The sustainable Virginia seafood company has been expanding in the Washington area since opening the Merroir tasting room on the banks of the Rappahannock and the original restaurant in Richmond. Co-owners Travis and Ryan Croxton founded the popular Oyster Bar in Union Market, and Travis partnered with Derek Brown on two of his recent Shaw openings: Eat the Rich, where you can slurp Olde Salt oysters alongside expertly made cocktails, and the neighboring whiskey bar Southern Efficiency. When it comes to the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, the more oysters sold the better—the beds Rappahannock plants help restore the oyster population, while the sturdy bivalves filter water to make it cleaner.
The FreshFarm Market stall plans to sell ready-to-shuck bivalves alongside pints of pre-shucked oysters, perfect for making a Chesapeake oyster stew during these lingering cold days.
Washingtonians are well versed in the onslaught of cherry blossom food and drink specials at local restaurants each spring. Still, we have yet to see anything like the McDonald’s cherry blossom burger (the McBlossom?), sold exclusively in Japan. Kotaku shares details on the teriyaki-egg burger, which comes on a pink and ostensibly blossom-y bun.
Even without the tinted bread, the limited-run “teritama” burger has a cult-like following akin to the McRib. The sticky-sweet pork patty is topped with a McMuffin-esque egg and lettuce, all sandwiched between the chain’s signature sesame-seed bun. The springtime special varies from year to year, but 2014 marks the first time its color coheres with the blossoming of the sakura. As for that disturbingly rosy “sakura sauce”? It’s mayonnaise mixed with Japanese radish spread. There’s also a special sakura cherry soda to wash it down.
Lovin’ it? Unfortunately there’s no evidence that the cherry blossom burger is headed to Washington—but you can bet the Air and Space Museum Mickey D’s will get a bit more hectic should it arrive.
Call it a home run for sandwich lovers: Mike Isabella announced today that he’ll open a branch of his popular 14th Street sandwich joint, G, at Nationals Park. The spinoff will be open in time for the exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers on March 29.
The menu will be similar to the original, with Italian-American classics such as the chicken Parm and meaty hero and a vegetarian roasted cauliflower sub with romesco and pickled vegetables. Sandwiches inspired by fellow chefs, like the Drewno—named for the Source’s Scott Drewno—with house-made kielbasa will be part of the menu, as will a rotating “sandwich of the homestand” special. Also available: Isabella’s craveable lamb chili, a tasty grab for those early cool-weather games.
The sandwich shop isn’t the only new dining option at the stadium. Levy Restaurants, which runs several concessions, will introduce items such as sushi, stir-fry noodles, crabcakes, and a number of vegetarian and gluten-free options this season. Neighborhood restaurant options outside the ballpark have also grown since the last home game, and now include Bluejacket brewery, Osteria Morini, and Agua 301, among others.
Look for G on the main concourse in right field near the first-base gate, behind section 136.
Here’s a fun George Washington fact your teachers likely skipped: According to historians at Mount Vernon, the first American president oversaw the production of 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey at his home distillery each year, which he bottled and sold. Even lesser-known is his affection for peach brandy. The same site produced about 60 gallons a year, which Washington mostly poured for guests at the Alexandria estate. Now, for the first time in more than two centuries, you can sip a similar sweet spirit.
The George Washington Distillery, a reconstructed version of the circa-1797 original, announced it has produced 400 bottles of a similar brandy using 18th-century techniques. The project began in 2010 when staff from several distilleries, including Virginia producers Catoctin Creek Distilling Company and A. Smith Bowman Distillery, gathered to advise on the project. The brandy was then double-distilled in copper pot stills powered by wood fires, and aged for more than two years in toasted oak barrels.
History buffs can get a taste come April 1, when purchase vouchers will be distributed starting at 8 AM at Mount Vernon’s Gristmill Shop (actual sales start at 10). The 375-milliliter bottles cost $150 and are limited to one per customer.
A Day of “Whiskey Camp” at Mount Vernon
The market/restaurant trend continues as Spike and Amy Gjerde, the husband-and-wife team behind Woodberry Kitchen/Artifact Coffee/Shoo-Fly, prepare to open their butchery/restaurant in Baltimore. If the name Parts & Labor sounds familiar in DC, it is: the Neighborhood Restaurant Group coincidentally picked the same moniker for its eatery attached to Red Apron Butchery Penn Quarter, before switching to Partisan (opening soon). The general concepts are similar—lots of meat!—but there are plenty of unique elements to look for at the Gjerdes’ new spot, set to gradually debut in Charm City’s Remington neighborhood by March.
