As often as not, in 2011 it was the unexpected, unheralded places that came out of nowhere and wowed us. But for every nice surprise like the Standard or Sundevich, there was a monstrously hyped, celebrity-driven destination restaurant. And, as in the cases of Fiola, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Graffiato, some of them actually managed to live up to or even exceed our expectations. It’s with those places in mind that we look forward to the 2012 restaurant openings we’re most anticipating.
The opening of this Old Town Alexandria combination market, bakery, wine shop and restaurant from the masterminds behind Restaurant Eve gives us something nice to look forward to in the next couple weeks. The space will offer cheese, charcuterie and a full butcher shop with special game items. The shop’s kitchen will produce breads and pastries for the company’s restaurants, and every wine sold in their dining rooms will be available for purchase there at retail prices. Need more? How about a menu of wine-based cocktails from Todd Thrasher and an open kitchen where your fixed-price meal includes the opportunity to join the chef behind the counter for some hands-on cooking tips?
The recently opened Mama Chuy on Georgia Avenue seems to be the first volley in an invasion of authentic Mexican restaurants that will really explode in the spring. We can’t wait to try Tacos Impala on H Street NE, Jackie Greenbaum’s Columbia Heights taqueria or El Rey, the al fresco “Mexican beer garden with tacos” being put together by Eric and Ian Hilton. And as if that isn’t enough, Mike Isabella is set to open Bandolero, a modern Mexican restaurant, in the old Hook space in Georgetown.
This year we experienced the double pleasure of a reopened Ren’s Ramen and the much-hyped debut of Toki Underground. Steaming, brothy bowls of noodles will continue their march toward dominance in 2012 with the long, long, long-awaited opening of Wagamama in Chinatown. Also opening in Chinatown: Daikaya, a dual-purpose ramen joint and Japanese izakaya from Sushiko chef/owner Daisuke Utagawa. Can one neighborhood handle so much noodle soup? We’ll find out this summer.
A Starr comes to D.C.
A new place from Philadelphia’s Stephen Starr has us licking our chops. In the fall, the former dry cleaner at the corner of 14th and Q streets NW will become a French bistro-themed eatery, perhaps a second location of the restaurateur’s reputable Rittenhouse Square restaurant Parc.
More from team Taylor
Casey Patten and David Mazza, the heroes behind the Philadelphia-style hoagies at Taylor Gourmet have finally embraced the inevitable and bowed to the wishes of hungry Philly expats: A new sandwich shop from the pair, to be named Taylor Charles Steak & Ice, will serve classic Philly-style cheesesteaks and Italian water ice just two block from the original Taylor on H Street NE. Those streetcars can’t come fast enough.