When it comes to food, film, fashion, music, or anything requiring creativity, Deb Waterman Johns is a straight shooter. She sees through the fluff, gives credit where it’s due, and approaches everything with an open mind—kind of like a good-natured, yet dogmatic host for a cooking competition reality TV show. I’d probably put her in the same category as Padma Lakshmi. This said, DC restaurant week is approaching on January 22-28th, and Deb gave us the lowdown on hot options. So, I’d recommend postponing any plans for Whole 30 and making your reservations now.
If you hear someone name-dropping IT DC restaurants, they’re guaranteed to say Tail Up Goat, a hip Caribbean-Mediterranean neighborhood bistro in Adams Morgan. Try Googling it. You’ll barely make it to “Up” before a drop down appears, bombarding you with suggested searches: “Tail Up Goat Michelin,” “Tail Up Goat: 100 Very Best Restaurants 2017,” “Tail Up Goat: Bon Appetit - America’s Best New Restaurants 2016,” to name a few. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those gals who seems to "walk in the light" and never has issues with reservations or being seated at popular haunts like this. So, if you're working with that good karma, please hit me up.
Ordering and sharing small plates is strongly encouraged. There’s more than enough for two, so you won’t leave with the urge to post-game at McDonald's. With an array options like tagliatelle with rabbit, smoked potato ravioli with caramelized and fermented cabbage, bbq carrots, and lamb ribs with rutabaga tahini, even your most food-snobbiest of friends will be blown away. P.S. You can’t possibly go wrong with the “Alright, Alright, Alright,” a craft cocktail comprised of bourbon, rainwater Madeira, Capitoline Rosé and Fernet Francisco. Yum.
Brothers and Sisters, another Admo-based eatery, is in the lobby of the new Line Hotel. Chef Eric Bruner-Yang, known for his work at Maketo and Toki, runs the Japanese and Taiwanese-inspired restaurant in this former church converted to a boutique hotel. Deb’s on to something when she says, “hotels with trend restaurants are the new thing.” Bruner-Yang’s approach to cooking is one that celebrates the evolution of DC’s multicultural identity, so you’re in for something different and great. Deb also suggests visiting the hotel’s coffee shop, The Cup We All Race 4. Sidebar: The Line is where I’ll be taking a birthday stay-cation on Saturday evening, so my assistant will be taking all incoming calls and emails (my assistant is me).
This precious pearl of Petworth, Timber Pizza Co., has a devout neighborhood following. Serving “Neopolitan-ish” wood fired pizza, the cult foodie favorite has been on the rise since its 2016 opening. Washington local Andrew Dana, alongside Annapolis native Chris Brady, launched the business in 2014 after realizing their mutual love for basketball and pizza, as well as their shared dislike for their tech jobs. They knew they would never go pro, so they pursued a career in sauce and dough. Executive Chef, Dani Moreira, utilizes her background in fine dining and Argentinian zest to fire up Timber Pizza’s aesthetic.
Have you ever craved a potato donut? And a spicy chicken sandwich? Maybe a refreshing grain salad on the side? If so, head to Little Pearl, located on Capitol Hill at the old Bayou Bakery destination. Rose’s Luxury (this place is also fire) and Pineapple and Pearls owner, Aaron Silverman, opened this new coffee/wine bar on December 16, 2017 with standing room only. Try breakfast for more traditional espresso, pastries made in-house, and wraps. Can’t make it to The Hill for breakfast? Head over after work for an extensive selection of wine, appetizers, and Japanese-style fried chicken.
Brisket with rice, cumin lamb noodles, and crunchy soy-glazed chicken wings?! Yes, I still need to do my weekly grocery shopping. And, yes, the idea of preparing anything besides Cup O’ Noodles sounds like a cruel punishment, but there’s no denying Chiko sounds like Chinese-Korean paradise. Chefs Scott Drewno, Drew Kim, and Danny Lee have modernized the beloved Chinese takeout with handmaid dishes, fresh produce, and spices ground in-house. Just look at their Instagram. Once you’ve finished Instagram stalking, get on the Blue/Orange/Silver line, hop off at the Eastern Market Station, and walk the .1 mile to Chiko’s front door. Don’t worry about waiting to be seated, you can sprint straight to the counter and order.
First, who doesn’t love Union Market? If you haven’t been to Union Market, then I’ll take this moment to restaurant-shame you: “YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO UNION MARKET?!?” Okay, done with shaming. If you’re like me and excruciatingly indecisive, then Union Market will paralyze you with a never-ending list of options: barbecue, empanadas, Mediterranean, Ethiopian, ice cream, salmon, waffles, artisanal cheeses, and the list goes on. It’s a LOT.
But, it’s okay! Just do some ujjayi breathing, abandon all anxiety at the door, and go to Bidwell! With “southern flair and flavor,” Bidwell creates signatures dishes with the help of produce grown in aeroponic planters on the roof of Union Market. Everything that enters and exits the kitchen is both fresh and savory. My colleagues can attest to this after attending our SCOUT holiday party at this delightful establishment. Deb also says they have an awesome brunch, and we all know how much the District LOVES brunch.
Translating to “gathering place” or “square,” Maydan has a vibe and menu inspired by ancient trade routes through Caucasus, North Africa, and the Middle East. Rose Previte’s Cardozo-neighborhood restaurant has a two-story set up which provides an unexpected and entertaining dining experience. Upper-story seating overlooks food cooking over an open hearth. The entire Johns family loves the atmosphere as much as the cuisine.
For Deb, the biggest change in the DC restaurant scene is the more modern interpretation of different ethnicity and backgrounds represented. Young chefs new to the city are finding DC to be quite a "foodie" destination, and are in turn creating cuisines that fuse their own personal style, culture, and technique. The environments are becoming less manicured and pristine, and more reminiscent of The Village in New York. Restaurateurs are making the whole dining experience more dynamic and unexpected. “The taste of tongue must match the taste of sight,” and these up-and-coming chefs are satisfying the need. Today, DC restaurants are about more than just food. It's about the experience, too.
On that note, get on out there and eat!