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, 2012 
 
 

2012's Hottest
New Restaurants

(Part 1)


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The DC restaurant scene was flooded with newcomers in 2012. Many followed the nationwide movement toward fresh, locally sourced food, but they also gave rise to some DC-specific patterns. Here’s the first half of our look at 2012’s hottest openings, and the local trends they ushered in.

 

The Neighborhood Spot

 

Moderately priced, conveniently located, casual enough for jeans but just fabulous enough for a fun night out, the “neighborhood restaurant” was easily one of last year's biggest trends.

 

The Coupe – Constantine Stavrolpoulos (Tryst, The Diner, Open City) opened The Coupe in October at 11th and Park NW, one of the most rapidly transforming blocks in Columbia Heights. Open 24/7, the 7,000 SF space is a diner, coffee bar, lounge, and bar all at once. Whether it’s a macchiato, a Manhattan, or mac and cheese you crave, The Coupe can deliver.

 

Mintwood Place – Chef Cedric Maupillier’s (formerly of Citronelle and Central) Adams Morgan bistro has received raves since its January opening. Priced slightly higher than the usual neighborhood joint, the quality of the food is apparently well worth it. DC’s hottest power couple has even been spotted here: the POTUS and FLOTUS dined at Mintwood Place in August. 

Matchbox at 14th & T Not only does the newest location of this DC original serve standbys like the 3.6.9. mini burgers and wood-fired pizzas, it also offers special dishes geared toward its Logan Circle neighbors, like braised short ribs in coconut curry sauce. Be sure to check out the "floating" booths inside, and the fire pit on the patio.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Maple: 3418 11th Street NW (Columbia Heights)

  • Sixth Engine: 438 Massachusetts Ave NW (Mt. Vernon Triangle)

  • Chez Billy: 3815 Georgia Ave NW (Petworth)

 

High-Quality Bargains


In a city where “cheap eats” have been defined as “under $25,” we’ve been thrilled by the number of new places offering truly cheap food— read: fill up for $10 or less—of top-notch quality.

H &pizza – For under 10 bucks, get a custom-made, fresh-baked pizza with unlimited toppings of your choice, many of which are made in house. It’s like the grown-up version of those froyo places where you can pile on gummy worms and M&M’s. Expect a wait at this H Street hot spot; but don’t fret, the line moves quickly.

DGS Delicatessen – Ok, the prices at Dupont’s DGS can stray a bit upwards of $10, especially at dinner. But we figured we could get away with it given their rib-sticking offerings. The New York-style Jewish deli offers classics like matzo ball soup and pastrami sandwiches, and adventurous creations like their schmutzy fries: the love child of a reuben and cheese fries.

Taylor Charles Steak & Ice – The Taylor Gourmet team opened this H Street shop in December. The focus is on cheesesteaks and water ice, another Philadelphia specialty, but the menu is hardly bare bones. Taylor’s Balls—cheese fritters with garlic aioli—are not to be missed. Try the zucchini version if you’re feeling virtuous, or save room for an ice cream sandwich.  

Honorable Mentions:

  • Woodward Takeout Food (WTF) by Jeff Buben: 1430 H Street NW (McPherson)

  • Stachowski Market & Deli: 1425 28th St NW (Georgetown)

  • New Orleans PoBoy Shop: 1205 19th St NW (Dupont)

 

Market-Meets-Restaurant

One exciting concept popping up around town combines the restaurant and farmer’s market experiences. Think Michael Pollan meets Walmart: a one-stop shop for fresh, local food in all forms. The trend will continue into 2013 with the new Wagshal’s in Tenleytown and Petworth’s EatsPlace Pop-Uppery. Here were 2012’s biggest openings.

Union Market – This once-bustling market had seen better days before EDENS development gutted and reopened it, housing some of the best new restaurants and purveryors in town. Sip a one-of-a-kind soda or nosh on a knish at Gina Chersevani’s Buffalo & Bergen, snag a seat at Rappahannock Oysters Co. for some serious seafood, or visit one of the many other eateries before shopping fresh local produce from Almaala Farms, dairy from Trickling Springs Creamery, bread from Lyon Bakery, lamb from Border Springs Farm, and more.

 

Society Fair – Alexandria’s self-dubbed “Epicurean Emporium” from chef Cathal Armstrong offers an in-house bakery and butcher shop, specialty foods, oils and spices curated by Cathal, and house-made prepared items like pickles and salad dressings. The space also houses an espresso bar and a wine bar serving 25 wines by the glass, four on tap, and a full food menu.

Sugar Magnolia – In May, Cleveland Park’s Ripple restaurant and wine bar converted the neighboring storefront into Sugar Magnolia, a “mini-gourmet market” offering a rotating selection of grab-and-go items like sandwiches, salads, and desserts, including pastry chef Alison Reed's scratch-made ice cream sandwiches.

 

The Celebrity Chef Invasion…

 

…continues. Bobby Flay, Spike Mendelsohn, Daniel Boulud…the list goes on and on. Here are two of the buzz-iest celebrity openings from 2012.

 

Range – At long last, Top Chef star Bryan Voltaggio has brought his food within DC city limits. Barely. His 15k SF restaurant opened in the Chevy Chase Pavilion in Friendship Heights in December, and offers a wide variety of small plates. Open kitchens with counter seating enhance the experience, and so far, the masses have been pleased.

 

BandoleroMike Isabella’s second DC restaurant was all anyone could talk about prior to its opening in May. Margaritas on tap and gourmet tacos? What’s not to love? Reviews have been mixed since the initial buzz died down, but Mike hasn’t lost steam: he just released a cookbook and is opening two new restaurants, Kapnos and G, in 2013.

 

What were your favorite new restaurants in 2012? There’s still time to make it into Part 2 of our guide. Email Alia.Khan@bisnow.com with your suggestions.

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