1) Navy Yard: Willie's Brew & Que opens today in the Boilermaker Shops building. They've got a familiar name heading the kitchen: Chef Rock Harper, a Hell's Kitchen alumnus who most recently was working for D.C. Central Kitchen.
Harper's opening the place with his brother, Ed Howard, who is working as general manager. "I'm in charge of the front of the house; he's in charge of the back of the house," Howard explained. The project is almost three years in the making.
The restaurant has a huge, $60,000 smoker that can fit four whole pigs into it. That means they'll be smoking up everything from pulled pork and ancho-rubbed brisket to St. Louis ribs and jerk chicken, with four different sauces. "I must have had some bad brisket before this because when I tried the brisket I said, 'What is this heavenly deliciousness in my mouth?'" Howard said. They'll even have Korean chicken wings, half-smokes and burgers, along with such sides as Mexican corn pudding and vegetarian baked beans (that don't actually taste vegetarian, he says).
Howard is overseeing the beer and cocktail offerings. Some of the cocktails include a Potomac Tea Martini with earl grey vodka and lemon sorbet, as well as Old Smokey, an old fashioned made with smoked ice. There will be about a dozen beers on tap (more in bottles) including Texas favorite Ziegenbock.
After opening tonight, Willie's will start off with lunch and dinner service, and will eventually add weekend brunch and happy hour. The restaurant acts more as a quick-service place during lunch and a full service restaurant during dinner. "After about four months of no sleep, as soon as the first guest comes in, the adrenaline gets going and it’s showtime," Howard said. "I’m super, super excited." Status: Opening today at 5 p.m. (grand opening event Nov. 1). 300 Tingey St. SE; website.
2) Laurel: A location of Moe's Southwestern Grill opens in the new Towne Centre at Laurel today. The location is part of a 25-store franchise deal for the area, so expect more to come. Moe's is known for burritos; the store also has a Coke Freestyle machine. Status: Opening today. 14720 Baltimore Ave. Suite H101; website.
3) Brookland: Culinary incubator Mess Hall opens its doors today. Several food vendors are working out of the space now, and eventually the building will play host to pop-ups and private events (they've got a license both for catering and as a restaurant). Status: Certified open. 703 Edgewood St. NE; website.