Lauriol Plaza Owners Are Opening a Huge Indoor/Outdoor American Bistro in Adams Morgan

Take a look inside Alfresco Tap & Grill, opening April 20.

Alfresco Tap & Grill opens in Adams Morgan with three outdoor patios and an al fresco bar. Photograph by Jennifer Chase

Note: This post has been updated with a new opening timeline for Thursday, April 20.

Generations of DC folks have sipped swirl margaritas and dug into fajita platters at Cactus Cantina and Lauriol Plaza—big, wallet-friendly Tex-Mex spots in Upper Northwest and Dupont Circle that cater to equally big, boisterous crowds. Restaurateurs Raul Sanchez and Luis Reyes opened the original Lauriol in 1983, and grew their family restaurants over the decades. Now, the partners and Raul’s daughter and son-in-law, Cindy and Jaime Sanchez, are ready to unveil their next big thing: Alfresco Tap & Grill, a huge indoor/outdoor American restaurant opening in Adams Morgan on Thursday, April 20. 

Burgers (meat and veggie) are on the menu alongside pizza and pasta.
Burgers (meat and veggie) are on the menu alongside pizza and pasta. Photograph by Jennifer Chase

Cindy Sanchez, the restaurant’s managing partner, grew up working in her father’s restaurants. Seating the likes of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg alongside families of 12 in the dining room is second nature. The biggest lesson she learned: “Make it affordable and friendly.” 

Alfresco, built from the ground up by DC design firm Grupo7 in what was once Lauriol’s second parking lot, sprawls out along 18th Street with two patios, an indoor/outdoor bar, and a semi-enclosed center courtyard with a retractable roof. Outdoor seating for 225 gives the restaurant its name (there are another 124 seats indoors). 

The indoor dining room seats 124. Photograph by Jennifer Chase

Though Alfresco is an American restaurant with a lot of Italian influence on the menu, there are parallels to its sister spots. Frozen drink machines will churn out frosty negronis, and big menus for dinner and weekend brunch are designed to be approachable in taste and price. Spanish-born head chef Israel Bartoli, most recently of Wagshal’s, taps into his family’s Italian heritage for homemade pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and entrees like eggplant or chicken parm’. The menu also hits crowd-pleasers like burgers, big salads, sandwiches, and crabcakes. Dinner prices are generally $9 to $13 for appetizers, and $16 to $28 for entrees, plus a few splurges like a $45 filet-and-crabcake surf n’ turf. Brunch, starting in May, will bring fun plates like savory everything waffles with smoked salmon, power smoothies, and egg dishes. 

Pizzas com topped with prosciutto and arugula or burrata and roasted vegetables. Photograph by Jennifer Chase

Drinks are also designed to be easy, including $12 mojitos, glasses of wine starting at $9, and a bunch of beers and prosecco on tap. Weekday happy hour (3 to 6 PM) will bring more deals like $6 drinks and $5 plates of meatballs or truffle fries. And when summer hits, you can bet there’ll be frozen margaritas.

Chef Israel Bartoli jumps behind the bar. Photograph by Jennifer Chase

Alfresco Tap & Grill. 2009 18th St., NW

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.