One restaurant’s bad fortune is another’s good luck. The eatery that was supposed to open at 700 Sixth Street, Northwest, was a beer-centric project called Townhouse Kitchen—but before it could be completed, the money evaporated. The space became available, and business partners Gus DiMillo, David Wizenberg, and chef Jeff Tunks saw an opportunity to expand their empire. (The team also owns DC Coast, Acadiana, PassionFish, and Fuego Cocina, among other local spots.)
Penn Commons, a sister restaurant of District Commons in Foggy Bottom, will still serve plenty of craft brews through 40 draft lines when it opens Monday. Just as many seats fill the large bar area, a boon for an eatery within blocks of the Verizon Center. A snacking-friendly lounge menu offers the likes of dips and spreads with grilled bread, pulled-pork hand pies, and crispy fried oysters. Also suited for pregamers is a selection of house-ground chuck and brisket burgers—plus veggie and chicken alternatives—taken from Tunks’s menu at Burger Tap & Shake.
The dinner—and eventually lunch and brunch—offerings closely mirror District Commons. New American and Southern influences dominate, from Korean-style pork chops with spicy barbecue sauce to shrimp and grits. At 10 each night, a bell rings for homey, family-style meals served at a communal table. The main difference on the menu here: a Thursday night “sausage fest” with a mix of grilled Stachowski’s meats, homemade kraut, and pretzel bread. A good bet to cap off the evening is a dessert menu with boozy milkshakes and three kinds of sundaes.
Penn Commons. 700 Sixth St., NW; 202-905-2999.
Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.
One of the biggest summer restaurant openings is upon us with the debut of Gypsy Soul, which serves its first dinner on Wednesday night. The Mosaic District eatery is the second for chef RJ Cooper, who also owns Rogue 24 in Shaw. Here’s what to expect at the travel-inspired spot.
The vibe: Modern-rustic, much like the cuisine. The 135-seat space mixes wood floors and tables with exposed pipes and cast metals. An open “show kitchen,” where you can watch Cooper and his chefs at work, is the focal point of the room.
The crowd-pleasing food: A section devoted to macaroni and cheeses, anyone? Many of the robust, Southern-inspired dishes hark back to Cooper’s days at Vidalia, where he earned a James Beard Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic. You’ll find bread baskets filled with buttery rolls and sage biscuits, jumbo lump crabcakes with homey potato salad, and short ribs atop Carolina-rice risotto. A few items also nod to Cooper’s Detroit upbringing, such as a cheffy version of a Greek diner salad (think barrel-aged feta and house-pickled beets instead of canned).
The more adventurous food: “Beef marrow/sea urchins/antler mustard/ink toast.” Menu descriptions like this one look like they’re off Rogue’s modernist menu, though you won’t find tweezers in the Gypsy kitchen. The actual dish is more rustic than it sounds (translation: roasted bone marrow topped with uni and mustard greens). Lovers of other oddities can find Asian-style lettuce wraps with crispy pig ears and fermented cucumbers, chicken-skin cracklings, and a stuffed pork head.
The drinks: Inspired by travel. Cocktail expert Bryan Tetorakis (aka the “Cheftender”) has carved his own niche at Rogue 24, running a separate drinks tasting menu. Here you’ll find similarly creative sips, such as the Gnome, with vodka, Aperol, black pepper, and liquid arugula. The wine and beer list reads majority local and American. House-made sodas and fresh-brewed peach tea are on tap for the non-drinking crowd, along with a selection of La Colombe coffees.
The conversation piece: Biker-inspired bar stools. The comfy leather perches were modeled after Cooper’s own motorcycle, named Pumpkin for its orange coloring. Another fun fact: His license plate reads “BRAISE.”
On the horizon (short-term): Lunch and brunch. Saturday and Sunday brunch are expected to start the weekend after Labor Day, with afternoon service to follow. Entrée salads and more sandwiches are planned for lunch—we’re looking forward to trying that “redneck cheesesteak”—while brunch will bring Bloody Marys galore and over-the-top dishes such as duck confit hash with duck eggs and foie gras béarnaise, and fried chicken and waffles.
