Checking Out the Way Restaurants Have Changed

Insatiable

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Husband Peter and I were hankering for Southeast Asian fare, so we revisited Laos In Town, where we had not supped since the pandemic shutdown. Located at 250 K St. NE (NoMa), Laos is situated across the street from another Asian favorite–Indigo. We found Laos In Town’s cooking even better than ever. The exotic cuisine bears some similarities to Vietnamese and Cambodian. (Unlike in Vietnam, Laotians generally eat with forks instead of chopsticks.)

Seated on the spacious outdoor patio, we ordered an appetizer: crispy quail (three pieces) accompanied by crispy rice and a saucer of surprisingly mild siracha sauce. While tasty, the tiny—rather bony–birds are tricky to eat. You have to use your fingers. Feeling adventurous, Peter bypassed the grilled whole branzino and chose a more exotic sea creature: khao poon pla, an entrée made with snakehead. Inspite of its scary moniker and appearance, snakehead (an invasive species) is a mild, firm white fish. Sometimes District Fishwife in Union Market, carries it. Laos’ snakehead arrived with cabbage, scallions and bean sprouts, resting on a bed of curried noodles, perfumed with lemongrass.

Crispy quail is a tasty (if tricky to eat) appetizer at NoMa’s Laos In Town.

Among other options are grilled pork shoulder; chicken curry; mieng kana (Chinese broccoli, rice noodles, shrimp and basil). From the comprehensive beverage list, Peter sipped Vientiane, a Laotian brew, while I chose a pleasant French Malbec. Our luncheon tab, with a drink apiece, came to $47.30 plus tip. Service was friendly and knowledgeable. Laos is open daily; visit www.laosintown.com.

Cheers, Bavarian Style
Eric Heidenberger’s Silo, 919 Fifth St. NW, has morphed into Prost, a Bavarian style beer hall. The kitchen dispenses Teutonic fare like pork schnitzel sandwiches topped with cabbage and caramelized onions on a pretzel bun; spaetzle (tiny dumplings) with beef short ribs or seasonal vegetables; bratwursts with sauerkraut and German potato salad and spicy mustard. Along with German and Austrian beers, the bar will pour gluhwein—hot spiced wine, perfect to ward off winter chill. For more information visit www.prostdc.com.

New on U
Roaming Rooster, beloved for free-range fried chicken sandwiches, has opened a takeout operation on U Street NW. The newcomer is the Ethiopian-owned food truck’s second stand- alone store. Formerly housing an outpost of Takorean, the restaurant space is located below the Ellington apartments at 1301 U Street NW. The Rooster is doing well; since rolling out its first truck in 2015, the company has added three more vehicles. For now, the pop-up is take-out only, with online ordering through Uber Eats and Postmates.

Proprietor Michael Habtemariam told Eater DC that his U Street outpost offers the group’s entire menu, including five kinds of free-range chicken sandwiches: plain, Buffalo, honey butter, Nashville hot, and bacon ranch club. Diners choose their level of firepower: Mild, medium, hot. Customers also find wings, chicken tenders, salads, fries, jalapeno coleslaw. Coming soon: milkshakes and breakfast sandwiches. Early next year, Roaming Rooster plans to open a third outpost at the future Western Market Food Hall in Foggy Bottom.

And….Coming soon: Taqueria Xochi, 924 U St. NW. Created by former China Chilcano pastry chef Teresa Padilla and business partner Geraldine Mendoza, Taqueria will have a ghost kitchen pop-up and carryout window. The menu will showcase cermitas (pressed sandwiches stuffed with meat), Oaxaca cheese, beans, avocado, tomato and salsa. The latter is available by the bottle. Beef quesabirria tacos snuggle in crispy tortillas. For updates call 202-292-2859 or visit www.taqueriaxochi.com.

Breakfast Fare
Janny Kim and Huy Huynh have launched a pop-up, Hello Sando, which creates Japanese-style breakfast sandwiches. Made with organic flour, each slice from local Korean bakery O Bread is cut “thicker than a hunk of Texas toast.” Offering carryout only, the sandwich shop operates out of Tiger Fork, 922 N St. NW (rear), in Blagden Alley. The pandemic inspired their business, which they hope can bring an affordable slice of joy while helping their friends in the food industry. Call 202-733-1152 or visit www.tigerforkdc.com.

New in Ivy City
Baker’s Daughter has debuted at 1401 Okie St. NE. The yeasty spinoff of nearby Gravitas serves breakfast and lunch, as well as wines, pastries, artisan cheeses, dips and spreads, plus prepared meals (including Thanksgiving dinners). Call 202-729-6900 or visit www.BakersDaughterdc.com….Via Ghibellina has opened at 2000 Fenwick St. NE. The Italian newcomer showcases antipasti, salads, homemade pastas, risottos, pizzas, grilled fish, filet mignon. Call 202-688-4131 or 202-621-6426 visit www.viaghibellinadc.com.

Coffee Pop-up
Here’s something fun and healthy to help us get through winterShaw’s new sustainability-centric Oyster Oyster has teamed up with Lorton, Virginia-based RĀKO Coffee Roasters on a daytime coffee shop at 1440 Eighth St. NW. Espresso carts dispense caffeinated concoctions. You can also buy bagged RĀKO coffee, and returned coffee bags are recycled into park benches.

Oyster Oyster chef/baker Rob Rubba is making cinnamon pumpkin hickory bark rolls, breads and scones. There’s also “energizing” tea made from lion’s mane mushrooms. You’ll find the buzzy pop-up in front of Oyster Oyster’s next-door garage. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through February. Visit www.oysteroysterdc.com.

Retaining the Indian theme, Butter Chicken 3 plans to open in the spot vacated by Indian/Italian Duet.

Coming Soon
Butter Chicken Company 3 is sliding into 601 Second St. NE, where Duet (Indian and Italian) used to be. (Sister restaurant Butter Chicken 2 is located at 500 H St. NE, in the Atlas District. For updates visit www.usabutterchicken.com.

And…Market 7, a sprawling food hall at 3451 Benning Road NE. Similar to the Roost (Hill East), the 7,000 square-foot space will showcase Black-owned businesses, including a community grocery and food “incubators.” Don’t rush over there right away; the dilapidated building at that address must be demolished before the new structure is built and furnished. Watch for updates.

Gone
Dolcezza, the gelato shop with cafes scattered all over the DC area, closed five of its nine locations last month: Logan Circle, CityCenterDC (Penn Quarter), District Wharf, Dupont Circle and Bethesda.  Dolcezza’s Factory and Coffee Lab, which opened near Union Market in 2014, has apparently been spared. Not surprisingly, proprietors Rob Duncan and Violeta Edelman cited the pandemic shutdown for the closures.

And…After a nearly decade serving our Logan Circle neighborhood, Taqueria El Centro D.F. has permanently closed. According to a representative for Richard Sandoval Hospitality, the popular taco and tequila bar at 1819 14th Street NW could relocate elsewhere in the city. El Centro’s Georgetown outpost remains open for dine-in, takeout, and delivery. Sandoval’s pan-Latin steakhouse Toro Toro (1300 I St. NW) is still around, and he still plans to open a tequila bar at 476 K St. NW (Mount Vernon Triangle) early next year.