Chef Alex McCoy made it to the Food Network Star final four and is working on an ambitious Southeast Asian restaurant in Petworth, but that doesn’t mean he overlooks the simpler foods in life.
“The whole idea behind this menu was to take things back a couple notches,” says McCoy of Crisp Kitchen + Bar, a diner-inspired eatery opening in Bloomingdale tonight. “I grew up in DC, and we don’t have enough simple diners that serve good, homestyle food—yellow mustard, Hellman’s mayo, fried chicken.”
You’ll find all of the above and more on the menu at Crisp, which opens at 5 pm in the former Costa Brava space. McCoy teamed up with Jamie Hess of Ivy & Coney for the 45-seat venture, as well as fellow Duke’s Grocery alum Akiem Brooker, who’ll helm the kitchen.
Nashville-style “hot” chicken stars on the menu: brined, soaked in buttermilk, and fried to-order in lard, served spicy or extra-hot. The crispy birds are served with pickles, shaved onions, and homemade ranch atop white toast for soaking up all the juices. Pescatarians can opt for hot fish, cornmeal-fried catfish dressed with a spicy rub. Diner staples include griddled burger patties and fries, while other comfort fare runs Southern (homemade baked beans, collard kale) or further afield, such as poutine smothered in a rich duck gravy.
Barman Eddie Lopez designed the cocktails, which go for $5 during daily happy hour and under $10 otherwise. Local drafts can tame the heat of the fiery chicken, as well as a selection of canned brews that range from fancy-ish Three Stars to good ol' Natty Boh and PBR. Though the kitchen wraps up at 10 during the opening phase—with brunch to come on weekends—the bar will remain active until late for neighborhood drinking.
Crisp Kitchen + Bar. 1837 First St., NW; 202-713-5011. Open daily, 5 to 10. Happy hour daily, 5 to 8.
Restaurateur Mike Isabella completes his trio of Ballston eateries with the Monday opening of Yona Noodle Bar, located steps from Kapnos Taverna and Mexican cantina Pepita. The 50-seat Japanese/Korean concept is a collaborative effort with business partner Jonah Kim, most recently the executive chef at Pabu in the Four Seasons Baltimore (now closed).
True to name, noodles star on the menu. Guests at lunch and dinner (beginning December 4) can try several varieties of ramen, including kimchi-filled Korean with poached squid and pork belly, a veggie version that mixes soy milk in the broth, and a robust “miso porky.” Rounding out the menu are an ambitious lineup of small plates—think veal heart tartare and uni waffles. Lunch-goers will find dishes oriented towards quick service, such as donburi rice bowls.
Mike Isabella Concepts barman Taha Ismail is behind the beverages, which include a concise lineup of Japanese beers, whiskeys, and sakes.
Yona Noodle Bar. 4000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington;703-465-1100. Open daily for lunch, 11:30 to 3; dinner starting December 4.
The MGM National Harbor announced a “powerhouse lineup” of chefs headed to the upcoming resort, and they aren't exaggerating: José Andrés, Marcus Samuelsson, and brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio have all signed on for restaurants in the complex, slated to open towards the end of 2016.
The Washington Post first reported news of the celebrity chef-backed concepts. Andrés will debut his first-ever seafood-centric eatery, which aims to combine regional specialties with Asian accents like tempura and sushi bars. New York-based restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson’s venture will specialize in “elegant comfort food,” according to a spokesperson for the resort, such as whole fried chickens; the chef is behind Harlem’s Red Rooster and Streetbird Rotisserie. As for the Voltaggios, Michael will collaborate from Los Angeles with sibling Bryan (Volt/Range/Aggio) on a modern steakhouse.
The big-name chefs aren’t the only ones drawn to the Prince George’s County development. Louisville, Kentucky-based chef Edward Lee opened Succotash this fall.
Free food: California-based the Habit Burger Grill opens its first area location in Ashburn this week with freebies. The first 250 guests on Monday and Tuesday during lunch (11:30 to 1:30) and dinner (5 to 7) get a complimentary burger, followed by more giveaways on Thursday and Friday. The grand opening starts on Saturday at 10:30 am.
Traveling gourmets: Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood head to Catholic University on Tuesday from 6:30 to 9 for a dinner featuring dishes from across the country. Guests sample barbecue shrimp, Nashville hot chicken, and sweet potato cake among other dishes. Hear the couple’s story about their journey across America in search of the best eats. Tickets ($90) include a book, meal, and unlimited beer and wine.
