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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Projected opening: Spring
Chef Amy Brandwein, formerly of Alba Osteria, is bringing an Italian market/osteria to CityCenterDC. Her 52-seat restaurant will serve wood-roasted meats and fresh pastas, while the shop will supply cheeses and charcuterie. 974 Palmer Alley, NW.
Projected opening: Summer
After the success of Mintwood Place, chef Cedric Maupillier and restaurateur Saied Azali are on to their next venture: a casual French-American place with all-day, cafe-style dining in Shaw. 801 O St., NW.
Projected opening: Summer
Chef Jeremiah Langhorne—formerly of the landmark McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina—will debut in Shaw with a Mid-Atlantic-inspired restaurant centered around a ten-foot wood-burning hearth. 1222 Ninth St., NW.
Unnamed Momofuku Restaurant
Projected opening: 2015
After years of speculation, restaurateur David Chang confirmed plans to open a 4,500-square-foot restaurant in his native Washington’s CityCenterDC. Also look for a branch of business partner Christina Tosi’s award-winning bakery, Momofuku Milk Bar, with sweets such as “crack pie” and “compost cookies.” 11th and I sts., NW.
Projected opening: Spring
After six years in Reston, PassionFish chef/owner Jeff Tunks is opening a sister seafood restaurant in downtown Bethesda. Expect an international array of fish dishes, including a longtime PassionFish staple: lobster with red Thai curry. 7187 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda.
Peter Chang Cafe
Projected opening: February
Rockville’s Chinese-food scene is poised to get even tastier when former Chinese Embassy chef Peter Chang shows up bearing wontons in chili oil and other fiery Szechuan dishes. 20-A Maryland Ave., Rockville.
Projected opening: March
Rappahannock Oyster Co. co-owner Travis Croxton will unveil a 5,000-square-foot eatery in the Mosaic district. A raw bar is a given, but diners can also look forward to wood-grilled seafood and Prosecco on tap. 2985 District Ave., Fairfax.
Projected opening: February
Chefs Jonathan Krinn and Jason Maddens met at Fairfax restaurant 2941. Now, they have transformed a deli into a dining room, communal bar table, and chef’s counter. The menu will change frequently, with pastas plus steaks and game. 442 Maple Ave. E., Vienna.
Projected opening: Spring
Ballston is getting a ramen shop, thanks to former Pabu Izakaya chef Jonah Kim. The menu will nod to his Korean heritage and his Japanese training, with pork-rich noodle soups and small plates such as steamed duck buns and gochujang-and-bourbon-glazed chicken wings. 4000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
The winter’s biggest restaurant opening is here: José Andrés debuts China Chilcano, his first Peruvian eatery. The Penn Quarter spot embraces Peru’s many culinary influences—Chinese, Japanese, Spanish—and in Andrés-ian fashion runs with them to create an energetic and playful concept, with a few surprises thrown in. Here's what to expect.
There’s dim sum.
Chinese laborers, many of Cantonese descent, played a large role in influencing Peruvian cooking. The resulting hybrid cuisine is called Chifa, and variations of it pop up across the menu. More traditional Chinese dishes include a selection of dim sum dumplings and pot stickers, or hand-rolled rice noodles in an aromatic pork-and-chicken broth. A selection of chaufa—fried rice dishes—plays with a mix of flavors such as chaufa Cubana, in which the grains are sautéed with garlic, fried eggs, bacon, and tomato sauce.
And sushi-like "causagiris."
Another big influence came from 19th-century Japanese immigrants, who embraced Peru’s coastline and access to fresh seafood as well as native vegetables and chilies. Take a seat at the raw bar to see Nikkei, Japanese-Peruvian cuisine, in action. Former Sushi-Ko chef Koji Terrano teamed up with Think Food Group for the restaurant, and may be spotted behind the bar making ceviches, sashimi, and "causagiri." The latter looks like nigiri sushi, but instead of rice, raw and cooked fish is served on a platform of puréed potato and aji amarillo chilies, similar to causa potato dishes found throughout Peru.
Guinea pig could be on the menu.
The menu also includes a number of dishes one might think of as more traditionally Peruvian, such as flavored ice pops brought tableside in portable coolers, as street vendors in Lima would serve them. Think Food Group chef Rubén García, director of research and development for Andrés’s empire, says he’s hoping to recreate one of the country’s iconic dishes: cuy, or guinea pig. So far, sourcing fresh meat has been problematic—culinary guineas are different than their fluffy pet-shop brethren—though a solution is near. A farm in Maryland is awaiting permits, and the team plans to jump on the local cuy when they're available.
