Welcome RedRocks!

Dining Notes

Colorful salad at Da Luft

It’s been a busy fall in the Atlas District, as H St. NE welcomes RedRocks. Located at 1348 H St. NE, the latest offshoot of Doug Baj’s local group measures 6,800 square feet, the largest restaurant/bar in the neighborhood. Three dramatically designed floors have as many bars, a 100-seat private dining area, two 900-degree wood-burning ovens and a (retractable) roof deck. 

Craft beer and cider flow from the bar’s 20 tap lines, and special spouts dispense wine and surprisingly good prosecco, First time we’ve tasted bubbly on tap. Accompanying the libations are Chef Angel Mendoza’s puffy-crusted Neopolitan-style pizzas, an antipasti selection, pastas, grilled shrimp and even wood-fired suckling pig. Weekend brunch offers breakfast pizzas, including a “hangover” version. While I did not suffer from that malady, I enjoyed the 11-inch pie (big enough for two), heaped with sausage, potatoes, fresh-tasting mozzarella and crowned with a sunnyside-up egg. Peter’s RedRocks hash was replete with bacon, potatoes, caramelized onions and an egg, showered with a green cascade of crisp arugula. 

Purchased by Evolve Property Group, the RedRocks building has been vacant since the 1968 riots. RedRocks is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays 11 to 11. Call 202-621-7300. Other RedRocks are in Columbia Heights, Old Town and South Arlington. 

Purple reign

Da Luft, 1242 H Street NE, also arrived last month. You can’t miss the purple façade. Since we missed the Sept. 21 opening bash, we decided on dinner the following Tuesday. The sleek black and white décor has a glittering chandelier by the entrance and handsome bars on both floors. Hostess/operations manager Tobi Solaja ushered us upstairs, which we sat at cocktail tables. Da Luft (luft is German for “air”) is primarily a night club. The tables were too high for comfortable dining, so we moved to the bar with its ever-changing lights. Chef Ernest Todd’s menu offers shrimp hushpuppies, shrimp- and-grits, blackened salmon and the like. Good club grub.

We shared a colorful house salad, a confetti of mesclun greens, tiny sliced cherry tomatoes, cukes and tangerine segments. Then Peter went for the fried catfish basket, while I opted for a trio of turkey sliders. Our light dinner came to $36 before tip. Da Luft is open Tuesday-Thursday from 4 p.m. to midnight; Friday-Saturday ‘til 3 a.m.; Sunday noon to midnight. Closed Monday. Call 202-388-1200 or www.DaLuftDC.com

Easy being green

While Peter and I driving along H Street on a warm afternoon, he suggested stopping for a gin-and-tonic. Why not? So we popped into the Queen Vic British Pub. As I squeezed a lime wedge into my Bombay Sapphire gin, I requested a cocktail napkin. Turns out the very “green” Queen Vic eschews paper, so instead,  proprietor/bartender Ryan Gordon brought me a nice black cloth napkin. We noticed weird menu prices: $7.27 for Mediterranean roast chicken; $14.55 for lamb rogan josh; $7.27 for a glass of prosecco. “I hate coins,” Gordon explained. “I hate hauling them to the bank. So I do the math and since DC tax is 10 percent, it always comes out even.”  (Da Luft’s menu lists prices the same way. Is this a trend?) Highlighting Queen Vic’s upstairs covered patio is a dart board and huge TV. Open daily. Don’t miss the  hearty Sunday brunch, Queen Vic is at 1206 H St. NE; call 202-396-2001.

Coming soon

Ris Lacoste, Chef/Owner of Ris, the upscale West End restaurant, is unveiling a stall at Union Market, 1309 Fifth St. NE.  Around mid-November, look for Lacoste’s stocks, sauces, soups, prepared foods, baked goods, and “Ris Bowls”  (stews, salads and “nutritious children’s foods”). Assisting Lacoste in her enterprise will be Allison Cortese, Ris’ dining room manager. RIS at Union Market will operate during regular market hours, Wednesday through Sunday.

Piano bar facelift

Be sure to check out the renovated piano bar at Banana Café, Jorge Zamorano’s lively Mexican/Cuban/Puerto Rican hot spot at 500 Eighth St. SE. The extensive upstairs facelift involves new flooring, cabinets and a refurbished bar. As before, there’s live piano music and karaoke; happy hour specials, start at 4 p.m. The piano bar features tapas and other light victuals, with a full menu downstairs. Now 21 years old, Banana Café is open daily—‘til late Fridays and Saturdays. Call 202-543-5906 or www.bananacafedc.com.

South American flair

We knew Del Campo, Victor Albisu’s Latino-inspired Chinatown restaurant--was a class act when the wine list arrived in a leather cover. For a leisurely midweek lunch, Peter and I were promptly seated at a pristine, white linen-covered table. (We could have opted for the asado bar overlooking the open-flame kitchen.) A plate of house-baked chapa appeared, the traditional Argentine bread accompanied by a smoky duo of olive oil and sea salt.

We tucked into a pair of wagyu beef empanadas with romesco sauce, a tomato/ground nut/garlic/olive oil concoction. My entrée was an appetizer of grilled octopus, artfully presented on a stark white rectangular plate flanked with pureed vegetables and sprinkled with pickled onions. Peter had the chori pan—a sandwich stacked with pulled pork and chorizo, with fiery chimi churi dipping sauce. Other meat-centric options encompass chorizo, empanadas, skewered meats, Friday street food and a bar menu.

The kitchen also presented a complimentary plate of grilled corn slathered with spices and dusted with parmesan shavings. Too much food! The tab came to less than $50, but they forgot to include my $11 glass of Albanio Spanish wine. When we pointed out the error, our server said never mind, so we tipped her extra. Open daily (‘til late weekends), Del Campo is at 777 I St. NW. Call 202-289-7377 or visit  www.DelCampoDC.com.

Family night out

They’ve been back in school for more than a month, and youngsters come home hungry. Harried parents tired of cooking now have a weekly solution: On Wednesday Family Night, kids under 12 eat free at the Argonaut, 1433 H St. NE (202-250-3660). Dine-in only, hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Yes, there’s a junior menu. …Mr. Henry’s, 601 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (202-546-8412) feeds youngsters 8 and younger (from the kiddie menu), Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m., with an adult purchase.

Ben’s update

Ben’s Chili Bowl, the 55-year-old landmark on U St. NW, is unveiling its second spinoff (the first one was Ben’s Next Door). A year in the works, the two-level offshoot will open at 1001 H St. NE later this year. In keeping with the original, the latest Ben’s will serve the famous chili-drenched half smokes (no booze) on the first floor, but the upper level will have a bar, a different (healthier?) menu and a rooftop.

Bon anniversaire….

To Belga Café, 514 Eighth St. SE, marking its ninth year in business. The Barracks Row mainstay celebrates the milestone October 21-27, with a festive beer dinner that last day (Sunday). Call 202-544-0100….and Le Grenier, the French charmer at 502 H St. NE, is a year old.

Departing the station

After 20 years of dishing out Low Country cuisine, B. Smith is pulling out of Union Station. The creation of former model Barbara Smith, her restaurant was enthroned in the ornate, former Presidential waiting room in Union Station’s East Hall. While we haven’t dined there recently, I remember a “Swamp Thang” a tongue-tingling  concoction of crawfish, scallops, collards and a spicy Dijon mustard sauce. No word so far on a closure date or future occupant. 

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