There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.

Chef Johnathan Allen II knows how to ingratiate himself with Cork Wine Bar & Market regulars. Like any new chef, his first order of business when he took over in October was slowly changing the menu to reflect his personal style. But he knew not to touch the avocado toast that’s been a signature dish for more than a decade and kicked off the fancy toast craze in the District.

Allen, who grew up in the D.C. area, has worked at top kitchens including The Source by Wolfgang Puck, America Eats Tavern before it closed in Tysons Corner, and Vermillion in Alexandria. Chef William Morris became Allen’s mentor at Vermillion. “Me working with him, he helped me see who I was and how I like to style my cooking,” Allen says. “I owe everything to him.” 

He started cooking at a young age and turned it into a career after high school. “Food has always been a part of my life,” he says. “My grandmother had five daughters. You get a bunch of women who come together, you’re going to cook.” 

The early spring menu showcases dishes that move Cork Wine Bar & Market’s cuisine forward, while still ensuring it pairs with the old world wine list Cork is known for. Allen recommends diners try his burrata with gala apples, pistachio, and sorrel leaves; the roasted quail with braised apricot, coconut, and hibiscus flower; and roasted acorn squash with farro, spiced pine nuts, sour cherry, goat cheese, and carrots. 

There are no longer two separate menus at Cork. Allen merged the market menu and the dining room menu into one sheet to streamline operations. It’s divided into snacks, cheese and charcuterie, dishes starring vegetables, and a large selection of share plates. See the full menu below. 

Cork, from married co-owners Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts, first opened across 14th Street NW at a different address in 2008. In 2017, it moved to 1805 14th St. NW. In seeking a new executive chef, Gross says she was looking for someone who was “young and hungry.”

Pitts, who is African American, says that when he started Cork, there were only a handful of restaurants in D.C. owned by people of color. In the kitchen, there was even less representation. He says he’s proud to have hired a forward-thinking chef who is also happens to be a person of color. 

Cork Wine Bar & Market, 1805 14th St. NW; (202) 265-2675; corkdc.com