Plenty of restaurants go for a cozy neighborhood vibe, but not all are graced with a wood-burning oven and a 1930s row-style building to complete the feel. Welcome Opal, a coastal American restaurant from Colin McClimans and Danilo Simic, who own Nina May in Shaw . It opens Friday, October 7 for dinner in Chevy Chase DC.
The 80-seat dining room takes over from long-gone neighborhood fixture Arucola. McClimans and Simic brightened up the interior while respecting the space’s bones, including a centerpiece bar for sipping smoked Sazeracs and gin-and-grapefruit cocktails with citrus and thyme. An upstairs room can seat 30 for private events, and a small patio will debut in the spring.
At Nina May, McClimans, the chef, goes hyper-local, and his kitchen sources exclusively within 150 miles of Washington. For Opal, the native Washingtonian is taking a broader approach with inspiration from coastal cuisines. Diners can start with smaller plates—portioned as appetizers or shares—such as roasted oysters with tequila-spiked chili butter, tuna crudo tostadas, or homemade saffron tagliatelle with clams. A section of “simple mains” stars wood-fired proteins like charred swordfish or bone-in short ribs with salsa verde. All can be mixed and matched with vegetable plates like roasted rainbow carrots with dill and capers.
One of the most popular—and generous—offerings at Nina May is a family-style “chef’s choice” menu where tables are loaded with multiple dishes from the kitchen. They’re carrying over the tradition at Opal with the “simple dinner,” priced between $50 and $60. The feast will start with homemade breads served with spreads and pickles, followed by a round of share plates for the table. Diners have their choice of entree from the “simple mains” (which also determines the price), and can match them with vegetable plates. Sweet finales include key lime pie or banana pudding cake.
“Everything we do, we want people to feel this homey comfort,” says McClimans. “The goal is to take the decision making out the experience so you can sit back and enjoy your time at the restaurant, but at the same time, this allows a little more choice.”
Opal will open first for dinner, followed by weekend brunch in the coming weeks. The team is also planning for weekday lunch this fall with a menu of sandwiches, salads, and pastas. After that: Elena James, an all-day restaurant and market opening in nearby Chevy Chase, Maryland next fall.
Opal. 5534 Connecticut Ave., NW.