Tap takeover: Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill hosts a tap takeover on Thursday from 4 to 8. The restaurant welcomes Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company, which will serve special brews like a Schwartz Bier Black Lager and a distinctive Smokehaus Lager. Guests can also sample bites off of the happy hour menu ($5). Admission is free; email firstname.lastname@example.org to secure a spot.
Author talk: Restaurant Nora chef Nora Pouillon visits the Friendship Heights Village Center on Thursday from 7:30 to 9:30 for a discussion of her book, My Organic Life. Hear how she launched her pioneering restaurant, and lobbied the government to create a new certification for organic eateries. Purchase a signed copy at the event. There is no charge for admission.
Delicious dissected: National Geographic magazine, which published “The Science of Delicious” in December, follows the story with an event on Thursday at Chaplin’s Restaurant starting at 7:30. Guests will learn why certain food tastes good, bad, and why we taste in the first place. Tickets ($100) are available online.
Hot pot: Crane & Turtle launches a new series of ticketed dinners on Friday and Saturday evenings centered around Japanese hot pots. Groups of four can gather on the patio beneath blankets and heaters for the warming dish, and can pick between a carnivorous option or vegetarian ($60). Two seatings are offered: 6 to 8 or 8:30 to 10:30. Reservations are required.
Twelve beers of Christmas: The Black Squirrel’s annual holiday event returns on Friday at 5. Drinkers will find five Christmas ales, four holiday saisons, three noels, two mad/bad elfs, and one Black Squirrel. The chef will pass out Christmas cookies and prepare two new seasonal burgers. There is no charge for admission; food and drink prices vary. Call 202-232-1011 for more information.
Repeal day: The DC Craft Bartender’s Guild hosts the eighth annual Repeal Day ball, a black tie affair on Friday from 9 to 11 at the Carnegie Library. A cross-country crew of beverage professionals from Philadelphia to Las Vegas makes the journey to DC, and prepares a variety of cocktails alongside Washington’s best. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Museum of the American Cocktail. Tickets ($80 to $110 for VIP) are available online.
Brunch pop-up: Dolcezza hosts a Gravitas brunch pop-up on Saturday and Sunday at its Union Market factory from 10:30 am to 2 pm each day. Menu items ($3 to $10) include dishes like a sourdough English muffin with eggs and sausage, breakfast tacos, and a buckwheat waffle. All items are to-go, and a full range of coffees will also be available. Reservations are not required.
Cask ales: Head to ChurchKey on Saturday at 2 to sample five new Flying Dog ales inspired by cookies from Otterbein’s Bakery in Baltimore. Offerings include a citrus saison, a fig & fennel stout, and a cranberry IPA. Admission is free; each four-ounce tasting pour is priced individually.
Prohibition fête: Jack Rose Dining Saloon celebrates Repeal Day on Saturday from 5 to close. Stop by early for “Pappy Hour,” which includes discount pours of Pappy Van Winkle from 5 to 7:30, or a $45 four-course prix-fixe dinner inspired by 1930’s recipes. Later on you’ll find burlesque dancers, specially-priced cigars, free-flowing bubbly, and snacks at midnight. Admission is free; food and drink prices vary.
Food & folklore: Eatonville Restaurant hosts a food & folklore dinner on Sunday at 5:30 inspired by “The Mule Bone,” a play co-authored by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Engage in a lively theatrical discussion over a four course meal with dishes like deviled eggs, pulled pork, and apple cobbler. Tickets ($48.47) are available online.
Thanksgiving: The main event this week is obviously Turkey Day on Thursday, and all the fun leading up to it. We’ve assembled the ultimate guide to Thanksgiving in Washington, which includes dining recommendations and takeout options, plus tips for party planning, hostess gifts, turkey trots, and much more.
Business of booze: Industree presents a behind-the-scenes look at DC’s drinking scene on Monday from 5 to 8:30 pm. Guests can mingle with top mixologists, beverage directors, and brand ambassadors including Brent Kroll of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Michael Cherner of Ledroit Brands, and Mintwood Place’s Maurice Cherry, and hear their thoughts on a panel moderated by Duane Sylvestre. Tickets ($15 to $50) include drink samples.
Cocktails for a cause: Movember, the month-long campaign to raise awarness for men's health issues, is nearly over. Jack Rose makes a final push on Monday between 6 and 8, where you'll find $10 Ketel One cocktail specials, with half of all proceeds going to charity.
