July 6, 2018 at 9:00 AM
June was a good month for fans of raw fish, as Sushi Nakazawa and O-Ku made their D.C. debuts. But fans of beach bars, beer gardens and down-home American food also will find something to satisfy cravings at these new restaurants.
America Eats Tavern: Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema writes, “Old Glory BBQ is yesterday’s news, but the smell of smoke lingers in its replacement. That’s a good thing, given that the new occupant of the two-story restaurant in Georgetown is the third iteration of America Eats Tavern, which just happens to list barbecue on its menu . . . Fans of the concept shouldn’t expect to see all their favorite dishes from prior Taverns, but that still leaves plenty to salute. Warm hush puppies, for instance, their crisp shells yielding to fluffy centers, and mac and cheese, a fetching weave of aged cheddar and short-cut vermicelli served in a cast-iron skillet. The fishing is equally fine. Crab cakes, lightly bound with mayonnaise and veined with fresh herbs, are sweet with jumbo lump crab from Maryland, while whole grilled trout — the hit at a recent dinner — benefits from a marinade that borrows the bright accents of green goddess dressing.” 3139 M St. NW.
Coco Beach: Plastic flamingos hang on the walls, folding beach chairs surround tables shaped like wakeboards and a life-size cutout of David Hasselhoff greets new arrivals at Coco Beach, the new addition above Little Coco's. You'll feel like you're on a kitschy vacation even before you open the drink menu. The juicer sitting on the bar is your cue to order from the squeezed-to-order crush selection. The traditional orange version with orange vodka is bright and clean; a take with lime juice, mezcal, Thai basil and bird's-eye chili has a smoky, funky heat. The tiki section of the menu has easy-drinking mai tais and piña coladas, while frozen drinks rotate daily. Monday is the perfect night to pop in: All crushes are $6 from 5 p.m. until last call. 3907 14th St. NW.
O-Ku Sushi: Acclaimed Charleston, S.C., sushi restaurant O-Ku is the latest addition to the growing neighborhood around Union Market, having opened the fourth branch of its mini-empire on June 22. (There are also O-Kus in Charlotte and Atlanta, with Raleigh and Nashville locations “coming soon.") This O-Ku, under executive chef Bryan Emperor, will specialize in sushi and sashimi, but it's also the only one to boast a binchotan charcoal grill. Beyond the sushi counter and dining room, O-Ku has a second-floor bar with a deep Japanese whiskey selection and a rooftop with 40 seats. 1274 Fifth St. NE.
Pitchers: Time has finally been called on the Spaghetti Garden, Brass Monkey, Roxanne and Peyote Cafe, and Adams Morgan is all the better for it. Pitchers, from longtime JR's manager Dave Perruzza, has taken over the multilevel space and opened the restaurant and sports bar portion just in time for the Capital Pride parade. The rooftop and patios are welcoming and attractive, but the biggest draw might be the former Brass Monkey space, with rainbow-tinted skylights, dart lanes, pool and foosball tables, and a trio of Nintendo systems hooked up to flat-screen TVs, in case you find yourself craving a quick round of Mortal Kombat II or Super Metroid. The first-floor restaurant and bar serves burgers, pizza and sports bar snacks, though if you just want a cocktail or craft beer, you might be asked to move to one of the upstairs bars. Coming in late July: a lesbian bar called A League of Their Own in the former Peyote Cafe space, which will have its own entrance and be run by former Cobalt bartender Jo McDaniel. 2317 18th St. NW.
Rustico Ballston Beer Garden: Ballston is not blessed with many places to dine alfresco, and the new beer garden in the courtyard next to Rustico goes far beyond the usual sidewalk cafe. Picnic tables sit atop a carpet of AstroTurf, and a section of the lawn has been dedicated to a pair of corn hole sets. On a recent Sunday afternoon, almost every group included a baby or a toddler. Although there’s no outdoor bar — servers fetch everything from inside — the beer selection is as fantastic as you’d expect, with saison from Blackberry Farms and Pilsener from Birrificio Italiano among the seasonal highlights. The owners have plans to activate the space with Friday night concerts, Saturday family events that include cartoons and crafts, and a game day with corn hole, ping-pong and foosball on Sundays. Open Wednesday-Sunday. 4075 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
San Lorenzo: Massimo Fabbri, the chef behind the Italian menus at Tosca and the now-closed Posto, grew up in Tuscany, and the cuisine of that region has inspired his latest project. San Lorenzo, which replaced Thally in Shaw on June 26, is a casual spot more aligned with Posto — think classic dishes, such as pastas, salads and roasted chicken and pork ribs — than the high-end Tosca. A 14-seat bar serves amaro-based cocktails and Tuscan wines by the glass. 1316 Ninth St. NW.
Sushi Nakazawa: Sietsema writes, “There are two ways to experience dinner at Sushi Nakazawa, a New York import recently arrived at the Trump hotel: at a 10-stool, marble-topped counter, where executive chef Masaaki Uchino and his colleagues prepare the meal in front of you, or in the sleek 30-seat dining room. Proximity to Uchino costs a customer $150; the price of the tasting menu at the table is $120. Guests are not offered a menu when they sit down. Every course is thus a surprise . . . No two pieces of fish get the same treatment, which is no small task when you consider the omakase runs 20 or so courses long. Depending upon your appetite, and maybe your patience for fine dining, the omakase is a blur of a school of fish or a pescatarian fantasy.” 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.