6 New Restaurant Openings in DC You Need to Know
Dockside tapas, a New Orleans-style eatery, and swanky sushi at The Wharf.
With dining back to 100% capacity and DC’s infamous humidity ushering in the start of summer, dining rooms are ready for a restaurant resurgence. And we’re already off to a hot start.
Just outside the city, a new dockside bar and restaurant has Spanish-style tapas and plenty of real estate on Old Town Alexandria’s famed waterfront. Meanwhile, in DC proper, there are several new additions to the city that are quickly gaining buzz from New Orleans-inspired fare to a swanky sushi spot with impressive scenic views. You really can’t go wrong, so choose to sample Puerto Rican food or indulge at a hearty red sauce Italian joint—or make reservations at all six of the most exciting new openings in DC right now.
BARCA Pier & Wine Bar
The coolest way to enjoy happy hour this summer is on a pier overlooking the Potomac in Old Town Alexandria that opened back in April. BARCA is located in Robinson Landing, just south of King Street and takes on a “modern shipyard chic” vibe. The menu features standard Spanish tapas, such as croquetas and patatas bravas, as well as meat and seafood delights: pulpo, calamari, and decadent charcuterie boards that come served by the ounce. That’s in addition to a craft cocktail menu—try the grapefruit gin palomar for a refreshing mid-summer twist, and a wine list that leans heavily on the Mediterrean regions. The fare is a collaboration between executive chef Bryant Haren, formerly with Gravitas, and chef Brandon Whitestone, who runs the neighboring restaurant, Ada’s on the River, which also opened this year and is quickly gaining critical acclaim.
Gumbo, beignets, and shrimp remoulade reign supreme at this New Orleans-themed restaurant that opened in May. Chef Kristen Essig called the Big Easy home for more than two decades before developing the menu with The Salt Line’s chef Kyle Bailey. The duo utilizes Mid-Atlantic seafood including soft shell crabs, now in season, plus Chesapeake oysters, and rockfish. Cocktail kings Neal Bodenheimer (from Cure in New Orleans) and Donato Alvarez (also with The Salt Line) oversee the drinks, which includes classics like the Sazerac and French 75, in versions that are big enough to serve two. The restaurant boasts an 80-seat covered patio, plus a courtyard complete with a New Orleans-inspired fountain.
Meet your sushi date night spot over at The Wharf. The sleek digs have already become a mainstay since the restaurant opened in March and are only beat by Nara Ya’s menu, which features Japanese cuisine from two extremely talented chefs—DC’s chef Kaz Okochi (KAZ Sushi Bistro) and Lucas Irwin, who studied at Morimoto under Iron Chef celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto. The menu is centered on modern and classic dishes from Japanese cuisine. Take for instance the umami-laden tofu and shitake mushroom steak, marinated in a lemongrass miso glaze, or the colorful vegetable futomaki, a mosaic-style sushi roll made with seasonal vegetables. Sake and Japanese whiskey tastings are also popular thanks to a versatile and extensive list.
All of the Italian classics are on full display at this red sauce joint: from handmade pastas to five cheese ravioli, plus chicken parmigiana, pork chops pizzaiola-style, and tiramisu for dessert. The concept comes from The Neighborhood Restaurant Group and chef Matt Adler who developed this 65-seat concept that opened in early May next to The Roost food hall. Beverage director Greg Engert sources affordably priced Italian wines available by the glass, carafe or bottle, as well as craft beers imported from Italy. And spirits director Nick Farrell puts playful touches on the martini, with both an espresso and antipasta dirty martini that comes with a caprese skewer.
Hangry, or better yet, crabby? Then you better feast upon the crab cakes at The Point, a seafood-lovers paradise, located at the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, that opened in April. Executive chef Benjamin Lambert brings an affinity for organically sourced and foraged meals to this creative seafood joint. Before opening The Point, he oversaw the kitchen at District Winery and held a tenure at now-closed Restaurant Nora. The menu shows off the chef’s love for fishing and flare for the unexpected with dishes like a seafood board sourced from sister restaurant, Ivy City Smokehouse, and a crab doughnut. Top picks also include shrimp rolls, wood-fired, whole-fish entrees, barbecue shrimp, and fire-roasted cauliflower shawarma.
The best of Puerto Rican cuisine is waiting for you at Qui Qui, the latest addition to Shaw from chef and owner Ismael Mendez that opened in May. He took his restaurant from pop-up to brick-and-mortar during the pandemic, and Mendez has previous kitchen experience working alongside other top chefs such as Frank Ruta, Opie Crooks, and Nicholas Stefanelli. Much of what he learned came at an earlier age spending time in his father's native Puerto Rico and cooking Mexican food with his mother. Of course you can expect mofongo on the menu in addition to other Puerto Rican staples, such as pollo guisado (chicken stew) and pastelón, a layered cheesy plantain dish that looks like lasagna. On the drinks side, expect to sip mojitos, daiquiris, and pina coladas. Plus, the restaurant’s location situated above The Passenger really pays off. Grab a quick drink downstairs before dinner or, better yet, order from Qui Qui’s menu at the bar.
How to book: Call 202-642-3179