On the horizon (long-term): Big dishes and an ever bigger rooftop. Once the kitchen hits its stride, you’ll find a number of platters for two in each section of the menu, such as whole roast fish, racks of ribs, and slate-roasted 30-ounce rib eye. As for outdoor dining, the restaurant’s 80-seat rooftop is scheduled to debut in spring 2015.
Gypsy Soul. 8296 Glass Alley, Fairfax; 703-992-0933. Reservations accepted. Open (currently) for dinner, Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 10, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11:30, Sunday 5 to 9. Lunch and brunch to follow.
Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.
The W Hotel has kept its new restaurant concept pretty hush-hush since Jean-Georges Vongerichten ended his contract for J&G Steakhouse in June. Today the hotel announced what will take its place: Pinea, a contemporary southern European restaurant focusing on the cuisines of France, Italy, and Spain.
Chef Barry Koslow, who parted ways with DGS Delicatessen last month, was already tapped to helm the new kitchen. Though the menu is still being developed, you can expect Mediterranean flavors, house-made pastas, and plenty of seafood. A merenda section of the menu, meaning “snack” in Italian, will be devoted to shareable plates of cheeses, charcuterie, pissaladière (savory, pizza-like pastries), and more.
Pinea, named after southern European pine trees, will open in September. Stay tuned for more details as they develop.
Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.
More fried chicken for all: Boss Shepherd’s, Washington’s newest Southern spot, debuts on Monday. The seasonal American restaurant from J. Paul’s founder Paul Cohn opens for lunch and dinner next to the Warner Theatre.
Chef Jeremy Waybright, formerly of Alexandria’s Union Street Public House, serves up a menu that mixes classic and riffed-upon Southern dishes. Think Parker House rolls spread with sweet-cream butter, pork roast with corn succotash, pot pie “fritters” with sage-sausage gravy, and fried chicken with smoked egg yolk, butter-poached radishes, and biscuits. The lunchtime crowd may draw from a variety of sandwiches and burgers, including pastrami salmon with dill cream or local mushrooms on a pretzel roll with Mornay sauce. Waybright has already begun sourcing from a number of farms within the Chesapeake watershed for ingredients.
No Southern-inspired restaurant would be complete without whiskey. Brown-liquor fans will find two five-gallon barrels of A. Smith Bowman reserve behind the bar, as well as local spirits and beers, and 35 wines by the glass. Should you drop by for a first-date drink, here’s your icebreaker/fun fact: The restaurant is named for Alexander “Boss” Shepherd (a.k.a. the father of Modern Washington), a powerful city boss who revitalized the District after the Civil War.
Boss Shepherd’s. 1299 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-347-2677. Open at 11 for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday. Open at 4 on Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @annaspiegs.
The old adage that Washington slows down in the summer doesn’t hold true for restaurant openings. In the past month we’ve seen everything from debuts by celebrity chefs to creative neighborhood spots, tempting bars, and more. If you’re enjoying lazy summer days, might as well spend them checking out a new eatery.
1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean
José Andrés’s one-time Penn Quarter pop-up finds a permanent home in the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner. The all-American menu combines local and regional specialties such as Virginia peanut soup, chicken pot pie, and jambalaya. Unlike at other Andrés spots in Washington, you’ll find daily breakfast in addition to brunch.
828 Upshur St., NW
Petworth gets a cozy, 25-seat French and Japanese-inspired restaurant from the owner of the Passenger, Room 11, and more. Chef Makoto Hamamura, a six-year veteran of CityZen, creates dishes like hay-smoked tuna tataki and ramen with pork crackling “noodles” to pair with a list of sakes, ciders, and large-format beers.
7155 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda
While not wholly brick-and-mortar, the popular sandwich truck has found a permanent parking spot at the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market for daily lunch and dinner service. Look for an expanded menu with the likes of brisket steak and cheese and hand-carved turkey salads joining piled-high pastrami and corned beef.
