Photo of Johnny Spero by Scott Suchman
Photo of Johnny Spero by Scott Suchman

Johnny Spero is the kind of chef that always has those cheffy tweezers peeking out of his apron. In the time between when his forthcoming fine dining restaurant was announced in November 2016 and now, he’s been plating ornate little bites to go with Columbia Room‘s high-concept cocktails. But when Reverie finally opens this Saturday down an alley in Georgetown, you’ll be able to order a hamburger. 

“There’s no reason we can’t do the food we want to do,” he says. “There’s no reason a burger can’t be included.” The recipe is modeled off what he calls a Midwestern smashburger. “It looks like Shake Shack, but there are a lot of details that go into it.” He tops the patty with with miso-pickled cucumbers, smoked special sauce, and cheddar. 

He’s trying to signal to customers that fine dining doesn’t have to be fussy, and calls his style of cuisine ingredient-focused and “new American.” 

“I’ve been working on this for some time, about two and a half years,” he says. “The one thing I learned was I needed to strip away unnecessary stuff and focus on ingredients. One of the hardest things we’ve had to nail down is the style of food.”

Another dish Spero is proud of is the roast duck for two people. He lacquers it with a reduction of beet juice, black licorice, soy, and maltose (a type of sugar). “Right after I pull it out of the oven, I coat it with fennel pollen,” he says. “That’s why the side dish is fennel salad to offset the super crispy skin of the duck.” See the full menu below.

Spero’s resume include stops at minibar by José AndrésKomiRogue 24, and Toki Underground, plus apprenticeships at Noma in Denmark and Mugaritz in Spain. This is the chef’s second go at opening his own place. Suna didn’t pan out.

Starting Saturday, Reverie will be open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 11 p.m. Spero is backed by a team including general manager Evan Zimmerman who collaborated with Drink Company’s J.P. Fetherston on the drink menus. 

Reverie, 3201 Cherry Hill Lane NW;