The best table overlooks a seafood tank.
Anyone who wants to gaze at their lobster before digging into the wok-cooked crustacean with black-pepper sauce can request the six-seat table next to a 300-gallon seafood tank, which holds live langosta and other water-dwellers for the kitchen. Another perk: The table is one of several outfitted with retro-style lazy Susans, which makes sharing the tapas-size plates easier. All that said, "best" is a bit subjective when it comes to seating. The restaurant is divided into three stylized areas: a funky Marketplace, the wood-heavy Elements, and Heaven, which in Andrés's vision is a ceviche bar. Each offers interesting perches, like our second favorite, a sunken, Japanese-style table beneath a billowing red lantern.
Ancient peoples inspired the lighting.
Swirling neon light fixtures run through the Marketplace section, modeled after Peru's Nazca Lines. The designs found on Nazca Desert plateaus are thought to be made by people of the ancient Nazca culture in order to communicate with the gods—good for aesthetic affect, and as a date-time conversation piece.
Though the full collection of pisco brandy is still in the works, the bar hopes to build the biggest selection in the United States. Rare piscos are already available; ask for El Inquebrantable, a small-batch producer that only makes 200 bottles per year. More familiar sips include pisco sours, pisco muddled with fresh fruit, and pisco punch. There's also a strong selection of South American wines and unusual Peruvian beers, including Cumbres, a red-corn brew new to the United States.
China Chilcano. 418 Seventh St., NW; 202-783-0941. Soft opening Monday, January 5, at 4; official opening Wednesday, January 7. Open Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 11; Friday and Saturday 4 to midnight; Sunday and Monday 4 to 10. Lunch and brunch coming in February.
Cheddar biscuits. La Colombe coffee. Slices of ginger-lemon cake. You'll find all of this and more at Rare Sweets, the newest addition to CityCenterDC. The shop, now open, comes courtesy of Meredith Tomason, a former pastry chef at Tom Colicchio's Craft in New York City. This is her first brick-and-mortar business after a year of running a catering operation out of Union Kitchen.
The opening menu (see below) takes seasonal cues, with an emphasis on fresh fruit desserts, raw sugar, and spices. Guests can drop by in the morning for coffee or hot cocoa and a mix of sweet and savory items, such as buttermilk biscuits, glazed doughnuts, house-made granola, and "egg in a basket," an egg baked into a fresh brioche bun. Classic and seasonal cakes such as a beet-based red velvet or chocolate malt can be ordered whole or by the slice; there are also miniature cakes. Those not in the mood for a slice can grab cookies and bars, or opt for house frozen treats such as chocolate-spice ice cream or pomegranate-black pepper sorbet.
The pretty space boasts marble countertops, cook books from Tomason's large vintage collection, and an open kitchen where guests can watch cakes being iced. Seating is limited to a few tables and a standing bar by the window, so prepare to load up for sweets on the go. Note that there's also a special holiday menu with items like yule log cakes, breakfast baskets for Christmas morning, and more.
Rare Sweets. 963 Palmer Alley, NW; 202-499-0077. Open daily, 7 to 7.
Buttermilk Biscuits, Cinnamon Rolls, Cheddar Chive Biscuits, Seasonal Coffee Cakes, English Muffins $3.60
Egg in a Basket: $3.75
Chocolate Cake Donuts, Seasonal Glazed Donuts $2.50
Granola & Milk or Yogurt $3.60
Classic Cake Slices $5
Double Chocolate, Black & White, Red Velvet Beet, Black & Yellow
Seasonal Cake Slices $5.50
Ginger & Lemon, Vanilla & Eggnog, Apple Stack, Chocolate Malt
Mini Cakes $6
Classic Coconut, Chocolate Peppermint, Toasted Almond
Party Cakes (whole Cakes available for order)
Classic Flavors (6 inch $35, 8 inch $55, 9 inch $65)
Seasonal Flavors (6 inch $40, 8 Inch $60, 9 Inch $70)
Cookies & Bars
Oatmeal Raisin, Chewy Sugar Cookies, Gingersnaps, Cocoa Crinkles, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip/Walnut $2.00
Chocolate Brownie, Brown Butter Blondie $2.30
Ice Cream & Sorbet
Small $5.40 Large $6.40
Winter Spice, Vanilla, Mint Cocoa Nib, Milk Chocolate Spice, Oatmeal Raisin, Blood Orange Sherbet, Green Apple Sorbet, Pomegranate Black Pepper Sorbet
La Colombe Coffee & Espresso Drinks $2.50-$4.00, Hot Chocolate $3.40, Running Byrd Sweet Tea $2.75
Ballston gets a new pizza joint on Thursday with the arrival of Pizza Vinoteca. The 100-seat join aims for an approachable price point—dishes under $19, wines at $10 and below—with a few fancy gadgets on the side, and special wine-infused pizza crusts. Here’s what you need to know.
