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Fresh options for dining and drinking. By Anna Spiegel
Do the fondue at Jack Rose's new happy hour. Photograph via Shutterstock.

Boss Shepherd's jumps into the weekend brunch game

513 13th St., NW

Sunday marks the first brunch for the American eatery, and it's launching with some fanfare: live jazz and a free glass of Champagne for the first 50 guests. Dishes like a waffle, egg, and cheese sandwich or fried-oyster omelet can be ordered à la carte, or you can go for a $35 prix-fixe that includes two brunch cocktails, an appetizer, and a main.

Brunch begins at Summer House Santa Monica

11825 Grand Park Ave., North Bethesda

Chef Jeff Mahin launches Saturday and Sunday brunch at his California coast-inspired eatery, serving from 8 to 4. Health-conscious diners will find options like an egg-white omelet with tomato-avocado salsa, though there're still splurges such as French toast and a breakfast burrito. Diners on the run can pick up the full menu at the restaurant's market.

Saturday brunch launches at Barrel

613 Pennsylvania Ave., SE

Get an extra day of brunchtime fun at this Capitol Hill whiskey joint, which starts serving the meal on both Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 to 4. Hearty dishes include biscuits and burnt honey, bourbon-apple flapjacks, and grits and eggs with fried duck confit.

Grab fondue by the fire at Jack Rose

2007 18th St., NW

The whiskey bar embraces the cold weather with a fondue happy hour in the upstairs balcony room, equipped with a gas fireplace. Drop by Sunday through Wednesday 5 to 10, for $6 hot cocktails, $7 whiskeys, special barrel-aged beers, and a lineup of sweet and savory fondues like truffled cheddar with marinated mushrooms for dunking, or chocolate s'mores ($12 to $18).

Try Fish Fridays at DC Coast

1401 K St., NW

Every day is a seafood day at this restaurant, but chef Jeff Tunks serves special whole-fish dishes on Fridays during Lent. Market options can include local black bass with Tabasco beurre blanc and potatoes, or Veracruz-style snapper with saffron rice and vegetables (market price, $38 to $45).

Posted at 12:40 PM/ET, 02/27/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every morning, we'll let you know where to find lunch on wheels. By Emily Codik

Happy Friday, food truck followers! Kick off the weekend with a spicy smoked-gouda pizza from DC Slices, peanut butter cup cookies at Captain Cookie, or chicken Parm aboard CapMac.

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Posted at 09:58 AM/ET, 02/27/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The first export for the Chicago brewpub brings 90 draft beers and a giant patio to Gaithersburg. By Anna Spiegel
The Old Town Pour House opens in Gaithersburg with 90 draft beers and brew-friendly eats. Photography by Jeff Elkins.

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 90 drafts include 85 craft brews, including a number of local names, and five old favorites like Bud Light.

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.

An all-day menu includes Midwestern-style eats like mini Chicago dogs and pretzels with beer cheese dipping sauce.

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.

Guests can linger late, with the bar open until 2 AM daily and a late-night menu served until 11 or midnight.

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.

Posted at 03:52 PM/ET, 02/26/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Stave off the first-day munchies with gratis flame-broiled poultry. By Noah Weiland

The best sauce to use on your chicken at Nando's Peri-Peri is the lemon and herb.

Today between 4:20 and 5:20 PM, the Portuguese-by-way-of-South-Africa chicken chain's four DC locations are running a promotion in celebration of a different kind of herb: Any dine-in customer will receive a complimentary quarter chicken, sandwich, pita, or wrap. If the timing doesn't make it obvious, this is how Nando's is applauding the District's new legalization of marijuana.

Everything else on the menu, including sides, will be regular price. And remember to leave the pot at home—Initiative 71 only allows consumption in private residences, not places of business or other public venues.

The restaurant boasts today that "where there's smoke, there's fire." While the chain won't be offering free pot as one of the sides, it's safe to assume the people rushing over to Nando's later this afternoon will find it easier than ever to satisfy their other craving.

