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Dining Bisnow (DC)

RJ's New Gem

Toro Toro combines the warmth of Latin American dining with a trendy New York City-esque lounge environment. Sample your way through an array of hot and cold plates, steaks, and more. Click here.

Prepare your tastebuds for casual fare bursting with chef RJ Cooper's turbo-charged creativity: The long-awaited opening of Gypsy Soul is finally on the horizon.

Q. What's your vision for Gypsy Soul?

A. It's free-spirited—fusing my love for motorcycles and respecting product. While Rogue 24 is experienced-based, Gypsy Soul is focused on the food, the craft of cooking, and sourcing.

Q. Why the Mosaic District—what void are you trying to fill?

A. There are no chef-driven restaurants out here. Gypsy Soul is a true showpiece that's been highly developed to have a big personality.

Q. What do you expect to be the top seller on the menu?

A. That's impossible to say because the menu will change daily. The beauty about food is that it shouldn't be stagnant; it's constantly evolving. We don't want to have a signature dish. If we buy a truck full of veggies, I'm going to get them on the menu.

Q. What excites you about the kitchen?

A. Going beyond an "open kitchen," Gypsy Soul has a true “show kitchen.” It's as if we took the kitchen at The Inn at Little Washington and put it in the middle of the dining room. That kitchen was actually my model; I thought, how pretty can I make this kitchen so that Patrick [O'Connell] says, “Hey this looks like my place.”

The anticipated opening date is July 23. Expect a menu ranging from four types of comforting macaroni and cheese to more refined dishes like an impressive appetizer of beef marrow, sea urchin, antler mustard, and ink toast

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Farm to Freezer

The biggest news in frozen delights, just in time for national ice cream month, is the grand opening of Dolcezza's 14th Street shop. It's the only location besides the factory that offers sundaes, and even has a walk-up window, so Logan Circle foot traffic can indulge on the go. Despite the rapid growth, the company's commitment to using quality ingredients from local farmers has remained unchanged, according to owner Robb Duncan

For example, Robb befriended Zach Lester after selling products side-by-side at DC's FRESHFARM Markets. Zach heads Tree and Leaf Farm, a 50-acre property in Unionville, Va. We snapped Zach grasping opal basil at the Dupont Circle market. Opal basil is one of many Tree and Leaf crops that Dolcezza folds into its gelato. Fortunately, it's been able to keep up with increasing demand. “We said to them, we're going to grow, and we want you to grow with us,” Robb tells us.

Which Chef Can Mix Drinks?

What happens when chefs put down their knives and pick up cocktail shakers? Mixed results. Eight prominent DC chefs took on the challenge at Chefs Behind Bars, a cocktail competition benefiting No Kid Hungry. Art and Soul's Wes Morton, Alba Osteria's Amy Brandwein, Liberty Tavern's Matt Hill, Pabu's Jonah Kim, Good Stuff Eatery's Spike Mendelsohn, Bar Pilar's Jesse Miller, Cava Mezze's Dimitri Moshovitis, and Nick Stefanelli all participated last week.

Jonah Kim (left) took the title for “The Noble Stanley” made with Makers 46, vanilla syrup, lemon, chocolate bitters, sage, aged sherry vinegar, and soda. Jonah most recently wore a chef coat at Pabu in Baltimore, however, the Michael Mena restaurant recently closed. Jonah's cocktail was so well balanced that he could probably bartend while finding his next kitchen. Most competitors incorporated ingredients typically reserved for entrees, like pork belly, harissa, and squid ink, while Jonah kept it slightly simpler. 

Who deemed Jonah the winner? A crowd of 200 gathered around the Liaison Capitol Hill pool, along with six judges: TheListAreYouOnIt/Foodie and the Beast's Nycci Nellis (left), cocktail genius Derek Brown (right), Mixtress Gina ChersevaniEater's Missy Frederick, Bourbon Steak's Duane Sylvestre, and your Dining Bisnow reporter. A second installment of the event will take place on July 30 at Buffalo & Bergen with a new set of chefs including Marjorie Meek-Bradley of Ripple and Roofers Union and Bart Vandaele of Belga Café and B TOO.

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What's Up with Tim Ma

Tim Ma's had a very big year. The engineer turned chef/owner, along with his wife, Joey Hernandez, saw accolades roll in for Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna, Va. They also opened Water & Wall in Virginia Square. Now, he's preparing to head to New York to cook at the James Beard House along with other Virginia chefs to highlight what Virginia agriculture had to offer.

We caught up with him during a gut-busting dinner at Maple Ave. “I'm able to have a little more fun here; that's why you'll find crazy dishes like bone marrow ice cream,” he tells us. “The food has to be a little more approachable at Water & Wall.” These steamed PEI mussels with saffron coconut broth, Thai chiles, lemongrass, and Chinese sausage were crave-worthy. What's next for Tim Ma? “I have a few burners on the stove, but Water & Wall is still a baby; we're there every day changing diapers.”

Five Brand New Brunches

In honor of DC's favorite meal (happy hour doesn't count, right?), we bring you five places that recently launched brunch.   


Chef Garret Fleming delivers quite the Southern comfort brunch at this Capitol Hill bourbon bar. Try his rabbit pupusas or croque madame (pictured) with hot smoked black molasses, ham, poached eggs and lobster mornay sauce. Plus, build your ideal Bloody Mary. Available: Sun 10:30am-4pm.


Michael Voltaggio's team at Range in Chevy Chase serves brunch that's fancy and full of surprises. For example, their take on chicken and waffles equates to fried chicken livers atop blue cheese waffles with smoked balsamic syrup. Available: Sat-Sun 11:30am-2:00pm

Lupo Verde

Brunch at this cozy 14th Street Italian restaurant delights with breakfast pizzas; grapefruit and orange carpaccio; poached eggs in San Marzano tomato sauce; house made pastas; crepes and more. Plus, $12 brunch cocktails keep you quenched. Available: Sat-Sun 10am-3pm

Del Campo

Victor Albisu can't step away from the grill, even for brunch, hence the grilled grapefruit or smoked pineapple mimosas. They accompany South American breakfast dishes like bacon, egg, and cheese empanadas with smoked hollandaise. Available: Sun 11am-3pm

Dino's Grotto

Dabble in savory or sweet at Dean Gold's new Shaw restaurant. Nutella stuffed French toast is sweet and decadent, while a tuna panzanella salad is savory and refined. There are bottomless mimosas and bloodies, too. Available: Sun 12-4pm (Sat brunch coming soon)

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