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A cocktail and 'cue spot is headed to Bloomingdale. By Anna Spiegel
DCity Smokehouse takes its crave-worthy 'cue around the corner to the Wicked Bloom Social Club. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Wicked Bloom Social Club, a new spot for cocktails and barbecue, is coming to 1540 North Capitol Street, Northwest from the owners of DCity Smokehouse. Yesterday PopVille picked up word that the ‘cue shop is expanding into the former Subway. Representatives from the restaurant confirmed the project, and shared with us the first details on their new venture.

Though Wicked Bloom will open just around the corner from DCity’s current location in mid-July, the two concepts are separate. DCity is a carryout destination for some of Washington’s best smoked meats and sandwiches, while Wicked Bloom plans to offer tables and a comfortable bar for sipping craft cocktails and local beers. Dishes will riff on the barbecue theme, though aren’t in the same roll-up-your-sleeves category; think smoked chicken liver toasts, peel-and-eat shrimp dipped in creole mustard remoulade, and brisket chili nachos. That being said, DCity customers will be welcome to bring their half-smokes and ribs into Wicked Bloom for seating and drinks, as well as order a limited quantity of barbecue and sides from the bar itself.

Wicked Bloom isn’t the only upcoming project for the team. DCity is scheduled to move into a 35-seat, full-service home nearby at 1700 Second Street, Northwest in nine months to a year; pending city approval, a patio may double the size of the eatery. Once the transition occurs, the Florida Avenue carryout will close.

As for the name Wicked Bloom, the partners chose it as a tribute to the city and the DC flower, the American Beauty Rose. Bloom also nods to the current development and growth in the District. As for wicked? The meaning will become clear once the cocktails are ready.

Posted at 02:19 PM/ET, 06/04/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
We got a look at the process—like everything in Washington, lawyers are involved. By Anna Spiegel
One Eight Distilling releases their first gin, and hosts a bottling party to get it out the door. Photography by Jeff Elkins.

Gin lovers will have a new District-made option as of Friday, June 12, when One Eight Distilling releases its inaugural batch of Ivy City Gin. The American dry gin is named after the Northeast neighborhood where the distillery operates, though not just a tribute; $1 of every bottle sold in DC this year will go to Habitat for Humanity projects in the vicinity.

Just five months ago founders Sandy Wood and Alex Laufer opened the doors with two spirits: Washington’s first local vodka, and an un-aged whiskey, often called white whiskey, or moonshine. After years of testing recipes the gin is finally ready, and the team invited us to the “bottling party,” where a handful of volunteers filled the first 600 glass vessels.*

Volunteers work in a section of the distillery, filling bottles and packing boxes.

Ivy City is the second gin produced in the District post-prohibition; neighboring distillery Green Hat, whose main product is the namesake spirit, opened in 2012. Comparisons are inevitable in a two-gin town, but the products taste entirely different (and not by accident). Laufer, a former biologist, walked us through the process in the production room as dozens of volunteers cleaned bottles, pumped them full of gin from a 600-liter tank, and sealed caps with a heat gun. In true Washington fashion, many of the workers were lawyers looking to blow off steam, paid in cocktails and pizza. As one pointed out, a bottling party is a way to live vicariously through every attorney’s dream: owning a small business.

A 600-liter tank hooked up to a pump system empties in the bottles.

Like most gins, juniper is the primary botanical used in Ivy City. Laufer pointed out eight-pound bags of the berries soaking in One Eight’s vodka, which has more character than most and is made from locally-sourced rye and corn. Nine other spices and herbs are added in the gin distillation, such as lemongrass and fennel, as well as the other primary flavoring agent: spicebush. The native East Coast plant lends peppery, citrusy notes to the gin, and is unique to One Eight’s recipe.

“The challenge was try to come up with a gin that’s cocktail-friendly—both for classic and innovative drinks—but at the same time, we didn’t want to make another Bombay,” says Laufer. “We wanted something that has its own identity, and that could be identifiable.”

Volunteers seal bottles with a heated "gun," readying them for sale in the tasting room, and bars/shops shortly after.

Based on an early taste, mission accomplished. The juniper and spicebush give Ivy City a full-bodied, peppery flavor with hints of citrus, but sips aren’t overwhelmingly pungent. We could easily stir it into a classic martini, drink it on the rocks with tonic, or mix up a gin Rickey in true DC style.