1501 Ninth St., NW
Shaw gets an ambitious bar and restaurant with the arrival of this bilevel spot, inspired by 1920s Shanghai and Japan. Creative cocktails from Ari and Micah Wilder include a helium-infused libation and dumpling “shooters” inspired by boozy oyster shots. To line the stomach: chilled noodle salads, whole animal roasts, and several varieties of ramen.
1418 14th St., NW
The fifth location for Robb Duncan and Violeta Edelman’s popular shop debuts just in time for those mid-90s days. You’ll find the same seasonal lineup of gelatos, sorbetto, and coffees, plus a sidewalk to-go window for snagging pastries or gelato pops, and a menu of sundaes.
2505 Wisconsin Ave., NW
A seasonal beer garden opens on the patio of the Savor Suites Hotel. Glover Park-ians can drop by for 20 varieties of beer and German-style eats such as pretzel rolls and brats with kraut.
1337 Connecticut Ave., NW
Gone is the upscale sports bar of the same name, reopened as a “meat and raw bar social house.” The new ownership is also behind U Street’s Lost Society, and you’ll find some crossover, including a steakhouse-like menu and a clubby vibe on weekend evenings.
5335 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Chef Bryan Voltaggio debuts his most casual concept to date inside the Chevy Chase Pavilion: a sandwich-centric spot joining Range and Aggio. The all-day menu plays to adults and kids alike and boasts a creative lineup of ’wiches, from fried-chicken bánh mì to a veggie “gardener” with grilled avocado and burrata cheese. An added perk for the 21-plus crowd: draft beers and wine.
Chevy Chase Pavilion is quickly becoming a one-stop shop for Bryan Voltaggio’s DC restaurants. In addition to Range and Aggio—a spinoff of which just opened in Baltimore—you’ll find lunch and dinner at Lunchbox as of Monday.
Voltaggio originally debuted the casual sandwich concept in Frederick under a short-term lease while the nearby diner-style Family Meal was in the process of opening. The first Lunchbox has since closed, but you’ll find some similarities at the new industrially styled spot. The all-day menu centers around an eclectic mix of sandwiches, from a home-style “fileo-fish” with fried-catfish and slaw to slow-braised pork shoulder with cabbage kimchee and a vegetarian “gardener” with grilled and smoked avocado, green goddess dressing, and burrata cheese. Entrée salads and soup round out the menu, such as a blue-crab-topped Chesapeake cobb and “supreme pizza” soup with roasted peppers, tomatoes, and pepperoni. Diners can also build their own bowls of greens.
The lineup also caters to kids (and adults with youthful tastes) with offerings such as grilled cheese, sides of roasted applesauce, freshly baked cookies, and soft-serve ice cream. Those looking for a more grown-up dining experience can order draft beer and glasses of wine with their meal.
Lunchbox. 5335 Wisconsin Ave., NW. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
For a place named after a silent-film star, there’s a lot to say about the Chaplin Bar & Restaurant. The bilevel spot takes the place of Shaw’s Mandalay and serves an ambitious lineup of cocktails from brothers Ari and Micah Wilder alongside dumpling “shooters,” ramen, and eventually whole roast animals from chef Jeremy Cooke.
The drinks, food, and decor take inspiration from 1920s Japan and Shanghai. Guests can sip libations named after Chaplin’s comedic films in the black-and-red-accented dining room, such as the floral Gold Rush with Montenegro amaro, Champagne, peach liqueur, and gold flakes. The upstairs private “opium den” may be the best place to try the giggle-inducing Laughing Gas, a mix of gin, blackberry liqueur, and helium-infused soda.
Spirits also make an appearance on the dinner menu, where certain categories such as “drunken master dumpling shooters” are labeled adult-only. Inspired by oyster shots, three kinds of dumplings arrive with a boozy mix, which you can drink separately or take all together; think a chilled shrimp dumpling with a Pimm’s cup, or a warm pork dumpling with Japanese whiskey and lemon. Dumpling platters can also come infused with booze, such as dry-aged New York strip soaked in Yamizake 12-year Scotch for a week, ground, blended with roasted mushrooms and scallions, and served with a whiskey-spiked “drunken ginger” dipping sauce.
