Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week: Winter Restaurant Week brings $20.15 lunches and $35.15 dinners to hundreds of eateries this Monday through Sunday (with some extensions). How does one decide where to go? Check out our guide to what the restaurants on our 100 Very Best list have planned, as well as tips for finding the best deals and meals. A number of restaurants are also offering alternatives, including brunch specials and discount cocktail flights.
Chocolate and beer: What's not to like? J. Chocolatier's Jane Morris teams up with brewmaster Greg Engert for an evening of chocolate and beer pairings at Bluejacket on Wednesday at 6. Tickets are $60.
The women of beer: The Black Squirrel launches the first in a series of Women in Beer events on Thursday, focusing on females in the brew industry. Up first is Mary Wolf, the owner of Wild Wolf Brewing Co., who'll be joined by Lean In DC and DMV Girls Pint Out at 5. The event is free, but RSVPs are encouraged. Wild Wolf beers will also be served in the dining room alongside discount patties for burger night.
Cookbook signing: Carla Hall of The Chew—and future purveyor of hot hot chicken in Washington—signs copies of her cookbooks at Room & Board on Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30. Two books—Cooking with Love: Comfort Food That Hugs You and Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World—will be available, along with light refreshments. RSVP for the free event here.
Alexandria Restaurant Week: If you can't get enough of Restaurant Week, the city of Alexandria launches its own version on Friday (through February 1). The format is slightly different than the RAMW-sponsored version above, with Virginia eateries offering $35 three-course prix-fixe meals or a $35 dinner for two. A number also serve special lunches.
Sips & Suppers: A national lineup of big-name chefs, including Alice Waters, Carla Hall, Charles Phan, and many more, head to Washington this weekend for the annual Sips & Suppers. The fun starts on Saturday at the Newseum with a cocktail party, where guests can try drinks from top bartenders and snack on hors d'oeuvres from local chefs; VIP ticket holders have the added perk of meeting big-name toques and getting special food/drinks ($95 regular admission/$200 VIP). Then on Sunday, a few seats are left for Suppers, where accomplished toques such as Zahav's Michael Solomonov teams up with Adam Sobel of RN74 in San Francisco for multi-course dinners in private homes (starting at $600 per person). Proceeds benefit DC Central Kitchen and Martha's Table.
Popping up: Chef Rob Rubba, most recently of Tallula, runs a pop-up on Saturday at the Dolcezza Factory to preview his upcoming restaurant. The interactive, family-style meal starts at 7 and centers on duck; courses include zucchini bread with foie gras mousse and roasted duck breast with house-made duck sausage, scallion crepes, and duck confit rice. Wines and brews are included in the $75 price, as well as tax and tip.
Bring on the meat: The annual DC Meat Week kicks off on Sunday at Urban Bar-B-Que Company. Participants gather at 6:30 for a carnivorous night. Check out the full schedule for the following week, which includes stops at Pork Barrel, Hill Country, and more.
Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week runs through Sunday, with hundreds of participants offering $20.15 set lunches and $35.15 dinners. Still, other eateries offer their own versions of the specials and deals, including brunches, cocktail flights, and anti-Restaurant Week menus. Here are six outside-the-box alternatives.
Anti-Restaurant Week at Dino's Grotto
1914 Ninth St., NW
Owner Dean Gold is the first to admit that Restaurant Week isn't a good deal. His alternative: a five-course tasting for $35, which includes a cup of tomato-garbanzo bean soup and your choice of antipasto, pasta, main, and dessert. Wines are also discounted; bottles over $50 go for 33 percent off, while flights are $15.
When: Now through February 5.
Restaurant Week brunch at Woodward Table
1426 H St., NW
While Jeff Buben's downtown spot participates in the official RW promotion, it also offers an extra deal: brunch. Stop in on Saturday and Sunday for a $20.15 menu, which includes hearty mains such as ham-and-egg biscuits with crawfish-andouille gravy, pastrami Benedicts, and French toast, in addition to appetizers and desserts.