A pizza special: Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza celebrates Thanksgiving all week. Drop by Monday through Wednesday and Friday for their seasonal pie made with roasted turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries, goat cheese, and pancetta. The special is available at all locations, and is $3.50 a slice.
Happy hour: CityCenterDC's Mango Tree throws a pre-holiday party on Wednesday from 11:30 am to close. Specially-priced beer, wine, and punch will be served throughout the day. Wear Thanksgiving paraphernalia to receive a free shot. Guests can capture memories in a photo booth, and enter a raffle to win door prizes.
Friendsgiving: Republic in Takoma Park hosts a pre-Thanksgiving party on Wednesday at 10 pm. Drop by with friends and family for games like Cards for Humanity, Monopoly, Life, and Balderdash, and a karaoke competition. Food and drink specials fuel the fun. Admission is free; prices vary.
Popover day: BLT Steak continues its celebration of Thanksgiving on Friday. Head to the restaurant or bar for “leftover” popovers stuffed with turkey, cranberry chutney, potato puree, and rosemary gravy ($10 per popover).
Made in DC: DC Brau teams up with Think Local First DC for a holiday marketplace on Saturday from 1 to 7 and the Northeast brewery. Shop from DMV-based artists and artisans to the tune of live music, including a number of food purveyors like Langdon Barrel-Aged Syrup, Real Sauce Company, Red Apron, and more. Local food trucks provide extra eats, while shoppers can sup beers in the tasting room. Admission is free; food and drink prices vary.
Road trip: Early Mountain Vineyards near Charlottesville hosts a holiday celebration on Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Throughout the event enjoy live entertainment for kids and adults alike. Young people can ride a horse-drawn carriage, take their photo taken with Santa, and decorate cookies. Local artisans and craftsmen showcase their wares. Local chili and wine from the vineyard will served. There is no charge for admission; food and drink prices vary.
Anyone asking “where’s the meat?” at Chaia hasn’t tried chef/owners Suzanne Simon and Bettina Stern’s tacos at local farmer's markets. The duo launched their pop-up “farm-to-taco” stand in 2013, and have created delicious vegetarian combinations using homemade corn tortillas, griddled to-order, stuffed with local, seasonal produce and fresh salsas. Now you’ll find even more options with the opening of Chaia's first brick-and-mortar space in Georgetown.
The airy, 27-seat space on Grace Street serves a similar menu to those once found at the market, though more extensive. Guests at the counter-order eatery can choose between single tacos ($3.75) or a trio ($11), filled with combinations like mushrooms, feta, and red salsa, or creamy kale-and-potato with pickled onions, salsa verde, and poblano crema. Add-ons include locally-made Gordy’s pickled jalapeños, or eggs on weekends (until December, when they'll be offered anytime). Many of the options can be made vegan, as well as gluten-free.
New to the lineup are sides ($4) such as green rice and black beans, and an array of cold-pressed juices and homemade seasonal shrubs—tangy nonalcoholic drinks such as sour cherry or cranberry-apple. You’ll also find local draft beer, and three global wines on tap. Though Chaia’s bent is healthy, there’s not too virtuous about tacos and a glass of sparkling Italian Lambrusco.
Chaia. 3207 Grace St., NW; 202-333-5222. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 to 8; Sunday 11 to 6.
Homesick Hawaiians will have a new dining destination next week with the opening of Hula Girl. Chef/owner Mikala Brennan brings a taste of her native Oahu to a sunny 110-seat restaurant in the Village at Shirlington--a spinoff of her popular food truck.
When Brennan launched her mobile business in 2011, she brought one of the first tastes of Hawaiian cuisine to Washington. Though the van is no longer running, many of her popular street eats make an appearance on the new menu—think tender Kalua pork roasted in banana leaves, macaroni salad, and of course, Spam musubi. The sushi-like rolls—a convenience store staple in Hawaii—feature grilled slices of Spam (yes, the canned original) wrapped with rice and seaweed. Brennan eventually plans to add a deep-fried, crunchy version.
Hawaiian cuisine melds a variety of influences from native and immigrant cultures, including Asia, Europe (particularly Portugal), and the mainland US. Brennan sourced a large wood-burning grill for the restaurant, which adds a touch of smoke to meats and fresh seafood such as sticky pork ribs brushed with root beer glaze, or mahi mahi sprinkled with Hawaiian sea salt. Saimin, the Aloha State’s answer to ramen, also makes an appearance. On the raw side you’ll find a selection of tatar-like pokes, including classic tuna with sesame and chili, and lomi salmon with tomato and sweet onions.
