Calling G a “sandwich shop” is a bit of a misnomer. Sure, sandwiches are the focus of Mike Isabella’s latest eatery (at least during the day), but few other operations roast whole goats for their subs or switch from chicken Parms to four-course tasting menus come dinnertime. Those familiar with the New York dining scene will automatically think of Torrisi Italian Specialties, which started as a daytime Italian deli turned nighttime prix-fixe spot, as the closest comparison. The association isn’t unwarranted; Isabella credits the Torrisi team as one the main inspirations behind his latest project, though there’s no formal affiliation. Here’s what to look for in the many faces of the new venture.
Classics (with a twist) and suckling-pig sandwiches
Perhaps more than any other Isabella-owned restaurant, G has a menu that connects directly with various areas of his background: Italian-American, Jersey, and Greek influences are all represented (as well as a section of “fresh & healthy” items from the Fit for Hope ringleader). Classics like the chicken Parm and meatball sub still get a twist; the former contains a sauce of braised chicken thighs beneath the crispy breast, while the meatballs in the latter are perked up with a generous amount of lemon zest, mint, and chilies, and topped with pork-neck gravy. The whole, wood-roasted meats from the adjoining Kapnos also make an appearance, including spiced baby goat dressed with harissa and a suckling pig-wich with apple mostarda.
Stephen Starr isn’t the only Philadelphia-based restaurateur with his eye on Washington. A release from the Loews Madison Hotel announced today that celebrity chef Jose Garces will open an Argentinian steakhouse in the Thomas Circle-area hotel in early 2014. The new spot will replace the Federalist, which lost chef Harper McClure in early June and will serve its last meal on Sunday. A name has yet to be released.
You may recognize Garces from his role on the Food Network’s Iron Chef. Those familiar with the Philly restaurant scene will also know the name from more than a dozen restaurants in the city, including Tinto, Amada, and Garces Trading Co. The restaurateur also operates eateries in Atlantic City, Scottsdale, Palm Springs, and Chicago. Garces isn’t the only restaurant mogul expanding in DC; Daniel Boulud is set to open DBGB Bar & Kitchen at CityCenter, while Starr recently announced plans to open a Southeast Asian concept with the New York-based Fatty Crew restaurant group.
The days of tracking the Corned Beef King food truck around Montgomery County for a pastrami fix are near over. Owner Jon Rossler tells us that starting Tuesday, July 30, you’ll find him serving sandwiches at a temporary operation he’s set up in the former BP station lot at 7725 Old Georgetown Road, just blocks from the Bethesda Metro stop. A large development is eventually slated for the address, but in the meantime, you’ll find picnic tables, music, and hefty corned beef sandwiches.
We first encountered the King’s coach when it started cruising around Maryland in 2011. Since then Rossler—whose family owned Celebrity Delly in Rockville and Cabin John*—has also started serving his oversize sandwiches out of a Georgia Avenue Exxon station in Olney*. The upcoming location will be a mix of the truck and brick-and-mortar operations; plans for Bethesda are more like a pop-up picnic party. Rossler says he’ll hang outdoor lights around the lot, play music, and equip the area with large picnic tables for about 18 guests. The truck, parked on the premises, will run its regular menu of sandwiches: think classic corned beef and pastrami piled high, Reubens (veggie or meat), plus specials such as fresh roast turkey au jus and brisket steak and cheese with sautéed onions, peppers, and spicy Thousand Island.
The operation is set to run Tuesday through Sunday 11 to 9. The King is also planning on delegating food runners to bring carryout orders to nearby homes and businesses (with a $25 order minimum). Rossler is unsure of the next step after the outdoor location closes, but is ready to open another shop should the opportunity become available. Meat-loving investors, get your wallets ready.
*This post has been updated from a previous version.
We’d all love a sister Toki—more stools! Shorter waits?—but as with any restaurant family, siblings, rather than twins, make for a more interesting mix. And there are plenty of exciting things happening with Maketto, Bruner-Yang and partner Will Sharp’s mixed retail-dining space bound for H Street in late 2013. While the permanent project will be more of a market than a sit-down restaurant, you can get a taste of what’s to come over the next three months while Bruner-Yang and chef de cuisine James Wozniuk take over the 14th Street spot.
