The Mexican-themed Agua 301 just opened on the Capitol Riverfront in December, but a new chef has already taken over. As first noted on DonRockwell.com, opening toque Antonio Burrell has left the kitchen. A spokesperson for the restaurant tells us a replacement has already been found: Will Vivas, formerly the executive chef at Recess Tapas Lounge. Vivas took the helm last Tuesday.
Before coming to Washington, the Venezuelan-born chef ran Vivas restaurant in Belmar, New Jersey. He’ll keep much of Agua’s menu the same—those pork-belly tacos aren’t going anywhere—but diners will also find a number of changes, including more South American dishes inspired by Vivas’s cooking background.
Welcome to the Great Sandwich Smackdown! Each day we’ll pit one of Washington’s 16 top sandwich spots against another, and it’s up to you to determine who goes into the final rounds. We’re starting off strong here, folks: longtime Shaw favorite Sundevich is up against the popular DGS Delicatessen.
We’ve randomly selected the battling shops, so judging these two may feel like comparing apples and oranges—or, in this case, Cubans and Reubens. Our advice: Go with your (likely rumbling) gut. The best sandwiches appeal to our more animalistic eating urges and draw fierce loyalties with their messy-in-the-best-way deliciousness. Today’s contenders prove the point. One the one side you have Sundevich’s craveable baguettes stuffed with a global array of ingredients, from jerk chicken in the Kingston to the Havana’s roast pork, Gruyère, and pickles. (As one reader commented, “It’s like eating a baby angel.”) On the other side is DGS, which offers house-made, thick-cut corned beef and pastrami that have Washingtonians rethinking deli meat, as well as other standouts such as crispy falafel and whitefish salad.
It’s time to decide who proceeds to the next round. Voting closes at 5 daily, and we’ll announce the winner the following day. If you haven’t filled out your bracket yet, make sure to do so now. May the tastiest sandwich win!
Announcing: The Great Sandwich Smackdown
If there’s a silver lining to some serious flakes falling on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s all the restaurant and bar specials that come along with the snow. We’ll update the list throughout the day, where you’ll find plenty of St. Paddy’s wintry fun.
301 Water St., SW
Sip discount margaritas during all-day happy hour.
425 I St., NW
Drink away your March-snow-day blues with half-price wine all day.
1819 Columbia Rd., NW
The Adams Morgan spot opens at 2 with a chicken soup special, plus $5 beers and rails, $7 cocktails, half-price wine by the glass, and 30 percent off bottles.
777 I St., NW
Belly up the bar for all-day happy hour.
1704 Connecticut Ave., NW
The Dupont location offers a sweet combination: $5 for a hot chocolate and dulche de leche cookie.
5120 MacArthur Blvd., NW
Head in for a comforting dinner of duck-leg confit, olive mashed potatoes, and a mixed green salad ($26).
2201 14th St., NW
Snow Patrick’s Day specials include $7 Irish coffee and $12 corned-beef-and-cabbage sandwiches.
1238 H St., NE
The H Street favorite opens at noon for pots of mussels and more at lunch.
1200 New Hampshire Ave., NW
The Foggy Bottom spot opens late (at 4 versus 11), but you’ll find drink specials all evening.
3115 14th St., NW
Hot and cold Irish-style drinks are the name of the St. Paddy’s/snow-day game: Irish hot chocolate spiked with Bailey’s hazelnut and pints of Conway’s Irish ale ($6). Order a sidecar of Tullamore Dew for just $3 more.
410 Seventh St., NW
Specials start at 11:30 with $4 Shiner Bock beers, $20 pitchers of margaritas, and pit-smoked wings. Regular happy hour starts at 3.
480 Seventh St., NW
Look for a lunch combo of a bocata sandwich with a cup of soup and either Spanish coffee or sangria for $12. Otherwise all-day specials include $9 Spanish coffees spiked with whiskey and Liquor 43.
1423 P St., NW
Half-price beer, an Irish quiz, and all-day food-and-drink specials are all part of the festivities.
405 Eighth St., NW
Find free hot chocolate in the market.
1600 K St., NW
In addition to the planned lineup of St. Patrick’s Day festivities, you’ll find specials such as $5 Jameson shots, pints of Guinness, and Irish coffees.
