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Crispy chicken sliders and bulgogi wraps will go national. By Anna Spiegel
Bonchon Hyattsville debuts with addictive fried chicken and new menu items. Photograph courtesy of Bonchon.

Good news for Bonchon fans: The Korean fried-chicken chain debuts a Hyattsville location today. The branch is the tenth for the greater Washington area, with the first District eatery set for next year.

While addictive crispy birds are Bonchon's standard, menus vary by franchise. Business partners Jing Sheng Huang and Xuan Huang-Fu, who are behind the Hyattsville location, offer Asian-fusion dishes as well as beer, wine, and cocktails. A number of new items developed at the Bonchon headquarters are also available, and will eventually be offered in most US locations. These include fried calamari, spiced fries, bulgogi wraps, and sliders stuffed with either crispy chicken or marinated, grilled beef. 

The new restaurant is located in the University Town Center, next door to Regal Royale Stadium 14 Theatre. With Gone Girl debuting there Thursday, it looks like your weekend dinner-and-a-movie plans are set. 

Posted at 01:46 PM/ET, 10/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Remembering the groundbreaking restaurant before its troubled closure. By Todd Kliman
Kushi has closed, but its legacy lives on. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Kushi, the enterprising Mount Vernon sushi restaurant, closed this week, and much of the response in the food world has been to focus on the legal troubles of owner Darren Norris

Norris’s troubles seem long; we won’t get into them here. But his swift rise and fall is stunning. No one has been watching this saga more attentively than we have. In 2011, we selected Norris as Restaurateur of the Year—a fact that Don Rockwell, on his eponymous DC restaurant website, was quick to point out.

Rockwell's post appears to serve a dual purpose—to highlight the chef/owner’s tumbling fortunes, and also to snark the magazine for awarding a huge honor to a chef who has exited the scene while other, deserving restaurateurs endure.

Norris might not be deserving of sympathy for not paying his bills, but Kushi is deserving of its due. 

In choosing a Restaurateur of the Year, we are essentially aiming to throw attention toward someone who is changing the scene for the better. Kushi did that, helping to usher in the izakaya trend that has resulted in Izakaya Seki, Toki Underground, Daikaya, and the late, great Pabu in Baltimore. Before Norris came along, eating Japanese in this city largely meant eating sushi. Kushi introduced DC to the charms of the robata, a Japanese-style charcoal grill, togarashi-dusted meatballs, charred corn on the cob with miso butter, crispy leg of duck. 

Whether Kushi had an influence on the recent wave of hipster Asian spots now on the scene, is harder to say, but it seems likely that the model it set forth in 2009—industrial design, thumping music, and high-energy servers (the opening hostess rocked a two-toned mohawk)—pointed the way for such spots as Doi Moi, Little Serow, and even Bonchon in Arlington.

Norris also sourced a selection of his raw fish every day from Japan, FedEx-ing in cuts of yellowtail, amberjack, scallop, and salmon, among others, from the famed Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. Kushi was not the first restaurant in the area to go to such great lengths to source its product—Sushi Taro was the pioneer, making overnight, overseas deliveries a platform item when it renovated a year earlier—but Kushi helped prove that this idea was not only feasible for luxury restaurants where you could expect to drop $250 for two.

Kushi had slipped into irrelevancy in the past couple of years, with uneven and even mediocre meals supplanting good and great ones. But while it burned, it burned bright. And its influence lives on.

Find Todd Kliman on Twitter at @toddkliman

Posted at 12:40 PM/ET, 10/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Celebrate this dubious yet delicious holiday by trying these at home. By Tanya Pai
We'll take any excuse to bake homemade cookies. Image via Shutterstock.

As someone who writes occasionally for a food blog, I’m all about celebrating the various delicious forms that edible things can take—but even I have to admit the “National Insert-Blank-Here Day” trend can get pretty ridiculous. And yet, when the blank in question is homemade cookies, who am I to argue? In honor of this oh-so-dubious holiday, I combed through the Best Bites archives for a few great recipes you can try at home, including one for Halloween-perfect homemade Oreos and even (gasp) a healthy version. Happy baking! 

