sweets. Making that average Monday better: a Nutella brownie.

A large beverage menu includes Spanish wines and Sherry, beers and cider, house cocktails and three kinds of sangria.

And if you need more incentives: daily happy hour and cheap parking.

While the restaurant isn't far from Ballston's business hub, it's a few blocks from the most highly foot-trafficked areas. The team wants to make the trip easy for potential customers, so offers $2 parking in the adjoining underground garage during dinner hours. Earlier guests are rewarded for their visit with daily happy hour deals from 4 to 7 (sample menu), when the bar serves $5 glasses of sangria, $6 wines, and $3 cañas of beer among other drink specials. The menu also includes $5 snacks like crispy squid with jalapenos, fried potatoes, and stuffed peppers. Just don't start calling SER a tapas restaurant.

SER. 1110 N. Glebe Rd., Ballston; 703-746-9822. Open for lunch, brunch and dinner: Sunday through Thursday, 11 to 10; Friday and Saturday 11 to midnight. Lunch shop open Monday through Friday, 11 to 3.

Sip a sparkling cocktail with desserts like goxua (above), a trifle-like sweet with strawberries, cream, sponge cake, and custard.
Happy hour runs daily, with a variety of cocktail, wine, and beer specials alongside $5 snacks.
Roasted suckling pig for two can be followed by arroz con leche (left), a type of rice pudding.

Posted at 02:54 PM/ET, 03/02/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The first export for the Chicago brewpub brings 90 draft beers and a giant patio to Gaithersburg. By Anna Spiegel
The Old Town Pour House opens in Gaithersburg with 90 draft beers and brew-friendly eats. Photography by Jeff Elkins.

Gaithersburg will get a big beer infusion on Friday when Old Town Pour House opens its doors for a two-day trial run before officially debuting on Monday, March 2. The third location of the brewpub, and first export outside the Chicago area, joins the growing Downtown Crown development. On tap: 90 beers, a giant patio, and a menu of Midwestern favorites like Windy City-style hot dogs and fried cheese curds. Here's what to look for in the 172-seat space.

The beer: Abundant. The bar opens with 85 global craft beers and five favorite standbys like Bud Light, all served at an eye-catching copper bar. Enthusiasts can browse the online menu of wheats and lagers, Belgians and IPAs, and rate individual beers by signing up for a free account. A number of local names are included in the lineup, from Flying Dog to lesser-known producers such as Jailbreak Brewing Company out of Laurel, Baltimore's Union Craft Brewing, and Denizens Brewing Co. from Silver Spring.

The 90 drafts include 85 craft brews, including a number of local names, and five old favorites like Bud Light.

The other potables: Moscow mules in fancy copper mugs, six wines on tap, and an epic-sounding 20-ounce Bloody Mary, which arrives in a heavily garnished goblet that includes a peppered steak medallion, cubed pepper jack cheese, veggies (pickles, tomato, cocktail onions), and a Slim Jim "stir stick."

The food: Brew-friendly. Homesick Midwesterners will find a number of familiar comforts on the all-day menu, including pretzel bites for dipping in Lagunitas IPA beer cheese, mini Chicago dogs with all the traditional fixings, pickle chips, and fried cheese curds. Two new dishes nod to the new coastal location: crabcakes and a fried clam sandwich with smoked-potato aïoli.

An all-day menu includes Midwestern-style eats like mini Chicago dogs and pretzels with beer cheese dipping sauce.

The patio: Big. Thick-skinned Chicagoans might brave the outdoors for a drink if temperatures climb above 40, but patio weather here means 60 degrees and up. Once spring takes over, look for a 92-seat space to sip beer. Inside seating ranges from big booths to high-top tables.

Happy hour, late-night: The bar offers plenty of specials at all hours. Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 Monday through Friday, with deals like $8 Moscow Mule Mondays, a flight of four six-ounce beers ($14), and $2 off wine on Wednesdays, as well as $5 eats such as mini pulled-pork sandwiches and sliders. While the pub stays open until 2 AM daily for drinkers, anyone looking for a late-night bite can find a snack menu with the likes of truffled popcorn, Chicago dogs, and white-bean hummus until midnight on Friday and Saturday, and 11 all other evenings.

