Yes, there have been a bunch of recent restaurant closures in Washington. But there have been just as many, if not more, exciting openings since the start of spring. The variety itself is enticing— from fast-casual concepts (Burmese, southern Italian) to finer-dining rooms, food halls, neighborhood spots, and cool cocktail haunts. Take a look and break out the calendar, you’ve got a lot of eating to do.
1) Queen’s English
3410 11th St., NW
New York transplants Sarah Thompson and Henji Cheung are behind this small, stunning restaurant in Columbia Heights. Cheung grew up in Hong Kong and creates modern renditions of dishes from Asia’s World City, whether steamed egg custard with anchovy and caviar; crispy “typhoon shelter” shrimp tossed with garlic, chilies, and Chinese celery; or a five-spice smoked lamb rib. The drink list is full of fun and quirky finds like orange wines, French ciders, and barrel-aged spiced cocktails.
2) Seven Reasons
2208 14th St., NW
Venezuelan chef Enrique Limardo received high accolades for cooking at Alma Cocina Latina in Baltimore before striking out with his own 14th Street restaurant. The two-story space is fashioned like an urban jungle with greenery climbing century-old brick walls, while the cooking is decidedly modern. Think sea bass ceviche with lemongrass, coconut, and trout caviar or a shareable chorizo-and-lobster rice with jalapeño syrup, beef cheeks, and black truffle. In your glass (or a fresh young coconut): cocktails from barman barman Josue Gonzalez like the Tranquilo y Tropical with cachaça, coconut rum, Nigori sake, fresh pineapple, lime, and matcha green tea.
403 H St., NE
Chef Peter Prime, formerly of Caribbean-inspired smokehouse Spark, and sister Jeanine Prime bring a modern taste of their native Trinidad and Tobago to H Street, Northeast. The menu melds the many culinary influences on the Caribbean island from France, Spain, Africa, and beyond. Look for dishes like doubles (West Indian fry bread) with cumin-spiced chickpeas; marinated and grilled oxtails with coconut-cilantro rice; jerk wings; and tiffin boxes stacked with a variety of vegetarian or meaty curries and chutneys. Live cane plants in the dining room set the mood for rum cocktails.
1521 17th St., NW
The team behind one of DC’s top cocktail spots, Copycat Co., has expanded to Dupont. Astoria’s concept is similar—classic cocktails, tiki drinks, and Chinese food—though the vibe is more upscale (credit an Art Deco aesthetic inspired by the Waldorf-Astoria bar) and the food menu is more substantial. Co-owner Devin Gong’s philosophy is “serve what you like”—hence the lineup of chili wontons, ma po tofu, and other Szechuan dishes alongside boozy old-fashioneds and tropical Painkillers.
5) Laos in Town
250 K St., NE
Two Bangkok natives, Nick Ongsangkoon (co-owner of Soi 38) and chef Ben Tiatasin (formerly of Thip Khao) are behind this airy Lao restaurant in NoMa. Patrons can sit at a white marble bar for pineapple-tamarind mules, or head to the plant and bamboo-lined dining room for lunch and dinner. The menu features Thai and Lao dishes like crispy rice salad, crunchy rolls wrapped in lettuce leaves, marinated grilled beef, and herb-stuffed whole fish.
6) Nicoletta Italian Kitchen and Pizzeria
901 4th St., NW; 301 Water St., SE
New York-based restaurateur Michael White is expanding his reach in DC for the first time since opening Osteria Morini six years ago. The new fast-casual pizzeria near his Navy Yard flagship is set up on the boardwalk at Yards Park for quick-grab pies, wings, and frozen Negronis. The Italian Kitchen in Mt. Vernon Triangle is full-service “modern red sauce” with a menu of parms, meatballs, and fresh pastas alongside Italy-by-way-of-Wisconsin pizzas.