The first bottles will be available on Friday, June 12 in the tasting room ($37 per 750 ml bottle; retail prices may vary). Distribution to restaurants and liquor stores will soon follow, including a first shipment to Montgomery County, where One Eight’s spirits will soon be available. The team plans to celebrate with a release party from 6 to 8, and sell online tickets ($50 per person, including a signed bottle). If your idea of relaxation is more lawyerly, filling and boxing hundreds of bottles, call the distillery for the next chance to volunteer.

One Eight Distilling. 1135 Okie St., NE; 202-636-6638. Open to the public Saturdays from 1 to 4; large groups of 30 or more by appointment.

Drop by the tasting room for a taste of the straight stuff, or order it mixed into a cocktail.
*This post has been updated from an earlier version.

Posted at 11:11 AM/ET, 06/04/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
It's time for ultra-crunchy, double-fried birds. By Anna Spiegel
Korean fried chicken wings from Bonchon still reign king. Photograph by Scott Suchman.


Mutiple locations in MD, VA, DC

We’ll go ahead and say it: Bonchon rules. It’s the crunchiest, stickiest, most addictive Korean fried chicken around. The international chain has mastered double-frying poultry, and perfectly lacquers the birds with spicy or soy-garlic glaze. The quality of other menu items can vary between franchise, but why go if not for the chicken? The first District branch recently opened, meaning even car-less city dwellers can get a taste.

Cheogajip Chicken

4300 Evergreen Ln., Annandale; 13814 Braddock Rd., Centreville

Cheohajip may not have the same ring to it as its two-syllable counterparts—a rough pronunciation is cho-ga-jeep—but there’s no need to speak while stuffing your face. You’ll find a variety of poultry options, including aromatically-spiced fried birds, truly searing “hot and spicy” glazed wings, or a supreme version drizzled with kewpie mayo. Healthier eaters can opt for marinated roast chickens, while on the other end of the spectrum, there’s a bulgogi-topped meat lovers pizza (yum?). Like Bonchon, the eatery is a franchise out of Korea with over a thousand locations worldwide.


400 Florida Ave., NW

Shaw’s mom-and-pop chicken shop double-fries wings and drums in true Korean fashion, ensuring crunchy birds; the two-time treatment also helps the skin stay crisp for delivery, which the eatery offers via Caviar. Pick between three sauces: hot-spicy, soy-garlic, honey-spicy,—we like latter best. The rest of the menu is pretty eclectic, with bibimbap alongside mozzarella sticks.

Mandu late-night

Fried chicken isn’t always on chef Danny Lee’s menu, but he knows when the addictive dish is most needed: late-night at the bar. The kitchen dishes up double-fried wings and drums in the wee hours every night of the week, glazing them with soy-garlic sauce. Round out a meal with the restaurant’s delicious pan-fried dumplings and a cold OB beer. There's a reason why Mandu is a favorite post-work hangout for nearby chefs.

Momo chicken and jazz

This industrial Bethesda joint gets points for creativity—we haven’t come across a KFC with soft jazz tunes playing over the speakers, or one with such an extensive happy hour (hard to go wrong with fried chicken and $9 Bud pitchers). The kitchen practices the traditional double-dip in the fryer, and offers soy-garlic or spicy glazes. One difference: white meat breasts are an option alongside drums and thighs. The menu itself is fairly expansive, offering noodles, grilled dishes, and kid’s options.

Posted at 03:43 PM/ET, 06/03/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus be on the lookout for weekend pop-ups. By Anna Spiegel
Chef Dan O'Brien closes the market, but expands hours for the nightly supper club. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Seasonal Pantry chef Dan O’Brien shares some mixed news—sad for fans of the daytime market in Shaw, but good for anyone looking to snag a seat at his weekly sell-out supper clubs hosted in the same space.

O’Brien says he’s closed the shop due to staffing, time, and space constraints, as the effort to produce jams and fresh pastas, smoked meats and sauces proved too much. At the same time, the nighttime tasting menus will expand to five nights of week, with seatings offered Tuesday through Saturday as of July 1.

“I love having the market, but I’m not going to sacrifice quality,” says O’Brien. “We’re staying focused on cooking, and keeping what we do alive.”

Another factor in the decision is the building’s lease, which ends early next year. O’Brien is still in the process of looking at spaces, and deciding what the next step will be; earlier plans to open an eatery in Washington, Virginia have fallen through. In the meantime a series of informal pop-ups are in the works for daytime hours, where the kitchen might whip up gumbo or smoked chicken sandwiches on Saturday afternoon and send word out over social media, similar to their impromptu fried chicken gatherings. Shoppers will also be able to find Seasonal Pantry dried pastas at shops like Glen's Garden Market.