Guests can linger late, with the bar open until 2 AM daily and a late-night menu served until 11 or midnight.

The big game: Screened on three 110-inch "video walls," which are as large as they sound. Stay tuned for specials, and what will happen in the event of a Chicago-Washington rivalry.

Old Town Pour House. 212 Ellington Blvd., Gaithersburg; 301-963-6281. Open daily 11 to 2; happy hour Monday through Friday 4 to 7; late-night food menu served Sunday through Thursday until 11, Friday and Saturday until midnight.

Posted at 03:52 PM/ET, 02/26/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
An American bar-restaurant from the Ghibellina team debuts beneath the Italian eatery. By Anna Spiegel
Sotto brings live jazz, smoked meats, and classic cocktails to 14th Street. Photography by Amir Lowery (courtesy of Sotto).

The 14th Street crowd will have a new place to hang next week when Sotto, a bar/restaurant from Ari and Stacy Gejdenson, opens its doors on March 3. The name means "under" in Italian--a tribute to its location beneath sister restaurant Ghibellina--but that's the only major European detail of the subterranean space. While Negronis are poured above, the moody haunt takes its cues from DC history thanks to its former incarnation as one of many homes for the HR-57 jazz club, and offers a menu of regional American cooking. Here's what to look for when it debuts on Tuesday.

Smoked meats, caramel apples

Brisket, ribs, and sausage may sound like fare for a barbecue joint, but chef Keith Cabot is taking a regional American approach. The former Menu MBK chef de cuisine mixes influences from the South--he spent years in Virginia and North Carolina--and the Midwest, particularly items inspired by state fairs he visited with his Minnesotan family. You'll find snacks like caramel corn dusted with chili-lime salt (a cheffy riff on Cracker Jack), alongside mesquite- and hardwood-smoked meats drizzled with a house-made sauce Cabot describes as a cross between Heinz 57 and A1. There's also a lineup of house-made sausages, like lamb merguez with curried cauliflower, and a vegetable-heavy selection of appetizers and sides to make up for the meaty mains (see a menu sample below). Sadly there's no fried Snickers for dessert, but a poached apple with popcorn, molasses, and caramel ice cream should satisfy carnivalesque cravings.

Communal seating throughout includes a bar fashioned out of a single piece of wood.

Communal seating

Plates can be eaten solo or shared--refreshingly in a big, family-style way instead of tiny tapas. There's less choice when it comes to seating. While a hostess will still guide guests to spaces, everything is considered communal. The long bar is fashioned from a single piece of wood, while picnic-style tables and oversize booths provide the other seating. A limited number of reservations will be available for larger parties.

Jazz Age-style cocktails

Barman Daniel Barnes, who also crafts the sips at Ghibellina and sister watering hole Denson Liquor Bar, created a list of seven cocktails inspired by the Jazz Age heyday and the corresponding scene in Washington. The Groover, for example, mixes gin, pineapple juice, Dolin Blanc vermouth, and Cocchi Americano, while the Trolley Car combines spiced rum, blood orange, and bitters.

Look for live blues and jazz nightly once the space is up and running.

Nightly music, and more to come

Once the Sotto team settles in, music fans can hear nightly tunes from small jazz, blues, and neo-soul groups (generally one to three players, given space constraints). The kitchen will remain open until 11:30 on weeknights, and potentially 12:30 on Friday and Saturday, while the space caters to revelers until last call. Much further in the future, the Gejdensons will begin construction on their three Ivy City projects for 2016, which will include a small diner and Italian pizza place similar to Ghibellina. In the meantime, grab a sparkling cocktail and get jazzed on 14th.

Sotto. 1610 14th St., NW; 202-803-2389. Opening hours (March 3): Tuesday through Saturday 6 to 2, Friday and Saturday 6 to 3.