7) Dacha Navy Yard
79 Potomac Ave., SE
Shaw’s popular beer garden goes upscale at its new Navy Yard location with a retro-chic restaurant and bar. (Come mid-May, a massive waterfront beer garden will open nearby for beer boots and brats). Former Requin chef Taylor Burlingame serves a modern American menu with dishes like steak frites, seared scallops and grits, and a whole duck served table-side. Drinks like daiquiris and vespers nod to the large murals of JFK and Jackie overlooking the space. Being Dacha, there’s also plenty of German, Belgian, and local beer.
950 New York Ave., NW
Brother/chefs Bryan and Michael Voltaggio have teamed up for their second family restaurant in the DC-area (they’re also behind an MGM steakhouse). As tribute to their home in Frederick, the menu homes in on the Chesapeake Bay and mid-Atlantic traditions—all with an upscale, modern flare in the luxe new Conrad hotel. Gratis mini croissants with homemade tomato jam and togarashi are meant to mimic fancy West Virginia pepperoni rolls, while the done-up Chesapeake crab roll is a must.
9) Quarter Market
4238 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
The huge food hall in the revamped Ballston Quarter mall has been slowly opening, and now ten vendors are up and running. (More stalls and sit-down restaurants like Ted’s Bulletin coming soon.) Look for spicy fried chicken at Hot Lola’s; NYC-style slices from Turu’s by Timber Pizza; Asian soups and bao at Mi & Yu Noodle Bar; grain bowls at Rice Crook; cold beers from Ballston Service Station, Sloppy Mamma’s BBQ; The Local Oyster raw bar; sushi from Roll’d; and more on the way.
10) Tequila & Mezcal
3475 14th St., NW
Chefs Dio Montero and Mirna Alvarado, the husband-and-wife team behind Taqueria Habanero, are on a roll between a new College Park location and a new bar/restaurant near their Columbia Heights flagship. The menu of share plates, tacos, and hearty entrees draws partially from Montero’s native Puebla. Look for dishes like slow-cooked pork ribs in mole, chicken tacos arabe, huitlacochequesadillas. There’s also plenty of seafood. As for the drinks, the name says it all.
11) Stellina Pizzeria
399 Morse St., NE
Lupo Verde alums Antonio Matarazzo and chef Matteo Venini are behind this bright Italian spot by Union Market, which aims to be much more than your average fast-casual. Dishes lean southern Italian, whether “neo-Neapolitan” pizzas, cones of crispy seafood like you might find by the Mediterranean, crudos, or shellfish pastas. Match it all with wines, beers, and cocktails designed by Franceso Amodeo of Don Ciccio & Figli, which has a new amaro distillery and aperitivo bar in Ivy City.
12) Bandoola Bowl
1069 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Burmese goes fast-casual in Georgetown thanks to Aung Myint, whose family owns Mandalay in Silver Spring. Bright, crunchy, zingy salads are the thing here with customizable bowls built on beds of cabbage with veggies, fried shallots, and citrusy Burmese dressing. House specialities include roasted pork, mango, and shredded ginger salads. Look for specials like coconut curry chicken soup.
13) The Girl and the Vine
7071 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park
Natural wines and creative sandwiches arrive in Takoma Park thanks to this lovely deli, market, and bottle shop. Jocelyne DeHaas and David Fritzler (most recently of Elle) and the Coupe’s Rob Theriot are behind the all-day operation, where neighbors can grab cheeses, meats, and picnic-style items, or linger over a chicken schnitzel BLT in the cozy dining area and bar. (A 40-odd seat patio will open soon.) Beers lean local, while global wines are largely from smaller producers with many natural and biodynamic labels. Drink any of the bottles on premises for a $10 corkage fee.
14) Grazie Grazie
85 District Sq., SW
Taylor Gourmet fans got doubly good news this week—namely that the defunct hoagie chain is coming back under new ownership. But first! Co-founder Casey Patten has opened a Taylor Gourmet-ish restaurant at the Wharf with similar (and similarly named) sandwiches, salads, and cheesesteaks. So who will serve the better 9th Italian? Only time and opinionated Yelpers will tell.