Homemade Oreos

Bayou Bakery chef David Guas’s “Dat-o-Lanterns” give you the taste of Oreo cookies without the weird chemicals. Not quite ready for Halloween? Just skip the orange food coloring for classic white filling.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

All-star pastry chef Tom Wellings (now at Fiola Mare), is behind these divine chocolate chip cookies that use two kinds of chocolate for “extra gooey texture,” plus a sprinkle of sea salt for balance. If you make these, please invite me over.

Sugar Cookies

Sometimes all you want is a simple, perfect sugar cookie—and Blue Duck Tavern delivers.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread might be more commonly associated with Christmas, but Northside Social’s chocolate gingerbread cookies are good year-round. These will please chocoholics and spice fiends alike (so bake extra). Get the recipe. 

Coconut-Sesame Cookies

Even if you’re trying to cut down on sweets, you don’t have to give up dessert entirely. Try Well+Being’s recipe, which use whole-wheat flour and nutritious ingredients for a healthy treat that still tastes decadent. 

Posted at 12:02 PM/ET, 10/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every morning, we'll let you know where to find lunch on wheels. By Caroline Cunningham

Welcome to October, food truck followers! It's a bit dreary outside, so perk up with some organic coffee aboard Crepes Parfait
, and refuel for the afternoon with grilled chicken or a falafel sandwich from Fava Pot.

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Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 10/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Fresh options for dining and drinking. By Anna Spiegel
New this week: Del Campo's bottomless brunch, with unlimited dishes such as skillet-baked eggs. Photograph courtesy of Del Campo.

Happy hour at Pop's SeaBar

1817 Columbia Rd., NW

Beachy discounts begin at Pop's on Wednesday, and will run Monday through Friday 3:30 to 6:30. Early drinkers (or late lunchers) will find $3 beers, $1 oysters, and all cocktails marked at $5. 

Cheesesteaks return to Taylor Gourmet 

Multiple locations

Winter is coming, as are belly-warming Taylor cheesesteaks. Three varieties all include a choice of shaved rib eye or chicken breast and toppings such as melty American or provolone cheese, grilled onions, and mushrooms. Sandwiches can be ordered on hard or soft rolls.

Chesapeake watershed pop-up at Water & Wall

3811 Fairfax Dr., Arlington

The lunchtime pop-ups continue at chef Tim Ma's Arlington restaurant. Starting Wednesday you'll find an afternoon menu focused on ingredients and dishes from the Chesapeake watershed, such as fried oysters, crab salad with endive and chilies, and a country ham biscuit with house-made apple butter. Dishes are gently priced, generally $5 to $10, and there's a lunchtime happy hour with $3 to $5 beers and wines. Regular hours are Monday through Friday 11 to 2. 

Free burritos at the new California Tortilla Alexandria 

3672 King St., Alexandria

The Mexican chain debuts in Alexandria's Bradlee Shopping Center on Thursday with two rounds of free burritos: lunch, from 11 to 1:30, and dinner, from 5 to 7:30. In addition the first 20 customers in line that morning will get free burritos for an entire year (or 365 burritos). 

New brunch at Del Campo

777 I St., NW

Chef Victor Albisu goes bottomless for brunch starting this weekend. Guests can order an unlimited number of plates such as bacon, egg, and cheese empanadas and a chivito pizza ($45), and wash them down with select brunch cocktails. Let's hope that octopus and squid-ink-spiked Bloody is among them. The menu runs Sunday 11:30 to 2:30.

Halloween candy sundaes at Dolcezza 

1418 14th St., NW

The Logan Circle shop gets in the spooky spirit for the entire month of October with Halloween candy coppettas. Combinations include crushed Butterfingers with black-sesame gelato and Reese's cups with house-ground peanut butter gelato and sea salt ($7 to $8).