Sample Cocktail Menu:

Right Away

rye / amaro / cardaramo


gin / pineapple juice / dolin blanc / cocchi

Trolley Car

spiced rum / blood orange / angustura

Suit and Tie

vodka, ginger / sweet and sour /angostura

Ed Ellington

scotch / lillet rose / cranberry / orange

Jack Rose

brandy / combier / lime / apple bitters

Sparkling Cocktail
prosecco / plum bitters / sugar

Sample Food Menu:


Ball Park Peanuts & Popcorn

Chili | Lime | Sea Salt

Pretzel Monkey Bread

Apple Mustard

Sotto Potato

Provolone | Chives


Wood-Oven Roasted Winter Squash

Crispy Sage | Brown Butter | Toasted Pepita Granola

Hen of the Wood Mushrooms

Poached Farm Egg | Crispy Farro | Thyme

Brussels Sprouts Salad

Herb Cream Dressing | Garlic Croutons | Pomegranate

Endive & Citrus Salad

Orange | Spiced Hazelnuts | Shaved Radishes



Accompanied by Figs Poached in Red Wine


Accompanied by Curried Cauliflower, Capers and Raisins


Accompanied by Woodfire Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Smoked Meats:

Beef Ribs

Pork Ribs

Beef Brisket


Crispy Local Fish

Roasted Poussin

Parsnip | Mustard Seeds | Persimmons


Braised Kale

Marble Potato Salad

Fennel Gratin


Poached Apple

Popcorn | Molasses Gateau | Caramel Ice Cream

Banana Bread

Candied Pecans | Dulce de Leche | Chocolate

Lemon Curd

Pistachio Crumble | Mint Jelly | Crispy Merengue

Posted at 03:33 PM/ET, 02/25/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Chef Bryan Voltaggio's diner expands with new menu items.  By Anna Spiegel
Bryan Voltaggio opens the third branch of Family Meal in Ashburn. Photograph courtesy of Family Meal.

A branch of Bryan Voltaggio’s Family Meal debuts in Ashburn on Wednesday, bringing cheffed-up diner fare to the One Loudoun development. Though similar to the flagship in Frederick, Maryland, and newer Baltimore spinoff, the first Virginia location offers a number of new menu items and desserts, thanks to the recent addition of pastry chef Chris Ford to Voltaggio’s restaurant family (which also includes Volt, Aggio, and Lunchbox).

Certain Family Meal staples aren’t going anywhere, such as the crispy fried chicken, pot pie fritters, and all-day breakfast. Voltaggio and the team added to various parts on the Ashburn menu, all keeping in the theme of comfort fare with a twist. Pepperoni, a Voltaggio favorite, makes two appearances: ground into a crispy crust for spinach and artichoke dip, and folded into a burger patty that’s topped with avocado, pepper jack cheese, and a fried egg. New soups are equally hearty, including a beef chili with charred-lime crema, and a robust take on French onion made with braised short ribs.

Fried chicken (above, from the Frederick location) remains a diner staple. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

That’s not to say the menu caters solely to carnivores. One of the fresh creations is a vegetarian Reuben with smoked, pastrami-spiced beets and the usual accompaniments (kraut, homemade Thousand Island, Swiss) on griddled rye. The kitchen also created its own version of Old Bay spice, called Our Bay, which dusts fries as well as a blue-crab soup with pasta shells. If your sweets quota hasn't been met with a thick shake--virgin or boozy--try one of the chewy oatmeal cream pies or devil's food cake for dessert.

The Ashburn branch will eventually open for early birds at 7 and serve meals seven days a week, but will keep soft-opening hours (see below) for another two weeks. Something else to look forward to: Virginians farther south will get a fourth branch of the diner in late March.

Family Meal. 20470 Exchange St., Ashburn; 703-726-9800. Soft-opening hours: Wednesday through Friday 11 to 10, Saturday and Sunday 10:30 to 10 (breakfast served all day).

Posted at 10:43 AM/ET, 02/25/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Bone-marrow burgers, house punch, and more of what you'll find at Alexandria's newest gastropub. By Anna Spiegel
Mason Social brings a casual ambience and killer cocktails to Alexandria's Parker-Gray neighborhood. Photography courtesy of Mason Social.

Alexandria's Parker-Gray neighborhood is attracting more dining options with the recent additions of Richmond's Sugar Shack doughnut shop and a new home for French bistro Bastille. The newest face: Mason Social, a neighborhood restaurant and bar opening Wednesday from locals Chad and Justin Sparrow, Larry Walston, and Teddy Kim. Here's what to look for at the seasonal American eatery.

