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Tuesday, March 5, 2024


At FishScale, owner/chef Brandon Williams makes tasty, filler-free burgers from sustainable seafoods.

Something’s Fishy
Who says burgers have to be beef? In Shaw/LeDroit Park, we’ve discovered a healthy, tasty take on this perennial favorite. At FishScale, chef Brandon Williams transforms sustainable seafoods – not beef – into quarter-pound patties. His filler-free, flame-grilled burgers are shaped from critters purchased fresh daily (wild-caught, not farm-raised).

At a recent lunch, we ordered at the counter from Brandon’s sister Kristal. Then we feasted on Florida Spanish mackerel and black sea bass. Nestled on a bun, the juicy burgers came with choice of organic condiments: pesto (our favorite), tomato-cucumber relish, “dinosaur kimchee” and tongue-tingling sambal (hot sauce). No booze; instead we quaffed refreshing Me and the Bees ginger-scented lemonade.

Open since “the beginning of winter,” the modest little eatery seats 14, plus carryout. “It’s been a great experience,” the personable 37-year-old chef told us. “It was difficult in the winter when people don’t want to be outside, but we’re looking forward to warm weather.” A graduate of the (now shuttered) l’Academie de Cuisine, Williams honed his skills at Black Salt in upper Northwest DC.

A handsome metal fish figure sets the scene at FishScale.

Located at 637 Florida Ave. NW, FishScale is open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner; closed Sunday. On Tuesdays, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Williams also operates a stand at the CenterCity farmers’ market.

More Shaw News
Coming soon to Shaw is Jake’s Tavern, 1606 Seventh St. NW. Esconced in a two-story building, the casual pub will arrive later this spring or early summer. Local restaurateurs Kristen Ciuba and husband Todd Ciuba are also co-owners of five-year-old Black Whiskey at 1410 14th St. NW. Located next to Dacha Beer Garden, Jake’s will dispense burgers, sandwiches, wings and shareable appetizers. Beer, wine and cocktails will flow.

Downstairs, the bar area will seat 20, and high-top tables will fit 30; there will also be a back patio. The upstairs space, projected to debut later this summer, will house another bar and party room.

That block in Shaw is getting lots of action. Balkan eatery Ambar, with locations on Barracks Row and Arlington, is reportedly eyeing a space across the street for another spinoff. Jose Garces, who is opening an American-themed food hall at Union Station, is also planning to unveil burger-centric Village Whiskey nearby.

New on U
Mobile kitchen Sloppy Mama’s BBQ has unveiled its daily breakfast at bricks-and-mortar Solly’s U Street Tavern. The popular food truck, which has been selling smoked meats and picnic-style sides at Union Market and at Solly’s for lunch and dinner, has added breakfast to its agenda. Sloppy Mama founder Joe Neuman says the additions were inspired by a challenge issued by a friend on the West Coast.

Burritos are filled with choice of protein (brisket, pulled pork, bacon or tofu), eggs, fries, cheese and either red or green chili sauce. Located at 1942 11th St. NW (just off U), Solly’s is open daily. Call 202-232-6590 or visit www.sollystavern.com.

Big Apple Comes to U
Any day now, it looks like U Street is getting a New York import. The Smith, the “modern American brasserie” that opened in the East Village in 2007, is about to unveil its second DC outpost; the other Smith is in Penn Quarter. You’ll find the newbie at 1314 U St. NW in a glitzy JBG Smith condo building. Customers enter through soaring, accordion-style doors overlooking U Street’s bustling foot traffic. “We wanted to bring the energy forward because there’s 80 feet of frontage on U Street,” partner Jeff Lefcourt told Eater DC.

For a Big Apple fix for homesick New Yorkers, the polished design from New York’s Nema Workshop features white subway tiling plus patterned mosaic flooring.

Another Gotham Import
The Meatball Shop, which debuted on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 2010, is opening at 1720 14th St. NW, former home of Cork Wine Bar. (Cork has moved down the street.) As the name implies, The Meatball Shop specializes in five varieties of the tasty spheres, shaped with pork, chicken, veggies and the “daily special,” anointed with housemade sauces: tomato, pesto, parmesan cream, spicy meat and mushroom gravy. Guests might prefer their meatballs “naked,” resting on pasta or veggies, on a Kitchen Sink salad (greens with seasonally rotating vegetable and grains), in a hero (on a toasted baguette) or a Smash (on a brioche roll with melted mozzarella or provolone). Full bar. 

Wine More About it
In Ivy City, the eagerly awaited City Winery finally opened at 1350 Okie St. NE. Part of it, anyway. The cavernous, four-level space – the former Love nightclub – includes a working winery, concert venue, private event space and a 175-seat restaurant. Don’t rush over right away; the entire complex won’t open until later this month. Restaurant details are still being worked out, but the decor will feature wine tanks, barrels and banquettes. The third floor and rooftops will open in mid-May, in preparation for a grand opening of the entire venue slated for later in the month.

Oh yes, the wine. Grapes from the United States, Argentina and Chile will go into the vino, which City Winery will start making in-house after this year’s grape harvest. Until then, City Winery will source wine from the company’s other five locations. For updates visit www.citywinery.com/washingtondc.

As you probably know, Washington now claims two wineries. City Winery joins Navy Yard’s District Winery (and restaurant), which opened last year. District Winery is now pouring its very own, housemade dry rose.   

At the Royal Wedding pop-up in Shaw, the throne room in Buckingham Palace is artfully recreated.

Royal Pop-up
So, your invitation to the royal wedding got lost in the mail? Bummer. So did ours. But don’t mope. Instead, head to Shaw, where Drink Company is celebrating the nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Eat the Rich slot, 1839 Seventh St. NW. Through May 20, the space will be festooned with flowers, sparkly drinks and a replica of the lemon-elderflower, royal wedding cake.

Drink Company is also recreating the columns and stained-glass windows at St. George’s Chapel (where the wedding will take place) and the throne room at Buckingham Palace. Cocktails ($13-$14) will include a cucumber French 75 called “Put a Ring on It” – paired with a fake engagement ring – and a “Markle Sparkle” drink complete with edible glitter. Even glassware will get the royal treatment, with Waterford crystal teacups and saucers for a “Strawberry Cuppa” scotch-and-strawberry vermouth cocktail.

On May 19, set your alarm for EARLY; the bar will open at 6:30 a.m. for a real-time viewing party of the actual wedding. On other days, hours are 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m., Sunday-Thursday; ‘til 1:30 a.m., Friday and Saturday. Be sure to wear a fancy hat. Call 202-316-9396 or visit www.drinkcompany.com.

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