The cooking method: Grilled to order, inspired by the Rhode Island tradition of making backyard pies. The restaurant needed a more high-tech device than a Weber to produce the thin-crust, rectangular pizzas—hence a custom-made contraption that employs 16 burners on the bottom to cook the crust, six infared versions above to melt the cheese, and three wood-smoking boxes filled with mesquite chips to impart a smoky flavor. The combination is intended to create a tasty balance of caramelization, char, and chew.
The crust: Wine-y. The 900-degree grilling method called for a heartier mix than the traditional flour and water, so the kitchen adds rye flour, barley malt, and a generous amount of Merlot to the mixture. The alcohol gets cooked off—so yes, the pies are kid-friendly—but leaves a reddish hue and a hint of flavor.
Toppings: “Classic” or “modern.” The menu, divided into those two categories, includes traditional pepperoni alongsides riffs such as nduja meatball (made with the spicy Calabrian spreadable salami), Brussels sprouts and ricotta, and mushrooms with goat cheese and leeks. A number of vegetarian varieties appear in both categories.
Other stuff: Eggplant Parm, grilled salmon. Pizza is the focus, but diners who want to skip the pies can get by with a concise list of appetizers, entrées, and sides.
The vino: Abundant. All 36 wines are offered by the glass, in both full- and half-pours. An argon-gas dispenser is employed to keep the varietals fresh and at a regulated temperature. The list includes a variety of lesser-known labels in an effort to keep prices at $10 and under, so there’s plenty of opportunity to experiment around the 30-seat circular bar.
More gadgets?: The original Pizza Vinoteca opened in New York City as a high-wired concept employing iPads for ordering, but founder Ari Malcom says the process was a “nightmare” when it came to customizing dishes due to taste or allergies (that location has since closed). The Ballston eatery operates like a typical sit-down restaurant, though there’s a chance the iPads may reappear as wine lists so guests can have excess to extensive information about the vino.
In the future: Delivery, and more area locations for Pizza Vinoteca. Malcom says he’s looking around Washington for another space for a version of the restaurant that will focus on takeout. Stay tuned.
Pizza Vinoteca. 800 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington; 703-567-1056. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
One of fall's most anticipated openings has arrived: On Friday, chef Seng Luangrath of the popular Bangkok Golden in Falls Church opens Thip Khao, her first DC restaurant. While the Virginia eatery serves dishes from both Thailand and Laos, the 85-seat spot in Columbia Heights is geared solely toward the latter. Devotees of Thai cuisine will find some similar flavors, but if chef Seng's cooking here is on par with the original eatery, expect to be converted. Here's what to know before you go.
There’s a separate menu for adventurous eaters.
Heat-seekers and those on the hunt for exotic ingredients should start with the "let's go to the jungle!" menu. Here you'll find mouth-searing papaya salad with crab paste and chilies; spicy blood sausage; pounded snakehead fish with charred herbs; and laab siin dib, a Lao-style steak tartare with tripe. If the spice is overwhelming, try dipping into the basket of sticky rice accompanying each meal, which also gives the restaurant its name.
And options for those who like to customize.
Plenty of dishes play to tamer palates, and some come with a variety of options for proteins. Laab, a fragrant herb salad, can be ordered with minced chicken, duck, or tofu, while guests can pick between salmon, Chilean sea bass, and flounder for a dish of grilled fish wrapped in banana leaves with ginger and dill. One guaranteed table-pleaser: the crispy rice salad with sausage, served alongside lettuce wraps. Guests can also requests that plates come mild, medium, or "Lao hot."
Drinks get creative, and shareable.
Cocktails play on flavors from the kitchen, such as a Scotch Old Fashioned with tamarind or Thai rum with chilies. Anyone opting for the spicier dishes may want to skip the hard booze and go for large-format beers poured over ice.
You may need reservations.
Tables are first come, first served for the grand-opening weekend, but the restaurant is already taking reservations for dinner starting on Monday. If the crowds are similar to Bangkok Golden on a busy night, consider booking.