More Restaurant Week brunch at Chef Geoff's
The downtown, Tysons, and Rockville locations of this local chain offer Sunday Restaurant Week brunch, in addition to the official lunch and dinner deal. The menu (sample) includes any of the CG Brunch Classics, such as a hangover burger or fried chicken and gravy, plus coffee and a choice of juice, mimosa, or Bloody Mary for $20.15.
Restaurant Week Gone Rogue at Rogue 24
922 N St., NW
Chef RJ Cooper goes beyond the bland chicken-or-salmon RW options, offering sea urchin and mango gazpacho, lamb-neck confit, and rigatoni with chicken livers on his modernist menu. Three courses go for $35.24 per person, or a five-course tasting for $55.24 that includes two appetizers and two entrées apiece. Another set of menus follows for the week of January 28.
When: Now through January 25; January 28 through February 8.
Three cocktails and plates at Bar Pilar
1833 14th St., NW
Anyone looking to spend less than $35.15 can head to the bar for a three-cocktail flight priced at $15, with an optional three-plate pairing for another $15. Drinks include a gin-based Thai cocktail with lemongrass and Amaro Montenegro, while plates range from Vietnamese pork belly meatballs to beef carpaccio with shaved foie gras.
When: Now through Sunday, January 25.
Design-your-own menu and drink pairings at Cafe Saint-Ex
1847 14th St., NW
Even when it's not Restaurant Week, guests can design their own three-course offering by picking an appetizer, entree, and dessert from the regular menu for $35. During RW the bar offers a paired drink flight: an Old Fashioned (or variation) up first, beer or wine with the entree, and a dessert wine for the sweet finish.
When: Now through Sunday, January 25.
Just when the whole ramen-burger fad seemed to be waning, California Tortilla goes ahead and introduces the ramen burrito (ram-rito?). The Rockville-based chain rolls out the creation Tuesday at 40 locations across the East Coast.
So what does the love child of an Asian soup and a Cal-Mex burrito look like? Basically a tortilla stuffed with noodles, plus avocado, spinach, corn, cilantro, and Sriracha-pickled onions—because no trendy Frankenfood would be complete without Sriracha and/or a special pickle. Customers can pick chili-sauced chicken, steak, or pork for their protein, and add a special Bee Sting Thai Sweet Chili Hot Sauce for heat. (Cultural side note: There's no tradition of ramen in Thailand—but then again, clearly no one is aiming for authenticity here.) The combination can also be ordered in bowl form, over greens.
To be honest, I'm a little disappointed in the lack of art in this particular ramen hybrid—there's no "tortilla" fashioned from bound ramen noodles, no side of tonkotsu-style dipping broth, no chasu roast pork filling. Then again, as ramen master David Chang notes in his recent Lucky Peach article "The State of Ramen": "I've heard tell of a ramen burrito—that's the fucking end of everything."
The long weekend is almost here, and many restaurants are opening early on Monday with weekend-style brunch menus. Browse the options below for bottomless mimosas, all-you-can-eat dishes, and relaxing midday meals. Also don't forget that Monday marks the beginning of Winter Restaurant Week, so you can have your brunch and eat a discount dinner too.
1833 14th St., NW/1847 14th St., NW
These sister 14th Street eateries both offer their weekend brunches on Monday. Menus differ, but both kitchens work wonders with pork products, and each offers a chill (read: hangover-friendly) vibe.
108 Rhode Island Ave., NW
Don't have the funds for a Mexican mini-vacation? Try this new Bloomingdale spot instead, which serves migas, chilaquiles, and huitlacoche omelets from 11 to 3.
3000 K St., NW
This Georgetown waterfront spot serves an all-you-can-eat brunch from 9 to 2 ($30 per person), which includes a buffet, complimentary tea, coffee, and biscuits, and passed trays of sushi and pizza.
1924 Pennsylvania Ave., NW/12505 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac
Farm-style brunch starts when the cows wake up at 7, and runs until 2 at both the DC and Potomac, Maryland locations. American classics include eggs, pancakes, Benedicts, fried chicken, and good ol' Bloodys.
The Columbia Heights, Arlington, and H Street locations of this pizzeria are open for Monday brunch. Drop in for pizza and Bloodys.
