We caught up with a representative of Sol Mexican Grill during H Street Festival a few weeks ago to learn more about their first stationary restaurant that is coming to H Street soon. Sol Mexican Grill currently has two food trucks that roll around downtown serving a variety of tacos, burritos, and bowls featuring chicken, steak, carnitas, brisket, and vegetables. Our favorite is the chicken bowl where they give you a generous serving of your choice of grilled chicken (tender and not overcooked), rice, beans, lettuce, corn, cheese, sour cream, guacamole (extra), jalapeños, onions, and three different types of salsa (the spicy one has a good kick).
Over the past couple of years, NoMa (roughly defined as the region to the north of Union Station) has seen its population grow exponentially thanks to the opening of several large apartment buildings. Unfortunately, there has not been similar growth in the number of good food options in the area that are open for dinner. NoMa residents are currently restricted to the pricey (and less than stellar) Watershed, a few fast food places, or going elsewhere for food. Thaaja Indian Food Bar, 1335 2nd Street NE (in the same building as the Courtyard by Marriott), has the potential to improve the NoMa dining scene when it opens in mid-November.
We recently caught up with Thaaja owner Shailesh Kumar to learn more about the new place. Thaaja will be Kumar’s first restaurant and will draw upon the flavors and experiences of the Indian food that Kumar grew up on as a child. Kumar wants Thaaja to show customers that Indian food can be done quickly, while still being delicious, fresh, and healthy. Thaaja is still in the middle of renovations, but Kumar expects that it will be ready to open in November. Once Thaaja has been open for a little while, it will begin delivery.
At Thaaja–which translates as fresh–diners will choose their ingredients and build their meals from scratch. The customization will be similar to that of Chipotle, ShopHouse Kitchen, or H&pizza. Customers will first choose a base: Indian wrap, tortilla wrap, rice bowl, or salad bowl. Next they will add the type of meat that they want as well as other toppings before finishing the meal off with a variety of Indian sauces of different spice levels. The meats will be chicken, lamb, steak, paneer (smoked Indian cheese), and tofu. The other toppings will range from onions to chickpeas to cucumber to fried onions. According to Kumar, they will have “six signature homemade sauces which vary in spiciness, some of which offer very traditional Indian flavors, while others are a little more modern.” The sauces are broken down into spicy ones (a tikka masala sauce, a spicy vindaloo sauce, and a “Tandoori Buffalo” sauce) and savory ones (a yogurt based sauce, a coconut sauce, and one with cilantro, cucumber, and coriander). While the full details of the menu at Thaaja are still being ironed out, there will be a variety of sides on the menu, likely including Indian bread baskets with dipping sauces. Continue reading
We had heard several months ago that a new cajun restaurant focusing on po boys (special cajun style sandwiches) was planning on opening at 709 H Street but had not heard anything else until they put up an opening soon sign during H Street Festival earlier this month. We recently reached out to the owners to learn more. While the details of the restaurant are still being worked out, we were able to get an early preview of the restaurant that they hope will open by late November or early December.
Po Boy Jim will serve po boys as well as other cajun and creole dishes. However, unlike Tru Orleans down the street which serves a fairly wide variety of cajun foods, Po Boy Jim will primarily focus on its po boys. The owners have Carribean and Louisiana backgrounds, so their cooking is reflective of both culinary influences. They hope that their restaurant will create an “experience that we feel is unique to our restaurant and representative of the diversity of this city.” As such, Po Boy Jim will serve classic po boys from New Orleans like shrimp and roast beef as well as other po boys that have a more “international or ethnic twist.” Continue reading
Not long ago the 1100 block of H Street housed Taylor Gourmet, Little Miss Whiskey’s, and not much else. The combination of vacant buildings and a somewhat sketchy liquor store made the block one of the less appealing parts of H Street. However, this summer the block sprung to life with first the exciting addition of H&pizza and now Cusbah (1128 H Street), a Southeast Asian restaurant with a wonderful outdoor bar and patio. Even in its first few weeks, Cusbah has already helped transform a largely abandoned block into one of the most exciting (and tasty) blocks on H Street.
