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Saturday, July 20, 2024


Yet another local restaurant has gone green: Spark, a Caribbean-influenced smokehouse. Ensconced in an historic Bloomingdale firehouse, Spark was formerly called Old Engine Number 12. Now operated by Jenna Mack, Spark eschews plastic, substituting biodegradable, compostable plates (made from pressed palm). Straws are paper, not plastic. (Too light to pass through industrial recycling centers, plastic straws often end up in seas and rivers, harming or killing marine life.)

Located in an historic Bloomingdale firehouse, Spark is among local restaurants going “green.”

As we perched on barstools fashioned from barrels, Spark general manager Amanda Yoselow cited the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit environmental organization working to protect our oceans and beaches. “Almost everything at Spark is sustainable,” she said, adding that Trinidad-born chef Peter Prime “is passionate about it.”

Emerging from chef Prime’s kitchen is delectable lump crab toast, concocted from crustaceans plucked from nearby Chesapeake Bay. Avocado halves (not exactly local, we admit) are filled with “sunny” egg and pico de gallo and broiled briefly. Scooped up with chips or devoured with a fork, the result is sublime. Locally sourced jerk brisket is smoked in-house for 14 hours. The melt-in-your mouth beef arrives on a wooden plate cut from an acacia tree trunk. Other victuals encompass smoked salmon, smoked bone marrow, whole red snapper. Entrees are a la carte; among sides are zippy curried chickpeas. Lunch for two with a glass of sauvignon blanc came to about $50 before tip.

Located at 1626 North Capitol, Spark is open nightly except Monday (closed all day), no Sunday dinner, weekend brunch. Call 202-299-9128 or visit www.sparkat12.com.

At Unconventional Diner, the mezze platters and succulent chicken poppers are anything but conventional.

Upbeat Diner Fare
Unconventional Diner is anything but conventional. Tucked into the cavernous Walter Washington Convention Center (Shaw/Mount Vernon Triangle), this eight-month-old charmer dishes out upbeat diner fare with a Middle Eastern twist.

The mezze platter, a beautiful arrangement of hummus, falafel, lebnek (Lebanese-style cream cheese), cukes, olives and sweet little red peppers, is as tasty as anything we encountered in Israel. Accompanying the plate – meant for sharing – is a coffee mug packed with crisp sesame-studded naan. But the stars of the appetizer menu are divine little chicken pot pie poppers, nestled in an oblong box lined with what looked like AstroTurf. The little morsels practically melt in your mouth.

The couple seated next to us was enjoying generous helpings of fried chicken and the chicken parmesan with tomato-sauced spaghetti. Both dishes tempted us. We also considered miso salmon and crab linguine made with squid ink pasta. But we finally decided on the meatloaf. Again, not your grandma’s meatloaf. The generous brick-shaped portion was glazed with siracha, spicy enough to tantalize – but not scorch – our taste buds. The meatloaf was cloaked with rich, morel-studded gravy. The only traditional touch was the bowl of yummy, chunky mashed potatoes.

Located at 1207 Ninth St. NW, Unconventional Diner is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For exact hours call 202-847-0122 or visit www.unconventionaldiner.com. 

Football and Oysters
Just in time for football season, former NFL player Tobias Dorzon is unveiling Union Market Oyster Bar & Lounge. You’ll find it at 501 Morse St. NE. Dorzon, 33, is no stranger to the culinary arts; he also operates Victory Chefs catering and his Victory food truck. At Union Market Oyster Bar, expect oysters, crab cakes, jerk sea bass and brick-oven pizza.

Son of a Liberian immigrant who ran a West African restaurant on Georgia Avenue NW, Dorzon grew up in Riverdale Park (Prince George’s County). He also helped in his dad’s restaurant kitchen. After playing for the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL), Dorzon attended the Art Institute of Washington’s culinary school. He cooked at several high-end local restaurants and was personal chef to NFL players. Eventually he collaborated with Redskins buddies and teamed up with Russell Webster (in the music industry) to launch Union Market Oyster Bar. It should open any day now.

Big Apple Meatballs in DC
What’s not to love? New York-based The Meatball Shop arrived last month at 1720 14th St. NW, where Cork Wine Bar used to be. (Cork has moved down the street.) As the name implies, the 70-seat “mix-and-match” Meatball Shop specializes in build-your-own meals centered around meatballs. First, customers choose from “classic,” spicy pork, chicken, veggie. Next comes the sauce: tomato, spicy meat, parmesan cream, pesto and mushroom gravy. Meatballs can be “naked,” served with parmesan, or “smash,” nestled on a brioche bun with cheese and a simple salad. For more information visit www.themeatballshop.com.

Spice Is Nice
In the up-and-coming Truxton Circle neighborhood, Glassey, an Indian restaurant, debuted last month. Created by siblings Taj and Harris Sohal, Glassey is located at 1625 First St. NW. The signature mirchi curry, concocted with Carolina Reaper peppers, is so incendiary that a wall of fame honors patrons who manage to finish it, with their photos.

No worries, wimps (like me) find plenty to eat here: Indian-American-inspired “street food” dishes like “naanchos” (crispy naan pieces topped with chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes, cilantro and choice of protein); fries smothered with masala seasoning; tikka chicken wings and traditional biryani and butter chicken. By the way, the moniker “glassey” is a Punjabi term for a “boozy, fun-filled time.” Glassey is open daily for lunch and dinner. Call 202-483-8286 or visit www.glasseydc.com.

Prather’s Prances to Mount Vernon
Newest kid in the Mount Vernon Triangle is Prather’s on the Alley, serving “contemporary American fare.” Prather’s is the brainchild of MVT residents Dean Mosones and Mark Minicucci, who believe the area needed a “low key” neighborhood haunt with “approachable American cuisine.” Heading the kitchen is chef Akhtar Nawab, who previously wielded his whisk at Shaw’s now defunct Table. Highlighting his menu will be smoked fish dip, mac-and-cheese, roasted local chicken, steelhead salmon and rabbit with pappardelle pasta.

Named for the alley behind the building (a former auto repair shop), the 2,000-square-foot space will seat about 60 inside and 30 outside, pending an outdoor seating permit. Located at 455 I St. NW, Prather’s is open nightly plus weekend brunch. For more information call 202-838-9633 or visit www.prathersdc.com.

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