On Tap: New Notable No Longer: November 2017
“On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town, the top culinary news of the month and recent closings. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new, notable and no longer in the DC area.
Open: September 22
Location: 14th Street Corridor
Lowdown: Rising star Ryan Ratino burst onto the 14th Street scene with a restaurant of his own this fall, just months after Ripple – his former home – closed. Bresca is billed as a modern bistro, inspired by the Parisian movement of bistronomy (a blend of the words bistro and gastronomy), which marries upscale French gastronomic cooking and the more vibrant, casual atmosphere of a bistro. Both the cuisine and the décor are as quirky as Ratino’s personality. Dubbed “noodlehead” by his father as a child, Ratino’s favorite dishes are those involving pasta, and they’re also some of the most popular on the menu so far. Just the smell of the truffle-kissed sea urchin linguini had me drooling, and I couldn’t stop eating the chestnut agnolotti stuffed with rabbit. Seasonal ingredients like mushrooms and root vegetables take center stage this time of year, but the dishes will change regularly. One constant will be dry-aged beef, which is a passion project for Ratino. He has a few tricks up his sleeve to age the meat and keep it at an affordable price point. The dining room is boisterous and eclectic, with offbeat design elements and upbeat music. One wall is studded with gold fish heads, one is lined with embalmed moss and another has illustrations of humans with animal heads. Bresca means honeycomb in Spanish, so the motif is present throughout, with hexagons on the wall and bee-shaped vessels for cocktails. 1906 14th St. NW, DC; www.brescadc.com
Open: October 8
Lowdown: The team behind The Fainting Goat and Tiger Fork are inviting the whole neighborhood over to hang out in their backyard in Blagden Alley. Partners Nathan Beauchamp and Greg Algie wanted Calico to feel like your neighbor’s yard during a weekend cookout: laidback and comfortable with simple but satisfying food. The interior has the feel of an industrial art studio, with homey touches like floral upholstery on the bar stools, pink tile, picnic tables and printed retro light fixtures that Algie describes as “grandma globes.” The outdoor space is an urban oasis, with string lights, lanterns, rustic planters and a vintage greenhouse surrounded by wooden fencing. The food takes its cue from the Eastern Shore, Philadelphia and New Jersey. Seafood options like fried clams and steamed shrimp evoke coastal vibes, while tomato pie and roast pork are straight out of Philly. Beauchamp turns Jersey eggplant parm into finger food with breaded eggplant sticks smothered in cheese and served with marinara for dipping. Special feasts are also in the works, from lobster boils to prime rib dinners. To keep things casual, food is served on compostable paper products and all the mugs for soup are mismatched. The crowd favorite from the bar is the juice box – cocktails served in nostalgia-inducing pouches. I loved sipping on the Red Brick Road, with Lyon Distilling White Rum, Licor 43, dry vermouth, caramel and lime. Their drink menu also includes draft beer, wine and cocktails, plus wine and beer by the glass and bottle. 50 Blagden Alley NW, DC; www.calicodc.com
Dio Wine Bar
Open: September 20
Location: H Street Corridor
Lowdown: The natural wine scene in DC hasn’t yet flourished like it has in other cities across the U.S. and Europe, but Stacey Khoury-Diaz is trying to change that with Dio, the capital’s first natural wine bar. She didn’t set out to convert wine drinkers, but rather to provide options for those who are curious about organic and biodynamic wines. All 30 of the bottles on her rotating wine list are made with minimal additives and minimal intervention in the cellar, and many are certified organic by various national certification programs. Khoury-Diaz says it comes down to transparency. Since wine isn’t required to have an ingredient label, she vets vineyards and producers to provide the most unadulterated wines for her patrons. Just like with conventional wines, the regions of origin, varietals, flavor profiles and prices vary widely, and Dio aims to showcase a range of options, including more unusual offerings like orange wine. Though Khoury-Diaz and her bartenders aren’t certified sommeliers, their practical mastery of the subject is evident as they make recommendations and educate drinkers about the production process behind the wine in their glass. Beyond grapes, Dio offers local beers and ciders, nonalcoholic beverages, and cocktails featuring local spirits. The food menu stars housemade breads, cheese, charcuterie and unfussy seasonal snacks. 904 H St. NE, DC; www.diowinebar.com
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream
Open: September 25
Location: 14th Street Corridor
Lowdown: The Ohio ice cream brand with a cult following has finally landed in DC, bringing with it artisanal scoops made from grass-fed milk and farm-fresh ingredients. Founder and James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Jeni Britton Bauer had her eye on the DC market for years because of the growing customer base. The new shop follows the company’s clean, white aesthetic, with bright accents like yellow Clare Vivier wallpaper, teal paint and a gallery wall that tells the story of Jeni’s ice cream from cow to cone. Devoted dairy fans can find all the most popular signature flavors, including the famous salty caramel and the impossibly rich darkest chocolate. The fall flavors are now available as well, with creative takes like sweet potato with torched marshmallows and pumpkin five-spice. Choosing a favorite flavor is an impossible task, but the gooey butter cake stole my heart on a recent visit. The ice creams are available in cones or bowls, as well as in decadent sundaes or between scratch-made macaron cookies. 1925 14th St. NW, DC; www.jenis.com/14th-street“
Featured image courtesy of Dio Wine Bar.