Gaithersburg will get a big beer infusion on Friday when Old Town Pour House opens its doors for a two-day trial run before officially debuting on Monday, March 2. The third location of the brewpub, and first export outside the Chicago area, joins the growing Downtown Crown development. On tap: 90 beers, a giant patio, and a menu of Midwestern favorites like Windy City-style hot dogs and fried cheese curds. Here's what to look for in the 172-seat space.
The beer: Abundant. The bar opens with 85 global craft beers and five favorite standbys like Bud Light, all served at an eye-catching copper bar. Enthusiasts can browse the online menu of wheats and lagers, Belgians and IPAs, and rate individual beers by signing up for a free account. A number of local names are included in the lineup, from Flying Dog to lesser-known producers such as Jailbreak Brewing Company out of Laurel, Baltimore's Union Craft Brewing, and Denizens Brewing Co. from Silver Spring.
The other potables: Moscow mules in fancy copper mugs, six wines on tap, and an epic-sounding 20-ounce Bloody Mary, which arrives in a heavily garnished goblet that includes a peppered steak medallion, cubed pepper jack cheese, veggies (pickles, tomato, cocktail onions), and a Slim Jim "stir stick."
The food: Brew-friendly. Homesick Midwesterners will find a number of familiar comforts on the all-day menu, including pretzel bites for dipping in Lagunitas IPA beer cheese, mini Chicago dogs with all the traditional fixings, pickle chips, and fried cheese curds. Two new dishes nod to the new coastal location: crabcakes and a fried clam sandwich with smoked-potato aïoli.
The patio: Big. Thick-skinned Chicagoans might brave the outdoors for a drink if temperatures climb above 40, but patio weather here means 60 degrees and up. Once spring takes over, look for a 92-seat space to sip beer. Inside seating ranges from big booths to high-top tables.
Happy hour, late-night: The bar offers plenty of specials at all hours. Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 Monday through Friday, with deals like $8 Moscow Mule Mondays, a flight of four six-ounce beers ($14), and $2 off wine on Wednesdays, as well as $5 eats such as mini pulled-pork sandwiches and sliders. While the pub stays open until 2 AM daily for drinkers, anyone looking for a late-night bite can find a snack menu with the likes of truffled popcorn, Chicago dogs, and white-bean hummus until midnight on Friday and Saturday, and 11 all other evenings.
The big game: Screened on three 110-inch "video walls," which are as large as they sound. Stay tuned for specials, and what will happen in the event of a Chicago-Washington rivalry.
Old Town Pour House. 212 Ellington Blvd., Gaithersburg; 301-963-6281. Open daily 11 to 2; happy hour Monday through Friday 4 to 7; late-night food menu served Sunday through Thursday until 11, Friday and Saturday until midnight.
The 14th Street crowd will have a new place to hang next week when Sotto, a bar/restaurant from Ari and Stacy Gejdenson, opens its doors on March 3. The name means "under" in Italian--a tribute to its location beneath sister restaurant Ghibellina--but that's the only major European detail of the subterranean space. While Negronis are poured above, the moody haunt takes its cues from DC history thanks to its former incarnation as one of many homes for the HR-57 jazz club, and offers a menu of regional American cooking. Here's what to look for when it debuts on Tuesday.
Smoked meats, caramel apples
Brisket, ribs, and sausage may sound like fare for a barbecue joint, but chef Keith Cabot is taking a regional American approach. The former Menu MBK chef de cuisine mixes influences from the South--he spent years in Virginia and North Carolina--and the Midwest, particularly items inspired by state fairs he visited with his Minnesotan family. You'll find snacks like caramel corn dusted with chili-lime salt (a cheffy riff on Cracker Jack), alongside mesquite- and hardwood-smoked meats drizzled with a house-made sauce Cabot describes as a cross between Heinz 57 and A1. There's also a lineup of house-made sausages, like lamb merguez with curried cauliflower, and a vegetable-heavy selection of appetizers and sides to make up for the meaty mains (see a menu sample below). Sadly there's no fried Snickers for dessert, but a poached apple with popcorn, molasses, and caramel ice cream should satisfy carnivalesque cravings.
Plates can be eaten solo or shared--refreshingly in a big, family-style way instead of tiny tapas. There's less choice when it comes to seating. While a hostess will still guide guests to spaces, everything is considered communal. The long bar is fashioned from a single piece of wood, while picnic-style tables and oversize booths provide the other seating. A limited number of reservations will be available for larger parties.
