August 6, 2018 at 10:00 AM
The middle of summer typically isn't a busy time for new restaurant openings, but these new arrivals weren't dissuaded by the heat and endless rain.
Capitol Cider House: Washington's newest cider maker also happens to be one of the coolest places to sample regional ciders. A cider mill and 5,500 pounds of boxed apples sit a few feet from the bar, but the dozen taps feature only one cider bearing Capitol Cider House's name. Owner Jared Fackrell envisions the one-room cider facility as “somewhere you can sample the diverse ciders made by the best cidermakers in the Mid-Atlantic,” including Virginia's Blue Bee and Winchester, D.C.'s Anxo and Maryland's Distillery Lane. (The Frederick County cider works collaborated with Capitol on the dry and delicious Quincy cider.) The vibe is unpretentious and family-friendly, with board games to borrow and occasional live music. 3930 Georgia Ave. NW.
The Crown and the Crow: The owners of Logan Circle hangout Kingfisher and now-shuttered Adams Morgan staple the Reef are behind a stunning new basement pub at the bottom of the 14th Street NW strip. The Crown and the Crow takes its influence from turn-of-the-20th-century taverns, with exposed brick walls, burnished hardwood bars and tables, and curving red leather booths. Blues and jazz bands play on a low stage in the larger of the two rooms, while the other is just a comfortable place to settle in with a drink and some friends. There's no kitchen, so feel free to bring takeout food from nearby restaurants, including new Tom Sietsema favorite Pappe. 1317 14th St. NW.
The Eleanor: Pairing booze and arcade games has been a trend over the last year — see Player's Club or Pizzeria Paradiso's Game Room — and now Bar Eleanor in NoMa offers yet another option. What sets it apart are two duckpin-sized bowling lanes, offering the perfect excuse for a few frames at happy hour or during a Friday night date. Like sister restaurant Bar Elena, there are multiple video games and skee-ball and pinball machines to play, if you don't want to just sit at the bar and chat. (Notice the bartop is made from a vintage bowling lane.) The weekday happy hour, which runs from 4 to 7 p.m. and again from 11 p.m. to midnight, is heavy on $5 specials: Choose from wines, craft beer, a cocktail of the day, a beer-and-a-shot combo, General Tso wings, nachos and “elote-style” hush puppies. 100 Florida Ave. NE.
Gravitas: A few years ago, a restaurant offering a seven-course, $110 tasting menu in Ivy City would have been unthinkable. But chef Matt Baker's Gravitas, which offers menus with as few as four courses, sets itself apart from the competition in both looks and menu. Food critic Tom Sietsema's first impressions: “From 'Light Beginning,' one of four menu categories, I opt for a summer salad that yields a wreath of colorful herbs and vegetables — cornets of summer squash, ribbons of carrot, miniature eggplant — interspersed with tufts of whipped goat cheese. 'Indulgence,' my second plate, is just that, panko-crusted, soft-centered sweetbreads encircled in lightly charred petals of pearl onion, each holding a drop of Madeira jus.” Up next: A two-seat chef's counter and a rooftop bar “enclosed in a greenhouse.” 1401 Okie St. NE.
The Green Zone: For the past four years, Chris Hassaan Francke has been a bartender in search of a home. His Middle East-inspired cocktail bar, the Green Zone, has existed as pop-ups and one-off events, treating the curious to drinks flavored with dates, yerba mate and incense smoke. But now Francke has taken over the former Rendezvous Lounge space in Adams Morgan and made the Green Zone a permanent fixture, with Moroccan tile bar tops and walls decorated with framed records and travel posters. Many of the Green Zone's cocktails feature arrack, a traditional Middle Eastern spirit made with anise. If your neighbor's glass appears to be smoking, it's probably the eye-catching Rihan Smash, which uses liquid nitrogen to cool the glasses. The drink itself is delicious rather than flashy, redolent of basil and salted lemon with local Green Hat gin providing a boost of citrus. The refreshing Toufan — the menu explains the name is Arabic and Persian for “Hurricane” — is a Middle Eastern twist on the classic New Orleans beverage, with bursts of pomegranate and Iraqi citrus shining alongside the usual rum and passion fruit. If you'd like something easier to drink, the wide-ranging menu includes Palestinian beer, Lebanese wine and a host of nonalcoholic drinks, such as frozen mint lemonade. DJs spin chobi and dabke dance music on weekends, but the regional street food — Lebanese falafel with radish and tomatoes, Labneh with garlic, and Iraqi Kubbat Halab, a samosa-like snack with kibbe in a crunchy fried wrapper — should be a draw on its own. 2226 18th St. NW.
La Vie: Located four floors above Mi Vida at the heart of the Wharf, La Vie — from the team behind Provision 14, Pamplona and the recently shuttered sports bar the Prospect — offers a seafood-centric Mediterranean menu. The space is awash with luxe details, including floor-to-ceiling windows and a canopy of chandeliers, and a 1,100-square-foot terrace overlooking the Washington Channel. What is sure to be the most-talked-about “feature” of the restaurant is a series of windows above the bar in the flower-covered Conservatory, which offer a below-the-waterline look into the pool of the neighboring Channel apartment building. (Micro-apartments start at $1,970 per month and an annual $750 “amenity fee”; make sure you set aside some extra cash for a well-fitted swimsuit.) 88 District Sq. SW.
Mission Navy Yard: The most impressive thing about Mission is its sheer scale: 10,000 feet of eating and drinking over two levels, with a 150-foot bar at the center of the action. The space sprawls into private rooms, multiple balconies and a total of four different bars, each with a different vibe. The 16 taps include Dos, an exclusive DC Brau pale ale with a fruity hop character; lemonade spiked with Tito's vodka; a pair of margaritas, including one with mango and pineapple juices; and rose and prosecco. Mission, located across N Street from Nationals Park, opened with a limited menu just in time for the All-Star Game: Expect a focus on “fun” entrees like skillets of queso fundido or Frito pie, and plenty of tacos. 1221 Van St. SE.
The Spot food hall: When news broke about this Asian food court last year, we called it “Rockville's answer to the Block in Annandale.” Stalls include Alpaca Dessert, which sells Instagram-ready Hong Kong bubble waffles stuffed with treats like matcha ice cream; international bubble tea chain Gong Cha; local poke purveyor Poki DC; Mian, which offers dumplings and hand-pulled noodles; and Cheers Cut, a franchise offering supersized Taiwanese fried chickens and jumbo squid, which also has locations in New York and Philadelphia. Still to come: The Spot Bar (self-explanatory) and the barbecue-centric Spot Grill. 255 N. Washington St., Rockville.