Richard Sandoval Restaurants
Most of the restaurateur's DC eateries, including Masa 14, El Centro D.F., Ambar, and Toro Toro, go all-out with their usual bottomless food and booze brunches. If Monday is anything like the weekend, expect an upbeat party vibe and a "there goes the day" mentality. The price tag for unlimited drinks and dishes is around $35 per person.
1926 14th St., NW
Head in on Monday between 11 and 3 for brunch dishes such as duck confit and green-chili hash, and chorizo breakfast burritos. The menu is à la carte, but you can opt for bottomless mimosas or Bloodys for $19.
1940 11th St., NW
Make it a true day off and put yourself in a food/booze coma with hearty dishes like steak-and-eggs poutine and unlimited mimosas for $15.
Ten bucks for a dosa? And one that looks to be about half the size of a normal dosa?
Yeah, not great, though nearly every thing you can ingest at Union Market is priced to make the upscale customer feel that he or she is getting quality.
On the other hand: tasty, very tasty.
The dosa maker pressed chopped onions and cilantro into the batter as it sizzled atop the Bunsen flame, adding flavor and crunch to the four-lentil mixture. The crepe emerged thin and slightly crunchy, with a subtly fermented taste.
I asked for curried potatoes, and the dosa maker didn’t skimp. If anything, there was too much potato inside—it was as densely packed as one of those overstuffed Chipotle burritos. Which I guess is good for people who've never had a dosa before—makes them feel as if they got good value. I prefer the traditional dosa, with much more crepe and much less filling.
But that’s not to say it wasn’t good. It was good: a nice meatless lunch. I’d go back.
Oh, and one more thing: Points to owner Priya Ammu for the cilantro-sesame chutney, which brought tang and gentle heat to every bite.
Eggplant Parmesan at Society Fair
Despite the proliferation of new Italian restaurants over the past couple of years, it’s been tough to find the sloppy, red-sauce-y dishes of my checkered-tablecloth-covered dreams. Walking into Society Fair, with its little girl’s tea party aesthetic (so much pink, so many table arrangements that look like they belong in an Anthropologie window), I certainly wasn’t expecting to satisfy any cravings along those lines.
But the eggplant Parm I impulse-bought from the grab-and-go case proved my assumptions wrong. After 45 minutes in the oven, it emerged topped with a thick, bronzed layer of gooey Parmesan. Underneath, there was plenty of zesty tomato sauce, a few fragrant basil leaves, more cheese (provolone), and breaded eggplant that stayed firm, not mushy. Béchamel-laden lasagna and ornate salumi boards are lovely and all, but sometimes—authenticity be damned—it’s the messy grandma-style fare you want. And this little casserole hit the spot.
Ham-and-cheese biscuit at Bread Furst
Breakfast sandwiches, while wonderful, can be a morning death sentence. Fried chicken thighs sandwiched between buttermilk biscuits are the stuff Sunday dreams are made of, but many mornings call for some happy medium between a green juice and breakfast burrito—which is why I found myself in a state of pure contentment at Bread Furst.
It’s an easy level to achieve at Mark Furstenberg’s Upper Northwest bakery, the kind you leave wishing was right around every corner. The smell—and sight—of croissants and braided breads being prepared greets guests at the door through the window-walled kitchen. It’s tough to pick among the many items, or whether to go sweet or savory; blood orange doughnuts and robust slices of frittata both beckon.
The perfect choice may be the miniature ham-and-cheese biscuit. Two perfectly crumbly rounds, a little larger than Oreos, are swiped with apple butter and stacked with thinly shaved ham and a melty slice of Swiss. Delicately sweet and salty, it’s the ideal flavor and portion for a morning on the go.
Historian turned distiller Steve Bashore leads a small team that uses historically correct methods, wooden buckets, and copper-pot stills to eke out two batches of whiskey on average a year. It’s worth a visit just to take in the aroma of wood smoke and sweet rye, but the gift shop does carry bottles that sell out quickly after each release.
Scott and Becky Harris strategically situated their distillery in Purcellville in the heart of Virginia wine country, and even staunch wine lovers admit their Roundstone Rye’s warming spice and mellow sweetness are as comforting as a buxom Bordeaux. Skeptical? Try their Virginia Brandy, made from local grapes and aged in real Bordeaux barrels.
