New Capitol Hill Restaurants in 2014

Skip the family time and read this post instead. Sorry, I meant vice versa.

Just do both.

One of my ongoing goals is to ingest food stuffs at all eateries on Capitol Hill. It’s a big area. Check out the map here: Capitol Hill and Surrounding Areas.

That doesn’t faze me. But since there is always new places opening, it’s a never ending quest. I can die trying.

I went to 15 restaurants that opened in 2014. I didn’t make it to all the new openings. Most notable one I missed: Rose’s Luxury.

Here is a completely pointless and randomized bracket to declare the winner of the new restaurants I visited.


Bracket 1

Driftwood Kitchen vs. Impala Cantina y Taqueria – Do have the Brussel sprouts at Driftwood, but I’m more about the tacos. Advances: Impala

Ocopa Peruvian Restaurant vs. Bye. Advances: Ocopa

Driftwood vs. Ocopa – Ocopa’s ceviche is fabulous. No comparison.

Advances to the Final Four: Ocopa

Bracket 2

DC Harvest vs. Shake Shack (Union Station) – I like the idea of Shake Shack when it’s hard to get and I can only go occasionally. Opening one in Union Station ruins that. Advances: DC Harvest

The Spot Deli vs. Bullfrog Bagels – The tacos at The Spot Deli were fine, the space is not. Advances: Bullfrog

DC Harvest vs. Bullfrog – The Rueben bagel is quite nice, but DC Harvest’s food is nicer. One is more of an upscale restaurant, the other is a breakfast/lunch counter. Both are worthy.

Advances to the Final Four: DC Harvest  

Bracket 3

Sona Creamery & Wine Bar vs. Pizza Parts & Service – Not sure why they closed Taylor Charles Steak & Ice, depriving us of Philly cheesesteaks, in favor of another pizza joint on H St. Also, the pizza is nothing special. Advances: Sona

Copycat Co. vs. Micho’s Lebanese Grill – This is a tough one in the first round. That’s what happens when you create a randomized bracket. I’ll visit both again. The dumplings at Copycat are good. But Micho’s gets the edge. Advances: Micho’s

Sona vs. Micho’s – Micho’s has become a standard lunch spot for people at my office. It’s really good, cheap and very close. I go here more than any other place on this list. Having said that, the scones at Sona are amazing. And the owners are from Washington state.

Advances to the Final Four: Sona

Bracket 4

ShopHouse (Union Station) vs. Barrel – Seems like ShopHouses are opening everywhere. Okay. Pass. Advances: Barrel

Medium Rare vs. Po Boy Jim – Medium Rare does one thing and does it well. Steak frites. But the shrimp po boys at Po Boy Jim are not to be missed. Advances: Po Boy Jim

Barrel vs. Po Boy Jim – All the po boys I’ve had at Po Boy Jim deserve your attention and the upstairs space is decent (don’t sit downstairs), but I can’t choose it over the sleek new bar serving ‘brown water’ aka bourbon. And I don’t even drink bourbon.

Advances to the Final Four: Barrel

Semi-final 1

Ocopa vs. DC Harvest – DC Harvest’s S’mores Pot du Crème and friendly bartender are ultimately thwarted by Ocopa’s straight amazing Peruvian food. All of it. In my mouth. Now.

Advances to the Finals: Ocopa

Semi-final 2

Sona vs. Barrel – Sona is a good place for brunch. And someday I’ll try the wine and cheese. But I’m giving Barrel the nod here, because Penn Ave. SE will do well to keep adding good bars. The burger is tasty and the rest of the menu looks intriguing.

Advances to the Finals: Barrel


Ocopa vs. Barrel – Peruvian food. That is all.

Winner: Ocopa

Peruvian food wins
Peruvian food wins

Capital Hill Restaurants 2011

2011 saw the opening of many new restaurants in the Capital Hill area. Ramen. Burgers. Shawarmas. Cajun. Pho. Pretentious drinks. And much more. Below I rank the new ones I visited throughout the year.

My continuing goal is to eat at all the restaurants on or near Capital Hill. I define this as anything south of H St NE, west of 15th NE/SE, north of I St SE, and east of 1st St NE/SE. This is a big area, and includes such destinations as Barracks Row (8th St SE between D and I Sts), Eastern Market (7th St SE between Pennsylvania Ave and Independence Ave), the Atlas District (H St NE between 9th and 15th Sts) and much more.

Check out the map here: Capital Hill and Surrounding Areas.

Obviously the task doesn’t get easier when new places keep opening left and right. 2012 is already shaping up to be a big year as well. On the horizon: Boundary Road, Sweet Charleston’s, Sol Mexican Grill and much, much more.

Location key: (H) = H St NE, (A) = The Atlas District, (B) = Barrack’s Row, (C) = Capital Hill other, (E) = Eastern Market, (U) = Union Station

19. Khan’s BBQ (H) – The food is fine as a Mongolian BBQ stir-fry, but I don’t like the set-up nor the atmosphere.

18. DC3 (B) – Now serving trendy hot dog concoctions. I probably wouldn’t order the same dog again and I wasn’t enamored with the other options.

17. Inspire Bar-B-Q (H) – Good pulled-pork BBQ and sides courtesy of Groupon. I think the space is too small, even for a walk-up counter, and the staff was friendly but apparently still learning what to do. Will try again.

16. Church & State (A) – I’m not a big fan of pretentious drinks (e.g. those that cost more than $12) and that is about all you can get here. If you want to take a date for a drink before having dinner in the Atlas District, this is your place. It is small and intimate.

15. Red Palace (A) – Combines the old Red & Black and Palace of Wonders into one venue with a decent size concert venue upstairs.