Prawn heads and wagyu lok lak (but no menu)
While Maketto has echoes of Johnny Monis’s Little Serow—servers are similarly hip, the Asian menu is set—dishes draw from a larger pool in Southeast Asia rather than sticking to Thailand. Yang recently returned from his honeymoon in Cambodia and Taiwan, and Wozniuk from a stint in Vietnam. The six-course meal may draw from their travels as well as influences from other countries; we started with spicy green papaya salad and bowls of crispy fried prawn heads before moving on to seared Wagyu beef lok lak (lettuce wraps with vermicelli noodles and herbs) and sour shrimp and pork soup. Two standouts from our meal: amok trey, a Cambodian comfort dish of steamed, curried fish, and tender squid stuffed with sour pork sausage and topped with crispy garlic and cilantro.
Attention, Tysons Galleria shoppers: Another branch of Founding Farmers is headed your way. The Farmers Restaurant Group announced plans to open a third branch at 1800 Tysons Boulevard in the spring of 2014, joining locations in downtown DC and Rockville and sister restaurant Farmers Fishers Bakers in Georgetown.
The restaurant will open in the former Inox space, with roughly 280 seats and possible outdoor seating. Menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and buffet-style brunch will reflect those at other locations—the press release estimates about 70 percent similarity—meaning you could grab chicken and waffles, a burger with blue cheese and bacon, or a slice of red velvet cake during a shopping break. New items are also being planned based on the build-out and location, such as cuts of meat from the in-house “butcher studio,” flatbreads from a working hearth, and dishes made with Virginian ingredients—like an on-trend ham plate, perhaps?
Founding Farmers isn’t the only new restaurant slated for Tysons. José Andrés will reopen America Eats Tavern in the Ritz-Carlton in November. If the second act for America Eats is anything like the first—a pop-up in the former Café Atlántico space—you’ll have two varieties of American food to choose from come 2014: Yankee pot roast from Farmers, or deconstructed chicken pot pie à la Andrés.
A couple walk into a restaurant and order a flatbread and a $1,400 bottle of Château Haut-Brion. That’s not the start of a joke—those guests were among the first at Decanter, the newly opened restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel.
“Fine dining as we knew it is dead,” says restaurant director Kerem Kendigelen. “People want to be more casual.”
When celebrity chef Alain Ducasse announced in May that he was pulling out of Adour—Decanter’s high-end predecessor that occupied the space for five years—the remaining team rethought the concept. Like Elisir, which morphed into the more relaxed (and subsequently busier) Osteria Elisir earlier this year, Decanter is more of a facelift operation than a full-on makeover. Changes aren’t absolute: you’ll find the exact same elegant-chic dining room, a focus on wine (the list boasts 2,700 bottles), and executive chef Sébastien Rondier, who worked with Ducasse for more than a decade. Besides the name, the shift is most evident in gentler pricing and à-la-carte dishes that draw from the Mediterranean instead of pricey prix-fixe menus and heavier French influences.
For a celebrity-chef-run restaurant, MXDC, the new Mexican concept from partners Todd English and Aziz Safi (owner of Panache), has remained relatively hush-hush. Word came that English—a television personality, cookbook author, and restaurateur—was involved only about a month before MXDC’s Wednesday opening, and even then, details remained hazy. We stopped by a preview party to uncover the details.
Frequent visitors to former tenant Galileo III will hardly recognize the space—Washington-based design firm Chad Alan transformed the190-seat, bilevel dining room with a wall of wine bottles flanking the spacious bar area. That’s where you can quaff around 100 different types of tequilas, mezcals, and margaritas concocted by barman J.P. Caceres. (You may have recently tasted his creations at fellow Latin American newcomer Del Campo.)
