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Booze, brews, and pork belly toast for 14th Street. By Anna Spiegel
Slipstream brings MadCap coffee, craft cocktails, and pork belly toast to 14th Street. Photography by Andrew Propp.

If there are two things hard-working Washingtonians can't get enough of, it's coffee to start the day and cocktails to finish. Slipstream, opening Monday on 14th Street, brings them both together. Owners Ryan Fleming and Miranda Mirabella want to create a service-oriented space for both brews and booze that takes stresses such as big crowds and pretentiousness out of the equation.

"Slipstream is the area of resistance between two objects, " says Fleming. "We want to reduce that resistance. Every guest has their space, the attention of a bartender or server."

Here are five things to look for at the sleek cafe.

All dine/drink-in guests will be seated at the bar and tables, no standing.

The service: Personalized, but not precious. The goal is engaging, one-on-one interactions, but not the kind where staff spends ten minutes in a corner perfecting their latte art. To this end, all the equipment is minimalist or located under the seating counter, so bartenders can interact with guests without a giant espresso machine blocking the way. Those grabbing a coffee or meal to go can order in a designated area, while the rest of the 48-seat space operates like a sit-down restaurant/speakeasy, meaning no standing three-deep for beverages at the bar.

The caffeinated drinks: Courtesy of MadCap Coffee. Slipstream will have the largest selection of coffees from the Michigan-based brewer outside the company's own inventory. Customized machines like automated pour-over systems make cups to order, while iced-coffee fans will find chilled brews on tap. Jazzed-up cups include concoctions such as espresso with house-made almond milk and a refreshing espresso tonic. Coffee nerds can go for limited-release brews, such as the Wilson Medina, named after the 24-year-old Colombian farmer who produces the coffee.

Dishes like beet-pickled eggs with nasturtium-butter toast (left) can be paired with creative cocktails.

The inebriating drinks: Customizable. Barkeep JB Knapp oversees the bar program, which attempts to take some of the pretentiousness out of craft cocktails while still using small-batch spirits and interesting liqueurs. The menu starts with base liquors like gin or whiskey, and leads guests to various cocktails based on personal taste. Those looking for a less boozy sip can pick from a concise list of American and Japanese beers and grower wines (meaning the grapes are sourced from the estate that produces the bottle, not a plethora of vineyards).

The food: Eclectic. Chef Jonathan Bisagni, most recently of the shuttered Taan, created a cafe-style menu with several Asian influences (the toque also worked at Toki Underground and Doi Moi). Mornings bring fresh pastries like croissants and Japanese milk bread, alongside dishes such as thick-cut toast with braised pork belly and eggs or breakfast bowls with shaved asparagus, eggs, and radishes over rice. Bento boxes and sandwiches are served at lunch, while a small menu of bar snacks and dinner entrées includes beet-brined deviled eggs with nasturtium-butter toast, and tuna with butter ponzu and pickled mushrooms. Instead of mimosas at brunch, guests can sip creative cocktails like a bourbon julep spiked with Thai chilies.

MadCap coffees take center stage during the day, with rare brews and creative concoctions.

The wi-fi?: "We're going to be friendly, but we're not going to have wi-fi," says Fleming. Guests are more than welcome to linger with a paper—or their phone/tablet—but the goal for customers is to be engaged with the experience instead of their e-mail.

Slipstream. 1333 14th St., NW. Open Monday to Thursday and Sunday 7 to 11, Friday and Saturday 7 to midnight. The bar opens daily at 5.

Posted at 11:54 AM/ET, 10/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The brothers behind Marvin and the Brixton make their Georgetown debut. By Anna Spiegel
Chez Billy Sud debuts in Georgetown with a chic look and a Southern-French menu. Photography by Jeff Elkins.

Brothers Eric and Ian Hilton have been pioneers of the U Street scene, creating hotspots such as the Gibson, Marvin, and Brixton. Now they're taking on new territory with the opening of Chez Billy Sud, their first Georgetown venture. The sleek French eatery is a spinoff of the popular Chez Billy in Petworth, and takes the place of Cafe La Ruche, which closed in July after 40 years. Here's what you need to know about the sleek spot.