The food: Farm-to-pub. Chef Joseph Lennon, most recently a sous chef at Bourbon Steak, creates dishes that often draw from local ingredients and cooking traditions, though in a subtle fashion--the menus aren't filled with farmers' names and "house-made" descriptors. Keeping with the casual neighborhood vibe, you'll find a section of "hold-me-overs" like lamb meatballs and beer-steamed mussels swirled with bone-marrow butter, as well as entrée salads and sandwiches at lunch and dinner--we like the sound of a local beef patty blended with more bone-marrow butter, topped with jack cheese and grilled onions. Diners can also go fancier with entrée like rockfish with winter citrus. A kids' menu, all under $10, caters to the young'uns with chicken fingers or grilled fish.

Gastropub fare like a bone-marrow burger and beer-steamed mussels fill the menu.

The drinks: Punchy. Barman Tony Burke came from Clyde's Restaurant Group, and created a lineup of what co-owner Teddy Kim "creeper drinks" ("you don't taste any alcohol but you're definitely feeling it"). Think along the lines of a house vodka-grapefruit punch--served in a Mason jar, natch--or gin and Fever Tree ginger ale with mint and lemongrass syrup. The bar also pours six craft brews, including Alexandria's Port City and a beer from Burke's native Cincinnati.

The name fun fact: The eatery takes its title from Thomson Mason, who was mayor of Alexandria in the early 19th century, back when the town was still an agrarian community. Design cues also come from the surrounding neighborhood and its industrial roots, so exposed brick and pipes aren't just trendy touches.

The space can stay open until 2 on weekend nights.

New to the neighborhood: Late hours. The Parker-Gray area isn't known for its late-night hangouts, but the Mason team is hoping to draw a crowd of night owls. The bar can stay open until 2 AM, Thursday through Saturday, and until midnight Sunday through Wednesday. The kitchen could remain open after dinner, serving a limited bar menu with burgers or chili-spiked fries. Also look for weekend brunch to start soon.

Mason Social. 728 N. Henry St., Alexandria; 703-548-8800. Open Sunday through Wednesday, 11 to midnight; Thursday through Saturday, 11 to 2.

Posted at 02:12 PM/ET, 02/24/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A throwback bar and brasserie takes over the former Pour House space in Capitol Hill. By Anna Spiegel
Stanton & Greene, a cocktail bar and brasserie, brings American classics to Capitol Hill. Photograph courtesy of Stanton & Greene.

Oysters Rockefeller. French dip sandwiches. Whiskey punch. These are a few of the throwback items you'll find at Stanton & Greene when the bar and brasserie opens on Capitol Hill in the next two weeks. The atmospheric space channels mid-20th-century grandeur over three floors, each outfitted with cocktail bars for pouring creations from barman Erik Holzherr (Wisdom, Church & State). Hill vets Jared Rager and Eli Hengst of Sonoma and August Paro from Beuchert's Saloon came together for the concept, which takes the place of longtime dive Pour House. Here's what to expect.

Retro design: Fans of the former Steelers bar won't recognize the interior, which Paro—a film set designer by trade—remade with mid-19th-century style in mind. The main dining room on the ground floor boasts cognac-hued leather booths, vintage porcelain wall tiles, and a thick marble bar. An oak staircase leads upstairs to a private event space—or overflow room on busy nights—outfitted with an Art Deco bar and skylights accenting the lofty ceiling. A large basement area is still in the works, but Paro says it'll be the most elegant of the three stories.

Surf-and-turf croquettes, brandied lobster: We got a first look at chef Josh Hutter's menu, inspired by classic American dishes from the 1940s. The lineup is meant to be drink-friendly, with hearty appetizers like steak-and-lobster croquettes or oysters Rockefeller, and mains such as a triple-pork burger with bacon-infused patties, bacon aïoli, and crispy strips on top. Weeknight specials include homey eats like pasta and red sauce or fried chicken on Sunday evenings, and Tuesday lobster nights. Look for all-day service once the eatery is up and running, with lunch, happy hour/bar menus, supper, and eventually weekend brunch.

