We know how it is. The weekend rolls around, you’re all excited to try some sceney new spot, and then when it comes time to decide where to go, you blank. Well, fear not, busy Washingtonians. While you were litigating and studying and politicking and doing whatever else you crazy kids do, we were putting together this list of new restaurants for you to check out in your free time. If you go, stop back by and let us know about your experiences in the comments. We always love to hear about them.
PS: With the exception of Ambar, none of these restaurants has been fully reviewed by Washingtonian critics yet. Look for a full review of Ambar in our April issue.
First date? We can’t think of a better conversation generator than a menu made up entirely of Serbian-inspired small plates. Owned by the guys behind Masa 14 and El Centro and boasting three bars, this new Barracks Row spot is a fun hangout with very good food. If you haven’t had the opportunity to sample executive chef Bojan Bocvarov’s simple but nicely prepared dishes, stop by this weekend for a few cocktails—the list boasts variations made with Balkan brandies called rakia, but classic drinks are well made, too—and a shared meal. Among our favorites: the homey stuffed sour cabbage, the tender Parmesan-crusted sirloin steak, and the super-hearty veal stew. A word of warning: The wine list can be a bit frustrating; we suggest sampling some of the Eastern Euro by-the-glass offerings before you buy. Lunch is served weekdays, dinner is served daily, and weekend brunch launches soon.
Former Kinkead’s restaurateur Bob Kinkead has resurfaced in the Watergate (600 New Hampshire Ave., NW), presiding over a 130-seat Italian seafood restaurant called Ancora (meaning “more” or “again”). Go in for a full coursed feast of antipasta, pasta, and entrée, or pick and choose from salads, apps like roasted sardines with fried peppers and salmoriglio, and piatti conviviale such as tuna carpaccio with fennel, arugula, pine nuts, basil, and raisins. Kinkead’s chef Jeff Gaetjen is overseeing the kitchen, and the entire space, formerly home to the Rivers restaurant, will close for renovations later this year. Meanwhile, pop by the bar for a drink, a snack, and some serious people-watching before or after your next Kennedy Center show. Ancora serves lunch and dinner on weekdays, and opens at 5 PM on Saturdays.
Jaleo restaurateur José Andrés seems to chafe at the suggestion that his newly reopened Minibar is too pricey, but he nonetheless offers a sort-of solution with Barmini, a cocktail and snack spot adjacent to the Minibar dining room at 855 E Street, Northwest. Reservations—obtained via the website—appear scarce, but a few seats are retained for walk-ins. So have patience, and you may just end up with a fancy cocktail along with bites like uni-stuffed mini tortas and caviar-topped jamón ibérico.
Hours at this newly revived 130-year-old tavern on Capitol Hill are 5:30 to 11 until the official opening date of March 15, when lunch debuts. Stop by 623 Pennsylvania Avenue, Southeast, for cocktails, locally cured meats, and hearty farm-to-table entrées from executive chef Andrew Markert, who has done stints at Vermilion, Tallula, and the defunct PS 7’s, among other places. Also of note: Mike and Ike, the two giant buffalo heads mounted above the bar.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. If there is one trend that’s easy for us to get behind, it’s the booze-boasting delicatessen. You’ve likely already enjoyed the offerings over at Dupont’s DGS Delicatessen; now it’s time to head to 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Northwest, for a little Carving Room action. Pair the Jewish- and Moroccan-inspired sandwiches, salads, and spreads with house-made picklebacks and Bloody Marys garnished with crispy corned beef. Carving Room is open daily from 11 AM to midnight.
Oh, friends. How we waited for Daikaya. At long last the ramen portion of the two-part project is here (the upstairs izakaya debuts in the coming weeks). Chef Katsuya Fukushima serves up four kinds of soup at the Sapporo-inspired noodle-soup shop. Choose from vegan, shio (salt), shoyu (soy), or mugi-miso (barley-miso) soup. There are also dumplings. Daikaya is currently open daily at 705 Sixth Street, Northwest for lunch and dinner. Go early.
Replacing Heritage Asia at 2400 Wisconsin Avenue, Northwest, in Glover Park is this new South Indian restaurant, open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. The menu draws inspiration from regions across Southern India, and includes curries, rice entrées, and kothu parotta, a dish of bread cut into strips and blended with meat, egg, and spices. Vegetarians should be sure to suss this one out, as Southern India counts a number of veg-only cuisines among its traditions.
Smoke BBQ Bethesda
With the release of Netflix series House of Cards—featuring a beat-up barbecue spot called Freddy’s where Kevin Spacey’s soliloquy-prone Frank Underwood busts into some ribs while breaking down the fourth wall—everyone is talking about barbecue in Washington. Meanwhile, a new slow-and-low-meat spot has quietly opened at 4858 Cordell Avenue in Bethesda. Co-owners Susan Lennon and Martin Hage serve dry-rubbed, hickory-smoked ribs, brisket, pork, and chicken—doused in your choice of one of three sauces—plus sides such as bacony collard greens, macaroni and cheese with sharp cheddar, and slaw tossed with sour cream, lime, and cilantro. Smoke is open daily for lunch and dinner, with late-night hours on Friday and Saturday.
At this brick-lined, cement-floored new restaurant at 903 N Street, guests order dishes such as mushrooms sautéed on poached-egg toast and a “root bowl” of autumnal vegetables from hand-penciled menus. There is no kitchen in the back—chef/owner Frederik de Pue and his hardworking staff orchestrate the night’s meals in full view of diners with a busy placidity that sets a romantic, relaxed mood. Our early experiences with the menu have been a little bumpy, but we have high hopes for this charming neighborhood spot.
Some DC drones have a rule about no downtown on weekends—a folly, really, what with the proliferation of new hotspots between Dupont Circle and the White House. Among them: this oddly named 50-seat restaurant just steps from Vidalia at 1990 M Street, Northwest. In the evenings, siblings and former Fast Gourmet employees Manuel and Juan “Nacho” Olivera serve tapas such as corn croquettes, cheese and charcuterie boards, quail escabeche, and grilled calamari. Lunchtime offerings include a Cuban sandwich and a chivito with filet mignon, ham, pancetta, roasted red peppers, pickled shiitake mushrooms, garlic mayo confit, and lettuce. Club kids will be pleased with the late night offerings, which include egg sandwiches with a little Latin flair.