The look: Tres chic. Though meant to be a casual neighborhood eatery, gone are the yellow walls and dark bistro decor, swapped for an airy interior with gold-leaf accents and gilded mirrors. Thankfully, the spacious outdoor patio remains intact for sipping bottles of rosé and brunching in warmer weather.

In warmer weather, the adjoining outdoor patio is the place to sip rosé.

The cuisine:
Southern French. While this is the Hilton's first duplicate restaurant, the menu leans more sud. Classics like steak or moules frites, beef bourguignon, and profiteroles join new dishes from chef Brendan L'Etoile. A few we have our eyes on: red wine-poached duck eggs with roasted-garlic toast and chanterelles; scallops with braised leeks and mushrooms sauced with chive beurre blanc; and an apple tart with chai ice cream.

The drinks: Concise and classy. While the Petworth original has a large bar, the drinking space here is smaller, which the menu reflects. Five cocktails, all $12, include a tasty-sounding "Death of a Frenchman" with calvados, lemon, Champagne, and anise-flavored liqueur. Wines hail, naturally, from France, as do aperitifs and some beers.

The restaurant takes the place of Cafe La Ruche, and maintains a similar facade.

The rooster's name: Guillaume (pronounced "ghee-ome"), the restaurant's mascot. He's very busy right now.

The future: Lunch and brunch, which start later this autumn. Drop by now for dinner, with reservations available by calling the restaurant and OpenTable.

Chez Billy Sud. 1039 31st St., NW; 202-965-2606. Open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday 5 to 10.

Dishes include classics like duck confit, and new creations such as apple tart with chai ice cream. Photography courtesy of Chez Billy.

Look for lunch and brunch to start later this fall.

Posted at 03:50 PM/ET, 10/16/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Rolling Rock ponies, pierogies, and oyster happy hour at the former Mighty Pint. By Anna Spiegel
The Pennsylvania-themed Second State brings a tavern-style restaurant to Dupont. Photographs by Andrew Propp.

Even regulars won’t recognize the former Mighty Pint when it reopens as Second State on October 21.

The grungy, college hangout has been transformed by owner Reese Gardner into an attractive, Pennsylvania-inspired restaurant. Raw-bar happy hour replaces discount pitchers, truffle mac and cheese takes the place of standard fries, and that treacherous staircase to the second floor is now pleasantly lit by a dangling chandelier. Designer Maggie O’Neill completely revamped the look, brightening the basement with whitewashed brick, a marble bar, and flickering candles.

Thankfully, Gardner, a Pennsylvania native, kept the pierogies on the menu and gave a sense of character to the place. Here are five things to look for on opening day.

Designer Maggie O'Neill is behind the elevated look, while the bar swapped pitchers for craft cocktails.

The best order for homesick Pennsylvanians: Bacon-cheddar pierogies with brown butter and Rolling Rock pony bottles. The Pennsylvania brewery was the first to conceive the miniature beers for thrifty Depression-era drinkers, so points for originality. Other specialties from the Keystone State include roasted pheasant with cider jus, scrapple at brunch, and several Philadelphia spirits, such as Shine LiberTea whiskey and Bluecoat gin.

The best tried-and-true orders: Chef Allan Javery brings over several of his most popular dishes from Copperwood Tavern and Irish Whiskey, including oysters with grilled lemon, root beer-braised short ribs, and roast chicken with a beer-butter pan sauce. Meats are mostly sourced from Virginia and Pennsylvania in keeping with a local-whenever-possible menu. Shareable sides are ordered steakhouse-style (separately) with options such as five-cheese truffle mac and fried Brussels sprouts.

Homey dishes include cheddar-bacon pierogies, steaks, and roast chicken with beer-butter sauce.