There will be carryout, eventually.
Like the couch better than crowds? Chef Seng says the restaurant will offer carryout soon. Still, the warm-hued space with large wooden tables is serene, and worth a wait.
Thip Khao. 3462 14th St., NW; 202-387-5426. Open Sunday through Thursday 5 to 10, and Friday and Saturday 5 to 11.
One of the most anticipated fall openings is almost here. El Camino, a Mexican eatery and bar in Bloomingdale, is poised to debut this week. Owners Tony Lucca and Phil Rodriguez, who both live in the neighborhood, are adding tacos and margaritas to an increasingly lively restaurant/bar scene that includes the likes of Red Hen, Boundary Stone, and Showtime.
The focus here is a little different from most Mexican spots in Washington. Chef Dot Steck, formerly with Taqueria Nacional, takes inspiration from the lighter—and at times more traditional—cooking of Southern California as opposed to heavier Tex-Mex dishes (think Chuy’s cheese-laden platters). A large bar area is set for sipping local and Mexican beers or margaritas with snacks such as chorizo tostadas, tequila-spiked shrimp cocktail, or albondigas (meatballs) with salsa roja and quail eggs. While the tequila and mezcal selection varies in style and price point, the lineup is meant to be more accessible than encyclopedic.
Tacos follow suit, and aren't overly complicated. Expect fresh corn tortillas filled with chorizo and potatoes, beef tongue, or chicken tinga, priced between $2.50 and $3.50. Heartier plates come in the form of braised pork shoulder with chichilo mole and barley-mushroom “risotto,” stewed chicken, or seasonal fish. Desserts also run traditional, with flan and abuelita’s rice pudding (see a full sample menu below).
Design firm Edit Lab at Streetsense, which is also behind the look of neighbors including Red Hen, matches the menu’s homey notes with some added edge. Tables fashioned from old car rims, red crushed-velvet booths, and chain light fixtures evoke a grittier LA vibe, as well as the restaurant’s namesake, the Chevy El Camino. Other elements are meant to be more grandmotherly, such as brightly painted walls and flowery vintage china plates.
One thing Grandma might not approve of: late hours. The full kitchen is open until midnight Friday and Saturday, and until 11 other nights. A smaller late-night menu will run until 1 on weekends and 12 otherwise. Good news, given that tacos and tequila taste even better around the witching hour.
El Camino. 108 Rhode Island Ave., NW; 202-847-0419. Dinner Sunday through Thursday 5 to 11, late-night menu until midnight; Friday and Saturday 5 to midnight, late-night menu until 3.
Chips & house made salsas (v/gf) - $2.50
Table made guacamole (v/gf) - $9
Seasonal empanaditas, salsa roja - $5
Tostada, black beans, rajas, lettuce, pico de gallo, onion, cilantro, house made salsas and crema (vt/gf) - $3.50
Add meat (gf): picadillo, chicken tinga, chorizo, carnitas - $4.50
Esquites - warm roasted corn salad (vt/gf) - $5
Cóctel de camarones - house made saltines, splash of tequila - $10
Albondigas, salsa roja, quail egg - $9
Scallop ceviche, lime, grapefruit, pomegranate (gf) - $11
Sopa del dia - $6
Seasonal mixed greens salad (vt) - $6
DE LA CALLE
TACOS (gf) - $2.50 each
chicken tinga; chorizo & potato; rajas de poblano, potato & squash (vt)
TACOS (gf) - $3.50 each
carnitas, lengua, camarones
TORTAS - $9
Chorizo, potatoes, caramelized onions, queso fresco, lettuce, tomato, house made crema, guajillo sauce
Carnitas, onions, cilantro, lettuce, salsa verde, pickled onions
Chilaquiles, rajas, salsa verde, caramelized onions, smoked Gouda, house made crema (vt/gf) - $11
Add chorizo (gf) - $13
Fish of the day, seasonal preparation - market
Chicken estofado, fried potatoes, pickled green beans (gf) - $14
Braised pork shoulder, barley-huitlacoche “risotto”, organic mushrooms, chichilo mole - $16
Beef short rib, manchamanteles mole, corn cake, jicama and chayote slaw (gf) - $16
Chile relleno, barley, raisins, almonds, queso fresco, house made crema (vt) - $11
GUARNICIÓN - $4
Barley-huitlacoche “risotto” (vt)
Black beans (v)
Lodo del rio (gf)
Jicama and chayote slaw (v/gf)
POSTRES - $7
Fried plantains, house made crema, chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream (vt)
Flan del dia (vt/gf)
Abuelita’s rice pudding (vt/gf)
v = vegan
vt = vegetarian
gf = gluten free
One of the swankiest movie destinations in Washington opens Friday: iPic Theaters at North Bethesda's Pike & Rose development, which combines luxury touches like fully reclining leather seats and free popcorn with in-theater menus and an adjoining restaurant, City Perch Kitchen + Bar. Here's what to look for at the 782-seat, eight-screen mega-cinema.