Whether or not you're planning on a post-poultry blunt, free meals from Nando's should attract the hordes. This is, after all, the chicken that only yesterday inspired Kanye West to stand up on a table at one of the company's many London joints.

Posted at 01:51 PM/ET, 02/26/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every morning, we'll let you know where to find lunch on wheels. By John Scarpinato

Happy Thursday, food truck followers! Don't let the snow keep you cooped up in the office. Grab some Buffalo mac and cheese from CapMac or turkey kafta at Kafta Mania.

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Posted at 09:59 AM/ET, 02/26/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
An American bar-restaurant from the Ghibellina team debuts beneath the Italian eatery. By Anna Spiegel
Sotto brings live jazz, smoked meats, and classic cocktails to 14th Street. Photography by Amir Lowery (courtesy of Sotto).

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.

Communal seating throughout includes a bar fashioned out of a single piece of wood.

Communal seating

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.

Look for live blues and jazz nightly once the space is up and running.

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:

Right Away

rye / amaro / cardaramo

Groover

gin / pineapple juice / dolin blanc / cocchi

Trolley Car

spiced rum / blood orange / angustura

Suit and Tie

vodka, ginger / sweet and sour /angostura

Ed Ellington

scotch / lillet rose / cranberry / orange

Jack Rose

brandy / combier / lime / apple bitters

Sparkling Cocktail
prosecco / plum bitters / sugar


Sample Food Menu:

Snacks:

Ball Park Peanuts & Popcorn

Chili | Lime | Sea Salt

Pretzel Monkey Bread

Apple Mustard

Sotto Potato

Provolone | Chives

Appetizers:

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

Sausages:

Blanc

Accompanied by Figs Poached in Red Wine

Merguez

Accompanied by Curried Cauliflower, Capers and Raisins

Cotechino

Accompanied by Woodfire Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Smoked Meats:

Beef Ribs

Pork Ribs

Beef Brisket

Dinners:

Crispy Local Fish

Roasted Poussin

Parsnip | Mustard Seeds | Persimmons

Sides:

Braised Kale

Marble Potato Salad

Fennel Gratin

Sweets:

Poached Apple

Popcorn | Molasses Gateau | Caramel Ice Cream

Banana Bread

Candied Pecans | Dulce de Leche | Chocolate

Lemon Curd

Pistachio Crumble | Mint Jelly | Crispy Merengue

Posted at 03:33 PM/ET, 02/25/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A different kind of pop-up launches Thursday at the Shaw restaurant. By Anna Spiegel
Table invites diners to be a part of the restaurant's pre-shift family meal (though we're guessing these ricotta fritters won't be among the offerings). Photograph by Scott Suchman.

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.

Posted at 11:29 AM/ET, 02/25/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Chef Bryan Voltaggio's diner expands with new menu items.  By Anna Spiegel
Bryan Voltaggio opens the third branch of Family Meal in Ashburn. Photograph courtesy of Family Meal.

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.

Fried chicken (above, from the Frederick location) remains a diner staple. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

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).

Posted at 10:43 AM/ET, 02/25/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every morning, we'll let you know where to find lunch on wheels. By Emily Codik

Happy Wednesday, food truck followers! Fight the cold with warming dishes like shrimp and grits from RockSalt, truffled mac and cheese crepes from Crepe Love, or cornbread from BBQ Bus.

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Posted at 10:05 AM/ET, 02/25/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Bone-marrow burgers, house punch, and more of what you'll find at Alexandria's newest gastropub. By Anna Spiegel
Mason Social brings a casual ambience and killer cocktails to Alexandria's Parker-Gray neighborhood. Photography courtesy of Mason Social.

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.

Gastropub fare like a bone-marrow burger and beer-steamed mussels fill the menu.

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.

The space can stay open until 2 on weekend nights.

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.

Posted at 02:12 PM/ET, 02/24/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()