The conversation piece: A wise wall mural stating “Enjoy your food not your phone.” Ironically, it makes an excellent picture on Instagram.

The return program: Barkeep Boris Stojkovic will not refill your Dutch Mule—a riff on the Moscow with rye and ginger-lime cordial—unless you return the shiny, very-tempting-to-steal copper mug it’s served in. Lucky for the bar staff, most drinks are more alluring than their vessels. The menu blends spins on classics like whiskey punch with lavender bitters with straightforward Manhattans, martinis, and Sazeracs.

During weekday happy hour you can order $1 oysters throughout the restaurant.

The happy hour: Gone are the Mighty Pint days of discount pitchers and taco nights. Still, the bar is located in a happy-hour hot zone, so expect classed-up deals. Special sips are still in the works, but you can bet on $1 oysters all throughout the restaurant from 5 to 6 on weekdays.

Second State. 1813 M St., NW; 202-466-3010. Open for lunch 11 to 5, dinner 5 to 11; Saturday and Sunday brunch 10 to 5. Bar hours: Monday through Thursday 11 to 1, Friday and Saturday 10 to 2, Sunday 10 to 1.

A cozy second-floor room replaces Mighty Pint's bar.

Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 10/14/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The essentials of DC’s first “pop-uppery.” By Anna Spiegel
EatsPlace, a pop-up-centric restaurant, debuts with DC Born & Raised and Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. (above). Photograph by Space Division Photography.

Fall has brought a bounty of restaurant openings, but few concepts are as unusual as EatsPlace from Katy Chang. The self-titled “pop-uppery” in Park View mixes qualities of a food incubator like Union Kitchen—a commercial space for startup businesses such as Capital Kombucha and Chaia—with a supper club and bar. The result is a creative mix that gives chefs and producers space to create menus, restaurant concepts, and foodstuffs, while allowing the public to discover up-and-coming talent and new projects. Here’s what you need to know.

The space: A circa-1919 rowhouse. The multi-story building was refurbished with commercial kitchens in mind so that chefs could produce food for in-house guests, as well as make products like kimchee or jams for sale. Still, there are touches of the former home, including a 40-seat dining room, and back and front patios for lounging. Space is currently walk-in only for all meals, except for larger parties.

A circa-1919 townhouse was converted into a commercial kitchen and dining room. Photograph courtesy of EatsPlace.

The breakfast and lunch: Courtesy of Mason Dixie Biscuit Co., opening Thursday. Pastry chef Jason Gehring’s Southern-style biscuits have drawn major crowds at every pop-up so far, so expect more of the same for this menu. The rounds come in a variety of flavors, from classic buttermilk to jazzed-up ham-jalapeño. Service starts for the early birds at 7, with both takeout-friendly options like egg sandwiches and spreads such as pork-rind butter, as well as sit-down platters (we have our eye on sausage or vegetarian mushroom gravy with eggs). Lunchtime brings stacked creations with fried chicken, lobster Newburg, and more.

The dinner and brunch: Brought to you by DC Born & Raised, starting dinner on Wednesday. District native Charles Lyons drew from his family’s local and Southern recipes for dishes such as shrimp and grits with sausage-seafood broth, a smoked rib eye, and bar bites like crab mac and cheese. The homey fare continues during Saturday and Sunday brunch, with skillet platters, buttermilk pancakes, and bottomless mimosas.

The booze: Infused. Chang will change the drink menu to match the cuisine of chefs in residence, so it’s currently locally focused. Cocktails are fashioned out of house-infused spirits and homemade bitters, while DC breweries take over the taps. There’s also Natty Boh and Pabst for less high-minded drinking.

Locally made products like Baba's Cooking School black-bean hot sauce line the shelves.

On the shelves: What else? Artisanal products. EatsPlace is part of the Good Food Merchants Guild and sells an array of local and national finds. Guests can pick up organic German Vivani chocolates or Qualia Coffee from just down the street. Chang also sells her own line of Baba’s Cooking School hot sauces, inspired by her father, in flavors such as black bean.