555 Eighth St., NW
Monday brunch time! Head over for the Bloody Mary bar, bottomless mimosas, and happy hour all day.
2047 Ninth St., NW
After checking out earlier happy hours, head to this spot behind the 9:30 Club at 5 for $5 Overholt and $3 PBR.
701 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Even if you’re not headed to the Kennedy Center for a show you can try the three-course pre-theater dinner all night ($34 per person), or snag a tummy-warming glass of port for 50 percent off.
Shake Shack (Dupont, Penn Quarter)
1216 18th St., NW; 800 F St., NW
While it’s not technically a snow-day-only special, today is perfect for snagging the chain’s green-and-white St. Patrick’s Day treat: Irish fries topped with horseradish cream, scallions, and crispy bacon.
1370 Park Rd., NW
Snow-day specials such as half-price beer and wine and $4 spiked coffees join St. Paddy’s day offers including vegan stout cupcakes and bourbon-pecan sandwich cookies.
1818 14th St., NW
Ted’s gets into the St. Patrick’s snow day spirit with green coconut-covered snowballs.
2121 P St., NW
Look for happy hour from 4 to close.
701 Ninth St., NW
Booze it up with half-price wine at lunch and dinner.
Dolcezza (Mosaic District)
2905 District Ave., Fairfax
The Fairfax location combines a hot chocolate and dulche de leche cookie for $5.
2800 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington
Warm up with all-day happy hour and drink specials.
2250-A Crystal Dr., Arlington
Specials include squash soup and chicken atop Catalan spinach (both $9).
3017 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington
Those who make their way to the restaurant will find half-price pizzas all day.
3181 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
It’s all fun and games with free shuffleboard and pool, plus all-day happy hour starting at noon.
2190 Pimmit Dr., Falls Church
Warm up with atole de fresa, a special masa-based hot drink with fresh strawberries ($3).
4301 N. Fairfax Dr., Arlington
The eatery will be closed for lunch, but the bar opens at 4 with the Nosh menu available, plus a clam chowder special and St. Patrick’s chocolate stout cakes. Dinner starts at 5:30.
7111 Bethesda La., Bethesda
Spend $5 and get both a hot chocolate and a dulce de leche cookie.
7271 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda
All-day happy hour!
962 Wayne Ave., Silver Spring
Half-price whole pizzas all day (dine-in only).
Calling all competitive food lovers: Your March Madness is about to begin. Each year Best Bites Blog picks a popular dish and pits local purveyors against one another to establish a victor in the category. Last year fried dough flew as doughnuts went round for round in the Great Doughnut Derby, with Mac’s Donuts, emerging triumphant. This year’s tournament promises to be even more exciting.
Washingtonians have long proved their love for sandwiches, whether in the form of a breakfast “brick” at Market Lunch, midday pastrami from DGS, or a Ray’s to the Third steak and cheese come dinnertime. Established spots like the Italian Store have maintained a loyal following through the decades, while newcomers such as Red Apron are pushing the sandwich scene to new heights. So who makes the best? We’ve narrowed down a list of 16 of the most popular sandwich-makers so you can pick a winner.
We know sandwiches are a little like children—it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite. This list certainly isn’t reflective of every great bread-bound dish in Washington (if it were, we’d be running the competition into May). We’ve simply picked a range of cuisines and styles that are reflective of the area’s great offerings.
Each weekday beginning Monday, March 17, we’ll publish a post pitting two eateries against each other until a winner emerges in the final rounds. Fill out your bracket, then vote each day in our online poll. The winner will get bragging rights, as their title of Sandwich King or Queen will be posted on our website and social media.
May the best sandwich win!
Burger Américain at Le Diplomate
I’ve heard Ann Limpert rave about the burger for months and finally tried it this week during dinner there. It was every bit as delicious as she’s said: two thin patties, melty cheese, pickles, mayo, and onions, all with a generous helping of more pommes frites than you’d ever want. I both couldn’t wait to finish it—and never wanted it to end. I have a new favorite burger in DC.
Tofu kitfo, mushroom wat, and mushroom dulet at Kitty Nebiyeloul’s house (a.k.a. home of the International Fund for Africa), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
I’m going with a meal this time.