Oyster and prosecco happy hour at STK

 250 Connecticut Ave., NW

Discount bivalves and bubbly join the steakhouse's happy hour deal this Friday. The best time to go is between 4 and 5, when oysters are priced at $1 and Prosecco at $4. The cost of each goes slightly up each hour until 7, when they're $2 and $6, respectively. Other deals include $7 Belvedere cocktails and wines by the glass. 

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 02:35 PM/ET, 09/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus the chance to win a free dinner for two. By Ann Limpert
Le Diplomate, the winner of our Best New Restaurant category last year. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

For the past 37 years, Washingtonian has taken the pulse of the local restaurant scene by asking you, the reader, to play critic.  

What’s your favorite all-out splurge? Who crafts the smoothest cocktails? And which places are most overhyped and overpriced? Weigh in on our survey.

Your answers will be revealed in our December issue. A little incentive: Anyone who submits an entry is automatically qualified to win a free restaurant dinner for two.

Posted at 01:45 PM/ET, 09/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The California-based chain debuts downtown with an entirely meat-free menu. By Anna Spiegel
Native Foods Café brings more vegetarian and vegan dining options to Dupont. Photograph by Anna Spiegel.

Lower Dupont is becoming a prime spot for meatless dining, with brick-and-mortars such as Soupergirl, Protein Bar, and Science Club and frequent stops from the Woodlands Vegan Bistro food truck. Add another to that list as of Tuesday: Native Foods Café, a 116-seat vegetarian and vegan chain out of California opening near 18th and M streets, Northwest. 

Don’t confuse the restaurant with Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe, located in the National Museum of the American Indian. The new spot is entirely meat-free, though you couldn't necessarily tell that from a look at the globally inspired menu. A mix of sandwiches, salads, and bowls include items like an Oklahoma bacon cheeseburger (made with house-made seitan and smoked tofu "bacon") and a taco salad with faux ground meat, roasted corn, and salsa fresca. There are also plenty of purely veggie dishes for those who don't like eating mock mammals, such as a summer roll with braised lemongrass tofu and a supergreens salad. Vegans can also opt for "native cheese" fashioned from cashews and sunflower seeds.

Native Foods also brings a few new elements to veg-friendly, fast-casual dining. Its tempeh and seitan are house-made daily, as are dressings, sauces, and desserts. The restaurant offers a separate kids menu with dishes like soy and gluten-free pastas and "chicken" nuggets  (all gently priced at $4.95), while adults can opt for local brews and Parducci wines.  

Look for more locations to debut within the next year, including a Penn Quarter branch soon. 

Native Foods Café. 1150 Connecticut Ave., NW. Monday through Friday 10:30 to 10, Saturday and Sunday, 11 to 9. Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs

Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 09/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every morning, we'll let you know where to find lunch on wheels. By Hallie Golden

Happy Tuesday, food truck followers! Treat yourself to a Mexico City sandwich with ham, eggs, chipotle butter, avocado, and tomato from Sundevich or to Sriracha cookies from TaKorean.

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Posted at 10:30 AM/ET, 09/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Incoming chef Yo Matsuzaki introduces a new menu and theme. By Anna Spiegel
New chef Yo Matsuzaki will take Zentan in the direction of a Japanese izakaya. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

Zentan has made several big changes in recent years, transitioning from celebrity chef Susur Lee's restaurant to a pan-Asian eatery helmed by Jennifer Nguyen. Nguyen departed in August, and now a new toque is taking the restaurant in a different direction. Yo Matsuzaki, who began last week, will release a more traditional Japanese menu for lunch and dinner, following an izakaya theme. 

The Shikoku, Japan, native comes to DC from a corporate chef position at Northern California's Ozumo, as well as stints at Nobu. While sushi and sashimi will remain on the menu, Japanese small plates will become the focus at dinner. Matsuzaki says he plans to serve charcoal-grilled robata skewers and larger proteins like pork ribs and whole fish, as well as dishes inspired by his home country such as slow-braised meat with miso and dashi broth. Look for more noodles, as well, especially spicy ramen at lunch. 