In the future: More pop-ups. The first round will likely last four months, but you may see chefs and vendors coming in for a week, a weekend, or months-long stretches. Chang says possibilities include a preview of chef Nick Pimentel’s upcoming Columbia Heights Filipino restaurant, a farm-to-table menu from Bev Eggleston of EcoFriendly Foods, and Schmear Bagels.

EatsPlace. 3607 Georgia Ave., NW; 202-882-3287. Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. open Monday through Friday 7 to 2. DC Born & Raised open Monday through Friday 5 to 10, Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner 10 to 10. Bar open Monday through Thursday 7 to 2 and 5 to midnight, Friday and Saturday 7 to 2 and 5 to 1, Sunday 10 to midnight. No reservations. Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 03:10 PM/ET, 10/07/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A svelte French-Southeast Asian eatery comes to the Georgetown waterfront. By Anna Spiegel
Mama Rouge mixes French and Southeast Asian dining traditions in the former Bangkok Joe's space. Photograph courtesy of Mama Rouge.

Absinthe cocktails. Pork belly bao buns. Three styles of Asian fried chicken. These are just a few of the things you’ll find at Mama Rouge when the French- and Southeast Asian-inspired eatery debuts on the Georgetown waterfront October 14. We got an exclusive look inside the new eatery. 

Husband-and-wife owners Aulie Bunyarataphan and Mel Oursinsiri operated Bangkok Joe’s in the space for 12 years before closing to revamp the design and concept. While Joe’s specialized in Thai food—as do their other ventures, Arlington’s T.H.A.I. and Tom Yum District—Mama Rouge draws from a mix of European and Asian traditions.

Seasonal fruit crepes at brunch speak to the restaurant's Francophile influences.

The drink list mixes Sriracha Bloody Marys with sparkling Calvados cocktails. More melding appears on the lunch and dinner menu  in dishes such as orange-Sriracha fried chicken with soy butter, or a ham-and-cheese bánh mì. Other items fall into classic camps, such as French daily specials of steak au poivre and duck a l’orange, or crispy pork spring rolls alongside bowls of Vietnamese pho. A concise brunch menu offers crepes, pastry baskets, and savory scallion-crab pancakes. While prices aren’t pocket change, they’re gentle overall for a Georgetown waterfront restaurant.

The 100-seat dining room and bar also received a complete makeover, courtesy of Collective Architecture with VSAG. Vibrants blues and reds mix with more traditional French light fixtures and banquette seating. Come warm weather, you can sip boozy punch on a 30-seat outdoor patio. 

Eager to try it out? Reservations are accepted beginning on October 6.

Mama Rouge. 3000 K St., NW; 202-333-4422. Opening hours: Monday through Wednesday 11:30 to 10:30, Thursday 11:30 to 11, Friday 11:30 to midnight, Saturday 11 to midnight, Sunday 11 to 10:30. Brunch served Saturday and Sunday 11 to 2:30. Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs

Posted at 04:19 PM/ET, 09/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
One of the biggest fall restaurant openings is almost here. By Anna Spiegel
Pinea will open with Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as poached shrimp with smoked-tomato vinaigrette. Photograph courtesy of Pinea.

One of the biggest fall openings is imminent. Pinea, the new Southern European-restaurant replacing J&G Steakhouse in the W Hotel, announced an October 1 opening date. On the menu: chili-spiked pasta with clams and crab, whole roasted fish, and a lamb burger from chef Barry Koslow

Koslow most recently churned out some of Washington's best corned beef and pastrami at DGS Delicatessen, but a transition to Mediterranean cooking isn't a stretch. Dishes from the region have always been present on his menus, whether at DGS, the now-closed Mendocino Grill, or Arlington's Tallula/EatBar. The breakfast menu is the most concise, ranging from simple organic eggs with herb-roasted potatoes to piperade, a spicy pepper stew with eggs and chorizo. Lunch and dinner get more elaborate, with an emphasis on house-made pastas, charcuterie, and seafood dishes. Appetizers such as poached shrimp with smoked-tomato vinaigrette are joined by a list of merenda, which fall more in the tradition of shareable snacks like bruschetta and Serrano-wrapped roasted figs. 