Jazz Age-style cocktails
Barman Daniel Barnes, who also crafts the sips at Ghibellina and sister watering hole Denson Liquor Bar, created a list of seven cocktails inspired by the Jazz Age heyday and the corresponding scene in Washington. The Groover, for example, mixes gin, pineapple juice, Dolin Blanc vermouth, and Cocchi Americano, while the Trolley Car combines spiced rum, blood orange, and bitters.
Nightly music, and more to come
Once the Sotto team settles in, music fans can hear nightly tunes from small jazz, blues, and neo-soul groups (generally one to three players, given space constraints). The kitchen will remain open until 11:30 on weeknights, and potentially 12:30 on Friday and Saturday, while the space caters to revelers until last call. Much further in the future, the Gejdensons will begin construction on their three Ivy City projects for 2016, which will include a small diner and Italian pizza place similar to Ghibellina. In the meantime, grab a sparkling cocktail and get jazzed on 14th.
Sotto. 1610 14th St., NW; 202-803-2389. Opening hours (March 3): Tuesday through Saturday 6 to 2, Friday and Saturday 6 to 3.
Sample Cocktail Menu:
rye / amaro / cardaramo
gin / pineapple juice / dolin blanc / cocchi
spiced rum / blood orange / angustura
Suit and Tie
vodka, ginger / sweet and sour /angostura
scotch / lillet rose / cranberry / orange
brandy / combier / lime / apple bitters
prosecco / plum bitters / sugar
Sample Food Menu:
Ball Park Peanuts & Popcorn
Chili | Lime | Sea Salt
Pretzel Monkey Bread
Provolone | Chives
Wood-Oven Roasted Winter Squash
Crispy Sage | Brown Butter | Toasted Pepita Granola
Hen of the Wood Mushrooms
Poached Farm Egg | Crispy Farro | Thyme
Brussels Sprouts Salad
Herb Cream Dressing | Garlic Croutons | Pomegranate
Endive & Citrus Salad
Orange | Spiced Hazelnuts | Shaved Radishes
Accompanied by Figs Poached in Red Wine
Accompanied by Curried Cauliflower, Capers and Raisins
Accompanied by Woodfire Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Crispy Local Fish
Parsnip | Mustard Seeds | Persimmons
Marble Potato Salad
Popcorn | Molasses Gateau | Caramel Ice Cream
Candied Pecans | Dulce de Leche | Chocolate
Pistachio Crumble | Mint Jelly | Crispy Merengue
Family meal, the pre-shift food chefs prepare for the staff before service, is a hot culinary topic--legendary chef Ferran Adrià built a whole cookbook around the dishes served to the workers at elBulli. Everyone wants to eat like an insider, right?
Now the public can have their chance at Table. The Shaw restaurant just announced a new "family meal pop-up," where 20 diners can eat in the kitchen along with the waitstaff from 5 to 6. The all-you-can-eat offering goes for $20 per person, with a mystery beer that can be added for $5. In order to get a seat for the first dinner on Thursday, February 26, head to the modern European eatery's Facebook page, look for a preview of the menu and invite, and be among the first to RSVP.
This week's dinner is the first in a series/social media campaign (#familymeal). Diners are invited to post their own family meal photos using the hashtag, and follow Table's Facebook and Instagram pages for updates and chances to join future sessions.
While glamorized in the food media, family meals can run the gamut from homey, cost-friendly comfort foods (think red curry chicken at the Source) to Sysco's frozen chicken fingers. We're guessing Table's version runs along the lines of the former.
A branch of Bryan Voltaggio’s Family Meal debuts in Ashburn on Wednesday, bringing cheffed-up diner fare to the One Loudoun development. Though similar to the flagship in Frederick, Maryland, and newer Baltimore spinoff, the first Virginia location offers a number of new menu items and desserts, thanks to the recent addition of pastry chef Chris Ford to Voltaggio’s restaurant family (which also includes Volt, Aggio, and Lunchbox).
Certain Family Meal staples aren’t going anywhere, such as the crispy fried chicken, pot pie fritters, and all-day breakfast. Voltaggio and the team added to various parts on the Ashburn menu, all keeping in the theme of comfort fare with a twist. Pepperoni, a Voltaggio favorite, makes two appearances: ground into a crispy crust for spinach and artichoke dip, and folded into a burger patty that’s topped with avocado, pepper jack cheese, and a fried egg. New soups are equally hearty, including a beef chili with charred-lime crema, and a robust take on French onion made with braised short ribs.
