September brought even more fast-casual options for Washington diners, with Turkish and Mediterranean dishes competing in a crowded market. But the arrival of a new Stephen Starr steakhouse is always going to be hard to ignore.
St. Anselm: Brooklyn’s St. Anselm, which opened its first D.C. location near Union Market on Sept. 17, is the kind of steakhouse that doesn’t call itself a steakhouse. Yes, you’ll get a New York strip, a one-pound rib-eye or a 45-ounce ax handle. But you'll also find Chinese-style bobo chicken served with mumbo sauce and whole mackerel grilled in a lime peppercorn sauce on the menu, while the bar turns out classic drinks — champagne cocktails, 2:1 martinis and amaro sours. The concept may have come from New York, but there’s a familiar face in the kitchen: Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley, a local favorite after her turns at Smoked and Stacked, Roofers Union and Ripple. 1250 Fifth St. NE.
Kintsugi: The first of four planned eating and drinking components at the new Eaton Hotel in downtown D.C. is a stylish and colorful all-day cafe. Stop by early for espresso or a matcha latte from Virginia’s Red Rooster Coffee Roasters paired with a vegan pastry, gluten-free muffin or Chinese five-spice monkey bread, and come back at happy hour for local beer and cider on tap. 1201 K St. NW.
Pisco Y Nazca: After two locations in Miami, the Peruvian mini-chain Pisco y Nazca has arrived in Washington. Dining critic Tom Sietsema praises the pisco sour and the “herby and juicy” empanadas but was turned off by the cacophony at happy hour: He captured a noise level of 100 decibels, as loud as a jackhammer or lawn mower. “Only an investment in soundproofing by the restaurant is likely to see me back,” Sietsema writes. 1823 L St NW.
Leon: The latest European fast-casual joint fighting for your downtown lunch dollars is Leon, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant from London, focused on healthy, sustainable meals. The menu can be customized to be gluten-free, pescatarian, low-calorie or vegan. The stars are its “hot boxes” with protein, such as Moroccan-spiced meatballs or baked sweet potato falafel, over salad or rice, but there are also wraps and sandwiches, including a truffled roast portobello mushroom and halloumi with arugula on a gluten-free bun. The location near Farragut Square is the first location in America, with more scheduled to follow. 1724 L St. NW.
Magnolia Bakery: If you thought D.C.’s obsession with cupcakes was on the wane, think again. Lines started forming at Union Station ahead of the Sept. 10 opening of Magnolia Bakery, the New York confectionery shop that became famous after its cameo turns in “Sex and the City” and SNL’s “Lazy Sunday.” Look for muffins, icebox pies and cookies alongside its famous cupcakes and banana pudding. But don’t look for a place to sit down: The shop is takeout-only. 50 Massachusetts Ave. NE.
Tempo: Fast-casual dining options now include cuisines from around the world; local standouts include Rasa (Indian), Chi-Ko (Chinese and Korean) and Chicken+Whiskey (Peruvian and Venezuelan). The new Tempo, near 20th and M streets NW, focuses on “Istanbul street food”: Doner kebabs laden with a choice of more than two dozen toppings and dressings; pide, the boat-shaped flatbread similar to pizza or khachapuri, filled with veggies, egg or sausage and topped with cheese; and kumpir, a baked potato filled with butter and cheese and smothered with pickled vegetables and bulgur salad. 1195 20th St. NW.