Lydia On H Heats Up Atlas Restaurant Scene

Capitol Cuisine

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Just in time for spring, the District Wharf welcomes Boardwalk Bar & Arcade, 715 Wharf St. SW, next to Ben & Jerry’s. The funky newcomer is the creation of Better Hospitality Group (BHG), which brought us Shaw’s Takoda Restaurant & Beer Garden and Cortez.

Peter and I decided to lunch at Boardwalk after visiting our nearby fitness club. The late winter weather was nasty and drizzly, more conducive to Irish coffee than frozen margaritas. But we went anyway. A pair of mallard ducks tried to waddle in after us, but we gently shooed them away. Twice as large as its Penn Quarter original, Boardwalk’s candy-colored interior is festooned with surf boards, bicycles, arcade games and pelican prints.

The 120-foot long bar serves frozen drinks, which flow from eight dispensers. There’s also beer, wine and tropical cocktails. And what’s a beach bar without BHG executive chef Julio Estrada’s breezy lineup of hot dogs, corn dogs, chili, popcorn, pretzels and pizza?  Kid-friendly options include cotton candy and ice cream sandwiches.  However, children must be accompanied by an adult 21 or older.

Perched at the bar, we munched on a better-than-decent Carnival Cuban sandwich (ham, pork, Swiss cheese and pickle nestled in a hoagie roll). We also shared a pair of blackened mahi-mahi tacos. Most dishes arrive with zesty chips. In keeping with the beach theme, my margarita arrived in a tall soda glass, which I sipped through a fat, candy-striped straw. Lunch for two came to about $50; service was pleasant and competent.

Boardwalk Bar & Arcade is open daily for lunch and dinner, plus a happy hour. For more information visit www.boardwalkwharf.com.

Out of Africa

The Atlas District restaurant scene is heating up. Among the latest arrivals is Lydia on H. The two-level African-Caribbean dining destination opened recently at 1427 H St. NE. Chef/owner Victor Chizinga, who hails from the southeastern African nation of Malawi, previously wielded his whisk at U Street’s now closed Bin 1301. He now presides over Lydia’s open
kitchen, turning out curried chicken with potatoes, cabbage, carrots and rice; jerk chicken, braised oxtail with joloff rice (concocted with tomatoes, vegetables, onions and meat); fried or grilled snapper.

Chizinga also makes a mean masamba, a typical Malawian dish of kale, spinach, collards, peanut powder, onions and tomatoes. Another veggie side (this one reportedly flies out of Lydia’s kitchen) is made-to-order curried cabbage. A sweet finale is rum cake. Lydia’s handsome bamboo-lined bar dispenses daiquiris, rum punch and other potent potables. The restaurant moniker honors Chizinga’s late mother Lydia, who inspired him to cook at an early age.

And—warm weather will bring a fenced-in patio. For Lydia on H hours and more information visit www.lydiaonhdc.com.

Taqueria Rebirth

Santa Rosa Taqueria, which closed in 2020 due to the pandemic, has resurfaced. The new Santa Rosa is opening soon—if not already—at 301 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Created by Sunnyside Restaurant Group, Santa Rosa will introduce an expanded taco-centric menu created by Chef Brian Lacayo and Sunnyside’s Catherine Mendelsohn. Beverage director/mixologist Gina Chersevani—who brought us Buffalo & Bergen and Last Call Bar—will recreate her famous margaritas. We had a sneak peek at the interior, dominated by an amazing “Day of the Dead” mural by local artist Rodrigo Pradel. For updates visit www.sunnysiderestaurantgroup.com.

A Carnival Cuban sandwich and blackened mahi mahi tacos are among Boardwalk’s fun, beach-themed selections.

Blossom Time

On Barracks Row, Balkan restaurant Ambar, 523 Eighth St. SE, has created a cherry blossom-inspired cocktail and dessert to honor the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The cherry sour is concocted with cherry-infused vodka, house-made berry juice, lemon and egg white. The Balkan-style cherry pie is made with crisp phyllo, tart cherries, biscuits and cinnamon, served with vanilla ice cream. For more information visit www.ambarrestaurant.com.

Vegas on the Potomac?

Bombastic Brit Gordon Ramsay is unveiling the first East Coast outpost of his Las Vegas hotspot, Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. Look for our spinoff sometime this fall at 625 Wharf St. SW. (Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen restaurants are named after the celebrity chef’s popular reality TV show.) 

Heading Ramsay’s upscale, eclectic menu is Beef Wellington, that richly delicious retro dish probably first resurrected by Ramsay. You’ll also find seared scallops, lobster risotto, seafood towers, and—English-style sticky toffee pudding. For updates visit www.wharfdc.com/gordon-ramsay-hells-kitchen.

Beer and more Beer…

As our Washington Nationals launch their 2022 season, beer is flowing in the Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront. Solace Brewing Company has arrived at 71 Potomac Ave. SE, near the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. The local offshoot of the Virginia company, Solace pours IPAs, kettle sours and other yeasty drinks. To accompany these libations are half smokes, brats and all-beef hotdogs from Stachowski Market in Georgetown. For more information visit www.solacebrewing.com.

And next door at 25 Potomac Ave. SE, The Cove brewpub is due to arrive at the former Bardo Brewing site. The creation of B. Social Hospitality, which operates several bars in Clarendon (Arlington), The Cove plans to tap Bardo Brewing’s barrels to craft hard seltzers and artisan beers. For updates and more information visit www.solacebrewing.com.

Bar with a View

Smoke & Mirrors, a rooftop bar with stunning views of downtown and the U.S. Capitol, has opened at 867 New Jersey Ave. SE. You’ll find it perched on the 11th floor of the recently opened AC Hotel, part of the J.W. Marriott group. The all-weather patio is equipped with a fireplace, fire pits and a retractable canopy. In bad weather, guests can find plenty of indoor seating

The reborn Santa Rosa Taqueria’s interior is dominated by a “Day of the Dead” mural.

Beverages include the eponymous (Smoke & Mirrors) cocktail made with Macallan Single-malt Scotch, Benedictine, Dubonnet Rouge and bitters. Wine and beer join the liquid menu, as well as booze-free “mocktails.”

The food menu is divided between small (snacks) and large plates. For snacks, a kale Caesar salad gets a kick from black garlic, white cheddar and Iberico (Spanish) ham; spicy tuna is combined with avocado, fish eggs, wonton chips and embellished with gold leaf. Among larger, entree plates: chicken and pesto pasta and a 16-ounce prime rib steak with various sauces. Brunch brings a manchego and Iberico ham omelette, pulled short rib, salsas and bacon jam. For hours and more information visit www.marriott.com.

RAMMY Awards

Looks like things are almost back to normal, as the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) recently announced the 40th Annual RAMMY Awards. As usual, the black tie event will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center July 24. Awards will return to long standing categories including formal fine dining, casual restaurant, wine (cocktails and beer) program and chef of the year.

For more information regarding the RAMMY Awards, how to support the program, and this year’s format, visit www.ramw.org. Presented by Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), The RAMMY Awards Gala honors the accomplishments of hard-working individuals and organizations of the region’s restaurants and foodservice community.