The Shaw restaurant space on the corner of 11th Street has endured a whiplash-quick change of identities over the past year. Poultry-based the Bird was slinging political-pun cocktails. Then came French bistro Frenchy’s Naturel last winter. When the latter closed after six months, the split-level spot fell into the hands of Equinox alums Colin McClimans and Danilo Simic. The duo is behind the space’s latest incarnation, Nina May, which opens today. The restaurant (and soon, all day cafe) serves farm-to-table dishes using ingredients sourced from within a 150 mile radius. The local agricultural community helped turn the pair onto small mom-and-pop farms for less common ingredients.
Colin McClimans oversees the kitchen, which is flexible when it comes to dietary restrictions, allergies, and preferences. Most plates are sized for sharing. A barbecue platter with skewers of king oyster mushrooms, pork belly, scallops, and salmon comes with rice cooked in Maryland turmeric. Diners can mix and match the skewers for build your own rice bowls, which are accompanied by spicy preserved-pepper marmalade and housemade mint yogurt. Stuffed rainbow trout with wheatberries and a whole roasted chicken are among the large plates meant to be split.
McClimans and Simic knew they also wanted to feature an option beyond the typical a la carte.
Their partnership started at Equinox, where they created the “adventure series,” pairing cocktails with a four course dinner each week. McClimans also kicked off Slipstream’s affordable prix fixe “neighborhood nights,” and Simic worked with all-you-can-eat menus at Ivan Iracnin spots like Ambar and Buena Vida.
“We knew we didn’t want to do a tasting menu,” says McClimans.
Instead, there’s a $39-per-person “family meal.” An eat-til-you-say-stop parade of dishes that are from the regular menu or are off-the-cuff creations. The idea is that diners might try riskier dishes they might not typically gamble on, like a bison tartar with cured egg yolk and roasted sunchokes. The guest can tap out once they’re full, avoiding the heartbreak that comes with grabbing a burger after a tweezer tasting menu.
Even if you’re not going the Family Meal route, McClimans and Simic hope the light-filled restaurant with antique, farmhouse touches feels familial. After all, the restaurant is named after each of their daughters—11 month old Nina and 18 month old May. The space is designed to serve as an all-purpose neighborhood hangout: You can grab drinks at one of the bars before going out, dine in the sectioned-off private room on special occasions, and order a cup of coffee in the forthcoming cafe.
Beverage director and general manager Simic is behind the drink menu, served at two bars. Cocktails are categorized into sections like “bright and crisp” and “spicy and smoky,” and aim to celebrate both the spirit of the season (currently hot toddies and Irish coffee) and its ingredients (beet juice makes its way into a gin cocktail).
The team plans to debut brunch, the all day cafe, and a weekday happy hour in December.
Nina May. 1337 11th St., NW. Open Sunday through Thursday, 5 PM to 10 PM; Friday through Saturday, 5 PM to 11 PM.