The market, helmed by butcher George Marsh, will open first in the former car and tire repair shop (hence the “parts and labor” name). As with other Gjerde spots, the commitment to local farms and producers remains strong. Fresh cuts range from traditional (Liberty Delight Farms beef) to more exotic (goat from Many Rocks Farm), plus you’ll find a a lineup of pickled, cured, and smoked meats that capitalize on a nose-to-tail approach.
An adjoining 84-seat restaurant will debut in April with, yes, more meat. Diners can assemble meals from a variety of steaks and chops, 20 sorts of sausages, and roasted vegetables, or opt for “one-pot” dishes such as chili and stew. “Rustic cooking style” takes on a new meaning here; all the items will be prepared in a hearth built from reclaimed Baltimore cobblestones as a nod to traditional Mid-Atlantic cooking methods. To pair with all that food: beer from 24 taps, with a focus on Maryland brews. If you discover a new favorite, a growler-fill station will allow guests to take suds on the road.
Stay tuned for more details closer to the opening.
Parts & Labor. 2600 N. Howard St., Baltimore.
Few Washington restaurants are as iconic as Ben’s Chili Bowl, which opened on U Street in 1958. Founders Ben and Virginia Ali served their now-famous chili half-smokes through the race riots in the 1960s and during the Metro buildout that closed U Street, to presidents and policemen alike. Ben passed away in 2009, but Virginia still helps operate the restaurant, along with her sons, who are helping to expand the Ben’s name across the Potomac. The first standalone branch opens at 1725 Wilson Boulevard on Thursday (outposts already exist at FedEx Field and Nationals Stadium), with more to come in the next year.
“It’s a lovely area and a wonderful community,” says Virginia. “We want to become a part of that community like we have on U Street.”
The new Ben’s occupies one of the spaces in Colonial Village Shopping Center that once housed Ray’s Hell-Burger. While it’s not an exact replica of the original, key features carry over. A jukebox stands ready for dinner music, and the brothers built a counter so customers can mingle as they do on U Street. New to the eatery is outside seating, with 16 spots on the patio for chowing down on chili cheese fries in warmer weather. The brothers also teamed with local bakery Savannah Cupcake for a line of cupcakes, including flavors such as carrot, coconut-pineapple, and sweet potato pie.
The Arlington debut marks the beginning of a growth year for Ben’s, with an H Street spot expected to open later this year and another stadium-like kiosk planned for Reagan National Airport. Nizam Ali says Ben’s Next Door, the more upscale eatery adjoining the Chili Bowl, is also set for expansion, albeit a vertical one: A rooftop deck is on the horizon, with the working name Ben’s Upstairs. A couple of staples will carry over (or up), but Nizam says the family is “looking to do a whole new thing.”
Longtime Ben’s fan Bill Cosby helped welcome the Arlington location, cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony. Considering all the celebrity endorsements and accolades the Chili Bowl has received over the years, from a James Beard Award to a visit from President Obama, we asked Virginia what she considers the greatest achievement.
“What floored me most was when we celebrated our 40-year anniversary,” she says. “It was just overwhelming for me to see people standing in line on a hot August day to come into Ben’s and buy a chili dog. I felt so overwhelmed that people cared enough. Somehow people know we care about them, and they care about us, and that’s very gratifying.”
Ben’s Chili Bowl. 1725 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Current hours are 11 to 11. Breakfast coming soon.
Red Hen extends its hours
1822 First St., NW; 202-525-3021
Love this Bloomingdale neighborhood Italian? Now you can dine there more. The restaurant extends its hours to include Monday dinner service from 5:30 to 10, starting Monday, March 10. Keep a lookout for new spring dishes such as ricotta cavatelli with peas.
Republic gets late-night menus and live music
6939 Laurel Ave., Takoma Park; 301-270-3000
Jeff Black gets into the entertainment game, hiring 9:30 Club vet Catherine Rytkonen to schedule bands, open-mike nights, and Monday blues sessions. The lineup starts on Sunday with a “Democracy party,” featuring themed cocktails, snacks, and even local politicians. Chef Danny Wells launches a late-night menu to pair with the festivities, with eats like a duck confit Cuban.
Ben’s Chili Bowl opens in Arlington
1725 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
The historic U Street eatery debuts its first standalone sister eatery in more than 55 years on Thursday. Catch Bill Cosby, a loyal Ben’s customer, at the 10:30 opening ceremony, and stick around for those famous chili half-smokes.
