This fall, local diners will finally get to step foot inside the completed Wharf complex, a three-year, $2.5-billion overhaul of D.C.’s southwest waterfront. The new development will unleash nearly two dozen new restaurants, bars, and clubs on the local dining scene.
The tailor-made neighborhood is real estate development team Hoffman-Madison Waterfront’s attempt at revitalizing a part of the city that hasn’t seen much change since the Nixon administration. Glass-covered facades, cascading waterfalls, and green-roofed buildings now dominate a landscape where drab boxy structures once stood. Local restaurateurs fill most of the addresses as an intended draw for new residents, tourists, and the boating community.
John Asadoorian, the real estate broker and restaurant investor tasked with finding the businesses to go into The Wharf, hinged his selection process on keeping out cookie-cutter corporate operations and bringing in visionaries.
“That’s all it was,” he says of his strategy. “Frustrated consumer with a little bit of vision and experience calling the right people. And turning away the people that wanted to come here just because they had a big name.”
While some name brands — including burger giant Shake Shake, ice cream standby Ben and Jerry’s, and recent arrival Blue Bottle Coffee — have carved out room for themselves along the mile-long hospitality zone, the majority of the drinking and dining destinations are in the hands of chefs, drink makers, and business owners from the area. All of them are projected to open between the grand opening on Thursday, October 12 and next spring.
There’s a staggering amount in the works. Below, Eater breaks down what to expect from each of the forthcoming establishments. They’re listed here in geographical order from the existing Maine Avenue Fish Market down to the Gangplank Marina:
Municipal Fish Market: According to Asadoorian this is the “oldest open-air seafood market in the country,” so he didn’t want to mess with it. It will be updated by spring 2018 with a new trash facility and a processing station.
Rappahannock Oyster Company: The latest addition to co-owner Travis Croxton’s family of seafood restaurants (Merroir, Rappahannock Oyster Bar, Brine) will serve shellfish, bivalves, and specialty drinks in an upfitted 18th century oyster shed.
The new Rappahannock will seat roughly 40 inside and 120-plus outside. Plans for the expansive patio include “remote shucking stations outside with the crowd,” mini-bars “wherever needed,” and a portable grill to unleash whenever the mood strikes.
“Expect the menu to be 1.5 times the size of the Union Market menu,” Croxton said, listing the signature crab cake, lamb and clam dish, and raw bar selections as likely carryovers. ETA: Spring
Stefanelli's Italian Market: Masseria chef Nicholas Stefanelli is developing a tri-level food hall featuring an Italian market on the first floor, a full-service restaurant on the second floor, and a rooftop lounge above it all. ETA: Spring
Potomac Distilling Company: Todd Thrasher, the drinks guru behind speakeasy PX and everything beverage-related that Eat Good Food Group does in the area, is establishing a rum distillery with three companion bars attached — including a tiki bar on the roof. ETA: Spring
Blue Bottle Coffee: The California-based coffee chain landed in Georgetown earlier this year and is also looking to set up shop near Union Market. The Wharf location is projected to be an 872-square-foot plot; it will share Market Square with local sweets maker District Doughnut. ETA: Spring
District Doughnut: Asadoorian says the homegrown treat maker has signed a lease to expand from Barracks Row to the evolving waterfront. ETA: Spring
Shake Shack: Having already established a presence on the opposite side of town at Navy Yard, New York-based restaurateur Danny Meyer is giving this waterfront a go with a 3,500-square-foot burger spot expected to feature an interior mezzanine, as well as 600-square-feet of outdoor seating space. ETA: October
The Brighton: Sibling restaurateurs Ian and Eric Hilton are adding to their collection of bars, nightclubs, and now diners with The Brighton. The two-story venue boasts 6,000-square-feet of space inside, along with another 2,000-square-feet of customer-friendly real estate outside. As for the theme of the restaurant, Ian says to “think seaside version of The Brixton,” which is the British pub the brothers installed on U Street NW. ETA: October
La Vie: Bar-focused Social Restaurant Group is growing up with Mediterranean-themed La Vie. The 9,800-square-foot establishment is sandwiched between music megaplex The Anthem, and the pool deck of the surrounding Channel apartment building. Expect a 1,100-square-foot waterfront terrace, as well as access to a 5,000-square-foot rooftop perch. ETA: October
The Anthem: Iconic showplace the 9:30 Club is rocking its biggest expansion yet, presenting music lovers with a mammoth concert hall projected to accommodate up to 6,000 attendees. 9:30 Club staff declined to share additional details about the food and beverage options in the works for the seven bars taking shape inside. D.C. native Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters are headlining The Anthem grand opening on October 12. ETA: October 12
Mi Vida: Chef Robert Santibanez, founder of the Fonda chainlet of restaurants in New York City, is exporting his brand of Mexican cooking (in partnership with Knead HD) to a 9,500-square-foot space right next to The Anthem. ETA: January 2018
Requin: Empire builder Mike Isabella is finally bringing seafood-forward Requin across the river to D.C., though he and chef Jennifer Carroll are making significant changes to the restaurant they’ve cultivated in Mosaic District.