The owners of Cusbah completely remodeled what had previously been Naby’s Island Restaurant into a beautiful new space that has both indoor and outdoor patio seating. Cusbah is located in a corner townhouse unit on the eastern end of the block. As you enter, the indoor seating is intimate with dimly lit lights that reveal jars of spices above the tables that line the left side of the restaurant. The seats on the right hand side are high top stools located at the bar. The owners knocked out part of the exterior wall on the right side to create a large window behind the bar to form a two sided bar (with the bar tenders in the middle by where the exterior wall should be), so that diners can sit inside at the bar or outside on the patio at the bar. To get outside to the patio, diners are escorted through the restaurant and through the interior door by the bar to the patio that is located on the corner of H and 12th streets (it is separated from the sidewalk by a waist-high fence and several planters). Apart from the bar seating (four seats) outside, there are a variety of regular tables and high top tables. When it is nice weather outside, you would be pressed to find a more pleasant environment to dine. As it gets colder outside, we are told that the owners plan to put up a temporary roof over the patio and will presumable heat it somewhat, so that diners can enjoy the patio even during the winter. Continue reading
We stopped by Newsom (1110 H Street, NE) during H Street Festival on Saturday and got a chance to talk with the owner of the restaurant which hopes to open within the next three weeks. The restaurant will open up in the newly renovated Hubert Newsom building (which apparently has its origins in the 1890s), will serve a menu featuring “global cuisine,” and will be open for dinner and then brunch on the weekend.
The owner told us that the food will draw inspiration from a variety of cuisines. The preview menu during H Street Festival included jerk skewered quail (we didn’t personally try it but heard that it was quite tasty), steak and cheese spring rolls (we tried and enjoyed), pickled shrimp, edamame hummus, and crispy shishito peppers.
Newsom will have a variety of different cocktails and will also have sangria on tap according to the owner. The drinks debuted during H Street Festival included Icy Ting (vodka, grapefruit, lavender bitters, lemon, and aloe), New Kid on the Block (bourbon, roselle syrup, condensed milk, and fruit), and the H Street Gold (bourbon, white wine, and fruit).
Le Grenier (502 H Street) will begin cooking French dishes for dinner and brunch (weekends only) this Sunday. We sat down with co-owner Marie Ziar to learn more about the restaurant and to take a tour of the beautifully renovated space.
Le Grenier will be a sister restaurant to Le Chat Noir in Friendship Heights. Marie Ziar explained that she and her husband chose to open their second restaurant on H Street because H Street is an exciting and booming area that she feels also has a real sense of community. While Le Chat Noir has a more formal and traditional French feel, Marie Ziar explained that their goal for Le Grenier is to have a more modern atmosphere that will tailor to H Street’s younger crowd. Le Grenier will be a restaurant first and will make food the priority (as opposed to some places on H Street that focus on alcohol but also offer food) but will also have an extensive cocktail and French wine list.
All of their food will have a French focus and will be made from scratch. They will not have a incredibly long menu but will change it every three months to reflect the new season. They plan on serving food that is fresh and authentic but not terribly expensive.
H&pizza (1118 H Street NE)–next to Taylor Gourmet on H Street–opens for lunch and dinner starting Friday, July 13th, but tonight they had a soft opening to debut their new restaurant and food (opening menu). We were very impressed with both; the interior is completely rebuilt and redesigned from the previous tenant (Birdland) and the food was excellent. We were lucky enough to chat with the owners and the chefs for awhile and have very high hopes for the new place (you can see our previous interview with one of the co-owners for more background on the restaurant).
Their goal is to allow you to make a fully customizable pizza that fits your tastes because you designed it (imagine a customizable assembly-line like a Chipotle). They have spent the past several weeks testing different sauces, doughs, cheeses, and ingredients in a test kitchen, and they offer a truly unique set of choices for your pizza (check out their opening menu here). In addition to letting you make your own pizza from scratch, they have several “Our Suggestion” pizzas that are predesigned by the owners and can be ordered right off the menu if you don’t feel like making your own.
Once you’ve selected your toppings (or one of their suggestions), your pizza goes through their oven (90 seconds) and comes out ready for you to enjoy. The plan is for the whole process from ordering until when you get your pizza to take less than five minutes.
We’ve learned that H &pizza (1118 H Street NE) is ready to open next weekend for dinner. Check out our interview with the owner here and pictures of the newly renovated interior from their Facebook page. The pizzas sound great, and the new interior looks great from our peeks inside to look at it. Can’t wait to check it out!
Le Grenier (502 H Street) applied for a liquor license back in March 2011 but has been largely silent since then. However, we noticed construction occurring inside recently, and Le Grenier’s parent restaurant confirms that they hope to open sometime in July. The construction seems to have a ways to go but hopefully they will be able to open this summer.
Le Grenier is a French style bistro from the owners of Le Chat Noir (located in Friendship Heights). Le Chat Noir has quite an extensive menu of French dishes for lunch, brunch, and dinner. The liquor license application for Le Grenier says that they will have indoor seating and a small sidewalk cafe to seat a few people and will be open late. Le Grenier will add to the newly revitalized west end of H Street which has recently seen the opening of Big Board and Boundary Road.