Matsuzaki's izakaya-style dishes will begin to roll out soon, with a full menu change projected for November. The five-person, omakase-style chef's table will resume on October 16 for $65 per person.

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 03:00 PM/ET, 09/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus the Source's comedy/dumpling brunch. By Anna Spiegel
Dare to try an octopus Bloody Mary at Del Campo's new brunch? Photograph courtesy of Del Campo.

Free apps: The Diner reopens Monday after a brief closure to remodel the 13-year-old space. Head there between 4 and 7 for a look at the digs and a taste of the new cocktails and food. Free appetizers will be served. 

Bar chefs: The final installment of Chefs Behind Bars happens on Monday at the Gryphon from 6 to 8:30. The competition benefiting No Kid Hungry pits eight chefs against one another in a challenge to whip up the tastiest cocktail. Tickets are $40, and include sips of all eight drinks. 

Boozy dinner: Devil's Backbone Brewery and Catoctin Creek Distillery are behind a beer-and-whiskey dinner at Graffiato on Monday from 7 to 10, which features a menu of Italian small plates. Tickets are $97.50, all-inclusive. 

Drink Mediterranean: Wine director James Horn uses the Coravin system to pour rare vinos at G on Tuesday from 6:30 to 8, showcasing Italian and Greek varietals alongside shareable antipasti platters. Tickets are $65. 

No silverware allowed: The F**k Forks fundraiser makes a splashy return on Thursday at 6 with a fleet of big-name chefs, bartenders, and deejays. Industree's benefit for F**k Cancer is the first event held in Brookland's food incubator, Mess Hall, so you can take in all the finger foods and booze while admiring the new space. Tickets are $80 for general admission, $130 for VIP. 

Farm fundraiser: Jackson 20 hosts Soil & Soul on Friday, a seasonal food-fest benefiting the Old Town Alexandria farmer's market SNAP Dollar Matching Program. Local restaurants such as Brabo and Society Fair serve bites, while the cash bar includes Virginia wines, brews, and farm-inspired cocktails. Several market vendors will also participate. Tickets are $35, or $40 at the entrance. 

Gourd season: The Black Squirrel celebrates autumn with the Smashing Pumpkin Fest on Friday at 5. Pumpkin beers flow from 15 tap lines, and a variety of dishes star the orange gourd, including soup and mac and cheese. There's even a pumpkin ice cream float. Admission is free. 

Oktoberfest bash: One of the area's biggest Oktoberfest celebrations goes down on Saturday from noon to 7, courtesy of Capitol City Brewing Company. A projected crowd of 10,000 samples beers from 65 mid-Atlantic breweries at the Village of Shirlington location, served alongside Germanic eats like brats and soft pretzels. Admission is $30 for drinkers, which includes a glass and ten drink tickets (kids and designated drivers enter free). 

Laugh your dumplings off: One of the best weekend events goes down at the Source on Saturday from 11 to 1, where nationally acclaimed comedians Tig Notaro and Jena Friedman join chef Scott Drewno for a hands-on dumpling class followed by a family-style brunch. The afternoon session is part of Brightest Young Things' Bentzen Ball comedy fest, which is worth checking out even when there aren't edibles involved. Tickets for the brunch ($75) benefit the George Washington Mobile Mammography Unit. 

Play at the table: The newly opened Shake Shack Tysons starts a table tennis league on Saturday at 3. Admission is free and open to the public, but only 16 slots are available for the tournament. Gratis Shack wristbands and shades are given to all, as well as food and drink specials throughout the day. 

Bloody battle: Del Campo launches a new brunch menu this weekend--which includes an all-you-can-eat option for $45--and throws a Bloody Mary throwdown on Sunday from 1:30 to 2:30 to mark the occasion. Tickets are $45 and include the meal, and samples of Bloodys from Graffiato, Mandu, and more. That crazy octopus concoction pictured above is available for the brave.

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.

Posted at 01:13 PM/ET, 09/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()