Guests climb a warm wood staircase lit by copper chandeliers to a more private dining area with a view of the action below. English tapped former Bobby Flay chef J.C. Pavlovich to team up on the menu of modern twists on dishes from Pavlovich’s native Mexico. Small plates dominate. You might start out picking between ceviches such as scallop with smoked peppers or lemongrass-spiked tuna and crab, or guacamoles that range from traditional to a version tossed with lobster, corn, and queso fresco. Tacos—a few bites each and three to an order—also run the gamut. There’s everything from beer-battered mahi mahi and grilled pineapple salsa to duck confit carnitas and slow-roasted pork belly topped with roasted tomatoes and pickled onions. Bocaditos, queso fundido, and chipotle-bacon mussels round out the bites. If you’re hungry and with a few friends, the especialidades section could be tempting. Family-style dishes such as whole roast fish with chili de arbol, aïoli, and arugula or grilled terres major (shoulder) steak arrive alongside warm tortillas, lemongrass rice, red chili beans, and salsa for fashioning your own tacos or plate.
Opening hours are somewhat abbreviated, but eventually you’ll be able to linger after the meal for drinks and loungey tunes from the upstairs deejay booth. Lunch and a bar menu are set to launch in mid-July, while late-night drinkers will get their kicks sooner with a happy hour menu that runs from 11 to 1 on weekdays and midnight until 2 come the weekend.
MXDC. 600 14th St., NW; 202-393-1900. Opening hours (subject to change): Monday through Thursday 5 to 11, and Friday and Saturday 5 to midnight.
Ah, new stuff—how we love it. Here are five food and booze developments, some of which may not have made your radar.
Explore 54 different sherries at Mockingbird Hill
Passenger/Columbia Room owner Derek Brown has teamed up with wife Chantal Tseng on a Spain-inspired sherry-and-local-ham bar, now open at 1843 Seventh Street, Northwest. In keeping with Iberian bar traditions, free snacks—olives, chocolate, nuts—are served alongside glasses of sherry. You can also try the Brigade gin and tonic on tap.
Have a beer at Showtime Lounge
A little more than a week old, this wee dive in a former Bloomingdale barbershop (across the street from Boundary Stone at 113 Rhode Island Avenue, Northwest) was a year and a half in the making. It’s cash only and has a free jukebox full of R&B and funk tracks selected by owner/former Saint-Ex employee Paul Vivari (a.k.a. DJ Soul Call Paul). The bar pours a $5 boilermaker deal, revolving house beers, and generous glasses of boxed wine. Coming sometime, hopefully soon: sidewalk seating.
Eat lunch at Azur
Table chef Frederik De Pue recently introduced lunch service at his serene seafood spot in the former home of Café Atlantico at 405 Eighth Street, Northwest. Among the sandwiches: a lobster roll, a crabcake Reuben, and a braised pork belly bánh mì. Some of the dinner dishes make it on to the menu, as well—including the fish and chips, our favorite things we’ve tried there so far.
Big news for NOVA: The second iteration of José Andrés's America Eats Tavern is headed to the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner.
The first AET was always planned as a temporary restaurant—it took over Café Atlántico following the closure of that concept; the space is now home to Frederick De Pue seafood spot Azur. AET was originally conceived as an accompaniment to a cooking exhibition at the National Archives—a team of historians dug up American dishes and cocktails lost to the past. (For example: a milk punch, the recipe for which was included in a correspondence between Benjamin Franklin and a friend). There were also edible American icons like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. AET II, however, is a permanent addition to the former home of Michel, the Michel Richard restaurant that called it quits in February of 2012. Prior to Michel, the space was home to beloved Maestro, where Fabio Trabocchi cheffed before wandering off to New York, then returning to Washington and opening Fiola.
Slated to open in November, the new America Eats Tavern will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Stay tuned for more info as it emerges.
Restaurateur Alan Popovsky is best known for Lincoln, his whimsical ode to Honest Abe featuring dishes such as pork belly beignets and bone marrow and biscuits.
Designer Maggie O’Neill created the restaurant’s art installations, including the famous penny floor featuring more than a million coins. Popovsky and O’Neill have teamed up again at Teddy & the Bully Bar, the new Theodore Roosevelt-inspired spot opening at 1200 19th Street, Northwest, in late June. Popovsky plucked Michael Hartzer—last seen at Jack Rose in Adams Morgan—to helm the kitchen, which will include some of Teddy’s favorite dishes.
But we’ll let him tell you all about it. Check out this video, in which Popovsky, O’Neill, and Hartzer take us inside the exciting new project.