If you're: Premium-Plus Seating ($22)
Expect to relax in a fully reclining micro-suede seat, which comes with perks such as a pillow, a blanket, and free popcorn. The best part: iPad touchscreens allow you to order food and boozy drinks from the in-cinema menu. Dishes are designed by longtime Wolfgang Puck pastry chef Sherry Yard, and include snacks such as braised pork belly empanadas and warm ham-and-cheese biscuits, as well as heartier fare like fish tacos, barbecue chicken pizza, and lobster rolls. All can be washed down with beer, wine, and specialty cocktails, including margaritas and sangria. Groups can order pints of boozy punch that serve four, such as the "roll in the hay" with apple-infused vodka, applejack, and cran-apple tea.
If you're: Premium Seating ($13)
You can still relax in a large leather chair, but you'll have to fetch your own food and drinks from the grab-and-go Tanzy Express. Still, don't expect just slushies and pretzels—guests can order sliders, thin-crust pizzas, bottles of wine, and more.
If you're: eating before the show (or skipping the movie altogether)
Yard's first independent restaurant, City Perch Kitchen + Bar, is set above the theater. Local toque Matt Baker, most recently of Occidental Grill and Brasserie Beck, helms the modern American kitchen. The eatery is set to open in November, and will serve small plates like smoked salmon-topped "everything" waffles and bratwurst in a blanket, rotisserie-grilled meats, sandwiches, and decadent items "for two" such as a whole roast duck with Southern-style sides.
If you're: hoping to impress a date
The in-theater menu boasts some pretty fancy items, which, like the seats, come at a price. Grab premium-plus tickets to Casablanca and order up smoked salmon "potato boats" topped with caviar ($25), and a bottle of Cristal bubbly ($395).
If you're: in bad-date crisis mode
Order an Irish coffee, and sneak out to "use the bathroom"/never return. At least the scorned would-be lover will have a boozy coffee and a micro-suede chair.
iPic Theaters. 11830 Grand Park Ave., North Bethesda.
The District will be home to not one, but two eateries operating in historic firehouses when Bloomingdale's Washington Firehouse Restaurant debuts Friday evening. The sister eatery to Shaw's Tavern sprawls across three floors of a Spanish Colonial-style building that was occupied by Old Engine Company 12 from 1897 to the early 1990s. Here's what to look for at the American bar and restaurant.
The food: Homey, with some unusual quirks; think shrimp deviled eggs tinted black with squid ink, or brunchtime “breakfast lasagna” layered with sausage gravy and eggs. Chef Peter Prime most recently held a sous chef position at Equinox, and built an American menu with an emphasis on pots of mussels, steaks—including several Wagyu options—pizzas, and lasagna. A few Southern items also dot the lineup, including St. Louis-style pork ribs, and fried chicken with bacon and maple jus.
The fireman pole: Unfortunately not open for guests to slide between floors, but you can grab drinks around it in the bar area. The shiny gold fixture extends through the second floor, which formerly served as living space for the firemen. Now the room has been transformed into a party/banquet area with room for 200 (though the original brick walls remain throughout the structure). A third level may be turned into private event space in the future. There’s also a outdoor courtyard—formerly stables—for sipping beers in warmer weather.
The happy hour: Offered on Sunday. During football season you’ll find half-price draft beers and a $9 pound of wings coated with traditional Buffalo sauce, five-alarm spice, or ginger glaze. Weekday happy hour runs from 4 to 6, including opening night, with $2 off all drafts, house wines, and rail drinks. Tuesdays bring half-price pizzas.
The fun fact: A spiral staircase was originally built in the 1800s to keep horses from climbing to the second-floor living quarters, which was kept warm during cold winter months. A replica now stands next to a piano in the banquet room.
Washington Firehouse Restaurant. 1626 North Capitol St., NW; 202-299-9128. Open daily for dinner 5 to 11, Saturday and Sunday brunch 10 to 3; weekday happy hour 4 to 6; limited bar menu available 11 to close.