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Posted at 3:35 PM ET, 01/ 2/2008

Erin's Meal Plan for 2008

By Erin

The new year makes me giddy with anticipation of new restaurants. The horizon holds plenty of seafood, a gastropub, a healthy BBQ joint and, hopefully, a new venture for one of my longtime favorite chefs.

First, I should mention a restaurant that opened so near to the new year that it feels like a 2008 addition: Cafe Trope, which was serving dinner as of Dec. 28. Chef Howsoon Cham, owner of Georgetown's Red Ginger, brings a Caribbean and French vibe to 2100 P St., which formerly housed 21P. Named for Saint Tropez, Cafe Trope serves tropical cocktails and dishes like Jamaican jerk chicken lollipops and crab-stuffed prawns. Lunch and brunch should start up next month.

Old Town has two new restaurants opening at the end of this month. Jackson 20, named for the president gracing the $20 bill, will open in the new Hotel Monaco. The menu will have a Southern focus and use local ingredients. Items will include a meatloaf club for lunch, lamb shepherd's pie at dinner and fried chicken. A bar menu will serve lobster corn dogs and a variety of sandwiches.

Philadelphia's venerable Bookbinder's plans to open in Old Town's former Portner's space by the end of this month. Fans of the original or the Richmond outpost know to expect a raw bar, steak, chops, seafood specialties and snapper soup. This is an old-school steakhouse complete with dim lighting, oysters Rockefeller and huge desserts. Come spring, I anticipate a long wait to share steamers and crab cakes out on the patio.

Milanese chain Bice plans to open an outpost in Bethesda later this month. I imagine that the upscale prices of the restaurant's pastas, veal and other Italian specialties will position it as a competitor to Il Mulino and Famoso.

Last year witnessed a surge in local wine bars, and the trend continues into this year with the anticipated January opening of Cork Wine Bar. The 14th Street location -- home to the dear departed Sparky's -- will serve around 100 bottles and a menu of Italian small plates. The food will be cooked by Ron Tanaka, a talented chef who has worked at CityZen and Citronelle. The bar plans a late January opening.

Asia Nine, from the family who owns Rice and Spice, will open a two-level space with a bar on E Street by Ninth (thus the Nine in the title) across from the FBI building. Expect sushi, oysters and pan-Asian food served from brunch time until late night. I'm hopeful that it will be a new go-to destination for dinner after a movie at Landmark's E Street Cinema. The restaurant plans to open in February.

The owners of Sonoma and Mendocino Grille expand their group to three with the planned spring launch of Redwood. The Bethesda Row restaurant will serve local cuisine with a focus on items from the wood grill, wood-burning oven and rotisserie. There will be a patio and a dining bar.

One of my favorite new casual spots, Vapiano, will open its fourth location in Chinatown in early summer. With customized pizzas, pastas and salads, Vapiano should be a good pre-game dinner spot and happy hour gathering place.

As I reported several months ago, the owners of Matchbox plan their second location up from Barracks Row this summer. That means plenty of sliders and pizza after a morning at the Eastern Market.

The owners of Oya have plans to open two new restaurants. Ray, named for the stingrays which will inhabit a giant aquarium, will specialize in seafood. Meanwhile, Sei -- yes, I know that they rhyme -- will serve sushi and Japanese fusion cuisine beginning in March. Both restaurants will be located in the greater Penn Quarter area.

Jamie Leeds of Hank's Oyster Bar extends her reach to Columbia Heights later this year with Commonwealth, a gastropub. The restaurant will be one of several new places, including a Caribbean restaurant, at 14th and Irving.

Colorado Kitchen's Gillian Clark is trudging along with plans to open the General Store & Post Office Tavern. Clark and her partner have run into problems with updating the historic building (which was once a general store and post office) in Forest Glen, but hope to have the restaurant completed in the first quarter of the year. I hope that the new restaurant offers opportunities for Clark to serve some of the recipes from her recent memoir.

When the weather turns warm, Punk's Backyard Grill hopes to have its grill fired up to serve sandwiches, ribs, chicken in mojito sauce and traditional sides. The restaurant was conceptualized as a healthier take on the classic BBQ joint, though there will be pies, cobblers and cookies for anybody looking to lapse. The Grill takes over the plagued Yin Yankee space in Bethesda in late spring.

In the next month, the Georgetown Bagelry will close to make way for the Tackle Box. Chef Barton Seaver of Hook will tend to the casual spot, which plans lobster rolls, peel-and-eats, grilled clams and picnic tables along with to-go items for summer picnics and lobster boils all using sustainable seafood. The Box has no set opening date.

There's one venture that I've been anticipating for three years now. Ris Lacoste, one of my favorite talents when she cooked at 1789, has her sights set on a space for her own bistro in the Foggy Bottom area. The original plan was for the restaurant to open in the Ritz residences. Fingers crossed that the wait doesn't extend to a fourth year.


By Erin  | January 2, 2008; 3:35 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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Oh no! The Georgetown Bagelry closing? Just what we need. One more overpriced restaurant in Georgetown replacing someplace homespun. One more reason to cede Georgetown to the tourists...

Posted by: sprite | January 3, 2008 1:51 AM | Report abuse

It's about time D.C. got a new bistro. I hope it's overpriced for a change!

Hint: Bistros are supposed to be neighborhood restaurants, not destinations.

Posted by: Blugs | January 3, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Ditto on Ris ... it's been way too long since she commanded her own kitchen ... I still remember an interview I did with John Wabeck during his first stint at New Heights ... he spoke of Ris as a mentor early in his career, so I asked him what made Ris special ... "her food just tastes good." I don't think anything else needs to be said.

Posted by: Michael Birchenall | January 3, 2008 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Yeah...because the Bagelry itself wasn't at all overpriced for what they're selling (which are certainly not the best bagels in DC, to be honest).

I say bring it on - Seaver has proven to be a good neighbor on 14th Street and a better restaurateur at Hook. And he's as home-spun as the Bagelry...just because he's opening a restaurant instead of a carry-out doesn't make him any less local.

If you want to complain about anything on M Street, focus on the skyrocketing rents that pretty much preclude anything other than higher-end restaurants and soulless national chains.

Posted by: JoeHoya | January 4, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Yeek! The folks behind Oya are opening two new places when they haven't improved the first place?!? I tried Oya several times, each time worse than the last. I rarely completely write off a restaurant because I'm out a lot for both business and pleasure, but Oya is a no-go for ridiculously awful service and only so-so food. Its only saving grace is its happy hour.

Posted by: SeoulFlower | January 6, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

YES! I can't belive Bice is coming back to Washington, DC. This is truly exciting considering Cafe Milano has hit rock bottom and gallileo has been gone for years. what happened to decent Italian fare in DC?

Posted by: localyokal | January 9, 2008 8:16 PM | Report abuse

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