That’s not to say the menu caters solely to carnivores. One of the fresh creations is a vegetarian Reuben with smoked, pastrami-spiced beets and the usual accompaniments (kraut, homemade Thousand Island, Swiss) on griddled rye. The kitchen also created its own version of Old Bay spice, called Our Bay, which dusts fries as well as a blue-crab soup with pasta shells. If your sweets quota hasn't been met with a thick shake--virgin or boozy--try one of the chewy oatmeal cream pies or devil's food cake for dessert.
The Ashburn branch will eventually open for early birds at 7 and serve meals seven days a week, but will keep soft-opening hours (see below) for another two weeks. Something else to look forward to: Virginians farther south will get a fourth branch of the diner in late March.
Family Meal. 20470 Exchange St., Ashburn; 703-726-9800. Soft-opening hours: Wednesday through Friday 11 to 10, Saturday and Sunday 10:30 to 10 (breakfast served all day).
Alexandria's Parker-Gray neighborhood is attracting more dining options with the recent additions of Richmond's Sugar Shack doughnut shop and a new home for French bistro Bastille. The newest face: Mason Social, a neighborhood restaurant and bar opening Wednesday from locals Chad and Justin Sparrow, Larry Walston, and Teddy Kim. Here's what to look for at the seasonal American eatery.
The food: Farm-to-pub. Chef Joseph Lennon, most recently a sous chef at Bourbon Steak, creates dishes that often draw from local ingredients and cooking traditions, though in a subtle fashion--the menus aren't filled with farmers' names and "house-made" descriptors. Keeping with the casual neighborhood vibe, you'll find a section of "hold-me-overs" like lamb meatballs and beer-steamed mussels swirled with bone-marrow butter, as well as entrée salads and sandwiches at lunch and dinner--we like the sound of a local beef patty blended with more bone-marrow butter, topped with jack cheese and grilled onions. Diners can also go fancier with entrée like rockfish with winter citrus. A kids' menu, all under $10, caters to the young'uns with chicken fingers or grilled fish.
The drinks: Punchy. Barman Tony Burke came from Clyde's Restaurant Group, and created a lineup of what co-owner Teddy Kim "creeper drinks" ("you don't taste any alcohol but you're definitely feeling it"). Think along the lines of a house vodka-grapefruit punch--served in a Mason jar, natch--or gin and Fever Tree ginger ale with mint and lemongrass syrup. The bar also pours six craft brews, including Alexandria's Port City and a beer from Burke's native Cincinnati.
The name fun fact: The eatery takes its title from Thomson Mason, who was mayor of Alexandria in the early 19th century, back when the town was still an agrarian community. Design cues also come from the surrounding neighborhood and its industrial roots, so exposed brick and pipes aren't just trendy touches.
New to the neighborhood: Late hours. The Parker-Gray area isn't known for its late-night hangouts, but the Mason team is hoping to draw a crowd of night owls. The bar can stay open until 2 AM, Thursday through Saturday, and until midnight Sunday through Wednesday. The kitchen could remain open after dinner, serving a limited bar menu with burgers or chili-spiked fries. Also look for weekend brunch to start soon.
Mason Social. 728 N. Henry St., Alexandria; 703-548-8800. Open Sunday through Wednesday, 11 to midnight; Thursday through Saturday, 11 to 2.
Bad news for anyone craving a taco at 3 AM on a Tuesday. Surfside, which opened a 24-7 stand in Dupont last month in addition to a full-service restaurant in Glover Park, has cut its stall's hours due to the freezing temperatures.
A sign in the window tells patrons that the carryout-only stall will operate Monday through Friday 11 AM to 3 PM, "due to extreme weather conditions." Around-the-clock service is anticipated to resume when it's comfortable to roam the streets in the wee hours again. Stay tuned.
Next up for the lively 14th Street dining scene: Provision No. 14. The American eatery takes over the bilevel building at 14th and V streets, Northwest, which once housed the short-lived Mexican spot Diego. An early April opening is expected.