All three meals commence when the restaurant opens. In the meantime, you can check out the hotel's recently reopened and remodeled P.O.V. rooftop lounge. 

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 12:52 PM/ET, 09/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Green-chili fried chicken and Texas martinis arrive in Fairfax. By Anna Spiegel
Chuy's opens in Fairfax with plenty of Tex-Mex flair, including a version of this nacho car. Photographs courtesy of Chuy's.

Good news for Tex-Mex fans: Austin-based Chuy’s opens its first Washington location in Fairfax today. The funky chain has made a name for itself over 32 years, known for its “big as yo’ face” burritos, Elvis obsession, and intolerance for Bush-twin antics (hey, some margs are just worth breaking the law). Here's what you need to know about the Texas export. 

The conversation piece: The “nacho car,” a.k.a. a nacho bar located inside a car trunk. If you’ve never scooped seasoned beef from the back of a vintage vehicle, you’ve been doing it wrong. The best part: Unloading this chip trunk is free during happy hour. Specials including $5.25 margaritas and $3 domestic beers run from 4 to 7 and weekdays, and you can pair your beverages with gratis queso, taco meat, salsa, and more.  

The colorful decor includes pictures of local dogs and an Elvis shrine.

The other food: Big and Tex-ican. The grande menu reads the same at all Chuy’s locations, but follows a homemade philosophy; the team promises salsa made every hour, fresh sauces daily, and tortillas rolled in front of guests. Prices are gentle, but plates are designed to be more than filling. Think fried chicken breaded with Lay's potato chips and smothered in green-chili sauce, Anaheim chiles rellenos, and blue-corn enchiladas stiffed with pulled chicken and topped with a fried egg. 

The margaritas: Eclectic, and made with fresh lime juice. Traditional rocks or frozen are always options, but you can literally mix things up with a Grandma's Rockin' Rita—apparently Grandma liked hers stiff, in a pint glass with Grand Marnier—or a Texas Martini, where tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice are shaken and served up with jalapeño-stuffed olives. Booze hounds can also add a floater of tequila or various liqueurs to any drink; see the menu for all the options.

The Elvis shrine: Chuy's is a pretty colorful place, especially the spacious patio outfitted with fiesta string lights and bright red umbrellas. Indoors you'll find a rainbow-hued school of fish hung from the ceiling, another area covered with hubcaps, and pictures of local pooches above the bar. As at other locations, an Elvis shrine pays homage to the King, the "patron saint of Chuy's." Elvis fans can look forward to the annual birthday bash on January 8, commemorated at all locations with specials and plenty of impersonators. 

The future: More Chuy’s! The chain has already penned a lease in the Springfield Town Center (slated to open in October), with other locations possibly on the way. 

Chuy's. 11219 Lee Hwy., Fairfax; 703-364-5933. Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Fill up on dishes such as green-chili fried chicken and blue-corn enchiladas.

Posted at 12:39 PM/ET, 09/16/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Celebrity chef Daniel Boulud returns to Washington with crab burgers and whole-hog dinners. By Anna Spiegel
Daniel Boulud opens the French-American DBGB Kitchen and Bar in Washington's CityCenter. Photography by Jeff Elkins.

Daniel Boulud grabs a blow torch and begins gleefully flambéing a baked Alaska on the dining table. He cuts two slices, grabs a spoon (“I love ice cream”), and digs in.

Boulud is one of many celebrity chefs to arrive in Washington of late, with a branch of his Manhattan-based DBGB Kitchen and Bar, opening on Saturday in CityCenter (fellow New Yorker David Chang will follow with a Momofuku spinoff next year). Blowtorches included, the international restaurateur seems promisingly hands on. 