Historically inspired sips: Holzherr's cocktails riff on classics and take their name from District history. Take the L'Enfant martini—named for the planner of the city's layout—which mixes French Chambord, vodka, and Passoa passionfruit liqueur. Drinkers can also sip bourbon milk punch and a twist on the Negroni.

The name fun fact: What's the meaning behind Stanton & Greene anyway? Like many other Hill spots, the name nods to the politicized location. The eatery is close to Stanton Park, named for President Lincoln's secretary of war, Edwin Stanton. In the green space stands a statue of Revolutionary War general Nathanael Greene. We're guessing Edwin & Nathanael just didn't have the same ring to it.

Stanton & Greene. 319 Pennsylvania Ave., SE.

Posted at 11:36 AM/ET, 02/11/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A nautically themed eatery debuts on the Georgetown waterfront. By Anna Spiegel
Orange Anchor brings beachy fare, boat delivery, and plenty of rum to the Georgetown waterfront. Photography by Jeff Elkins.

It still feels like winter, but there's a taste of summer arriving this week with the opening of Orange Anchor on the Georgetown waterfront. The newest restaurant from Reese Gardner (Irish Whiskey, Copperwood Tavern, Second State) will be a perennial fixture near the Potomac, but still channels warmer months with a jaunty nautical theme, lobster and shrimp rolls, and orange crushes. Here's what to look for when the 124-seat space opens on Friday.

A jaunty nautical vibe carries throughout the restaurant. Look for a patio this spring.

Duck confit corn dogs, dollar oysters:
Guests can pick between lunch and dinner menus to start, with Saturday and Sunday brunch beginning February 21. The offerings run seasonal and local when possible, but also follow an ocean and boardwalk theme—think clams casino, duck confit corn dogs, crab-and-avocado BLTs, and seared swordfish. Adding to the already-popular waterfront happy hour scene will be "oyster hour," where fresh-shucked bivalves go for $1 from 5 to 6 Monday through Friday.

Caviar tacos: You'll also find items for Champagne tastes and budgets. Try starting the evening with caviar tacos ($32), hackleback roe piled onto two potato "shells." A decadent choice for after: twin Maine lobster tails served with rum-spiked butter sauce, plus a side of lobster mac 'n' cheese—because you can.

Look for water-friendly fare like lobster and shrimp rolls (above), duck confit corn dogs, and caviar tacos.

Enough booze to sink a ship:
No boater's restaurant would be complete without plenty of alcohol. Beers run from craft drafts such as Anchor Steam to easy-drinking cans of Natty Boh. The yachting crowd will find familiar concoctions on the cocktail list—mules, orange crushes, martinis with stuffed olives—as well as a large selection of rums, including a number infused with citrus.

A captain's delivery service: The seasonal Nauti Foods boat won't be the only supplier of floating goods this summer. Orange Anchor offers delivery for boats tied up in Washington Harbour, including sandwiches, salads, and bags of ice. Solo captains who need help docking can also call the boat delivery line (see below) for help from the restaurant's deckhands.

The bar pours easy-drinking beers, orange crushes, and 40 varieties of rum.

Outdoor space:
Once the weather catches up to the beachy vibe, a large outdoor patio will hold 48 guests. Until then, stick a Landshark Lager in one of the restaurant's koozies and dream of summer.

Orange Anchor. 3050 K St., NW; 202-802-9990 (boat delivery: 202-802-9989). Open Monday through Thursday 11 to 1, Friday 11 to 2, Saturday 10 to 2. Brunch (beginning February 21): Saturday and Sunday 10 to 3.

Boat delivery service offers sandwiches, salads, and ice to captains.

Look for $1 oysters between 5 and 6 on weekdays.

Posted at 03:20 PM/ET, 02/10/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The biggest location yet offers an extensive, diverse menu. By Anna Spiegel
Founding Farmers Tysons opens Thursday. Photograph courtesy of Founding Farmers.

The biggest Founding Farmers yet opens in Tysons Corner on Thursday, offering everything from preordered juice cleanses to fried chicken doughnuts in a 262-seat space near Tysons II Galleria.