Co-owners Naeem Mohd, Mike Bramson, and Alex Lopez are behind the concept; Mohd is an industry vet who recently purchased Arlington's Mad Rose Tavern, while Lopez and Bramson came together at Project DC Events. Fitting for the trio's background and business name--the Social Restaurant Group--the new eatery will be a casual spot with a focus on communal dining and drinking. There's plenty of room for both. The first floor of spacious corner building boasts a 57-seat dining room and a large bar, with a seasonal outdoor patio for 60. The upstairs holds yet another bar, with mixed seating for 80 that includes high-top tables and Victorian-style sofas. The design from Swatchroom takes historical cues from the import/export trade—hence the "provision" in the name—with accents like woven jute lanterns, salvaged screen doors, and red metal oil drums.
Fueling the social vibe will be large-format cocktails. Groups can order the wine-sized bottles filled with house concoctions, or go solo with two draft libations or boozy slushies for summer sipping. Beers come in the form of 20 global craft drafts. Food will also be shareable, whether in the form of snacks or daily rotating boards--raw-wood planks bearing an entrée-size portion and sides for splitting. Specific dishes are still in the works as the culinary team comes together.
Stay tuned for more details closer to the opening.
The James Beard Foundation has announced its semifinalists for the 2015 Restaurant and Chef Award categories. The ultimate win is one of the most prestigious accolades in the industry, but even being ranked among the contenders is considered a big honor. This year, 20 local names are among the semifinalists, including Fiola Mare in the Best New Restaurant category, Cedric Maupillier (Mintwood Place) for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, and Ashok Bajaj for Outstanding Restaurateur.
The final nominees will be announced on March 24, and the winners picked in at a ceremony in New York in May. See the full list below.
Best New Restaurant
Mark Furstenberg, Bread Furst
Outstanding Bar Program
Outstanding Wine Program
Johnny Monis, Komi
Ashok Bajaj, the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group
Outstanding Beverage Professional
Rising Star of the Year
Erik Bruner-Yang, Toki Underground
Marjorie Meek-Bradley, Ripple
Best Chef Mid-Atlantic
Anthony Chittum, Iron Gate
Cedric Maupillier, Mintwood Place
Tarver King, The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm (Lovettsville, VA)
Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen (Baltimore)
Cindy Wolf, Charleston (Baltimore)
Best Pastry Chef Mid-Atlantic
Caitlin Dysart, 2941
Melt Shop, a Manhattan-based grilled cheese chainlet, will open its first location outside New York at 1901 L Street, Northwest, on Wednesday. The shop was set to debut Tuesday, but pushed back the opening due to the snowstorm. Thankfully, the place is still planning to celebrate by offering the whole menu at half-price.
The all-day menu is made up of sandwiches, shakes, tater tots, and, of course, tomato soup, plus a few salads for the health-minded. Diners can go classic with American cheese on white bread, or spiffed-up combinations like three cheeses and roasted tomatoes on sourdough, grilled chicken and mozzarella, or a burger melt with caramelized onions and aged cheddar “brick spread” from Wisconsin. For comfort fare, there are two kinds of fried chicken grilled cheeses (we’ve got our eye on the spicy Buffalo-style). Gluten-free bread is also available.
Another big perk of the DC location: beer*. Ask for Melt Hops along with your sandwich, a custom-designed brew from Abita Brewing Company. There's also a line of shakes for non-alcoholic indulging, including flavors like Nutella fluff and Oreo, for truly eating like a kid again.
Melt Shop. 1901 L St., NW; 202-794-8400. Open daily 11 to 8.
* This post has been updated from an earlier version.
When the federal government closes, Washington’s bars and restaurants open up to play. Snow days have become eating and drinking holidays, with free-flowing hot cocktails, all-day happy hours, brunches, and more. We’ll update the list with more deals throughout the day.
1833 14th St., NW
Head over starting at 2 for happy hour prices until 7.
1847 14th St., NW
Saint-Ex opens at 11 for lunch, with happy hour drink prices until 7 and $8 Irish coffees to keep things toasty.
401 F St., NW
Snow days equal all-day happy hour at the ‘cue joint; $3 PBR, $4 house wine, $5 house margaritas ($20 pitchers), and $5 well drinks. You can also warm up with $4 hot chocolate, and make it boozy for an additional $4.
1238 H St., NE
The pub opens early at 11, offering the full dinner menu plus a special egg sandwich to pad the stomach for day drinking (served until 5, when regular evening service begins).