14. Pho Bar & Grille (A) – Really good dumplings and decent pho (based on my limited experience with pho), but they can’t figure out how to serve people. The first time I went, it must certainly rank as one of the most annoying ordering experiences ever.

13. Bojangles (U) – Good fried chicken!

12. Marvelous Pizza (H) – A new late night pizza joint on H St. You can also order egg rolls with your slice.

11. Shawafel (A) – Good shawarmas. Didn’t have the falafel.

10. Impala Tacos (A) – Tacos served in the winter at the Philadelphia Water Ice counter (since it’s closed for the season, why not serve tacos?). I hear they are developing a permanent place for this on H street.

9. Bullfeathers of Capital Hill (C) – This place completely remodeled and is nice space and good food.

8. Tru Orleans (H) –  A New Orleans themed restaurant. Have the catfish reuben and Hurricane slushies.

7. Smith Commons (A) – Three levels with couches and patios. A nice place for a drink upstairs. The one time I ate there, the fish and chips were not what you might expect but still not bad. 

6. Chipotle (U) – The old lunch stand-by. Meat and beans and cheese rolled up in a tortilla. When they have the A team serving, the line zips along.

5. Pound the Hill (E) – A new coffee shop near Eastern Market. They make their mochas with Nutella…mmmm.

4. The Big Board (H) – A small bar a mere two blocks from my house that serves good burgers (try the Chicago Fire) that tries to sell its beers by giving discounts (shown on The Board) to the most popular selling options. Not sure that the concept works yet and they need to get better beer.

3. Senart’s Oyster and Chop House (B) – Didn’t have the oysters. A nice looking building and interior. The menu was a bit pricey, but the Beer Battered Cod Sandwich was the right price.

2. The Queen Vic (A) – Styled as a British pub, it has good, traditional British fare (have the Sunday roast!) and is a fine place to watch a game with a pint of cider in hand.

1. Toki Underground (A) – Excellent ramen noodles and tasty dumplings in a small kitschy space filled with anime figurines and skateboards for footrests. It only seats 20 people at a time, so it seems to always be busy.

Bonus: Biergarten Haus Roof Deck (A) – Though Biergarten Haus is not new in 2011, expanding the capacity of the already largest restaurant in the area by 1/3, it makes for a formidable beer swilling and German food noshing destination.

Capital Hill Restaurants

There has been a spate of restaurant openings in Washington, D.C. in 2010. One of my unstated goals (at least here) has been to visit all the restaurants on or roughly near Capital Hill, whether new or old. Geographically, this includes anything south of H St NE, east of 15th NE/SE, north of I St SE, and west of 1st St NE/SE. This is a big area, and includes such destinations as Barracks Row (8th St SE between D and I Sts), Eastern Market (7th St SE between Pennsylvania Ave and Independence Ave), the Atlas District (H St NE between 9th and 15th Sts) and much more.

Check out the map here: Capital Hill and Surrounding Areas.

I haven’t finished the task as of yet, but 2010 seemed like a banner year for new restaurants on the Hill, so I thought I’d try to rank the best of the ‘new’ this year. Even of the new ones, there are a few I haven’t made it to yet. A whole crop of more openings are still on the horizon. I will be eating a lot.

16. Bistro Cacao – a French place that was just so-so for lunch.

15. Capital Diner – technically not within my ‘rough’ geographic sphere, but close enough. I came at a time when the owner was suspending one of the servers because the checks and the till didn’t add up. The burger was fine.

14. Fruit Bat – They specialize in Latin themed drinks. I only had a drink, but I hear they started a small menu so will have to go back.

13. Toyland – I didn’t eat here, only had a drink, but its a nice, cozy place.

12. Liberty Tree – the food was decent but the waiter had better things to do than serve.

11. We, the Pizza – some pretty good pizza and sodas from the guy that owns The Good Stuff Eatery, Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame.

10. Ted’s Bulletin – a funky place with a pastry shop out front and a seating area in the back room. The food is good and worth trying.

9. Mi Vecindad – a new Cuban and Mexican restaurant. Oy, me gusta!

8. Dangerously Delicious Pies – a great selection of sweet and savory pies. A bit pricey for a whole pie, but the slices are big, dangerous, and (shall I say it?) delicious. Try the BBQ pork or the S.M.O.G. or any.

7. The Star and Shamrock – a fusion between a kosher deli and an Irish pub. The interior itself is unremarkable, but the food is heart attack worthy. The reuben is fantastic, the latkes and the Kosher Kornies are tasty, and the Clogger is a beast that I suggest you only tackle if you want to be rolled out the front door. 

6. The Chesapeake Room – a small, yet spacious dining area with a huge fish tank behind the bar. Have the Bison Burger outside on the patio for maximum effect.

5. Zest Bistro – a nice little American bistro on Barracks Row. The burger was tasty.

4. Acqua Al 2 – a great new Italian place right in the middle of Eastern Market. It won the 2010 Hilly Awards ‘Restaurant of the Year’.

3. Ethiopic – I am no Ethiopian food connoisseur, but this is among the best I’ve had. The vegetarian sampler is huge and tasty, the injera is plentiful and all the meat dishes are delicious.

2. Ba Bay – a brand spanking new Vietnamese restaurant on Pennsylvania. Eat the spare ribs and the bok choy feverishly. I did. Skip desert and go for more off the main menu. Then have more.

1. Biergarten Haus – who doesn’t need a beer garden in their backyard? With a huge outdoor seating area with oompa bands, wood picnic tables, liters of German beer, huge TV screens (for watching the World Cup) and feisty servers, this place has taken the Atlas district by storm. They have just started a new menu and you must have the goulash.