So many things about my dinner at my friend Kitty Nebiyeloul’s house last week were revelatory. (And a very big thank you, Kitty, for making your beautiful, soft-lit home an oasis for me, and collapsing those 7,000-plus miles in a shot.)
Kitty cooks what she calls vegan Ethiopian fusion. Take a moment to chew on that. Ethiopian cooking is built heavily upon butter and meat. You might think that to eliminate both components is to cut out the soul of the cuisine. Not at all, it turns out.
What Kitty has done is to change the delivery systems, while preserving—and in a way, asserting—the enduring foundation of these dishes: their spicing and saucing.
For instance, her dish tofu kitfo begins with a fine dice of tofu to approximate the machete-chopped texture of raw beef. She sautés the tiny white bits in olive oil and layers in the spices, including khosseret and korerema. Voilà!—all the punch of a properly spiced kitfo, but none of the heaviness.
I loved her mushroom wat, which uses shiitake mushrooms instead of the expected strips of lamb or beef. The strong, earthy taste of the mushrooms comes through clearly, but what’s even better is that there’s none of the chewiness or toughness that you tend to find in most meat-based wats, where the cheap cuts of meats often overcook in the thick, brick-red sauce. And the sauce is the thing—the heady, berbere-stoked sauce. Kitty’s is vivid, hot, and complex.
There’s one more dish from this meal I want to mention: her dulet. A mushroom dulet. Shiitakes again, this time roughly ground in a food processor. Dulet is a hard dish for many Americans to take; the liver and tripe are strong, not easily masked flavors. Kitty’s version lacks that pronounced offal funk, though shiitakes come about as close as any vegetable can. And—even more of a surprise—their ropy fibrousness pretty ingeniously approximates the texture of the tripe. I love the double kick of this dish: the insistent and warming heat of the berbere and the jab-punch of the chopped jalapeños.
Of all the many meals I ate on my travels in Ethiopia the past couple of weeks, Kitty’s was by far the most eye-opening. And the most delicious.
Lamb burger at Food Wine and Co.
As is common at so many restaurants these days, from CityZen on down to the Cheesecake Factory, the menu at this earth-toned Bethesda bistro veers in so many directions it’s hard to know where to look. For appetizers alone we had a charcuterie board laden with bresaola and other meats, salmon tartar with tzatziki, fried artichokes atop an eggy gribiche, and sweet potatoes done up with Indian-inspired tamarind and yogurt sauces. The nice thing is, chef Michael Harr is sure-handed with most of it, and the spread didn’t taste as cacophonous together as it sounds.
The best part of dinner looked to yet another part of the world for its influence: the lamb burger. It’s probably the juiciest version I’ve ever had, and what really makes it are its accents—tangy, spicy tomato-harissa jam, cooling cilantro and garlic mayo, and bright, peppery arugula. It was so delicious I barely noticed the tasty-looking red-curry mussels to the right of me and the mushroom/chèvre pizza to the left.
Previous Best Things I Ate
Looking for a St. Patrick’s Day sip beyond Jameson shots? Start exploring the greater world of Irish whiskey, which just like American bourbon comes in an array of styles, flavors, and price points. We asked Jack Rose owner and brown-liquor guru Bill Thomas to share his personal recommendations, from affordable sipping whiskeys to rarer, more celebratory drams. You’ll find bottle recommendations for celebrating at home as well as several by-the-glass pours should you explore the bar’s deep whiskey collection.
For cocktail fans, Jack Rose barkeep Trevor Frye devised a special concoction with lightly sweet Bushmills Irish Honey, available at most liquor stores. The Leap-Day Libation, as Frye calls it, reflects the flavors of the Irish coast: earthy whiskey, citrus, and a touch of salt to mimic the ocean air.
TIPPLING AT HOME
Everyday sipping whiskey: Jameson Black Barrel (around $35 per bottle)
“It’s got a darker, richer, earthier character to it after being aged in flame-charred bourbon barrels,” says Thomas. “It’s slightly more complex than your typical Jameson.”
Celebratory sips: Redbreast 12 Year (around $55 to $60 per bottle)
“Redbreast is one of the few single-malt pot-still Irish whiskeys on the market,” says Thomas. “This one is constantly winning accolades. I like the cask-strength version better, but this one is great and accessible.”
