On Tap scouts out the restaurants, bars and clubs that are new to the scene or shaking things up.
Crios means “family” in Spanish, a fitting name for the place co-owned by sisters Joanne and Julie Liu, whom also own Scion Restaurant next door. “My sister and I have always loved the bold flavors of Mexican food,” says Julie. “We wanted to bring the ‘modern Mexican’ concept to the neighborhood because it was missing a festive and vibrant place for those tacos-and-margaritas moments in life.” Crios supplies color and flavor in spades, courtesy of funky electric blue and pink décor and tasty, somewhat untraditional, dishes like chilled cucumber watermelon soup, rockfish ceviche, ducks sopes, truffled esquites, and Dr. Pepper pork carnitas. More than a dozen tequilas are on tap to cap off the meal; craft cocktails and a solid selection of beers—both bottled and draft—are also available. Stop by soon to enjoy a meal on the picnic table-covered patio while the temperatures are still high.
Crios: 2120 P St. NW, DC; 202-822-8800; www.criosmodmex.com
Some like it hot. Consider Cusbah among the “some.” The H Street spot even has a disclaimer on their authentic Pakistani and North Indian menu which declares that everything on it is hot—so you’ve been warned. Heat-seekers can test their limits with dishes like the “red hot” lamb Ghost Vindaloo, tikka makhni with coriander, and roti chicken stuffed with onions. Fire up your taste buds even further with the joint’s cocktails, many of which play into the restaurant’s love of all things spicy. Among them are the spot’s titular sip, a concoction of vodka, fresh muddled mint, coriander, citrus infused simple syrup, and soda water, the Silk Road, with Beefeater gin, fresh muddled coriander, cucumber, jalapeno, simple syrup, and fresh lime juice, and the Mumbai Cosmo, a mix of vodka, Creole Shrubb orange liqueur, Cointreau, fresh muddled ginger, fresh lime juice and cranberry juice. The space is intimate, which is fitting—in Urdu, “cusbah” loosely means “little village.” One look at all the merry spice-seekers in the place and the name makes perfect sense.
Cusbah: 1128 H St. NW, DC; 202-506-1504; www.cusbah.com
Hank’s Oyster Bar
Summer’s almost over, but your obsession with oyster and lobster rolls can continue well into winter, thanks to yet another Hank’s Oyster Bar. The Capitol Hill Hank makes three, joining previous locations in Alexandria and Dupont Circle. You can never go wrong with a plate of oysters on a half shell at Hank’s, but in addition to the many seafood dishes, meatier options are also available. Braised short ribs, lamb shank, Chesapeake fried chicken, and flat iron steak are surrounded by the likes of lobster bisque, griddled crab cakes, and fried Ipswich clams on the expansive menu. The fresh-from-the-sea bites aren’t the only beachy things to be had at Hank’s; vintage mason jars and whitewashed pine everywhere make it easy for customers to pretend they’re dining oceanside. The newest Hank emphasizes its cocktail program more than its predecessors; look for a 20-seat bar dubbed The Eddy in the restaurant’s rear.
Hank’s Oyster Bar: 633 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, DC; 202-733-1971; www.hanksoysterbar.com
DC’s newest incarnation of Hank’s Oyster Bar comes with a little something extra in the form of The Eddy. The Eddy, an elegant old-school bar, is the biggest draw at Hank’s number three. Mixologist Gina Chersevani runs things behind the long marble-and-blue-tile countertop, chipping away at the tabled ice block, handling the juicer, and passing out house-made sodas poured from bar-installed spigots. Twenty punches and cocktails are on rotation—and served up in cool antique beakers and punch bowls. We’re especially intrigued by the wacky take on the Georgia Mafia that incorporates peanut-washed whiskey, marshmallow bitters and sweet vermouth. Allow us to recommend the Esquire-highlighted Gnomes Water Rebellion, a sort of amped-up Pimm’s Cup, with cucumber, fresh lemon juice, and tarragon simple syrup. Also add Pimm’s No. 1. Beer on tap and by the bottle is present, as is a small selection of wines. The Capitol Hill cocktail joint is open Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to midnight, and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight.
The Eddy: 633 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, DC; 202-733-1971; www.hanksoysterbar.com
There is more to Japanese cuisine than sushi, and Izakaya Seki owner Hiroshi Seki is out to prove it. Seki also doubles as the venue’s chef, producing a menu full of unconventional items— he moved all the way from the Midwest in search of more adventurous clientele to try his fare. Challenge accepted, Chef Seki. Joining the standard sushi and sashimi on the menu are less traditional dishes such as the grilled pork trotter, wasabi chicken tenders, steamed monkfish liver, skate with a sweet soy glaze, BBQ beef short ribs, and more. Most unusual—and awesome—of all: the tonsoku, or pigs’ miso mustard-flavored feet. The menu of 30+ items is broken up into categories of raw, grilled, fried, and noodle/rice dishes; it’s rounded out by a list of Japanese beers. The menu may contain multitudes, but the space is small. The entry-level floor seats just ten, where Seki will prepare food directly in front of a lucky group of customers. The upstairs dining area seats 20-30.
Izakaya Seki: 1117 V St. NW, DC; 202-588-5841; www.sekidc.com
Karamara Ethiopian Restaurant
The District is not lacking in great Ethiopian eats—which is not to say you shouldn’t check out the newest entry in the area’s Ethiopian cuisine category. Owner Selamawit Belete emigrated from Ethiopia over a decade ago and is eager to serve her take on her homeland’s cuisine to the DMV area. The Columbia Pike post has yet to receive a liquor license, but the bites on the abbreviated menu are tasty enough to make up for the lack of booze. The lamb wot, a tender lamb stew of onion, garlic, spices, and butter, is hearty enough for the hungriest of diners. The vegetarian section on the menu is lengthy, with a sampler option that allows customers to pick up to five veggies for tasting. The best thing about Karamara is its friendly staff—no one is stingy with the injera refills.
