On Tap Magazine: New Notable No Longer: March 2018
“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.
Location: U Street
Lowdown: The Hilton brothers’ new tavern harkens back to the 1920s, from the drinks to the décor. Ask for a cocktail, and you’ll be given a mini-history lesson about classic drinks that originated between the 1870s and the 1950s. Each entry has a note explaining its backstory, like the Boulevardier’s creation by Erskine Gwynne in 1927. The shareable plates are in the style of early American cuisine, influenced by the traditions of German and Irish immigrants who opened many of the city’s early 20th century establishments. Expect dishes like poutine, weisswurst and sherry mushroom toast, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The surroundings are equally era-appropriate, with art deco patterns, old photographs, intricate wood flooring patterns and metallic detailing rescued from an old insurance building in Baltimore. As the name suggests, there are two gas fireplaces inside, as well as a wood-burning fireplace on the indoor-outdoor patio. 2012 9th St. NW, DC; www.gaslight-dc.com
Location: Tysons Corner
Lowdown: If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the idea of trying to visit each one of the restaurants in empire-building Mike Isabella’s portfolio, his latest project was made just for you. Isabella Eatery is a 41,000-square-foot food emporium housing nine different concepts – some that are spin offs of existing concepts and others that are brand new – all under one roof. There’s a mix of fast-casual counters for a quick bite and full-service dining areas for a leisurely meal. A few spots take reservations, while others are carryout or open seating. The eatery snakes around the third floor of Tysons Galleria, with brown floor tile linking each space and marking where you’re allowed to roam with your drinks from the restaurants and bars.
On my first visit, I walked through the space with my mouth agape at the sheer expanse and the beautiful design features that distinguished each concept from the others. Once you get over the shock, it’s time to decide what to eat. The first spot you’ll find if you arrive via the street entrance is Nonfiction Coffee, a great place to fuel up with a pour-over and get some work done. For bruschetta, pastas and focaccia pizzas, head to Graffiato. Sweet treats like sundaes, splits and shakes can be found at Retro Creamery, a scoop shop inspired by ice cream parlors of the 1950s. At Pepita, you can grab a quick taco or burrito, or belly up to the bar for Mexican beer, tequila and margaritas. Requin is primarily a raw bar slinging oysters, crudos and tartare, but there are also a few cooked seafood favorites like mussels, crab cakes and lobster rolls. If you’re in the mood for sushi, poke and sake, grab a seat at Yona. Arroz has Spanish classics like tapas, pintxos, sangria and signature pans of bomba rice. The fast-casual version of Kapnos Taverna is Kapnos Marketa, with gyro wraps and bowls, as well as spreads and wood-grilled vegetables. For Prohibition-style classic cocktails, stop by Octagon Bar, where a DJ spins on weekends. If you just can’t decide what you’re in the mood for, snag a table at the Dining Hall, which ties together a majority of the concepts with an extensive menu and full service. 2001 International Dr. McLean, VA; www.isabellaeatery.com
The LINE Hotel
Location: Adams Morgan
Lowdown: The LINE Hotel might just be the most Instagrammed spot in town right now. What used to be a neoclassical church has been beautifully renovated into a hotel with five distinct food and beverage options from talented local chefs and their teams. It’s the kind of place where I would love to linger all day. When you first enter the hotel, you’re greeted by a coffee bar from Chef Spike Gjerde and Corey Polyoka of Woodberry Kitchen. The Cup We All Race 4 features Counter Culture Coffee drinks, plus an unusual dairy substitute. Since the guiding principle of all Gjerde’s restaurants is using ingredients exclusively sourced in the Chesapeake region (with rare exceptions), oat milk is the non-dairy milk of choice rather than the more common almond or soy. The food menu includes whole-grain pastries, sandwiches on house-baked bread, salads, and assorted other breakfast and lunch selections.
Head up the stairs and you’ll find Gjerde’s other two concepts, A Rake’s Progress and A Rake’s Bar. At the bar, Polyoka has curated cocktails by geographic region and spirit, plus a few innovative recipes that fall under the category of “progress.” Local distillers and brewers take center stage, along with preserved produce in tinctures, bitters, shrubs and more. Moving into the dining room, which wraps around the upper level balcony overlooking the lobby, Chef Opie Crooks helms the kitchen. The wood-burning hearth is the focus, and it’s impossible to leave without getting a taste of the char – house-made bread is grilled over the fire before hitting guests’ tables at the start of each meal. The flames also add flavor to small game like rabbit, quail and duck, as well as pork loin, lamb shoulder and more. At the end of service each night, potatoes are buried under the dying embers in the hearth to cook overnight for a dish aptly named “lost potatoes.” Many dishes are presented tableside and then carved or finished off at the centrally-located carving station to give diners a show. For dessert, peruse Pastry Chef Amanda Cook’s stream-of-consciousness-style menu that includes baked Alaska, Smith Island cake and perhaps a soufflé in the future.
Downstairs in the lobby, Erik Bruner-Yang of Maketto has dominion. Brothers and Sisters serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the dishes play off the idea of American cuisine that you might find overseas, namely in Japan. Chef Harper McClure and Pastry Chef Pichet Ong have crafted a menu of playful and satisfying small plates and desserts like savory oatmeal, an octopus hot dog, a knife-cut noodle dish that adds Asian flavors to an Italian staple, French onion chicharrónes, a citrus chiffon cake and a vegan rice pudding draped with mochi. Uni and caviar service is available as well, plus high tea in the afternoons. There’s a bar on either end of the lobby where Todd Thrasher mixes drinks inspired by hotel bars around the world – American classics and Ametora-influenced drinks. Brothers and Sisters provides room service for the hotel, and you can even order a bar cart up to your room. Bruner-Yang’s second concept within the hotel, Spoken English, is a standing-room restaurant located within the kitchen that’s slated to open at the beginning of March. 1770 Euclid St. NW, DC; www.thelinehotel.com/dc“
Featured photo by Daniel Krieger Photography.