Not all the food is for licensed adults. You can order a variety of virgin dumplings, spicy noodle or papaya salads, or ramen. Cooke spent a four-month stint at Toki Underground before the Chaplin and creates an array of soups, from seafood ramen with mussel-dashi broth to a green curry chicken-inspired bowl, and a vegan-friendly option with mushroom broth, pickled vegetables, and fried tofu. Cooke plans to get a smoker for the 80-seat patio and offer family-style roasts; a party can call ahead and order large meats such as a baby pig or goat leg with an array of salads, noodles, and other sides.
The Wilders are known for their dessert cocktails at their other venture, Red Light, and you’ll find a sweet finish (or in this case, a “happy ending”) in the form of a rum-spiked root beer float.
The Chaplin Bar & Restaurant. 1501 Ninth St., NW; 202-644-8806. Open Monday through Thursday 4 to midnight, Friday 4 to 1, Saturday noon to 1, Sunday noon to midnight.
One of the summer’s most anticipated openings has arrived with the debut of Rural Society, an Argentinian steakhouse from celebrity chef/restaurateur Jose Garces. The Philadelphia-based Iron Chef alum makes his DC debut in the Loews Madison Hotel downtown, where the former Federalist space has undergone an extensive renovation to become a handsome, lodge-like restaurant for exploring the South American and Italian influences of Argentina’s cuisine. Here are five things to look for when you drop in for dinner (breakfast and lunch begin next week).
A locally made parrilla for Uruguayan steaks
At the heart of the restaurant is an open wood-fired parrilla grill, custom-designed by Washington-based Ben Eisendrath of Grillworks, whose craftsmanship you’ll also see in the hearth at Red Hen, among others. Steaks such as grass-fed rib eyes from Uruguay are seared over the oak-and-hickory-fueled flame, and then brushed with Malbec butter. Vegetables get their turn, too, such as beets roasted in the embers and drizzled with orange-coriander vinaigrette. While the eatery is certainly red-meat-friendly, you’ll also find roasted Maine lobsters, slabs of aged provoleta cheese, and Japanese Jidori chicken—often referred to as the Kobe beef of poultry—coming off the grill.
Personal mini bars
Some of the best seats in the restaurant can be found within four semi-private rooms located behind a wall of firewood, each boasting a different retro look and outfitted with vintage minibars—this is a hotel, after all. Though self-service isn’t encouraged, guests at the four-seat tables can request drinks such as Manhattans and Italian aperitifs poured tableside. Anyone can reserve these spaces for regular meals, while another prime perch—a table within the cozy wine cave—will involve a tasting menu experience.
Pastas and fugazza
While you’ll find traditional South American dishes on the menu such as Wagyu-belly empanadas and grilled chorizo, a number nod to the strong Italian influence in Argentina. As in Italy, a section of pastas arrives in smaller portions, so you can start with saffron tagliarini with cockles and rock shrimp or ham and cheese ravioli. Fugazza, thick-crust pizzas topped with the likes of crab and corn cream, can also make a shareable appetizer. Though not strictly Italian, there are also five kinds of potatoes available with the grilled fare, such as a cheesy garlic-whipped mash with mozzarella curds or hashbrown-esque rösti with crème fraîche and hackleback caviar.
Wine-based cocktails and 75 whiskeys
A stately, wood-paneled bar and year-round outdoor patio will draw drinkers with an eclectic beverage menu. More familiar tangerine caipirinhas join a selection of wine-based cocktails such as rosé with spiced rum, pear, and cava. Several South American beers, like Brazil’s Xingu, add to a larger list of Argentine wines (a good time to explore: weekly happy hour from 4 to 7). Rounding out the bar program are an international spectrum of whiskeys, one of Garces’ favorite sips, and a collection of Italian liqueurs that may pair well with cheese from a cart that rolls out at dessert.