“I’ll teach myself to do one thing really well, enjoy it, and it have fun with it,” says O’Brien. “Nothing’s really changing. We’re just focusing more on what we’re doing, and keep being better.”

Posted at 11:35 AM/ET, 06/03/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
So long, Merlot-infused pies. By Anna Spiegel
So long, grilled pizza. Photograph courtesy of Pizza Vinoteca.

The fast-casual pizza scene may be booming, but Arlington just lost one option. Pizza Vinoteca served its last Merlot-infused pies last night. The 130-seat eatery opened six months ago in Ballston, specializing in grilled-to-order pizzas and affordable wines by the glass.

This isn’t the first casualty for the aspiring chain. Founder Ari Malcom originally opened the concept in New York City as a high-tech pizzeria equipped with iPads, which shuttered before moving to Washington. Malcom told us that he was scoping other locations in the area when the eatery first opened, though the plan seems unlikely as of now.

Posted at 10:23 AM/ET, 06/03/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Changes in chef Robert Wiedmaier’s empire mean two American spots for Maryland. By Anna Spiegel
Brasserie Beck Kentlands transforms into Boulevard Tavern from chef Robert Wiedmaier. Photograph via Facebook.

It’s been a busy time for restaurateur Robert Wiedmaier. The chef recently debuted two new concepts in Bethesda, the live music venue Villain & Saint, and Asian eatery Urban Heights. Now the RW Restaurant Group announced more plans for Maryland: the official acquisition of Potomac’s Tavern at River Falls, and plans to transform Brasserie Beck Kentlands into a sister American concept, Boulevard Tavern.

River Falls Tavern, as its now known under Wiedmaier, has already experienced a menu overhaul from chef Brian McBride. The kitchen riffs on traditional pub food—a three beef-blend burger, habanero-barbecue wings—as well as creations such as grilled calamari with chorizo and citrus yoghurt, and crab-stuffed oysters. No significant design changes have been made.

McBride and chef Matt Newland, formerly of Wildwood Kitchen, are in the process of creating the Boulevard Tavern menu; the restaurant will remain open as Brasserie Beck during the transition, which is expected to last about a month. The Belgian eatery opened just over a year ago in Montgomery County as a spinoff of the downtown original. Instead of pricier Belgian beers and a raw bar, Boulevard will offer more wallet-friendly options. Though specific lunch and dinner items will be different than River Falls, both menus will share staples like a tavern burger and pot of steamed mussels in hopes of drawing more neighborhood customers. Though aesthetic changes may be made, there's no interior overhaul planned as of now.

Stay tuned for more details on Boulevard as they become available.

Posted at 03:56 PM/ET, 06/02/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Asheville, North Carolina-based eatery brings indulgent options to Courthouse. By Anna Spiegel
Tupelo Honey Cafe brings creative Southern fare, late-night brunch, and massive bloodies to Arlington. Photography courtesy of Tupelo Honey Cafe.

We're accustomed to seeing bacon bloody Marys by now. Roasted yellow tomato bloodies packed with ten different garnishes, including pimento-cheese stuffed olives, grilled shrimp, and pickled jalapeño? Not so much. Welcome Tupelo Honey Cafe, an Asheville, North Carolina-based eatery that just debuted in Courthouse. Like the signature Queen Mary, the Southern fare runs creative and comforting, if not all-out indulgent.

The Queen Mary, a ten-garnish bloody.

The Arlington branch is the newest for the Southern chainlet, with nine other locations in Tennessee and the Carolinas. Certain signatures travel across the board, such as fried green tomatoes, crispy buttermilk chicken, a and shrimp n’ goat cheese grits. Arlington’s 202-seat spot boasts several new additions, tailored to the DC market—so yes, happy hour and Southern small plates. On the snacking side you’ll find dishes like Tennessee ham wontons, mini crab cakes, and pulled pork-stuffed Appalachian egg rolls. A few of the plates go for $6 during happy hour, alongside $3 drafts, and “Ode to Eleanor Roosevelt” sparkling sangria on tap—more of a nod to the restaurant’s Washington location than ER’s love for sangria and/or kegged cocktails (we pegged her as a barrel-aged Negroni gal).

Night owls will be partial to “moonrise brunch,” served on Friday and Saturday nights from 10 pm to 1 am. The kitchen plans to serve more small plates of the breakfast variety, such bacon-biscuit sliders, chorizo-egg tacos, and pain perdue. Drinkers will find sparkling cocktails and DIY Old Fashioneds. Should you need a hangover-cure brunch after late-night brunch, the “shoo mercy cheesy grill” should do the trick—a monster sourdough grilled cheese stuffed with melty havarti and pimento, caramelized onions, maple-pepper bacon, smoked ham, and fried green tomatoes. The dish is served with a mug of soup, because, you know, fries would be over the top.

