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Monday, June 17, 2024

Insatiable – August 2017

Ari’s Art Deco
We’d been meaning to try out Ari’s Diner in Ivy City. The first time we visited, every seat was taken. But the next time, for lunch, we practically had the place to ourselves. The appealing decor is Art Deco, with gleaming aluminum trim, nifty light fixtures, and wide, comfy booths and counter stools. Chef Miguel Rosario’s kitchen turns out better-than-decent diner fare, with all-day breakfast plus healthy options like salads (including a summery watermelon version), burgers, and sandwiches.

Avocado toast is a favorite appetizer at Ari’s Diner in Ivy City. Photo: Celeste McCall

We shared the highly touted avocado toast – whole-wheat bread slathered with mashed avocado with a rain of black sesame seeds and pickled onion, drizzled with olive oil. A Greek omelette was replete with feta, tomato, and spinach. While tempted, we bypassed the “DC” omelette, embellished with our city’s signature half-smoke. The generous side of grits was deliciously seasoned. For the crabmeat sandwich, the lump crab came from ProFish Ltd. wholesalers across the street, but the soggy bun and Russian dressing almost ruined it, unfortunately.

Ari’s has a full bar, including the obligatory cocktails and boozy milkshakes, but we opted for ice tea instead. Service, rendered by Eduardo, was excellent. Part of Mindful Restaurants (nearby sister eateries are La Puerta Verde and Dock FC), Ari’s Diner is located at 2003 Fenwick St. NE. It’s open daily (except Monday) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Call 202-290-1827 or visit www.arisdiner.com.

And …

Nearby, Chef Matt Baker, whose Gravitas restaurant has previewed with popups, will finally settle at 1401 Okie St. NE. Look for it later this fall. Baker’s kitchen will showcase two “unique” tasting choices: chef’s and vegetarian menus. 

Tacos and Queens
Here’s something fun for lazy August weekends: Taqueria del Barrio, Petworth’s popular Mexican taco spot, now hosts a “drag” brunch every last Saturday of the month. Desiree Dik hosts the lively event with drag queens Bombalicious Eklaver and Jasmine Tea, aka Kinky Boots. Reservations are encouraged, with seatings at 10:00 a.m., show at 10:30, and 1:00 p.m., show at 1:30. Guests may order churro (French toast), chilaquiles, or tacos served on house-made tortillas. Moderately priced mimosas, bloody Marys, and Absolut vodka cocktails flow.

Coming soon, “classic” brunch every weekend. Taqueria del Barrio is located at 821 Upshur St. NW; for reservations call 202-723-0200 or visit www.taqueriadelbarrio.com.

New on U
More brunch. If you can’t make it to Rehoboth Beach, cool off at Service Bar DC’s Beach Brunch, Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. Guests lounge in beach chairs under umbrellas while sipping beer, frozen daiquiris, and punch served in sand pails. To complement these tropical cocktails, consulting chef Jerry Zawacki has developed menus to celebrate a different city every two months. Currently, it’s Paris, which brings chicken liver mousse with French bread and jam, and duck confit sandwich with Gruyere cheese and Dijon mustard with a side salad. You may still order the signature fried chicken in a waffle cone.

By the way, Zawacki is implementing a “zero-waste” program, in which leftover bar ingredients are used in the kitchen and vice versa. “We’ll make nitro sorbet out of cherries the bartenders use in their cherry soda,” Zawacki explained. Service Bar DC is located at 926 U St. NW; call 202-462-7232 or visit www.servicebardc.com.

Viva la Rhum
Happy birthday to Sakerum, the Latin-Asian restaurant in the bustling 14th Street corridor. The lively hotspot kicks off the dog days of August with two month-long specials. First up: folks making dinner reservations receive a complimentary sake-rum punch to toast Sakerum’s first anniversary. This libation will be available, Aug. 1-13, and 21-31, but not during Summer Restaurant Week (see last “Insatiable” item).