Alba Osteria launches a “chef bar”
425 Eye St., NW; 202-733-4454
Chef Amy Brandwein has been working on tasting menus inspired by Italian street food and other rustic fare, and will start cooking at the new reservation-only “chef bar” for just ten guests on Thursday, March 13. The six-course meal and beverage pairing, available every Thursday, includes dishes such as crunchy anchovies, sea-urchin tagliolini, and venison with foie gras and cherries ($80 per person). Look for a vegetarian option in the near future.
P.J. Clarke’s begins bottomless brunch
1600 K St., NW; 202-463-6610
Go bottomless on K Street at this New York import’s new brunch on Saturday and Sunday, which includes never-ending Bloodys, mimosas, and more ($20 per person) alongside eats like Grand Marnier-spiked French toast, an egg-white-avocado breakfast sandwich, and five different Benedicts.
Martini Madness takes over Bethesda Row
The eateries along Bethesda Row launch a monthlong March competition to make the best martini. Try all ten—conveniently available at happy hour prices—and vote for your favorite.
La Tagliatella introduces $5 lunch
2950 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; 571-257-4600
The chain celebrates its US arrival this month with 30 days of dining deals, including a $5 lunch menu this week. Look for other specials such as $5 pizzas next week and half-price bottles of wine starting March 17.
Adams Morgan has seen a decent amount of restaurant movement lately, what with the looming exit of stalwarts like Mixtec and Pasta Mia and the opening of new spots such as Roofers Union. Next to join the new arrivals is Rebellion DC, a self-described neighborhood spot opening on the border of AdMo and Dupont at 1826 18th Street, Northwest. The address most recently housed pan-Asian eatery Mum Mum, formerly called Zabb Modern Asian.
The name of the bar stems from the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791, which pitted farmer-distillers against the government after treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton introduced a tax on farms producing whiskey from excess grain and corn. Naturally, the bar will sport the namesake spirit; a Facebook page for the watering hole details plans to stock more than 50 varieties. Though the bar’s claim to be “second to none in the Dupont Circle neighborhood” for its brown liquor collection is dubious (um, Jack Rose?), the goal seems to be for more of an “everyday public house” feel than a whiskey mecca. To that effect you’ll find American tavern decor, Southern-inspired comfort fare, and a rooftop patio for sipping drinks in warmer weather. Stay tuned for more details and a possible spring opening.
Those who remember their childhood guinea pigs fondly may want to sit this one out. Chef Victor Albisu, fresh off a trip to Peru with pals Mike Isabella and Spike Mendelsohn, will prepare the traditional street food cuy, or guinea pig, during a cooking class at Del Campo this Saturday.
Before you get upset over someone cooking Fluffy, don’t worry: Albisu didn’t raid the nearest Petco. The culinary-grade rodents were acquired through a specialty purveyor in New York. In Peru, guinea pigs are farmed for their protein and used as an inexpensive way to feed a population suffering from malnutrition. The chefs experienced the food’s influence first-hand on their trip, which was part of an outreach program with the poverty-ending organization Care International. Still, cuy isn’t just a chicken substitute. As with most street fare, chefs on the higher end of the spectrum can’t help but put their own twists on it; Albisu recalls eating confit guinea pig in a Lima restaurant.
Those who attend the class will see cuy prepared in the traditional style: marinated overnight in cumin, citrus, olive oil, and garlic, and slow-fried. Unlike the other demo dishes, such as ceviche, the point is less about eating and more about talking to guests about how the guinea pigs have influenced Peruvian culture and culinary traditions. That being said, if you want to take a taste, the chef isn’t opposed.
“It tastes like the proverbial chicken, with a little pork quality to it,” says Albisu.
A few spots are currently left, so call the restaurant for reservations ($98 per person).
One of Adams Morgan’s oldest restaurants may close after 40 years. Mixtec owner Pepe Montesinos tells us he’s unsure of the restaurant’s future.
“We don’t know for sure what’s going to happen,” says Montesinos. “The whole neighborhood has changed.”
Originally the space operated as a grocery store, with Montesinos selling soft tacos over the counter. He added the sit-down cafe after customers began filling the store. The spot still draws devoted eaters for daily breakfast, generous tortas, and fresh tamales. Montesinos says his was one of the first taquerias in Washington, and cites the growing taco trend among the factors affecting his business, as well as customers being drawn away to newer 14th Street eateries.
“Remaining 40 years in business is very, very difficult,” says Montesinos. “We’ve reached the pinnacle. We can’t do much better.”
The fate of neighboring Adams Morgan institution Pasta Mia is also unclear. After nearly closing this year, the restaurant has extended its lease until at least 2015. If you’re a fan of either spot, now is the time to show your support.