Anxo, the District's first cidery and Basque restaurant, opens Wednesday at 5 p.m. The owners have spent the better part of a year working on the Truxton Circle rowhouse. Here's what you need to know before you start attempting those fancy Basque wine-pouring techniques.
While Anxo's menu prominently features Basque ciders, vermouth and wine, the full by-the-glass selection is far more diverse. There are funky ciders made with foraged apples from Vermont; fizzy, tannic ciders from Normandy; and traditional English cider pulled from a hand pump. Twenty ciders will be available on tap and hand pump, with at least four coming from Spain.
Beverage director Tim Prendergast says that of the 90 to 100 bottles on his list, most – about 25 percent – come from America. France and England make up about 20 percent each, with the rest being from Germany, Austria and New Zealand. Spain will be represented by about five to six bottles.
Prendergast knows that many customers will be new to cider, or have only tried sugary, heavily carbonated versions, such as Strongbow or Woodchuck. "It's important to me that we're not too snooty about it," he says. So while several ciders will appeal mostly to "cider nerds," Prendergast says, there will be choices like Pennsylvania's Big Hill Summer Scrumpy, which is similar to some mainstream ciders, but without added sugars or juice from concentrate.
"It's a life ring," Prendergast says. "It's quick and approachable. It gets people comfortable and gives them time to understand the concept."
The cider to get right now comes from D.C.
There are so many ciders worth trying at Anxo, from aerated Basque ciders to rustic English perries, made with pears instead of apples. But the two top choices are made in-house.
Anxo plans to open a larger cider-making facility on Kennedy Street NW later this year, but for now, they've made a pair of ciders using crabapples foraged in D.C. from yards of friends – "There's a great tree in Mount Pleasant," Prendergast says cryptically – as well as the side of the road. Given the "harvest," supplies are extremely limited -- maybe seven gallons of Anxo Foraged Cider #1 and five gallons of Anxo Foraged Cider #2. The first one is my favorite – more tannic and woody, with a sharper flavor from the crabapples; the second is a little smoother, thanks to the addition of apples from New York state.
In the future, Anxo may crowdsource apples. "If you think you have a tree we could use, you can send us a picture, or bring us some fruit," Prendergast says. "We'll trade people some cider depending on the amount of fruit we get."
If you like a bottled cider, you can take it home.
One of the quirks of Anxo's cider-pub license – technically a winery license, since they're making alcohol from fruit – is that they can sell cider and wine to-go. "People can come in, find a bottle of cider they like and say, 'Where can I get this?' Well, right here," Prendergast explains. This will apply to all bottled ciders and a house selection of Basque wines – five whites, three reds and a rosé. Naturally, prices will be discounted for wine sold to-go, so customers should ask for a separate menu.
There's more than cider, of course.
Anxo founders Sam Fitz, Rachel Fitz, Cooper Sheehan and Prendergast all worked at Meridian Pint, so the bar has a strong craft beer program. The dozen draft lines will regularly feature locals Ocelot, DC Brau, Right Proper and Port City, plus Maine's Oxbow. Four other taps will feature Basque vermouth, which is served neat or on the rocks with soda, and two cocktails.
The food is meant for snacking.
Barcelona native Alex Vallcorba's menu focuses on pintxos, small sandwiches known as montaditos -- topped with shrimp, sausage, peppers, anchovy, cheese, potato tortillas or marinated mussels -- sold from $1.50 to $5 a piece. For larger snacks, there are charcuterie boards with serrano ham and lomo (cured pork loin), or cheese plates with sheep and goat's milk cheeses. If you need more fuel, larger plates include fried pig ears with pocha beans and peppers, octopus poached in cider with saffron-mashed potatoes and a broth of English peas with a poached egg.
The patio will be a party spot when it opens
Anxo's two-story space is striking: Walls have been stripped back to their bare brick bones. The former row house's front turret has been turned into a staircase with a hanging 3D-printed sculpture of antlers.
Currently at 88 seats, capacity will increase by more than 50 percent in August when Anxo opens its patio. The outdoor area's surrounding trees are split between Hewes's Crab and Harrison apple trees, both native to the Mid-Atlantic region. "Thomas Jefferson and George Washington raved about them," says Sam Fitz, explaining that those varietals were the backbone of cider production in the colonial area. (Also, more importantly, "They're resistant to local pests.") Fitz expects a grand opening party in early August, with a guest appearance by the owner of Spain's Petritegi Sagardoa cider.
Anxo, 300 Florida Ave. NW. Open 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.