A Mid-Day Ivy City Trip

The Ivy City Smokehouse menu also showcases a bountiful salad Nicoise with lots of tuna, but (sometimes) no anchovies.

It had been a while since we’d visited Ivy City, so husband Peter and I decided to explore recent culinary developments. Accompanied by our friend Nan, we drove there and sought out lunch. Ivy City Smokehouse & Tavern, 1356 Okie St. NE, was one of few midday options.  We had preferred to dine al fresco on the spacious patio, but nearby construction noise drove us indoors. Service was slow, but during the COVID shutdown, many businesses are still short staffed. 

I chose my favorite Smokehouse dish: grilled oysters, often a daily special. Six plump bivalves are capped with savory breadcrumbs. Peter ordered salad Nicoise.  The salad was tasty and generous, but lacking the traditional olives and anchovies. Asparagus subbed for the usual green beans. Nan went for the bountiful Santa Fe bowl, a vegetarian mélange of Basmati rice, black beans, avocado chunks, grilled onions, corn and spinach, crowned with a pair of fried eggs. The bowl arrived with two tortillas.

At Ivy City Smokehouse & Tavern, a half-dozen savory broiled oysters often appear as a daily special.

The Tavern menu now includes pizza in addition to such favorites as raw bar selections, house-smoked fish, po’ boy shrimp Cobb and crab cakes (market price). “Red” pizzas are topped with Italian sausage, grilled chicken, Kalamata olives and more; “white” pies support shiitake mushrooms, grilled onions and the like. Another delicious newbie is salmon candy cream cheese, available on the menu with a toasted bagel, and downstairs at the Market. There, a 16-ounce container goes for $13.98. 

For hours and more information on Ivy City Smokehouse Market and Tavern, visit www.tavern.ivycitysmokehouse.com.

Axes to Grind

Here’s something fun and different: Near Ivy City Smokehouse, at 1401 Okie St. NE, we stumbled into Kick Axe DC. We were greeted at the door by a statue of Babe the Blue Ox—the giant bovine sidekick of American folk hero Paul Bunyan. 

The sprawling, 53,000-square-foot, multi-level Kick Axe emporium is festooned with neon signs and other festive décor. You’ll find live entertainment, party space, a patio and huge friendly bars dispensing cocktails, beer and wine. The food menu encompasses hummus, chips and salsa, 8-inch “personal” pizzas, pigs-in-a-blanket, mac-and-cheese bites and more. 

In Ivy City, a giant statue of legendary Babe the Blue Ox greets fans at the festive Kick Axe DC.

Oh yes—axe throwing is practiced in special, designated lanes. Don’t worry, experts will teach you the proper skills and safe techniques necessary to release your inner lumberjack. Food and drinks are delivered directly to axe-hurling lanes. For hours and more information, visit www.kickaxe.com.

Shaw Restaurant Expands to SE

Six years ago, Takoda Restaurant & Beer Garden debuted at 715 Florida Ave. NW, in Shaw. Now, Takoda has unveiled an equally lofty offshoot at 1299 First St. SE. The 385-seat newcomer is located directly across from Nationals Park. Created by Better Hospitality Group, the 7,000-square-foot enterprise boasts a spacious rooftop restaurant. (Among other BHG eateries is the District Wharf’s Boardwalk Bar & Arcade.)

“We have lots of loyal Takoda Shaw patrons who live in the Navy Yard area. Now they have one at their doorstep,” BHG CEO Ryan Seelbach told Eater DC.

The Navy Yard offshoot menu is practically the same as Shaw’s: Emerging from Chef Julio Estrada’s kitchen are Old Bay tots, boneless chicken wings, sliders, salads, burgers and much more. There’s also weekend brunch, including a $53 per person, three-course “bottomless” option.

On a recent steamy Sunday, we checked out brunch. We had hoped to enjoy the rooftop view, but found little shade there. So we repaired downstairs. The brief listing offers smoked salmon bagels, egg shakshuka (presented in a cast iron skillet), eggs Benedict, smoked pork hash, avocado toast. Libations include frozen cocktails, beer and wine. 

Crowned with a fried egg, smoked pork hash is a brunch favorite at Takoda, a spinoff of the Shaw original.

Sipping a Cortez margarita festooned with a dehydrated lime “wheel,” I ordered the pork hash. Crowned with a fried egg, the generous dish had a pleasant smokiness, but far more ‘taters than pork. Peter’s avocado toast (two slices) was slathered with avocado, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and topped with fried eggs. Lunch for two came to $41 before tip. Service, delivered by Victoria, was pleasant and efficient.

Takoda’s late night weekend menu—including a takeout window–offers fried pickle baskets, truffle fries and fish and chips. For more information on both Takoda restaurants, visit www.takodadc.com.

Humanitarian Chef Trumps Trump

By now, you’ve heard the good news: Super chef/global humanitarian José Andrés is unveiling an outpost of his Bazaar by Jose Andres, at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, www.thebazaar.com/washington-dc/. The prestigious address—near the White House—previously housed the Trump International Hotel. Later this year, Bazaar will slide into the lobby level space vacated last April by steakhouse BLT Prime by David Burke. 

Bazaar—which has multiple locations—will join Michelin-rated Sushi Nakazawa in the opulent hotel, now called the Waldorf Astoria. In Washington’s future Bazaar, expect such signature gems like Spanish ham croquettes, caviar “cones,” conch fritters with liquid centers, and “salt air” margaritas. For more information and updates, visit 

Guests enjoy the panoramic view at Takoda Restaurant & Beer Garden.

(The federal government still owns the historic Old Post Office Pavilion site. Miami-based investment fund CG Merchant Group—which owns the Waldorf Astoria—took over the Trump lease for a reported $375 million.)

Meanwhile, Andres’ relief organization, World Central Kitchen, is currently feeding refugees in war-ravaged Ukraine, and perhaps Afghanistan, recently hit by a catastrophic 5.9 earthquake.

More Good News….

More good news, this time coming from Mount Vernon Triangle: After shuttering its dining room for a “spring refresh,” Nicoletta Italian Kitchen, 901 Fourth St. NW, has reopened. Again, neighbors and friends can savor pizzas, calamari fritti, chicken and eggplant meatballs, spaghetti pomodoro, chicken parmesan and grilled ribeye with Tuscan potatoes. There’s also a festive happy hour. For more information, visit www.nicolettakitchen.com.

RAMMY Awards Time

It’s time to retrieve your tux and ball gown from the closet: Coming up July 24 is the 40th Annual RAMMY Awards. Sponsored by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, the black tie gala will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The event honors the accomplishments of individuals of the region’s restaurant and food service community.

 Several Shaw and Mid-City restaurants have been nominated for awards in various categories. Among them are Oyster Oyster  (Best New Restaurant of the Year); Bresca (Best Cocktail Program); Nina May (Best Brunch); Cracked Eggery (Hottest Sandwich Spot). For complete list of nominees, tickets and more information, visit www.ramw.org.