The restaurant business is a fast moving one. Restaurants open and close at the blink of an eye. However, the rapid pace of restaurants opening on 14th Street is astonishing. Here’s a preview/review of what is hot on the street, some personal favorites and some places I would avoid.
B Too (1324 14th Street NW): If you’re looking for the full Belgian experience with classics reinterpreted by Chef Bart Vandalay, then B Too is the place to try. Refreshed versions of Belgian dishes are all over Vandalay’s menu including waffles topped with sausage and pastries stuffed with potatoes and bacon. This restaurant pays homage to Belgian beer with more than 150 bottles varieties. Be prepared to pay a few extra bucks, as the price-point is a bit high.
Drafting Table (1529 14th Street NW): When The Drafting Table opened last year, I wasn’t overly impressed by dinner, but I enjoyed the brunch menu. While I haven’t returned, this restaurant still remains a favorite neighborhood pub.
Etto (1541 14th Street NW): Peter Pastan and Amy Morgan of 2 Amys and Ted Curtz and David Rasnar of Garden District (formerly The Standard) bring this 42-seat Italian eatery to Logan Circle. Chef Cagla Onal Urel serves up pizzas, salads and a few other specialties. Washington Post Reviewer Tom Sietsema gave Etto three stars; I however was not as impressed.
Le Diplomate (1601 14th Street NW): Right across Q Street from Etto is my favorite new dining establishment in the neighborhood. After reviewing Le Diplomate as they opened, I have returned numerous times, and every time I have had excellent food and fantastic service. I even brought my very picky father to Le Diplomate, and to my surprise, he was blown away by every bite. If you dine at Le Diplomate and are unsure of what to eat, I recommend my current favorite dish the sea scallops, and for dessert, the absolutely divine crème brulee.
Ghibellina (1610 14th Street NW): This restaurant is an Italian-influenced gastro pub. The wood oven-fired pizzas are delectable, smoky and blisteringly hot. My favorite thing is that you get to cut your own pizza with scissors; pizza shears to be exact. Clearly, I am easily amused.
Pearl Dive (1612 14th Street NW): When Pearl Dive Oyster Palace opened in 2011, Jeff and Barbara Black were trailblazers of sorts. Now this oyster bar is always packed and in the center of all the action on 14th Street. Even if you aren’t a fan of oysters, you can just have a drink at Blackjack, the bar upstairs.
Barcelona (1622 14th Street NW): It’s not open yet, but you may have seen the beautiful patio that is in the former BodySmith space. This is soon to be a tapas bar named Barcelona. I wonder how Barcelona will do against already established Estadio right down the block? I think a head-to-head battle may be in the works (or a column that pits the two against each other).
M Café Bar (1634 14th Street NW): The newest of the Italian restaurants to hit the street calls itself a “contemporary Italian restaurant.” To me, the space is reminiscent of a hotel lobby and the food is slightly above average. If you’re craving contemporary Italian food, I would recommend Posto over M Café Bar.
Bar di Bari (1401 R Street NW): On the corner of 14 and R Streets is a new coffee and wine bar called Bar di Bari. Considering that I am sitting outside at this location writing this column, I would say it’s a great place to linger, enjoy a coffee, a light snack or a glass of wine. The people watching is great and the staff is friendly. They even encourage you to hang out and do some work, exactly what owner Aaron Gordon (who also owns The Drafting Table) wants.
Doi Moi (1800 14th Street NW): Approximately three weeks ago Mark Kuller and Haidar Karoum’s new restaurant Doi Moi opened, featuring southeast Asian cuisine. While I haven’t yet had the pleasure of dining here, the early word from EaterDC is positive with people praising the food, the atmosphere and the chic unmarked basement bar.
Ted’s Bulletin (1818 14th Street NW): Homemade pop tarts, adult milk shakes, awesome grilled cheese (ask for it with Mac and Cheese in it) and great chili, what more could you ask for? I’m a huge fan of all the fare at Ted’s and there’s a rumor going around that I was spotted dining at Ted’s three times in one weekend.
Matchbox (1901 14th Street NW): If you want more than what is offered at Ted’s Bulletin, then head across the street to sister restaurant, Matchbox. Pizzas and mini burgers are the specialty at Matchbox (my favorite pizza is the Matchbox Meat) but if you aren’t in the mood for those items then you can try a steak, grilled salmon or scallops. I love sitting at the back pizza bar, watching the nimble hands of the chefs’ prep the pizza.
Diego’s (2100 14th Street NW) This Tex-Mex restaurant, from the owners of Dupont Italian Kitchen, was opened for approximately two weeks before the owners let Chef Jessica Sidman and the rest of the staff go and closed the doors. Owner Michael Askarinam was not satisfied with the food or service. Diego’s is supposed to open soon with a new chef and new staff.
Kapnos (2201 14th Street NW): Mike Isabella’s newest restaurant Kapnos did not impress me on my first visit, although the adjoining sandwich shop G was enjoyable.
The restaurant boom is in full swing on 14th Street and this is just a sampling of what these restaurants have to offer. I am lucky enough to live right by this bustling street and I can enjoy an entire day starting with brunch at Le Diplomate, some shopping at Universal Gear or Miss Pixies, grab a glass of wine and cheese plate at Bar did Bari, and then dinner at Doi Moi. If you don’t live on the street, I recommend picking a spot that intrigues you and enjoy a nice meal. 14th Street is definitely the place to eat right now.