Irish whiskey for bourbon fans: Knappogue Castle 14-Year (around $60 per bottle)
“This Knappogue is 14 years old, with a nice, bigger mouthfeel and a cereal malty quality,” says Thomas. “It’s aged in both bourbon and sherry casks.”
SIPPING IN THE BAR
Everyday sipping whiskey: Knappogue Castle 1995 ($19 for two ounces)
“It’s a very pretty sipping whiskey,” says Thomas, pointing out that it’s also somewhat affordable for a rare find. “Once these 1995 vintage bottles are gone, they’re gone forever. You might be able to find a couple straggling bottles in liquor stores around town, but it’ll never be available again.”
Celebratory sips: Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy ($49 for two ounces)
“This special-edition whiskey has been aged for a minimum of 22 years in both bourbon and new American oak barrels” says Thomas. “Only 2,500 bottles were released—it came out in 2010 and was named for the master distiller—and because of that, it’s pretty pricey.”
For the wine lover: Tyrconnell Irish single-malt whiskeys finished in either Port, Sherry, or Madeira casks (each $18 for two ounces)
“When branching out to whiskey, wine lovers tend to go for whiskeys aged in wine barrels,” says Thomas. “They impart familiar flavors in each whiskey, such as a sweeter taste from a Port cask. Tyrconnell first ages its whiskeys in seasoned oak for ten years, and then finishes them in each of the different wine casks for six to eight months.”
For the Scotch lover: Connemara cask-strength peated ($22 for two ounces)
“Connemara, distilled by Cooley, makes an Irish whiskey that’s heavily peated, something you rarely see,” says Thomas. “In addition to the natural peat found in the soil, Connemara uses peat smoke to add a heavier flavor, which appeals to Scotch lovers. I love my whiskey at cask strength, which means it goes from barrel to bottle without being diluted or chill-filtered, so this whiskey is 58.9 ABV [alcohol by volume].”
Not ready to sip whiskey straight? Try this simple yet impressive cocktail for the holiday.
The Leap-Day Libation
Makes 1 drink
¾ ounce lemongrass-cinnamon syrup (see recipe below)
1½ ounces Bushmills Irish Honey
½ ounce lemon juice
2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters
Pinch of sea salt
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Double-strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with an orange peel and cherries.
4 stalks lemongrass
6 cinnamon sticks
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Heat sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Steep the lemongrass and cinnamon sticks for approximately 30 minutes. Strain and chill. The syrup can be made up to a week in advance.
Happy Friday, food truck followers! Celebrate the end of the week by heading out for barbecue chicken meatballs from Ball or Nothing, plantain lasagna with rice and beans aboard Borinquen Lunch Box, and apple cider doughnut bites at Mama's Donut Bites.
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.
St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Monday this year, which isn’t all bad news: Many celebrations start tomorrow and last through the actual holiday on March 17. Want to avoid the green-beer-chugging collegiate crowd? Plenty of bars and restaurants offer all-day happy hours, whiskey tastings, and special dishes for more adult revelry.
Pappy Van Winkle dinner at Bourbon Steak
2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
While Pappy bourbon isn’t Irish, this dinner is sure to please true brown-liquor lovers. Guests will sip five different vintages of Pappy Van Winkle, including Reserve and years 10 through 23, each paired with a course from chef John Critchley ($300 per person). Reservations required.
When: Monday, March 17, 6 PM
Live music and menu specials at the Brixton
901 U St., NW
Keep your fingers crossed for rooftop weather and head over for live music from the band Black Masala and plenty of food and cocktail specials.
When: Monday, March 17
Live music and Irish fare at Café Dupont
1500 New Hampshire Ave., NW
This hotel spot on Dupont Circle sets the mood with live Irish music on Saturday (1 to 10), and special cocktails and dishes such as fish and chips, Guinness-braised short ribs, and chocolate whiskey cake.
When: Saturday, March 15, through Monday, March 17
Mexican-inspired St. Paddy’s at El Chucho
3313 11th St., NW
Why not? Head in for a south-of-the-border spin on bangers and mash with chorizo, garlic-cilantro potatoes, and pork jus. You won’t find green beer, but naturally green margaritas are part of the all-night happy hour on Monday, along with $4 shots of Jameson.
