April is a month of growth and rebirth — especially in the restaurant scene. New openings include a sports bar making the move from Park View to Nationals Park, a cheese-focused cafe from the owners of two craft beer bars and a first D.C. restaurant for a chef who earned rave reviews in Baltimore.
12 Stories: The newest rooftop destination at the Wharf has an exclusive entrance — an elevator whisking guests directly from the street to the top floor of the InterContinental Hotel. Run by the Gerber Group, whose portfolio includes similar penthouse lounges in New York and Atlanta, 12 Stories is most notable for its outdoor deck, which offers stunning views from the Wilson Bridge to Georgetown. Inside, floor-to-ceiling windows allow for similar (albeit climate-controlled) vistas from sofas, cocktail tables or the large bar, where bartenders pour super-chilled “Zero Degree” cocktails and tasty margaritas. Pro tip: Try to visit earlier in the week, when the lounge is less likely to be at capacity. 75 District Sq. SW.
Astoria: A vacant building on a busy stretch of 17th Street NW has been converted to a stylish gem of a cocktail bar, thanks to Devin Gong, the owner of H Street NE’s Copycat Co. Copycat, which opened in late 2014, has been a fixture in our Best Bars in Washington lists, thanks to inventive bartenders and an intimate atmosphere. Astoria, nested next to JR’s, ups the ante by adding a full Sichuan food menu — numbing dan dan noodles, mapo tofu, pork-filled chile wontons — in addition to drinks. The beverages are still going to draw more people, thanks to such concoctions as the tiki-ish Lieutenant Colonel, which mixes aged rum, absinthe and plenty of allspice dram. If there’s any downside to Astoria, it’s the space itself — so narrow that there’s no room for seats, or even standing, at the bar. Instead, guests sit in plush blue chairs or large, comfortable booths, and order from cocktail servers. As at Copycat, expect Gong’s hand-drawn menus to change frequently. 1521 17th St. NW.
Cinder BBQ: After more than a decade of serving Bill’s Backyard Barbecue at farmers markets and pop-up events and catering private functions, Bill Coleman has a bricks-and-mortar barbecue joint of his own, thanks to a partnership with the owners of Civil Lounge. Cinder, which replaces Ruta del Vino on the popular 800 block of Upshur Street NW, features Coleman’s own recipes — both Eastern Carolina and Texas styles make it onto the menus, alongside collard greens, mac and cheese and Brussels sprouts. The bar has an extensive bourbon and rye whiskey list, including selections from Willett, W.L. Weller and Wilderness Trail. 800 Upshur St. NW.
Bar Bullfrog: Bullfrog Bagels have been available on H Street NE since 2014, when the Star and Shamrock started selling them at a to-go window. And when the hybrid Irish pub/Jewish deli closed in February after a 10-year run, it announced that its “long time collaborators and roommates” would take over the space. The new Bar Bullfrog’s “all day” menu — served until midnight Tuesday through Thursday and 1 a.m. Friday through Sunday — is naturally focused on bagels, including “bagelwichs,” such as a Reuben with corned beef, swiss and housemade sauerkraut on your choice of bagel, or an old-school pizza bagel topped with sauce and melted cheese. The soft-opening menu is focused on local beers and a selection of wines on tap. Brunch is offered from noon to 3 p.m. on weekends. 1341 H St. NE.
Cheesemonster Studio: The latest arrival to Brightwood Park’s growing Kennedy Street corridor is a hybrid wine-and-cheese cafe, private event space and cheese-focused catering company. Run by Brian and Hilarey Leonard, who also own popular D.C. bars Lost and Found and Free State, and cheesemonger Alice Bergen Phillips, the cozy one-room Studio hosts a variety of classes, such as Cheese 101 or cheese-and-beverage pairing classes. It’s also open for drop-in tastings Thursday through Saturday. The menu is simple: Pick a couple of unusual cheeses (one for $5, three for $18, five for $26), and let Hilarey Leonard or Bergen Phillips help you pick drinks to go with them. Wine is the default, of course, but pairings also involve selections from the neighboring Anxo Cidery, or local craft beers. 713 Kennedy St. NW.
Queen’s English: This Columbia Heights restaurant has been home to Kangaroo Boxing Club and the Good Silver. Now the kitchen is focused on the flavors of Hong Kong, thanks to chef Henji Cheung, who worked as a chef at the dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and his wife, Sarah Thompson, who has experience in both front-of-house and back-of-house operations at various restaurants. The menu has a fun and playful sensibility — “PB&J” here stands for “peanut, bacon and jellyfish” — and those who follow Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema on Instagram know the critic is already a fan of the hand-cut noodles with charred squid: “Hand-cut noodles. More, please!” Thompson is in charge of the beverage program, which includes natural wines and barrel-aged cocktails, including a twist on a Negroni with five spice. Be warned: The space is small and doesn’t take reservations. 3410 11th St. NW.
Seven Reasons: When chef Enrique Limardo ran the kitchen at Baltimore’s Alma Cocina Latina, Sietsema called him one of “the best ambassadors for Venezuela in the United States right now,” and gave the alluring eatery a rave three-and-a-half star review. Limardo’s first D.C. restaurant finds him exploring a broader, regional menu, offering new riffs on dishes from Peru and the Caribbean, including lobster ceviche and ravioli de chuchos, a cross between fish stew and lasagna that was a hit in Baltimore. At the bar, Josué González, formerly of St. Anselm, serves cocktails heavy on rum and cachaça. 2208 14th St. NW.
Walter’s Sports Bar: Not many bars could relocate from a cramped Park View storefront to a gleaming new building across the street from Nationals Park, but Walter’s Sports Bar has pulled it off. Owner Jeremy Gifford teased customers with an extremely low-key pop-up during All-Star Week last summer, but the finished Walter’s is a winner. The biggest attraction are 24 beer taps on the wall, which allow customers to fill their own glasses. (Gifford says that it should be much faster than having customers fight to get served at the bar.) Customers use a special card to keep track of their beers, which are charged by the ounce — pretty handy if you only need a few sips of a bourbon barrel-aged stout, or want to try the new collaboration with Atlas Brew Works before committing to a pint. If you’re worried about filling your glass with foam — and there were more than a few people on a recent visit who needed remedial help in Beer Pouring 101 — staff are available at the taps or behind the bar. While Walter’s location makes it perfect for Nationals fans, it’s also a place to watch games in its own right: Check out the murals of local baseball legends Walter Johnson, Frank Howard and Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, right next to the 220-inch high-definition screen. 1221 Van St. SE.