Sakerum’s potent punch pairs well with executive chef Khan Gayabazar’s small plates: Big Crunch Theory Roll with tuna tartar, shrimp tempura, avocado, and jalapeno; fried plantains with guacamole, corn salsa, and wasabi peas; Chilean sea bass with miso glaze; barbecue short rib skewers.

There’s more. On Aug. 16 – National Rum Day – Sakerum will pour $5 rum (rail) cocktails including Cuba libres, mojitos, hurricanes, and frozen pina coladas. Sakerum is located at 2204 14th St. NW, three blocks from the U Street-Cardozo Metro station (Green and Yellow lines). For more information call 202-518-2222 or visit http://sakerum.com/.

In Bloomingdale, The Pub & The People does a lively bar business. Photo: Celeste McCall

Neighborly in Bloomingdale
Having heard good things about a neighborhood eatery/watering hole, The Pub & The People, Peter and I decided to dine there, rather than crowd into another “in” place. On a muggy Wednesday evening we headed for this two-year-old Bloomingdale tavern. To our amazement, the place was packed with hipsters, mostly perched at the bar. Above them, shelves crammed with books hovered above zillions of liquor bottles. Restroom walls were plastered with four-by-six-inch photos of customers’ dogs and cats.

Since inside was filled to capacity, we sat outside in the soggy heat, which soon abated. Justin, our professional and friendly server, brought our drinks (malbec and Upland draft beer). The brewski list is amazing, with umpteen draft and canned options, even a canned cider.

We were tempted by chef Ben Schramm’s chevre mac and cheese. But instead we shared his refreshing yet lip-tingling red bell pepper soup, afloat with fava beans and corn and perfumed with cilantro.

I ordered my hanger steak rare (with fingerling potatoes and chimichurri sauce), and it emerged extremely rare. Justin swiftly whisked it to the kitchen, and the meat came back cooked just right. Peter’s seared rockfish had wonderfully crisp skin, escorted with squash and pearly couscous. No room for dessert, although the peanut and chocolate-chip ice cream sandwich beckoned. Naturally, most ingredients come from nearby farms.

Dinner for two, with a drink apiece, came to $71 before tip. The Pub & The People is open daily for lunch and dinner, including weekend brunch. Call 202-234-1800 or visit www.thepubandthepeople.com.

New Chef in Shaw
Espita Mezcaleria, Shaw’s southern-Mexican-inspired hotspot, welcomes a new executive chef, Robert Aikens. He brings 28 years of experience to his new position, having wielded his whisk in New York City, Philadelphia, and London restaurants. To hone his skills, Aikens is traveling to Oaxaca this summer to visit local markets and kitchens. Look for his new menu in September.

Espita is pouring eight summer cocktails, created by beverage director/partner Megan Barnes. The libations incorporate seasonal ingredients and small-batch liquors like rum, mezcal, and sotol. Similar to tequila, sotol is distilled from a plant called desert spoon. Espita is located at 1250 Ninth St. NW; for updates call 202-621-9695 or visit www.espitadc.com.

How Sweet It Is
Nearby, folks can get their sugar rush and caffeine fix at Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee, 1932 Ninth St. NW. The newcomer is the latest outpost of a Richmond-based chain, with locations throughout the country and DC area. Donut flavors encompass bacon maple, chocolate peanut, honey lavender. Open daily.

Restaurant Week
Coming up, Aug. 14-20, is DC Summer Restaurant Week. Presented biannually by Destination DC and the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), it is an especially good deal at the priciest restaurants. When making reservations be sure to mention Restaurant Week. The complete list is too long to include here, but you can find it at www.ramw.org/restaurantweek.

Among participants are Alta Strada and Arroz (both in Mount Vernon Square), Convivial, Drift on 7, Espita Mezcaleria, and Arroz (all in Shaw), Ghibellina, The Pig (Logan Circle), and La Puerta Verde (Ivy City).

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