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January 11, 2013 
 
 

Hottest New Restaurants and Trends (Part 2)


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The DC restaurant scene was flooded with newcomers last year. Here’s the final installment of our look at 2012's new hot spots and the trends they ushered in.

 

Old Favorites with New Twists

 

Some of DC’s favorite restaurants opened up new locations in 2012, but these weren’t the usual copycats. Each one had a significant twist on the original concept.

 
  • Chef Jamie Leeds teamed up with mixtress Gina Chersevani to open the Capitol Hill location of Hank’s Oyster Bar. The food menu is largely the same, but the elaborate new beverage program features Chersevani originals like the pumpkin-laced “Cucurbita in the Rye.”

  • Ashok Bajaj’s wildly popular Rasika, helmed by Chef Vikram Sunderam, opened its West End location in March. Chef de Cuisine Manish Tyagi offers a new, though similarly inspired, menu. Don't worry, the infamous “crispy spinach” made the cut. 
  • Farmers Fishers Bakers, sister restaurant of the always-packed Founding Farmers, opened at the Georgetown waterfront this winter. With new offerings like an extensive sushi program and weekend brunch buffet, this could be grounds for some serious sibling restaurant rivalry.

Food Trucks All Grown Up

 
As the food truck explosion really got under way in 2011, it’s no surprise that 2012 saw its natural progression: upgrades to brick-and-mortar locations. Still wondering if food trucks can be successful incubators for fledgling restaurateurs?
 
  • The District Taco team opened up a shop in Metro Center in May—its second DMV brick and mortar.

  • The popular popsicle purveyors opened Pleasant Pops Farmhouse Market & Café at 18th and Florida NW in September.

  • The fellows behind the Purveyors of Rolling Cuisine (PORC) truck now run Kangaroo Boxing Club in Columbia Heights.

  • Takorean, DC Empanadas, and Curbside Cupcakes have all set up shop in NE DC’s Union Market.

Eating Clean and Green

 

Healthy eating is on the rise all over the country, and DC is no exception.

 
  • In addition to the popularity of national salad-based concepts like Chop’t, fast-casual concepts offering fresh, light options like Roti and Pret a Manger have become regular players in the downtown DC lunch rotation.
  • Meanwhile, Chicago-based Protein Bar chose DC as its first East Coast location, opening up in Penn Quarter. Owner Matt Matros just opened a second location in Ballston and plans to open another at 19th and K by early 2013.

  • Local chain Sweetgreen underwent major expansion in 2012, opening in areas such as the West End and City Vista. It is now up to 15 locations, with plans to expand to New York.
 

Authentic Ethnic Food. Really.

 

2012 brought with it an influx authentic cuisine from other countries— none too soon for this city’s internationally diverse population.

 
  • Despite some early wariness at yet another tapas concept, New York’s Barcelona-inspired Boqueria has received a warm reception.

  • At the more casual end of the spectrum, the highly anticipated Columbia Heights Mexican hole-in-the-wall El Chucho has received raves for the elote and fabulous rooftop, but reviews of the tacos and prices have been mixed.

  • H Street’s Shawafel offers quick and tasty traditional Lebanese cuisine (shawarma, falafel, lamb platters, etc.), and creative twists like za’atar-dusted French fries and the signature “shawafel” sandwich for those who can’t decide between a shawarma or a falafel.

  • The U Street/Shaw area’s Japanese restaurant Izakaya Seki has been wildly popular since Day 1. An izakaya is a Japanese drinking establishment that serves food to accompany its beverages, and the Seki menu goes well beyond the usual options of sushi, teriyaki, and tempura.
 

Top Ramen

 

Ever since Toki Underground opened in 2011, DC diners have developed a serious taste for warm bowls of wiggly-noodled ramen. 2012 brought two new players to town, both in Adams Morgan: Sakuramen and Taan. While both have received solid reviews, DC’s ramen enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the opening of Daikaya in Chinatown in early 2013. Originally slated to open in 2012, the date has been pushed back multiple times due to construction issues. Meanwhile, you can sample its offerings at the Daikaya LivingSocial Pop Up next Friday and Saturday.

 

Oink.

 

This year has also seen a significant uptick in the popularity of pork. From the ubiquitous "bacon-and-something-cupcake" to pork belly’s presence on nearly every menu in town, it’s been a cinch for DC diners to get their piggy fix. In fact, 2012 brought two new restaurants devoted entirely to the little squealers: Logan Circle’s The Pig and Arlington’s Green Pig Bistro. Both employ a nose-to-tail philosophy, serving as many different parts of the pig as possible.

 
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