Look for lunch and dinner at Tupelo alongside the two brunches, as well as a kid’s menu for all hours.

Tupelo Honey Cafe. 1616 N. Troy St., Arlington; 703-253-8140. Open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Thursday, 11 to 11; Friday and Saturday 11 to 1; Sunday 11 to 10. Brunch served Saturday and Sunday, 9 to 3. Happy hour Monday through Thursday, 4 to 7. Reservations accepted, and free parking after 6.

Posted at 01:28 PM/ET, 06/02/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
An outdoor beer garden, classic cocktail den, and spot for wine by the jug. By Anna Spiegel
The Speak pours classic, unfussy drinks like a Moscow mule with homemade ginger beer and plenty of crushed ice. Photograph courtesy of the Speak.

The Speak

1413 K St., NW (downstairs entrance)

We know, another speakeasy, but thankfully former One Lounge owner Seth McClelland doesn’t rely on cliches: no rules, no hidden phone number, and vermouth-haters can opt for Tecate cans spiked with lime and house-made hot sauce (he recently lived in Mexico). That’s not to say the unmarked, subterranean bar below K Street forgoes all prohibition-era whimsy. The low-lit, 100-seat space centers around small-batch liquors, house-made ingredients, and classic drinks like the Moscow mule. They’re just trying to avoid being precious about it. As McClelland says, “We don’t have Grey Goose, but if you want a vodka soda, we’d be happy to serve you a vodka soda.”

Open Tuesday through Friday, 5 pm to 2 am; Saturday 10 pm to 3 am.

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Posted at 01:54 PM/ET, 05/29/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
It's the same as the Orioles wine. And the Minnesota Twins wine. By Anna Spiegel

Call it a swing-and-a-miss for Nats drinkers. Major League Baseball Properties just announced the launch of a Washington Nationals brand wine, created through a partnership with Wine by Design. The only problem: nothing about it, besides the label, really says Washington.

Photograph courtesy of Wines by Design.

According to a press release, the 18 wines created for teams in the American and National league are “tailored for each team market.” What does that mean for Washington? Very little. The Nationals 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is made with grapes from California’s Central Coast—no Virginia Cab Franc?— and the wine itself seems to be identical to the Baltimore Orioles Cab, according to details on the Bounty Hunter website. Huh. Geographical coincidence? Nope, looks like the Minnesota Twins have the same wine as well.

At least Washington's blurb is different, though it employs all the usual Beltway cliches: traffic angst (solution: drink wine), serious Capitol Hill business (blah, drink more wine). What can we say? High-powered, stressed-out Washingtonians just like their wine, though the baseball varietal comes at a price: $60 for a three-pack, or roughly the price of five tickets to a weekday Nats game.

Still in search of liquid Nats pride? Try beer. DC’s Atlas Brew Works created the 1500 South Cap Lager exclusively for Nationals Park, a pale brew made with summer ballpark drinking in mind. Boston-based Sam Adams also partnered with the team for the Nats Anniversary IPA, sold only at the Red Porch and a few other spots in the stadium.

Maybe the Nats should just steer clear of wine. And for that matter, ladies’ night.

Posted at 01:39 PM/ET, 05/28/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Talking two decades of cooking in Washington, and what it means to be a chef today. By Anna Spiegel
Ann Cashion and John Manolatos celebrate 20 years of Cashion's Eat Place.

Cashion’s Eat Place celebrates a landmark two decades on Tuesday—an anniversary that few Washington restaurants have achieved, let alone at their status. The Adams Morgan institution continues to excel and remain relevant, even as its peers fade, and new restaurants sprout up across the city.

The restaurant's lineage is unusual in and of itself: chef Ann Cashion and business partner John Fulchino opened the doors in 1995, and hired current co-owners Justin Abad and chef John Manolatos, who was just a novice cook when Cashion began training him during the restaurant’s debut. Abad and Manolatos took over in 2007, preserving Cashion’s name and cooking philosophy.

We sat down with Cashion and Manolatos as they prepared to celebrate 20 years with a collaborative dinner. More than a look back, the pair offered insights into how Washington restaurants operate today—the danger of compromise, the difficulty of sourcing locally (yes, even in 2015), and how to create a restaurant that’s built to last decades.

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Posted at 02:24 PM/ET, 05/27/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()