Washington Harbor restaurants are slowly recovering. Sequoia, which was situated above the other restaurants and above flood level, is open. Tony & Joe’s and Nick’s Riverside Grill opened their patios only, grilling outdoors when the weather allows. Cabanas and Farmers & Fishers are still closed. Rumor has it that Michel Richard was planning to open a small restaurant at Washington Harbor before the flood happened. By spring 2012, there may be new entertainment aspects of Washington Harbor to appeal to those who love to dine and enjoy the river view.
Award-winning chef Jose Andres has developed another partnership, this time on the federal level. He is making a bold new move – changing Café Atlantico in Penn Quarter into American Eats Tavern from June 10 through Jan. 3, 2012 to complement the nearby U.S. National Archives upcoming exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet.” The first floor will offer more casual fare like hot dogs and cheesesteak (a signature item) and the second floor will be more formal, offering U.S. regional favorites. But one thing will not change. Jose plans to keep the six-seat mini bar operating during this time.
Chef & GM Update: Christopher Jakubiec was promoted to executive chef of Plume Restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel in downtown DC. He has been with the hotel since 2009, and previously worked at Quarter Kitchen in San Diego’s The Ivy Hotel and New York’s Ono restaurant. James Turner is the chef at Blue 44 on upper Connecticut Ave., NW, owned by Chris Nardelli, formerly of Café Ole in NW DC. Turner was formerly sous chef at Persimmon in Bethesda. Eddie Ishaq was named exec chef at Wildfire restaurant in Tysons Corner, owned by Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You . He has worked at other Wildfire restaurants in Illinois. Dave Dilullo is the new general manager at Morton’s, The Steakhouse in Georgetown. He was previously with Ruth’s Chris.
Jacques Haeringer followed his dream and has finally opened Jacques’ Brasserie below the more formal and legendary L’Auberge Chez Francois in Great Falls. This more casual 30-seat dining room and lounge is a bit more affordable for friends and neighbors who can stop by more often.
Shenandoah American Grill, a southern-influenced bar and restaurant, will open in Restaurant Park in Ashburn, VA, where Otani, a Japanese steakhouse, used to be. It will offer American cuisine with a southern influence, and some recipes come from the kitchens of the partners and their grandmothers. This includes Krispy Kreme bread pudding – good, home-style southern cooking. Co-owners Sean Lakos and Lance Smith worked for Carrabba’s Italian Grill and P.F. Chang’s. The rather large restaurant will include a cigar bar (can you still do that?) complemented by a selection of 30+ scotches. It seats up to 350, including its patio space.
Warren Thompson of Thompson Hospitality (TH) is in expediting mode. In addition to his new gourmet burger concept, BRB Burger, he plans to roll out a BRB Burger food truck. He plans to open an American Tap Room in Clarendon this July as the brand’s new flagship store in the space on Wilson Blvd, where Sette Bello used to be. He expanded the name of Austin Grill (now there are six) to Austin Grill & Tequila Bar, introducing a beverage-oriented menu and refined tequila selection. And, this fall, the first free-standing Austin Grill Express fast-casual restaurant will open in College Park.
James Sullivan Sr., who started Clover Investment Group with sons James Jr. and Brian, has gotten deeper into the business by buying Café Deluxe and Tortilla Coast. The group bought Cafe Deluxe’s three existing locations, and the Tex-Mex Tortilla Coast on Capitol Hill, from founders Bo Marcus and John Breen. Clover will open a Tortilla Coast this fall on P St. NW, where McCormick Paints used to be. They plan to open a Cafe Deluxe in Gaithersburg’s Rio at Washington Center where Hamburger Hamlet used to be. They are also the creators of Tynan Coffee & Tea, with locations in Columbia Heights, Friendship Heights and Constitution Square. They expect to open additional locations in D.C. and Arlington.
Mid-Town Café in Georgetown changed its name to Book Hill Café. Same owner; new chef. William Jeffrey’s Tavern is planning to open later this year at Siena Park on Columbia Pike in Arlington. It’s operated by Wilson Witney, Adam Lubar and Chris Lefbom of Rhodeside Tavern, Ragtime and Dogwood Tavern. Willy Koutroumpis, owner of Wild Willy’s Rock House & Sports Saloon in Annapolis, will open Kava in Annapolis.
Former Washington Bullet (from its only championship season) Kevin Grevey plans to open a FroZen Yo at 1900 M St., NW with FroZenYo founder and friend. Kevin also owns Grevey’s Restaurant & Sports Bar in Falls Church. TruOrleans, named for Louisiana native Tru Redding, is slated to open at 400 H St. NE in Atlas District. The executive chef is Andre Miller, previously at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The Crystal City Marriott’s $6 million in renovations includes a new restaurant named BELL20 for its Bell and 20th streets location. It is an American tavern with more than 30 beers. It replaces CC Bistro.
Bobby Flay signed to open Bobby’s Burger Palace in September at The Varsity, a luxury student housing complex near the University of Maryland, College Park. The Varsity will also house a ChiDogO and an Austin Grill Express in the care of Papadopoulos Properties.
Jesse Yan and business partner Vanessa Lim bought a building on 8th St., SE on burgeoning Barrack’s Row, planning to open a Mediterranean restaurant on the first floor and Spices on the second floor. Jesse owns Spices and Nooshi.
John Kent Cooke has chosen fine wine over football. The former Redskins’ owner’s son, along with Sean Martin, has opened The Tasting Room at National Harbor, their fourth in the region. The premium red wines are from Boxwood Estate, which he also owns. John got into wine while living in California in the early ‘70s when his father, Jack Kent Cooke, owned the LA Lakers and Kings. When John bought the Boxwood Farm in 2001, he entered the wine business. Boxwood has a customized GPS system to monitor viticultural practices and a computer that can control the temperature of fermentation tanks. The winery produces only 3,000 cases a year and sells its three varieties at The Tasting Rooms in Chevy Chase, Reston, Middleburg, and National Harbor. All wine bars feature the Enoround, which can do a perfect one, three or five ounce pour for tastings, using a card insertion system.
Restaurateurs are gearing up for their annual Oscars of the DC restaurant scene: the RAMMY Awards. Some of the awards are voted on by the public, such as Power Spot, Hottest Bar Scene, Neighborhood Gathering Place, and a city-wide balloting campaign for Favorite Restaurant. Those Favorite Restaurant finalists are: matchbox (Penn Quarter), Ted’s Bulletin (Barracks Row DC), Chef Geoff’s (Tysons Corner), Carmine’s (Penn Quarter), and Lima Restaurant (Downtown). Although I am not proficient at “handicapping” this race, since matchbox and Ted’s Bulletin are owned by the same folks, they appear to be frontrunners. Of the restaurants up for Best New Restaurant, Ris is has been open the longest – a year and a half – as it missed the deadline last year by a week, so Ris has had more time to build loyal guests. Todd Gray has been serving fine food in DC longer than any of the Chef of the Year nominees, so Advantage: Todd. Winners will be announced at the gala on June 26 at the Marriott Wardman Park. The awards gala is produced by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. The annual black tie gala has a Carnevale theme, so masks are optional. I’ve already got mine.