When: Sausage special starts Friday, March 14; all-night happy hour runs Monday, March 17
Whiskey tasting and all-day happy hour at Jack Rose
2007 18th St., NW
Whiskey haven Jack Rose opens its terrace on Monday from 11 to close for revelry, including specials like $5 pints of Guinness, Jameson-spiked tea punch, and pours of whiskey. Colcannon cakes, fish and chips, and Irish-cheddar burgers are available for noshing. Serious whiskey connoisseurs can head down to the cellar from 6 to 8 for a first come, first served tasting of unusual Irish whiskeys and hors d’oeuvres ($40 per person).
When: Monday, March 17
Laid-back eats at Kelly’s Irish Times
14 F St., NW
This Capitol Hill institution is well-known amongst Irish pub fans, but thankfully you won’t find green kegs. Look for a special list of whiskeys, as well as eats such as Guinness stew and corned beef and cabbage. Another perk: no cover.
When: Friday, March 14, through Monday, March 17
All-day happy hour and eats at P.J. Clarke’s
1600 K St., NW
Listen to music from the DC Fire Department’s Emerald Society Pipe and Drum Corps while noshing on Irish stew and corned beef and cabbage. Happy hour runs from 2:45 to close with deals like $5 Jameson, Guinness, and Irish coffee and bar bites including the popular Irish egg rolls and Bailey’s cheesecake. Perk: $1,884 is the big prize in the day’s raffle.
When: Monday, March 17
Kegs, eggs, and more at the Limerick Pub
11301 Elkin St., Wheaton
Drop by this wee pub for kegs and eggs on Sunday morning and an à-la-carte Irish breakfast on Monday. A special menu includes classics like fish and chips and corned beef.
When: Sunday, March 16, and Monday, March 17
All-day happy hour at Logan Tavern
1423 P St., NW
Drink discounts last all day and night at this P Street spot, which offers specialty cocktails ($5 to $12) such as Irish coffee and apple vodka-based Emerald Isle Punch, plus half-price draft beers and food specials like fish and chips and mini sausage rolls. There’s also an Irish-themed quiz with a gift card prize.
When: Monday, March 17
Breakfast at Ri Ra Georgetown
3123-3125 M St., NW
Stop in for a traditional Irish breakfast on your way to work at the new Georgetown branch of this pub chain, which starts serving at 7. The festivities last all day with a corned beef and cabbage special, $6 Guinness cocktails, and plenty of live entertainment.
When: Festivities are ongoing through Monday, March 17
Irish date night at Society Fair
277 S. Washington St., Alexandria
If you’re craving recipes from chef Cathal Armstrong’s new cookbook, My Irish Table, there’s no need to break out the pots and pans. Pick up a “date-night bag” with dishes made from the book, including corned beef and parsley sauce, braised cabbage, Guinness, and more ($49 for two). A copy of the cookbook can be included.
When: Friday, March 14, through Monday, March 17
For our March issue, we asked Seasonal Pantry chef Dan O’Brien to create his dream breakfast sandwich and share the recipe. He delivered way beyond eggs and bacon: a crispy, spicy, drippy-in-the-best-way-possible fried chicken sandwich, stacked on a whole loaf of brioche and topped with fried eggs, blue cheese, and locally made Gordy’s pickles. We’ve been craving it ever since.
O’Brien doesn’t typically churn these out at his Shaw market, but after dozens of calls and Twitter requests once the recipe went live this morning, he’s making an exception. Starting Friday, customers can call Seasonal between 10 and noon to preorder the limited-supply sandwiches for $12 each (up to four per person). Nearly everything will be the same as pictured, though the size will be pared down to individual brioche buns instead of whole, shareable loaves. The hot hot chicken, a Tennessee classic, takes a day to marinate in buttermilk and spices, so orders will be available for pickup at a set time on Sunday, starting at noon. O’Brien will also brew peach iced tea made from fruits he froze last summer to sip with your meal.
If you miss out this weekend, don’t worry. O’Brien plans to team up with Blue Duck Tavern pastry chef Naomi Gallego in April for a riff on the hot hot chicken loaf, this time made with savory doughnuts. Stay tuned for more details.