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Washington, DC’s New Food Scene

When President Obama built his recent campaign around the theme “Forward,” he could have been talking about the DC food scene. Talented chefs are creating innovative restaurants that are keeping this early-to-bed town up way too late for a 6 a.m. power breakfast. Here, the best new places and most buzzed-about dishes, from brunch-time baked orzo to dan dan noodles at midnight.
Custardy Baked Orzo with Spinach, Bacon and Feta
Photo © Marcus Nilsson.

Morning

Kapnos

At Kapnos, set to open this spring, Mike Isabella of Graffiato, Bandolero and Top Chef fame will make Greek food starting with brunch: Dishes will include baked orzo with spinach and feta (left). For dinner, he’ll spit-roast whole animals. Next door, he is also opening G, an Italian sandwich shop by day and tasting-menu restaurant by night. 2201 14th St. NW; kapnosdc.com.

Washington, DC's GBD
Photo © Marcus Nilsson.

Noon

GBD

Husband-and-wife team Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac run the beer-focused restaurant Birch & Barley; when space became available nearby, they decided to open a spot focused on frying. At GBD—short for “golden brown and delicious”—Bailey prepares buttermilk fried chicken and MacIsaac makes salt-and-pepper crème fraîche biscuits, plus brioche doughnuts in flavors like grapefruit-Campari. When the company’s Bluejacket brewery, bar and restaurant opens near the Nationals stadium, they will address a question they say they often ask themselves: “Why not pair great beer with great food, instead of mozzarella sticks?” Bluejacket, 300 Tingey St. SE; bluejacketdc.com. GBD, 1323 Connecticut Ave. NW; gbdchickendoughnuts.com.

Washington, DC's Union Market
Photo © Marcus Nilsson.

Late Afternoon

Union Market

DC’s answer to San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace: In the middle of the city’s wholesale-food warehouses, development company Edens has renovated this industrial-chic structure and enlisted chef Richie Brandenburg, fresh from a stint working for José Andrés, to collect the most talented local vendors. Under soaring ceilings, shoppers will find perfect afternoon snacks: smoky oyster chowder with bacon at Rappahannock Oyster Bar, or spiced chocolate egg creams from mixologist Gina Chersevani at Buffalo & Bergen. Shoppers can also pick up artisanal pickles and aged cheeses. “I went after vendors I used as a chef,” says Brandenburg. “Why shouldn’t regular folks be able to buy the best-quality ingredients?” 1309 Fifth St. NE; unionmarketdc.com.

Roast Squab Breast with Two-Grain Porridge
Photo © Marcus Nilsson.

Evening

Suna

At Johnny Spero’s tasting-menu-only restaurant, diners can expect precise cooking with local—sometimes foraged—ingredients. Dishes include dashi custard with scallops and sea beans, and roast squab breast with porridge (left). 214 Seventh St. SE; sunadc.com.

Chocolate-Chip Cookies with Red Miso Buttercream
Photo © Marcus Nilsson.

Late-Night

Maketto

Come summer, Maketto will be the best place to go for a late-night snack. The brainchild of Erik Bruner-Yang (who opened ramen hot spot Toki Underground in 2011), Maketto was inspired by Asian night markets and will stay open until 2 a.m. on weekends. The restaurant will serve dishes from Taiwan (dan dan noodles) and Southeast Asia (papaya salad), and vendors will sell street foods, clothes and housewares. Street-wear designer Will Sharp of Durkl is collaborating on the project. Unlike the unmarked, 25-seat Toki Underground, Maketto will be a multilevel business. “This is my go-big-or-go-home moment,” says Bruner-Yang. 1351 H St. NE.

Handmade Ceramics at Washington, DC's Salt & Sundry
Photo © Marcus Nilsson.

Design Shop

Salt & Sundry

At this shop in the new Union Market, F&W contributor Amanda McClements sells handmade ceramics and linens, plus farm tables built by her father. 1309 Fifth St. NE; shopsaltandsundry.com.

Washington, DC Chef José Andrés
Photo © Marcus Nilsson.

More New Openings

Penn Quarter

Minibar José Andrés remains the face of avant-garde Spanish cuisine in America. When he moved (and redesigned) his Minibar in the fall, he made it slightly less mini, yet still intimate. In a sleek white room, 12 diners sample his whimsical, modern dishes, more than half of them new, including “pine snow with honey” and “parmesan leaves.” 855 E St. NW; minibarbyjoseandres.com.

Dupont Circle

DGS Delicatessen Chef Barry Koslow has rebooted the Jewish deli. He makes pickles, cures meats and adds fried chicken skin to chopped liver, which diners can pair with a sparkling Austrian rosé. 1317 Connecticut Ave. NW; dgsdelicatessen.com.

Chinatown

Daikaya At this two-in-one restaurant, ramen (and only ramen) is served downstairs. Upstairs, the menu loosens up to focus on izakaya-style food. 705 Sixth St. NW; daikaya.com.

Downtown

Woodward Table Jeffrey Buben, chef-owner of Vidalia, pays homage to regional dishes like crab cakes at his new spot. His flavors skew southern, like a Coca-Cola glaze on chicken wings. 1426 H St. NW; woodwardtable.com.

Video: Washington, DC Chef José Andrés

Published February 2013
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