Entries tagged with “Penn Quarter”.

For most of us, July 4th is a day to sit back and relax as we celebrate our nation’s independence.  For Jose Andres, not so much.  The outgoing head of the ThinkFoodGroup has a busy Monday lined up, what with the opening of his new America Eats Tavern and his work with the National Archives’ “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?” exhibit. We even got an inside tip on what he’ll be doing that morning (which we’ll share after the jump).

America Eats, conceived as a complement to the exhibit, is a pop-up restaurant that has possessed the body of Cafe Atlantico on 8th Street, NW in Penn Quarter.  The restaurant features seating on three levels and a significant facelift that focuses on iconic American images and artwork.  And although the menu is not yet complete, Andres has promised a bill of fare that will serve as a history lesson on a plate, featuring historically significant American recipes along with background information on where, when and why.

We had a chance to drop by the restaurant yesterday and take a look around.  They’ll be working around the clock between now and lunchtime Monday to make sure it’s all ready to go, but what we saw was already well on its way to completion, and there are some decorations that will make you stop and smile no matter where you enter the story of America’s dietary history.

Details and photos – including an impromptu chat with Archivist of the United States David Ferriero – after the jump. (more…)


Think back to that first episode of Top Chef Las Vegas in August of 2009.  What was your first impression of “Mike I?”

Photo Credit: Greg Powers

Chances are, the Zaytinya chef registered as loud, brash and maybe even a bit obnoxious.

Now picture him in the final episode of Top Chef All-Stars this spring.  The Graffiato chef/owner was composed and thoughtful, but still easy-going and clearly enjoying himself.  Within a year and a half he had evolved from a subject of criticism to one of pride among supporters of the DC dining scene.

When the first patrons taste his food at Graffiato’s opening tonight, that evolution will be on full display.  The concept is his.  The menu is his.  The kitchen is his.  It’s been a team effort to get here, for sure, but this is his show.

Buzz surrounding Graffiato’s opening has reached a fever pitch over the past few weeks (we fueled the fire a month ago when we saw Chef Isabella and he teased “Could be two weeks!”).  This is absolutely one of the most anticipated restaurants of the year, and details about the pizza oven, the local partners and the prosecco on tap have only made us more eager to actually taste the food.

We had a chance to stop by for a First Look as the Graffiato team was working through some of the finishing touches in advance of tonight’s opening.  Photos and some more details on what to expect after the jump. (more…)


image courtesy of Mango and Tomato

It is a warm spring night. I’m kneading bread dough in a gorgeous white and blue-tiled bakery with three charming Frenchmen. I squeeze the pliant dough with my fingers while pushing it together with the heels of both palms, then flip and slap it back down onto the floured workspace. I am gently teased about my “technique” which is a little bit backward from the norm and occasionally results in flecks of dough arcing through the air. I am a rank amateur. Thirty minutes later, we nibble macaroons (pistachio and coconut are the best) and oozy millefeuilles while bread bakes in the oven.

Cubicle-dweller daydream? Not quite. I’m in the windowed kitchen of Paul, the new French bakery by the Navy Memorial Archives. In what may have been my favorite food event to date, several DC area food bloggers were invited to a bread baking lesson in the kitchen just days before the bakery opened.

I have long lamented the lack of the perfect bakery in DC. A space with an eye toward atmosphere and quality goods. Somewhere the bread is made on site, filling the air with dancing visions of golden crusts and yeasty middles. Where you can stroll in armed with a Kindle and need nothing more but a strong cup of coffee and warm baguette to spend precious spare time in the most delicious leisure possible. Have I finally found it?

Details on Paul after the jump. (more…)


It’s a simple fact that one of the key ingredients in good barbecue is time.  The best pitmasters can slow-smoke a brisket for hours on end and then pull it off at just the right moment to maximize taste and tenderness.  So it stands to reason that the folks behind Washington’s newest ‘cue joint would take their time to make sure everything was done just right.

For those of us who’ve been eagerly awaiting Hill Country Barbecue Market’s opening, knowing this hasn’t made it any easier.  Thankfully, the wait is over.  If you smelled smoke in Penn Quarter this weekend, that’s because Hill Country threw open its doors on Saturday night.  This Washington offshoot of one of New York’s most popular barbecue restaurants is finally ready to go.