A seasonal American menu is similar to those at the downtown and Potomac locations, but more than a quarter of the items are new and based around Virginian ingredients and traditions. There's a ton to choose from at all hours, but the morning crowd has a particular bounty.

Weekday guests can pick from Benedicts and Southern biscuits from the in-house bakery, or go the opposite direction with a cold-pressed juice; full cleanses can be special-ordered through the restaurant. There's also a light grab-and-go menu with Compass Coffee and pastries and, on the other end of the spectrum, a $30 brunch buffet on weekends with a butcher table and full pancake bar.

That's not to say options are slim among the lunch/dinner offerings. The menu boasts three kinds of deviled eggs—we're curious about the fried—11 ways to order oysters, eight varieties of burgers, five styles of fried chicken, and one cauliflower steak (because one in this case is enough).

Keeping with the large theme, drinkers can look to the 52-seat bar area in the farmhouse-style space for local beer by the shareable growler. Anyone who likes a little extra protein with their booze can try oyster shooters in flavors like gin-ginger-grapefruit, and vodka-spiked blood orange. Are there only two kinds? Get off the farm—you can pick from six.

Founding Farmers Tysons. 1800 Tysons Blvd., Tysons; 703-442-8783. Open Monday 7 to 10, Tuesday through Thursday 7 to 11, Friday 7 to midnight, Saturday 9 to midnight, Sunday 9 to 10.

Posted at 02:11 PM/ET, 02/04/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A new 'cue joint takes over the Newton's Table space. By Anna Spiegel
The Bethesda Barbecue Company brings ribs, brisket, and bacon pops to the neighborhood. Photograph courtesy of the restaurant.

Does Bethesda really need another higher-end restaurant? That’s the question Newton’s Table chef/owner Dennis Friedman asked himself when deciding whether to go forward with his white-tablecloth concept that had been struggling to draw a regular neighborhood crowd. Ultimately he decided against it, choosing instead to open the Bethesda Barbecue Company. The 100-seat joint takes over the same space, and is in the soft-opening phase now. Here’s what to know before you go.

The look: Rustic. Contrary to earlier reports that Friedman and partner-in-'cue David Smelson are serving brisket on Newton’s former linens, the dining space and bar are undergoing a remodel. The original seats and room’s white columns will be replaced by reclaimed-wood tables, log poles, and vintage barbecue paraphernalia on the walls. Expect the full revamp over the next few weeks.

The barbecue style: Eclectic. Some joints focus on a particular region, but when it comes to barbecue in Washington, cooks tend to be wary of recreating any “authentic” style. Friedman says the meats coming out of the hickory smoker have roots in North Carolina’s Lexington style, and the house sauce is modeled after the signature vinegary red brew. Diners can also pick a more mustardy North Carolina version for dousing pulled pork, ribs, and brisket, or a sweeter option with an Asian twist. The slow-smoked meats can be ordered as sandwiches or platters, both with sides like slaw, collard greens, or smoky potatoes.

The other eats: Shrimp and grits, grilled flatbreads, hot-smoked salmon, and more. While barbecue is the focus, the menu offers plenty of other options. Friedman particularly likes bacon pops—essentially spice-rubbed pork belly on a stick—that are served with fried pickles, and the mac with Cabot cheddar. And yes, there are also salads topped with chicken or shrimp for lighter eaters.

The boozy drinks: Bartender-designed. The team asked some of Washington’s 'tenders, such as Rogue 24’s Bryan Tetorakis and Taha Ismail of Mike Isabella Concepts for their input. The challenge: Make a drink you’d want for yourself after a long shift. You can bet the results are pretty boozy.

The beer/wine: Affordable. As with the rest of the menu, Friedman aims for a budget-friendly price point (apps run $6 to $12, while entrées hover in the $8 to $16 region). Beers by the can or bottle range from PBR to craft, and like the wines will rest in the $5 to $9 range. Happy hour is also in the works.

Up next: Soon you’ll find a spectrum of services, including carryout, delivery, catering, and, in the near future, a barbecue Super Bowl special. Friedman also hopes to tap into his fine-dining background once the restaurant is up and running, hosting ticketed tasting dinners with guest chefs. In the meantime, settle in with a can or beer and a plate of burnt ends.