The DC-specific "crabbie" burger boasts a crabcake atop a rich beef patty.

Washington roots don’t hurt. Boulud spent part of his early career here in the ’80s at the European Commission and counts many of the city's long-established toques as old friends. Eschewing the steakhouse-in-a-hotel model other big-name restaurateurs rely on, Boulud's Franco-American brasserie already feels personal. A modest dining room for 75 helps—an additional 50 can fit in the bar and two private rooms—as does the wall art. A bounty of local chefs and Boulud contemporaries such as Thomas Keller and Alice Waters designed plates for the restaurant, each depicting different aspects of their personalities (Volt chef Bryan Voltaggio's plate shows a silkscreen of his smiling face, while bad-boy brother Michael drew a skull with roses for eyes). 

"Burgers, bangers, beer, and rock and roll is what DBGB is about" says Boulud, looking around him at the plate art. "But this isn't Planet Hollywood, it's planet chef."

In addition to a 75-seat dining room, the restaurant includes a spacious bar area and two private rooms.


The menu, too, is tailored to DC. Many new dishes draw from local ingredients and culinary traditions, such as the crabcake-topped "crabbie" burger, or Chesapeake fluke grenobloise with cauliflower, capers, and grapes. Others are borrowed from Boulud sister concepts such as the Mediterranean Boulud Sud and Michelin-starred Cafe Boulud. Executive chef-on-the-ground Ed Scarpone comes most recently from the latter, bringing items with him like fried chicken with watermelon and frite de grite (grits slow-cooked with chicken fat, cut into batons, and crisped to order). 

That's not to dismiss the DBGB classics. About half the menu carries over from the original, including a global array of house-made sausages such as French-style boudin blanc with truffles, or Thai pork sausage with chili sauce and and basil-fried rice. The burgers, another staple, can be ordered individually or ménage à trois-style: all three patties—classic, crab, and pork belly-topped—for sharing. 

A section of drink-friendly snacks includes Daniel's smoked salmon with "everything bagel" seasoning.

Another signature, the "whole-hog" dinners, will start in the next few weeks. Large groups of 10 to 12 reserve the feast 48 hours in advance, and are served a bounty of appetizers, sides, and the star: a whole roast suckling pig stuffed with pork loin, chestnuts, and mushrooms. The dessert is baked Alaska, but you don't need to reserve a pig to try it. A knockout dessert menu includes the Boulud favorite, alongside two-scoop sundaes and rocky road profiteroles. 

DBGB DC will be Boulud's 15th eatery when it opens on Saturday, but he shows the excitement—without quite the nervousness—of the first. 

“I feel like the new kid again,” he says. 

DBGB Kitchen and Bar. 931 H St., NW; 202-695-7660. Full hours: Lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 to 2:30, dinner Monday to Thursday 5 to 11, Friday and Saturday 5 to midnight, and Sunday 5 to 10. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 to 3. Bar service nightly until midnight. 

Certain Boulud dishes draw from Asia, such as tuna crudo with harissa-sesame sauce and crispy rice.
The main dining area (above) is ringed by plates designed by local and celebrity chefs.
French meets local in dishes like Chesapeake fluke grenobloise with cauliflower, capers, and grapes.
The ice cream-loving Daniel Boulud flambés his own baked Alaska.


Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 09/12/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Cannoli doughnuts and Compass Coffee for Capitol Hill. By Anna Spiegel
District Doughnut opens Friday with plenty of fried dough. Photograph courtesy of District Doughnut.

It may be a dreary Monday, but there’s light—in the form of fried dough—at the end of this tunnel. District Doughnut announces it's officially opening its Barracks Row shop on Friday, followed by a weekend of live music, games, specials, and more. 