One entirely new element is the bar, and Hula Girl boasts a fun one. Cocktails lean tropical, though Brennan tries to tone down the sugar in sips like the Mai Tai, made with kaffir lime, ginger, caramelized pineapple puree, and two types of rum. Drinkers will find a mix of Hawaiian draft beers and interesting local brews, such as Adroit Theory’s hibiscus saison, aged in Mezcal barrels in Virginia. Wines are equally unusual.
“Since most people don’t know what Hawaiian food is or isn’t, I thought, ‘might as well go crazy with the wine list’,” says Brennan. “I’ll have a Chardonnay made in Brooklyn, or an Albariño from Fairfax.”
Amidst a dozen blue bar stools sits one wooden chair—a seat Brennan had specially carved for her mother, who passed away in 2013. The bathroom wallpaper also pays tribute to “LB,” a Cordon Bleu-trained cook who came to Hawaii as a Pan Am stewardess in the 1960’s.
“I was raised in a cooking-centric family,” says Brennan. “When she finally let me stir something it was a big deal."
Hula Girl is slated to officially open on Monday, November 23 for dinner only. Look for lunch by mid-December, and brunch come February.
Hula Girl. 4044 Campbell Ave., Arlington; 703-998-4852. Open for dinner Sunday through Thursday, 5 to 10; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11. Lunch and brunch coming soon.
LivingSocial has fallen a long way since their heyday of event space and big offices, but they’re still throwing out deals. The latest: Restaurants Plus, which launches in Washington today after a September debut in Atlanta. The promo allows diners at participating restaurants to receive up to 30 percent “cashback” from their meals when they pay with a registered credit or debit card.
The free program does away with the concept of pre-purchased vouchers, and seemingly hopes to dispel the stigma of discounts. Instead of advertising a percentage off the check, restaurants “reward” customers by giving a portion of the bill back to diners when they pay with a regular credit/card that’s been registered with LivingSocial. On the business side, restaurants can set times and offers, targeting typically slower periods like weekday lunch to attract deal-seekers. For example, Il Canale advertises 30 percent cashback until 4 pm.
Whether the new tactic will work better than past daily deals is tough to say. Currently 141 Washington restaurants have signed on to the program, ranging from Jumbo Pizza on U Street to Bobby Van’s Steakhouse downtown.
Momofuku is Washington's buzziest new restaurant, and it just added weekday lunch from 11 AM-3PM at CityCenterDC. (Friday's free lunch giveaway was, apparently, a prelude.) You can make reservations, but "walk-ins are strongly encouraged," Momofuku HQ says.
The menu, over which you can be agog here, includes several kinds of ramen, plus noodles, plus buns.
Upscale Chinese restaurants were once more prevalent in Washington—spots like Mr. K’s and Hunan Lion, both of which have closed. Now chef Robin Li hopes to bring a new kind of heavy-hitter to the scene with the opening of Secret Chopsticks. The 120-seat restaurant debuts in Rosslyn’s luxury Turnberry Tower condominium on Tuesday.
Li, a native of Mainland China who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, exclusively serves tasting menus in the 70-seat dining room. All four are currently nine courses: vegetarian, tofu, dim sum, and protein (i.e. seafood and meat), which range from $59 to $89 per person. The kitchen aims to meld classic French technique with Chinese flavors—think mushroom consommé with ribbons of tofu, filet mignon in oyster sauce, and durian pastries with homemade ice cream. Perhaps the most unusual are the two meatless menus, one devoted to vegetables, and the other centered around homemade tofu.
Those who want to sample the fare without committing to a tasting can settle in the 50-seat bar/lounge area, where dim sum-style snacks like dumplings and crispy rolls are served. Barman Benjamin Flanagan designed a list of cocktails that incorporate Asian flavors into classic drinks, such as a green tea mojito. Wines are sourced from across the globe, with 20 options by the glass and a bottle list that ranges from a $45 to $1,200. There’re also two tiers of parings ($50 and $95) offered for the prix-fixe menus.
Once the restaurant is up and running Li plans to offer abbreviated tasting menus at lunch, where three courses can be ordered from $15 to $20. Look for dim sum brunch to launch on Saturday and Sunday.
Secret Chopsticks. 1850 Fort Meyer Dr., Arlington; 703-812-8888. Open for dinner Sunday through Thursday, 5:30 to 9:30; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10.