It’s not hyperbole to say that Hill Country represents a whole new way of looking at barbecue for Washingtonians.  This is not a lowest-common-denominator, give everyone a little taste of what they like best kind of place – it’s Texan through and through.  Executive Chef Elizabeth Karmel may hail from North Carolina, but she’s unapologetic in her Texan approach to ‘cue, eschewing sauces and mops in favor of a dry rub that includes salt, pepper and “enough cayenne to turn it pink” and serves to emphasize the flavors of the meat itself.  They don’t even offer barbecue sauce on the table (though they do offer an “If You’ve Gotta Have It” sauce).  Just ordering your meal may take some getting used to, as Hill Country utilizes a “meal ticket” to track your purchases as you move from counter to counter and build your plate.

We had a chance to take a first look around Hill Country on Friday, and we’ve got some photos to help you navigate the ordering system before you pay a visit.  Check them out after the jump. (more…)


In Italian-American family celebrations, there’s a concept known as abondanza.  The direct translation, as you may have guessed, is “abundance.”  But the more realistic translation as embodied by my mother’s approach to cooking is “make sure you’ve prepared enough of each dish so that if EVERY guest were to eat ONLY that dish, there would still be enough for everyone to be satisfied.”  It is in this spirit that Carmine’s arrives in Penn Quarter.

Carmine’s has become something of a New York institution over the past twenty years, a family-style restaurant that manages to balance a more refined atmosphere with a traditional “red sauce” menu.  Portions are huge, with each entree easily serving four, five or even six people.  Assuming guests play it smart and limit themselves to an entree or two for every four diners, it’s entirely possible to leave without dropping a small fortune as most entrees are priced between $20 and $30.

As of last night, Carmine’s is open for business – they’ll be offering lunch service as well starting today.  And I was especially impressed to see that they’ve wasted no time jumping into the Washington restaurant scene: Carmine’s is participating in Restaurant Week (August 16-22) for both lunch and dinner.  No word yet on what they’ll be offering, but it’s commendable that they’re participating so soon after opening.

We had a chance to take a look around the restaurant before last night’s dinner service, and we made sure to grab some pictures for you.  After the jump, take a look at Carmine’s studiously mismatched chandeliers, their ubiquitous menu boards (in lieu of individual menus) and a bar and lounge that are wired to accommodate even the busiest guests.


Photo from www.ps7restaurant.com

Photo from www.ps7restaurant.com

Looking for a Penn Quarter destination with creative cocktails and a bar menu to match?  Eager for a sit-down dinner that impresses with its ingredients as well as its execution?  Okay…there are actually several places in that part of town that fit the bill.  But there are few that have consistently impressed us the way PS7′s has.

Your experience at Peter Smith’s restaurant is entirely up to you.  Upon arriving at the host stand, you can choose to turn left and enter the dining room.  If you do so, a menu that reflects PS7′s commitment to freshness and seasonal fare awaits.  But turn right, and you’ll enter the realm of “Mixtress” Gina Chersevani, whose inventive beverages have lured us from Poste to Rasika to EatBar and now back to Penn Quarter.  Pair those drinks up with some killer appetizers and sandwiches, and you’ve got a bar that more than holds its own.

Our most recent visit to PS7′s came after this month’s Food Blogger Happy Hour, so we were primed for a great dining experience.  As it turns out, we were visiting during their extended Restaurant Week offering – fitting, as our first visit was during another Restaurant Week a few years ago.

Three courses on your left, cocktails and bar food on your right; you can find both after the jump. (more…)


Urfa LogoSo I’ve got a little confession to make: I get my hair cut at a salon.  Ever since a certain beautiful and wise woman pointed out that I was getting what I paid for at that national discount hair-cuttering chain, I’ve been going to Bang Salon in the Verizon Center.  And I actually feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.

But this post is NOT about that, I promise.

As I was walking back to the car after my most recent cut, I turned down 6th Street and stopped short.  Right in front of me was a sign that I just couldn’t ignore.  “Döner Kabob,” it beckoned.  Obediently, I followed.

Urfa Interior 42 Bus

Image from "The 42" http://the42bus.blogspot.com

I walked into a small space, really little more than a carryout with a few stools along a counter that ran the perimeter of the room.  At the rear was a counter where a man stood smiling and waiting.  You may recall my enthusiasm upon learning that there was a pickle vendor at Eastern Market…this was a similar situation.  I eagerly relayed my love of döner and my excitement to learn that this restaurant existed.  He continued to smile and then instructed his co-worker to cut me off a slice of the döner meat so I could taste it for myself.

That first bite was all I needed – I ordered a full sandwich on the spot and settled in to wait for it.

What is döner, and why will we be coming back here so soon?  After the jump… (more…)