Two branches of Hank’s have specials: the Capitol Hill eatery serves $1.25 oysters all day, while Dupont goes boozy with $9 spiked cocoa. Deals at the Alexandria location are still pending (it's open for dinner only).
1190 22nd St., NW
Keep it classy with a Cherry Snowcap cocktail at the Ritz-Carlton restaurant, made with vanilla-infused vodka, chocolate liqueur, muddled cherries, and rich hot cocoa ($10).
716 Monroe St., NE
Here’s one for the kids: Children eat free when an adult chaperone orders any entrée.
3400 11th St., NW
The sister brewpub to the spot above serves brunch beginning at 10, with homemade cocoa (booze optional). Kids are also welcome—there’s free hot chocolate, coloring books, and games planned for the little ones.
1310 New Hampshire Ave., NW
Heading to the Dupont Circle snowball fight? This nearby restaurant serves grilled cheese and daily soup for $5, and you can add a Bulleit bourbon or rye (served “your way”) and a draft beer for $10.
700 F St., NW
The Penn Quarter brasserie classes up a day off with $15 glasses of Veuve Clicquot.
2121 P St., NW
Drop by for $5 pizzas after the Dupont snowball fight, and two snow-day cocktails: spiked hot chocolate or Amaro punch (both $7).
480 King St., Alexandria
Hungry Alexandrians can head to brunch from 8 to 2:30 or happy hour starting at 11.
1914 Ninth St., NW
As long as the freezing cold endures Dino’s serves a free mug of soup with food purchases, and $6 hot toddies.
3410 11th St., NW
Head in at 11 for snow-day brunch.
301 Water St., SE
Channel a warmer place starting at 11 with $2.50 tacos, $3.50 Corona Lite drafts, and $5 margaritas.
701 Ninth St., NW
Mention it’s a snow day to your server and get half-price bottles of wine all day.
1135 Okie St., NE
Bundle up and come on foot to the new distillery and you’ll get two free shot glasses with any purchase until 2.
Both the College Park and Shaw locations serve all-day happy hour alongside their lineup of tasty fish sandwiches and tacos.
1320 14th St., NW
Whiskey fans can indulge in $5 bourbon flights, $4 pours of select brown liquors, and $6 burgers.
1423 P St., NW
Head in for happy hour all day at the bar and community table.
1200 New Hampshire Ave., NW
It’s all about the beers and bivalves: $6 drafts, and $1 local oysters all day until 7.
1443 P St., NW
A variety of movies are screened on the projector all day, which you can watch alongside $4 spiked cocoa and a Natty Boh combo (served with a shot of whiskey). Padding the stomach are $5 beef and veggie burgers.
1346 T St., NW
The pub opens at noon with special slushy drinks in honor of Fat Tuesday, and a snow day menu.
1500 New Hampshire Ave., NW
This eatery on Dupont Circle brings back their outdoor “snow bar” with mulled wine, Irish coffees, rum-spiked coconut cocoa, and Nutella hot chocolate mixed with caramel vodka.
All locations are open today, with happy hour beginning at noon.
3628 Georgia Ave., NW
Grab a drinking buddy and head to this casual neighborhood bar, where it’s buy-one-get-one-free for all drinks (yes, even the nicer ones) until 9.
901 U St., NW
Mardi Gras + a snow day = $5 hurricanes at the bar starting at 1, and extended happy hour until close.
1940 11th St., NW
The doors of this wine bar open at 5 for happy hour all night long, including 20 wines by the glass and beers for just $5, plus discounted bar snacks.
1625 Eye St., NW
Join the high-rollers for less at this downtown steak joint, which serves half-priced cocktails at the bar all day and night, including a warming Hennessy hot toddy.
2007 18th St., NW
In addition to whiskey, you can warm up with mulled wine and hot bourbon cider from 5 to 7:30 (both $6).
All three branches offer a buy-one-get-one sandwich and soup deal, and Bethesda diners will find half-price bottles of wine.
401 Seventh St., NW
Beat the chill with a few specials at this Mexican spot. Guests can order a $12 combo that includes a citrus margarita, tortilla soup, and Oaxacan hot chocolate, or opt for two half-price entrees: grilled strip steak with bone marrow and chayote salsa verde, or whole marinated branzino.
3815 Georgia Ave., NW
The Petworth spot opens at 2, serving the popular Royale with cheese for $10 and French onion soup for $6. Guests can also take advantage of happy hour until 7:30.