The cheery, white-and-Tiffany-blue shop is small, and the focus specific: doughnuts and coffee, here in the form of small-batch blends from Compass Coffee (the company, founded by two former Marines, pays homage to the eatery’s location across from the barracks). If all goes according to plan, you may see more locations in the future. Co-owners Greg Menna and pastry chef Christine Schaefer have already made inroads into the DC doughnut scene, offering delivery and keeping soft-opening hours prior to the shop’s official debut. Besides creative flavors such as cannoli and brown butter, what differs most in these sweet rounds are the doughs. Instead of relying on a single recipe, Schaefer whips up a specific base for nearly every doughnut; citrus zest infuses the dough for the lemon meringue pie, while cinnamon spikes the version for caramel-apple streusel. The team is also working on gluten-free options for the future. 

The shop will open on Friday at 8, and then 9 throughout the weekend until doughnuts sell out. Drop by for music, games, and more festivities on Saturday and Sunday. 

District Doughnut. 749 Eighth St., SE. Regular hours: open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 until the sweets are gone. 

Posted at 11:55 AM/ET, 09/08/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Fried chicken and orange crushes keep summer going. By Anna Spiegel
Pop's Sea Bar brings beach-inspired fare and creative drinks to Adams Morgan. Photography by Jeff Elkins.

Summer may be on the way out, but it's always boardwalk season at Pop's SeaBar. The beach-inspired Adams Morgan eatery from Cashion's Eat Place co-owners Justin Abad and chef John Manolatos opens at noon on Thursday, and no one will complain if you show up in shorts and flip-flops. Here's what you need to know about one of fall's hottest openings. 

The vibe: Beach casual. The former Taan Noodles space has been transformed into a colorful hangout with bar-stool seating for 55 and more room to stand with your orange crush. One lucky large group can gather around a six-seat booth on the upper level, or eventually grab picnic tables on the front patio. 

The space is equal parts bar and restaurant; you'll find stool seating for 55 and an outdoor patio.

The eats:
Comfort food of the sea. Manolatos's all-day menu boasts dishes inspired by childhood days on the Jersey Shore. Think peel-and-eat shrimp, fried oysters or calamari with hot pickled peppers, and crabcakes. Carnivores can opt for "boardwalk chicken"—a poultry version of popcorn shrimp with spiced mayo for dunking—and a variety of diner-style griddled burgers. Extra-hungry? Try the version with an egg, American cheese, a fried slice of Taylor Pork Roll—like bologna, but better. 

The interactive drinks:
Ever wanted to carve a booze luge with your tongue? Creative sips include the "ice cream luge," which is basically an ice cream sandwich served with a shot of Amaro. Should you care to make a booze slide, just lick out a portion of the ice cream, aim the pathway toward your mouth, and get pouring. Or put the bartenders to work and order Pop's version of an orange crush mixed with vodka, aquavit, orange liqueur, and citrus smashed to order.

Fried smelts—tiny whole fish—make a tasty snack with spicy pickled peppers.

The conversation piece:
Smelts (and that booze luge). The tiny Atlantic fish are fried whole, tossed with pickled Cubanelle peppers, and served with a wedge of lemon. Eating whole fishies may sound daunting, but done right, they're delicious. 

The good news for night owls:
The kitchen will open at noon each day and churn out the same menu through midnight on weeknights and until 2 on Friday and Saturday.  

Try a boozy ice cream luge at the bar, or sip a twist on an orange crush with aquavit.

The good news for everyone sick of "hand-cut, artisanal fries": Delicious curly fries. From a bag. Cashion's house-made ethos carries over for most items, but thankfully these starchy spirals of goodness aren't one of them.  

The next step:
Once Pop's is up and running smoothly, look for daily specials such as lobster rolls, fish tacos, or fried clam sandwiches on a given day. Carryout will be available from the start, but Abad says they're hoping to eventually let the takeout crowd use kiosks to order and pay. 

Chicken of the sea: brined, crispy birds served alongside spicy mayo for dipping.
Jersey-style dogs with slaw and curly fries can be your late-night snack.

Pop's SeaBar. 1817 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-534-3933. Open Sunday through Thursday noon to midnight, Friday and Saturday noon to 2.

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 09:45 AM/ET, 09/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()