Bethesda Barbecue Company. 4917 Elm St., Bethesda; 301-718-0550. Open Monday through Friday 11:30 to 11, Saturday 11:30 to 12:30, Sunday 11:30 to 10.

Posted at 12:17 PM/ET, 01/22/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A sleek eatery brings lobster pad Thai and chili cocktails to CityCenterDC. By Anna Spiegel
Mango Tree opens its first US location in CityCenter DC. Photographs by Jeff Elkins.

Mango Tree, a Bangkok-based Thai restaurant with 11 locations worldwide from London to Dubai, opens its first US branch in CityCenterDC on Thursday. International restaurateur Richard Sandoval, who’s behind Masa 14, El Centro D.F., Toro Toro, and other local ventures, partners in the sleek, two-story eatery. Here’s what to expect from the newest member of the CityCenter's growing dining scene.

An elevator transports guests to the dining room.

The flagship Mango Tree in Bangkok opened in a century-old home. While the paint is still drying at CityCenter, the design team mimicked house-like aspects of the original space. Dark wood, plants, candles, and bowls of fruit are set throughout, and guests enter the restaurant via a foyer-esque lounge on the first floor. While you can linger over cocktails and appetizers in the room, set with emerald tiles and leather stools, dining happens above. Don't be fooled by the intimate size of the 45-seat bar--an elevator transports guests to the expansive second-floor dining room, set for 140 and made to feel even more spacious thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows.

Dishes like shredded green mango with shrimp try to replicate regional Thai flavors.

On the menu: lobster pad thai, seared duck breast with red curry.

Chef de cuisine Paul Kennedy, who's traveled extensively in Thailand and worked with the Mango Tree brand for the past five years, heads up the Washington branch. The menu aspires to replicate regional Thai flavors—not the meek, overly sweet versions one often finds—and mix them with high-end, local-when-possible ingredients. Chicken is swapped out for Maine lobster in Kennedy's version of pad Thai; seared Pennsylvania duck breast replaces stewed meat in the apricot-studded red curry; and whole cornish game hens are used in gai yang, an herb-marinated poultry dish.

That's not to say the kitchen goes luxe all the time. Diners can opt for homier dishes such as crispy catfish with green mango salad, grilled pork neck, and shrimp-paste fried rice. Also ask for items “Thai hot” to get serious spice.

Red curry is reinvented with seared duck breast and apricots.

Vegetarians have options beyond tofu.

A number of dishes are designed with vegetarians in mind, instead of simply swapping in tofu for meat. Options include a mushroom salad with shallots, peanuts, and spicy lime dressing, grilled portobellos topped with red curry, and soft tofu with green curry and peas.

The bar sources Thai whiskey and Virginia wine.

The beverage menu spans the globe, and can be sipped in either the downstairs lounge or a small bar area off the second-floor dining room. Cocktails incorporate Thai flavors and ingredients, such as the “king wiski” with house ginger beer, cilantro, chili, and lime. The bar is in the process of sourcing hard-to-find and incredibly potent Mekong whiskey, which you can drink alongside more easily procured Thai beers. Closer to home are a selection of Virginia wines.

A winding light fixture dangles from the dining room into the first-floor bar.

There’s more to come.

The restaurant opens on Thursday for dinner, with lunch coming soon after, and then brunch. Though a brunch menu is yet to be decided on, Sandoval is known for his all-you-can-eat-and-drink weekend-day parties at his other eateries. The team also hopes to launch wine dinners, which could gear local or take on the international flavor of the restaurant.

Mango Tree. 929 H St., NW; 202-408-8100. Open currently for dinner: Monday through Thursday and Sunday 5 to 11, Saturday and Sunday 5 to midnight. Lunch (starting soon) 11 to 3.

Bars on the first floor and off the dining room (above) serve cocktails with Thai flavors, such as whiskey with ginger beer, chili, and cilantro.
Grilled pork neck with shallots, mint, and toasted rice.

Posted at 08:19 AM/ET, 01/14/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()