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1. Bars with Games
Board Room, Red Derby, and Atlas Arcade have some competition. Maybe the idea was borne out of giving Tinder dates something to do to break the ice, but bars come with diversions these days. HalfSmoke opened this fall with Trouble, Operation, Simon, and other games that colored your childhood. Next up is The Player’s Club from the Hilton brothers coming to Logan Circle in Summer 2017. The basement pool hall-themed bar will have Asteroids, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, and so much more.
2. Fat-Washed Cocktails
Vegetarians can’t always cash in on this drink trend because the fat-washing technique coined by New York bartender Eben Freeman involves infusing booze with something luscious and high in saturated fat such as butter, bacon, foie gras, duck fat, or even avocado. Sixth Engine, BLT Steak, Provision No. 14, and The Fainting Goat are all in on the craze. Typically alcohol spends time with the fat source before going into the freezer. Then, once thawed, a cheese cloth or other straining device is used to separate the fat from the alcohol that retains a silky mouthfeel. Despite its laborious nature, expect more bartenders to try their hands at this technique in 2017.
3. Maryland Wine & Beer
When Owen’s Ordinary opened this fall in North Bethesda with a beer list boasting more than 75 selections from Maryland, it was yet another sign that Maryland’s craft beer scene is experiencing wild qualitative and quantitative growth. Montgomery County breweries like Denizens Brewing Co.and Waredaca Brewing Company are maturing. Same goes for wine. While Virginia’s vineyards have found their groove and gained national notoriety, Maryland is catching up. Big Cork Vineyards, Boordy Vineyards, Linganore Winecellars, Black Ankle Vineyards, Old Westminster Winery, and Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard are worth checking out.
D.C. chefs and bartenders are addicted to teaming up on cool collaborations and pop-ups. Expect the “better together” Captain Planet mentality to carry all the way through 2017. Recent examples include Columbia Room’s three-day takeover of Espita; Chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s Southeast Asian-inspired Sweetgreen bowl (available Nov. 4-Jan. 3); and the monthly guest chef taco series at both Virginia locations of Chef Victor Albisu’s Taco Bamba. (Chef Scott Drewno of The Source and Haidar Karoum formerly of Proof have done taco collaborations already.)
5. Asian Cuisine
This was a big year for Asian cuisine with Maketto, Thip Khao, Little Serow, Baan Thai, Sushi Taro, Bad Saint, Haikan, Bantam King, and Doi Moi attracting various levels of attention, including from Michelin. Next year should be more of the same. Chef Bobby Pradachith, son of Thip Khao Chef/Owner Seng Luangrath, hopes to strike out on his own with a historically inspired Lao restaurant. Then there’s Chef Erik Bruner-Yang who is opening two restaurants with Asian flare in The LINE DC hotel. Finally, a Hong Kong-inspired restaurant from The Fainting Goat team will open in Shaw’s Blagden Alley.
6. Zero Waste as the New Farm-to-Table
Sourcing local whenever possible is the new normal. Restaurants have therefore pivoted to boasting about being “zero waste” as a new way of gaining favors with sustainability conscious consumers. This can only mean good things for the industry, and the planet. Expect servers to mention it, or maybe look for the phrase printed on the bottom of menus. Kapnos and G by Mike Isabella have made having zero food waste a priority by creatively using meat from the spits at Kapnos in G by Mike Isabella sandwiches, for example. And whatever spit-roasted meat isn’t used during weekend dinner service is re-purposed for brunch.
7. Tasting Menus
The meteoric rise of tasting menus has enough inertia to carry the trend through 2017. Not only are there more tasting-menu-only restaurants opening such as Metier, Pineapple & Pearls, 1789 Restaurant, Masseria, and The Shaw Bijou, but restaurants set up as a-la-carte eateries are adding tasting menu options, including Hazel’s “Chef’s 7.” The Bird will add a tasting menu option in 2017, according to Chef Michael Bonk. Eater best chronicled the mentality behind the tasting menu craze earlier this year.
8. Food Apps
Consumer food apps seem to roll out daily. Take EatWith, which matches diners with up-and-coming-chefs in communal dining settings, or EatBy, which helps reduce food waste at home, for example. That’s not counting all of the delivery apps like Drizly, UberEATS, Caviar, and Postmates or the apps that guide you to deals like Boozy, MealPal, and Spotluck. Expect this market to expand and diversify in 2017.
In 2016, D.C. gained Slim’s Diner in Petworth and Community in Bethesda. Up next in 2017 is Unconventional Diner, which the Post reports is from longtime Central Chef David Deshaies. The diner will go into the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the spring. Though D.C. denizens seem happy to see more diners planting flags, there’s criticism that they’re too pricey on account of being “chef-driven.” People have a lot of opinions about diners.
10. Take-out Windows
Speed is becoming increasingly valuable to diners. That’s the reason for the insatiable fast casual boom. What’s even faster than assembly-line ordering? Take-out windows. Passersby don’t even need to shutdown their vaporizers to order and eat. El Rey has one that operates on weekends from midnight through 3 a.m., and The BBQ Joint on 14th Street NW served Frito pies from its take-out window during the same hours until the line at Marvin caused owner Andrew Evans to shut it down. Service Bar DC, a new U Street bar, plans to launch one in the coming months that will serve fried chicken. Expect other restaurants and bars to compete for attention from the late night migratory crowd.