There is no better place to witness Washington, D.C.'s barrage into culinary prowess than the 14th Street Corridor. Once the scene of horrifying race riots, a seedy red-light district and a flea market of used car dealerships, 14th Street between Thomas Circle and Columbia Heights is now a food-lover's bacchanal. One could go from block to block nibbling and sipping their way through dinner. At least 25 new bars and restaurants have opened, or are set to open, in the past year, supplying the city with more than 2,000 additional seats in which to spend Saturday night. Here is just a glimpse into the area's piquant spread.
The owners of two of D.C.'s trademark neighborhood hotspots have teamed up to bring Etto to the 14th Street Corridor. Peter Pastan and Amy Morgan of cult-love pizza joint 2Amys, and Tad Curtz and David Rosner, creators of Garden District (formerly Standard) selling succulent pork products and draft beers by the liter in an open-air setting, opened the little Italian shop specializing in oak-fired pizza in May of this year. Made with hand-milled grain, Etto's pizza options range from Roasted Cauliflower with capers, pine nuts, anchovy and breadcrumbs to Cotechino with fontina and egg. Nearly every additional item on the menu is fermented and prepared in-house. The first-come-first-served wait list can easily turn off a hungry diner but post up at the bar and dip into some salami and anchovies while you wait.
Mike Isabella of Top Chef fame opened G, an Italian sandwich shop that he sees as the little sister to his wildly successful Chinatown restaurant, Graffiato. Options range from the "healthy" roasted cauliflower with romesco, pickled vegetables and paprika to the wood-roasted suckling pig with mustard greens, spicy apple mostarda and provolone, and the Jersey Mac meant for breakfast with duck egg, house made taylor ham, muenster cheese and duck fat English muffins. Drain down the carbs with a collection of house-made sodas. By night (starting at 5:30), the place serves a $40 tasting menu that changes nightly.
A bit of a twist from the husband/wife owner's first restaurant, Kushi, a Japanese sushi joint, Black Whiskey is pure American. With rough wood accents, exposed brick and a wall of nearly 70 different types of whiskey, you quickly get the point that you're here to drink. But there is a kitchen, just look over, it's right next to the bar. The open-air space is as big as an office cubicle and serves as a carving station with cuts like leg of lamb and baby pig. A cut of meat and two veggies will run you around $18. But as an interesting alternative, you'll frequently find the owners' Kushi-Moto food truck parked out front. Patrons are encouraged to bring the sushi rolls and rice bowls back up to dine at the bar.
Pinky-poke just as the French do at this Parisian cafe occupying a corner lot on 14th Street where a rundown laundry mat long stood. Now shiny and new, the interior is stuffed full of famed restaurateur Stephen Starr's flea market finds from Belgium and France. Try delicacies like chilled lobster and oysters, or escargot and foie gras parfait. The hand-chopped steak tartare and quail egg make a great dish for sharing. And the entrees bring you a variety of options; choose from Moules Frites, Beef Bourguignon or a Burger Americain.