Karamara Ethiopian Restaurant: 3205 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA; www.karamaraethiopianrestaurant.com
The long awaited outdoor beer garden—originally expected to debut in May—is almost here. The “global fusion” Columbia Heights spot is situated at Perry Place on bustling 14th Street. It boasts an aforementioned second floor rooftop bar for customers to sip and share New American cuisine. A lounge with a vaulted ceiling, a treetop patio, and a sidewalk café are just a few of the other spaces diners can enjoy in the large orange-and-blue-hued, ceramic art-adorned venue. Momos will, of course, be serving momos, or the Tibetan take on dumplings. The recipes will be a combination of co-owner Sam Huang’s grandmother, mother, and aunt’s classic creations. “I love the combination of momos and beer together,” says Huang. “Mad Momos will offer DC the only place where you can enjoy handmade artisanal momos with carefully selected craft beers.” How do you say “yes, please” in Tibetan?
Mad Momos: 3605 14th St. NW, DC; www.madmomos.com
Tacos El Chilango
Tacos El Chilango serves just nine tacos (six meat, three vegetarian), all of which can be topped with either cilantro or onions. No house guac—or any of the other quintessential taco toppings here. The tiny U Street shop serves most of the same fare as its much-beloved food truck counterpart, usually parked in the Rosslyn neighborhood, at a slightly higher price point. The décor is almost as minimal as the menu, save for the Creamsicle-colored walls, but when the taste is this stellar, you won’t hear many complaints. Owners Jesus Santacruz and Juan Antonio run the 16-seat space, complete with an outdoor patio and a small shrine to the pair’s mother set up in the back. $12 margaritas and celebrity chefs in the kitchen will likely never appear at Chilango—slang for someone from Mexico City—anytime soon, and we’re okay with that. Chilango’s proves when it comes to tacos, less is more.
Tacos El Chilango: 1119 V St. NW, DC; 202-986-3030
VeraCruz Art Gallery and Bar
They had us at “art bar.” The gallery describes itself as such because in addition to showcasing interior murals from local up-and-comers, the spot features a Latin-focused food and beverage program. Art enthusiasts can imbibe on the best beers and bites that Mexico, El Salvador, and Peru, from among other places, have to offer. Nearby pan-Latino restaurants will supply the eats. The art will be mostly street art, but don’t expect uncurated graffiti when you arrive—Veracruz boasts both wall and 2D work from the highly-skilled artists they partner with. The debut exhibition, “Tough Guys & Dames,” takes a Mad Men-esque view of the world and will showcase murals and sculptures. Sounds like it pairs perfectly with a martini. VeraCruz is located above Duffy’s sports bar on Vermont Avenue.
VeraCruz Art Gallery and Bar: 2106 Vermont Ave. NW, DC; www.veracruzgallery.com
Doner Bistro opens second spot
Leesburg’s doner kebab spot, Doner Bistro, is set to open its second location in the old Shawarma King space in Adams Morgan. We’re especially excited for the doner boxes—meat and fries in a box!
Doner Bistro: 1654 Columbia Rd. NW, DC; 202-462-8355; www.doener-usa.com
Heritage India relocating
The Dupont Circle location of Heritage India has opted to relocate following its lease expiration. The owners are expected to announce the new location within the next month. The Georgetown spot will remain open for business seven days a week.
Heritage India: 2400 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; 202-333-3120; www.heritageindiausa.com
Northside Social loses pastry chef
The Clarendon sweet spot’s pastry chef, Rob Valencia, has departed the bakery/wine bar/café to work for the Park Slope-based Chocolate Room in New York. Bridie McCulla, a longtime mentee of Valencia’s, has taken over in his absence. A few notable changes to the menu have already been made, one of which is the addition of a truly tasty chocolate fudge pie. We’re not worried.
Northside Social: 3211 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; 703-465-0145; www.northsidesocialarlington.com
Persimmon closing for renovations
The Bethesda-based resto aims to reinvent itself with more of a bistro-style flair. Customers can expect less formal, less expensive eats. To achieve their mission, Persimmon will be closing through October and possibly reopening with a new name.
Persimmon: 7003 Wisconsin Ave. Chevy Chase, MD; 301-654-9860; www.persimmonrestaurant.com
Shaw Tavern unveils new cocktail list
Bistro Bohem’s onetime mixologist Mark Reyburn is in charge of Shaw’s Tavern’s ambitious new beverage program. A new cocktail list is expected, and Reyburn is even contemplating brewing and distilling booze in-house. Customers can plan to enjoy plenty of rum, brandy, and cognac, as the menu is a homage to the Civil War era in which the liquors were super-popular. Look for a rooftop patio and bar to open in the next two months.
Shaw Tavern: 520 Florida Ave. NW, DC; 202-518-4092; www.shawstavern.com
Z Burger expanding
The popular DC burger joint is truly becoming a chain—they are set to open yet another spot, their first in Virginia, this fall. Virginia Square residents can soon enjoy all the z-style fries and shakes and malts they want at the Wilson Boulevard and North Kenmore outpost.
Z Burger: 4321 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; 202-966-1999; 2414 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; 202-965-7777; www.zburger.com
America Eats Tavern
Jose Andres’ temporary resto has closed.
The Adams Morgan space is no longer.