This year-old St. Michaels outfit churns out spot-on corn andrye whiskeys as well as white rum, but distiller Ben Lyon’s staple is dark rum, a blend of molasses and sugar cane distilled in particularly small pots to heighten the caramelized goodness, then aged in barrels.
Edgardo Zuniga—a former sous chef at Old Ebbitt Grill, Founding Farmers, and Clyde’s—is the first to tell you he’s learning as he goes. But only a few months into full-bore production in Rockville, Zuniga already hits all the right notes in his Seneca Bay Rum. He recently completed what he believes is Maryland’s first-ever batch of bourbon.
Inside an unassuming cinder-block building near Union Market is a state-of-the art, sculptural copper still imported from Germany that produces Green Hat, a gin distantly related to the standard juniper-laden London Dry. Herbal flavors are emphasized for a unique and, frankly, better G&T experience.
Set to open in the new year, One Eight ’s tasting room on Okie Street, off Northeast DC’s New York Avenue, will feature its gin and rye whiskey but will also bring DC’s first vodka since Prohibition, made from local grain. One Eight’s proximity to New Columbia and Atlas Brew Works will make the Ivy City neighborhood a boozehound’s paradise.
This article appears in the January 2015 issue of Washingtonian.
A number of new restaurants and drink spots have opened this winter, including celebrity chef-driven hotspots, casual neighborhood joints, and Washington's second modern distillery. Spend the holiday weekend exploring, and finding a fresh favorite.
418 Seventh St., NW
The hottest opening of the winter thus far is José Andrés's Penn Quarter Peruvian. The space is vibrant, with fun touches like a live seafood tank and a ceviche bar, and the menu is eclectic. True to Peru's cuisine, you'll find plenty of Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish influences in dishes such as dim sum dumplings, sushi-like rolls, and fried rice.
929 H St., NW
The newest addition to CityCenterDC's growing dining scene arrives by way of Bangkok, and opens on Thursday with modernized Thai dishes such as lobster pad Thai and seared duck breast over curry. Enter through a sleek, sidewalk-level lounge—the place to sip chili-spiked cocktails or lychee martinis—and head up to the window-walled dining room via elevator.
1135 Okie St., NE
Washington's second production distillery after Prohibition just opened last weekend. The warehouse-like space is only open to the public on Saturday between 1 and 4, when you can drop by for a free tour and tastes of the initial spirits: a distinct rye-based vodka and white whiskey. A rotating lineup of food trucks provides the eats.
1800 N St., NW
Craving carnitas at 3 AM on Saturday? This spinoff of the popular Glover Park taqueria is on it. The takeout-only taco stand is open 24-7, serving a variety of tacos—grilled fish, Korean-style short ribs—as well as burritos and quesadillas. The 11-to-11 crowd can also order breakfast (or last-call-friendly) options piled with eggs and bacon.
2431 18th St., NW
The folks behind Adams Morgan noodle joint Sakuramen return to their roots with a restaurant inspired by Korean market stalls and street food. There's no liquor license yet (it's coming soon), but in the meantime you can sip local kombucha on draft alongside dishes such as kimchee and pork belly-fried rice, grilled skewers, and hangover-curing fish soup.
The Barbecue Joint at Union Market
Chef Andrew Evans of Easton, Maryland's Barbecue Joint brings his 'cue to DC, serving it out of a Union Market stall. Drop by for ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and sides like baked beans and corn bread, which you take to a nearby table along with a cold beer.
655 Michigan Ave., NE
Health food fans can check out this fast-casual spot in Brookland, which serves market plates with a choice of proteins such as whole roasted sardines or braised pork shank, grains (quinoa pilaf, kimchee risotto), greens, and seasonal veggies. Other unusual finds include bone broth—part drink, part soup, all healthful—and house tonics.
7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda
A number of new restaurants have opened at the revamped Westfield Montgomery Mall, and this New American/sushi spot is the latest. The location is part of a chain with nine other branches nationwide, all serving a something-for-everyone menu that runs the gamut from burgers and steaks to flatbreads to sushi.