America Eats Tavern will replace Cafe Atlantico


Chef Jose Andres will turn Cafe Atlantico into an American-themed restaurant in July. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Fresh from being named Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation in New York, the Spanish visionary plans to replace his Latin American-themed destination in Penn Quarter with a radically different flavor: America Eats Tavern and a menu of iconic U.S. dishes will coincide with the Archives’ forthcoming exhibit, “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet.”

The free show, which looks at the nation’s fascination with food, runs from June 10 to January 3. Following a minor facelift, the restaurant is expected to make its debut on the Fourth of July. (Fear not, fans of Minibar ; Andres’s six-seat culinary ad­ven­ture on the second floor of Atlantico, will, save for that three-week revamp, remain open.)

America Eats Tavern will start on the ground floor with a cafe serving lobster rolls, hot dogs and the star chef’s signature cheesesteak. Upstairs, a more formal restaurant will introduce shrimp and grapefruit cocktail, Brunswick stew and, in a nod to Vermont, maple syrup drizzled over “snow” coaxed from pulverized ice. The menu will include short descriptions explaining the stories behind the dishes’ recipes, which were culled from such diverse sources as a manuscript penned by a chef for President Washington and the first edition of “The Joy of Cooking,” says Andres.

A portion of the profits from the temporary restaurant will benefit the Foundation for the National Archives. Andres’s involvement in the project will extend to future panel discussions featuring culinary scholars, scientists and policy makers.

Come January, after America Eats Tavern closes, probably along with the exhibit, Minibar will likely expand to multiple floors and 18 seats at 405 Eighth St. NW. It will share the space with ThinkFoodTank, the culinary center where Andres and his creative team develop new ideas.

No word about when Cafe Atlantico will resurface, but a refreshed notion of the restaurant will return, says Andres. “It’s close to my heart and my background and my history in Washington.”

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.

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