Chivitos and Grilled Cocktails: What to Expect From the Bar at Del Campo

Victor Albisu’s Penn Quarter restaurant debuts in a few weeks—get ready for South American wines, bottled Fernet and Coke, and plenty of pisco.

By: Jessica Voelker

When chef Victor Albisu first conceived of Del Campo, he imagined a cozy rowhouse restaurant with exposed-brick walls. Then he toured the 5,800-square-foot space at 777 I Street, Northwest, the former home of PS 7’s. He says immediately his vision for the place changed into something larger, a restaurant that captured the rustic-elegant charms of dining in countries such as Peru and Argentina.

Entering PS 7’s, guests traversed a dark, closed-off hallway with walls dividing the dining room from the bar area. At Del Campo, however, the entranceway is flanked by half walls, opening up the entire space. Enormous antique chandeliers hang down from the ceiling, and there are lots of ornate mirrors, wood, and earth tones. The restaurant is big enough to house an asado bar—get ready for flights of grilled meat—and an adjacent wine bar where staff can decant the full-bodied red wines that wine director Morgan Fausett selected for the bottle list. There is also a 36-seat bar with its own menu—a casual counterpart to the fine-dining one you’ll find in the rest of the restaurant. A big fan of all things smoked and charred, Albisu even found a way to incorporate the grill into the cocktails. Read on for all the details on Del Campo’s exciting bar plans.

The spirits

Del Campo will showcase three spirits ubiquitous in parts South: pisco, aguardiente, and cachaça—typical to Peru, Colombia, and Brazil, respectively. All three can range from seriously rough to silky-smooth, and Albisu said he was really taken with the wide variety in the market; he’s thinking about hosting classes at the bar to help better acquaint Washingtonians with them.

The drinks

Consultant JP Caceres worked with bar manager Kristy Fourie on cocktails—a menu of signature drinks plus classic cocktails and “grilled and smoked” libations featuring juices made from grilled fruit. Also look out for bottled cocktails (trend alert!) including Argentinian favorite Fernet Branca and Coke. Del Campo will likely serve plenty of pisco sours, margaritas, and mojitos, too.

Fourie says her favorite grilled drinks include the Viñador, a twist on a Champagne cocktail with cava, strawberry purée, Torrontes simple syrup, and grilled lemon juice. Vodka fans, look out for the Limonada Sucia, with Tito’s vodka, grilled lemon juice, lavender bitters, and applewood-smoked syrup. The one we’re most excited about: the Yin and Juice, featuring grilled grapefruit juice plus Beefeater 24, manzanilla sherry, grapefruit syrup, and orange juice.

The wine

“South America is a perfect focal point for showcasing more exotic varietals,” says Fausett, explaining that the region has found success growing grapes like Malbec and Tannat. While creating the list of 180 bottles and 30 by-the-glass and half-glass offerings, she became particularly enamored with an Argentinian varietal called Bonarda (known in California as Charbono). While the list is predominantly South American, there are also old and new world offerings. Look out for a variety of price points among glass offerings—Fausett wanted diners to have a wide selection without having to order a bottle.

Del Campo will also pour nine sherries and a couple of wine-centric cocktails—Muchas Uvas (“many grapes”), for instance, combines Bar Sol pisco, white grape juice, agave nectar, lime juice, and Malbec syrup.

The snacks

About 11 dishes appear on the bar menu, ranging in price from $8 to $16. Look out for a chivito with Wagyu beef, mortadella, ham, provolone, fried egg, grilled olive salad, and hearts of palm mayonnaise. There’s also pan con chicharron—Albisu points out that only in Mexico does the word “chicharron” mean pork rinds; elsewhere it can refer to any crispy meat. In this case the crispy meat is fried pork belly, stacked with a slice of sweet potato and Peruvian-style onion salad on sweet potato bread with a side of spicy rocoto sauce. Other snacks include smoked peanuts and olives, empanadas, and the Del Campo burger, with grilled avocado, grilled cheese, and grilled onions (did we mention Albisu likes to grill things?), plus a mixture of ketchup and mayo known as “salsa golf.” Del Campo is due to open in a few weeks—happy hour and late-night details will be shared as soon as we have them.