Medina, 1328 Florida Ave., NW.
Open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 5 PM to 1 AM. Closed Sunday and Tuesday.
One of DC’s most show-stopping restaurants is getting a transportive cocktail bar sibling. Rose Previte’s Maydan, whose name comes from a word that means “town square” or “gathering place” throughout the Islamic world, will now be joined by Medina, whose name refers to the old walled section of many ancient North African cities.
Opening Thursday, October 26, Medina is a small, lushly decorated bar—it sits just across the alley from Maydan—with tapestries, cushions, and lanterns. Like its larger neighbor, Medina is inspired by owner Rose Previte’s travels in Morocco and Tunisia. She sees it as a comfortable place to wait for a table next door, or the perfect spot for an after-dinner nightcap.
“Maydan is all about the food, and we wanted to create a space where it could be a little more relaxed and you don’t feel like you have to have the mega-meal,” Previte says.
The most elaborate contribution from beverage director Drew Hairston is a martini cart for two with Moroccan olive oil-washed vodka and briny accoutrements like smoked olives, sumac onions, and Sardinian bottarga. Hairston’s mezcal-based Medusa involves passionfruit, banana, and orange, and is topped with a salty foam cloud. Many of Medina’s wines are from lesser-known growing regions on Mediterranean islands like Corsica and Mallorca.
Medina takes its decorative cues from the Bedouin tent, a pre-pandemic outdoor dining set-up Previte built at her first restaurant, 14th Street’s Compass Rose. In 2020, Previte dismantled the tent to use the space for storing to-go containers, and it later became a “Trans-Siberian Railway carriage,” one of DC’s more high-concept outdoor dining areas.
Medina is the permanent reincarnation of the tent, with carpets and lanterns imported from Morocco. Underneath a low ceiling draped in colorful textiles are 50 seats clustered around small, brass-colored tables and cushy living room-like nooks. For now, half of the room is reserved for walk-ins, Previte says, to make sure Medina still functions as a reliable place to wait when Maydan is packed.
If you get peckish during an hour-long wait for a table at Maydan, or if you just want to make a full meal out of your visit to Medina, the shareable offerings from former Compass Rose chef Sam Molavi are plentiful (“I’ll never have a spot that has drinks and no food,” Previte says).
There’s a North African-inspired mezze platter featuring tinned tuna (an essential ingredient in many Tunisian street food dishes), a Tunisian deep-fried pastry called a brik with gruyere and tuna, and a trio of Moroccan tagines made with lamb, chicken, or vegetables, which made their way to the menu from Compass Rose.
“We’re trying to be true to the region, but making it adaptable to cocktail light-bites,” Previte says.
Giving back to the region that has given her so much inspiration was also important, Previte says. On opening night and “for the foreseeable future,” a portion of the bar’s revenue will go to GlobalGiving’s Morocco Earthquake Relief Fund.