Traditional Argentinian tea service
One of the more interesting tableside preparations at Rural Society surrounds yerba mate, a herbaceous tea-like beverage made by packing the plant’s dried leaves into a cup, adding hot water, and then sipping the strongly caffeinated brew through a metal bombilla (straw). The holly-like shrub is said to contain plenty of vitamins and health benefits, so you can feel less guilty when sipping it alongside dulce de leche crepes with blackberry ice cream for dessert, or eggs Benedict with chorizo and truffle hollandaise at breakfast.
Rural Society. 1177 15th St., NW; 202-587-2617. Current hours: Open for dinner. Breakfast and lunch begin July 17. Brunch coming in the fall.
“I’m attracted to challenging businesses, because they force me to work hard, think hard,” says Paul Ruppert, the managing partner behind Petworth’s newest eatery, Crane & Turtle.
The cozy, 25-seat French-Japanese spot opens Tuesday for dinner, joining Ruppert’s eclectic roster of ventures that include the Passenger and Columbia Room, Hogo, Room 11, and Petworth Citizen. The last stands just across the street from the new restaurant and shares its team, including bar manager Kristi Green and chef Makoto Hamamura. Yet while Citizen’s menu plays to the bar’s laid-back vibe with American-style pub grub and ample beers, the new eatery draws from Hamamura’s more refined cooking background, which includes stints as a sushi chef and French butcher’s apprentice, and most recently, a six-year tenure at CityZen.
That’s not to say the menu aims for over-the-top expensive or stuffy. Ruppert has a background in pioneering bartender- and chef-driven spots in developing areas that still maintain an accessible, neighborhood feel; just think of the Passenger or Room 11 when they opened in then-cocktail deserts in 2009. The dinner-only menu blends flavors from Hamamura’s native Japan with French technique, resulting in dishes such as hay-smoked tuna tataki, crispy soft-shell crab with grapefruit, and a playful poached oyster and pork-cheek ramen with “noodles” fashioned from pork cracklings that soften in the soup. Besides snack-size “amuse de mer,” portions fall into traditional appetizers, entrées, and desserts (we’re eyeing that baked doughnut with green-tea ice cream).
While cocktails are a large focus in Ruppert’s other spots, Green focused on harder-to-find sakes, wines, large-format beers, and ciders for Crane & Turtle. Many play to the delicate flavors of the seafood-driven menu, such as a rose sake or a local heirloom cider from Monkton, Maryland. Spirits center on Japanese and American whiskeys, as well as 15 amaro liqueurs for custom Manhattans.
While many neighborhood places shy away from reservations, Ruppert says Crane & Turtle will take bookings by phone for all but the seven counter stools in the serene blue-and-white patterned dining room, designed by Nick Pimentel. A 15-seat patio, set for a fall debut, will expand the space. Those faced with a wait will eventually be able to browse the shelves at Ruppert’s next “challenging” venture: Upshur Street Books, an 800-square foot shop set to open across the street.
Crane & Turtle. 828 Upshur St., NW; 202-723-2543. Open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday 5 to 10, and Friday and Saturday 5 to 11; closed Monday.
Good news for commuters and Hill denizens: Shake Shack opens its fourth Washington location in Union Station on Monday. The New York burger chain with a cult-like following already draws crowds in Dupont Circle, Penn Quarter, and at Nationals Park.
While the design is meant to meld with the historic station’s interior, the new location was built with recycled materials, has tables fashioned from reclaimed bowling alley lanes, and boasts energy-efficient kitchen equipment and lighting. The menu of all-natural Shackburgers, dogs, frozen custards, and fresh-cut fries remains mostly the same. Like at other branches, the two-story spot in Union Station’s West Hall will offer a few location-specific items made in collaboration with local producers. Look for a vanilla custard concrete mixed with strawberries, almonds, and Baked & Wired “bee sting” bars, as well as another swirled with caramel, bananas, and Pollystyle graham crackers (5 percent of sales from the latter will be donated to the DC nonprofit Casey Trees).
Though opening day doesn’t bring any specials—besides especially long lines, perhaps—World Cup fans can snag a free custard at any DC Shack location by wearing a soccer jersey.
Shake Shack Union Station. 50 Massachussetts Ave., NE.