JD Quioco has worked across neighborhood joints (Bar Pilar), “speakeasies” (The Sheppard), and nightclubs (Flash) in his 24 years as a manager and bartender in DC. With the February opening of his own place, The Outsider, on H Street Northeast, Quioco is keeping things simple with unfussy cocktails and a limited menu of Japanese snacks.
The cocktail menu is divided by $12 classics (negronis, old-fashioneds, Heminway daiquiries) and $14 specialty cocktails (heavy on amaros) that Quioco has revived from throughout his bartending career. The barman only keeps two types of each base spirit behind the bar. He’s also eliminated garnishes to avoid food waste. Beyond cocktails, he’s serving one beer (Sapporo), six wines, and a handful of sakes in the 35-seat space.
Food is limited to two options: kushiyaki (grilled skewers) and onigiri (rice balls). The menu of hefty skewers ranges from beef teriyaki to scallop in a peanut-honey-miso sauce. The five onigiri fillings include salted plum, salmon skin, and sweet sausage. (Because both are finger foods, the bar doesn’t carry forks or chopsticks.)
Quioco is Filipino but says he’s always loved Japanese culture—from his first job in DC at Dragonfly sushi bar and lounge to visiting Tokyo, where his brother lives. The Japanese motif extends to the decor with graffiti-style kanji for the words “friendship,” “loyalty,” “strength,” and “tranquility.” Local artist Erica Chambers originally wanted to represent each word with “demonic Hello Kitties,” but Quioco convinced her to tone it down a bit.
The name The Outsider is a translation of the Japanese word for foreigner, gaijin.
“I have a fondness for the idea of the outsider,” Quioco says. “I think of the outsider as somebody who makes things interesting. They’re not really part of the group, but they come up with new ideas. For me, I just wanted to look at doing things a little different. ”
The Outsider. 1359 H St., NE. 202-899-0061. Open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 PM to 1 AM and Friday and Saturday from 5 PM to 2 AM.