“It’s going to be a totally different menu,” Isabella says to Eater, noting that he and Carroll are determined to create a unique experience — albeit still strongly influenced by Gallic and Mediterranean cooking — for both District residents and those who’ve embraced them in Northern Virginia.
“I want to make it a destination place,” he says. Expect about three dozen cheeses as well as French charcuterie. And Isabella is psyched about the “big wine program.”
The 4,500-square-foot space boasts 40-foot ceilings, 1,000-square-feet of patio space, a glass-wrapped exterior that can open up during warmer months. ETA: October
Taylor Gourmet: The burgeoning local hoagie shop plans to cater to the boating crowd via a dedicated delivery service. Co-founder Casey Patten tells Eater that the site-specific phone and online ordering service will provide speedy delivery — with as little as 15 minutes of advance notice — to “anywhere within the project.” He plans to have food runners at the ready to zip orders over to boats idling in the surround docks. ETA: October
Dolcezza: The local gelato chain is adding to its DC presence with a 2,000-square-foot space with an additional 1,000-square-feet of patio area on the ground floor of the new InterContinental Hotel. ETA: October
Kwame Onwuachi’s restaurant in the InterContinental Hotel: Shaw Bijou alum Kwame Onwuachi remains tight-lipped about what he’ll be serving at this yet-unnamed restaurant on the ground floor of the new InterContinental Hotel. ETA: October
Cordial Fine Wine and Spirits: Union Market retailer Eric Rohleder is adding another wine shop to his resume. The 525-square-foot store is expected to feature independent producers. ETA: October.
Del Mar: James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Fabio Trabocchi is shifting his focus from Italy to Spain at this new two-story seafood restaurant designed as a love letter to his Mallorca-born wife, Maria.
It’s his largest restaurant to date, occupying 11,500 square feet inside and 1,100-square-feet of seating outside. ETA: October.
Kaliwa: Eat Good Food Group chef and co-founder Cathal Armstrong plans to focus on Southeast Asian cuisine at this 4,300-square-foot outpost. Restaurant Eve chef de cuisine and 2017 Eater Young Guns nominee Paolo Dungca will oversee the menu. Longtime beverage guru and fellow Wharf tenant, Todd Thrasher will help with the drinks. ETA: October.
District Hardware and Bike: This family-run business will focus on tools and bike equipment. Local roaster Vigilante Coffee Company will supply in-house cafe. “We’re simply a wholesale partner,” owner Chris Vigilante tells Eater of the arrangement. A liquor license application for the 6,300-square-foot shop mentions the aforementioned coffee shop, as well as a tentative “summer garden.” ETA: October.
Marinai Pizzeria: Asadoorian says local restaurateur Med Lahlou (Station 4, Lupo Verde) has signed a lease for this casual new pizza place. ETA: October.
Florentijn: Former Belgian Embassy chef Jan Van Haute is plotting two restaurants in one at The Wharf. Florentijn Cafe is expected to serve coffee, waffles, and light sandwiches during breakfast and lunch, while the namesake main dining area focuses on lunch and dinner. The 2,500-square-foot space is projected to feature a five-seat bar offering four beers on draft, a “wine counter” for the sommelier to display the latest offerings, and a chef’s table with seating for up to 12. An outdoor patio should be able to accommodate up to 50 customers. ETA: October.
Pearl Street Warehouse: This music hall from the team behind local watering hole Cantina Marina is projected to occupy 4,000-square-feet of space and can accommodate up to 300 attendees at a time. At night, the road to Pearl Street will be closed off to automotive traffic, creating a pedestrian-friendly area dotted with scattered tables, live music, and other outdoor attractions. ETA: October
Union Stage: Northern Virginia-based Jammin’ Java is branching out with a 7,500-square-foot entertainment venue expected to accommodate up to 450 attendees at a time. The music hall is projected to include four bars. ETA: October
Kirwan's Irish Pub: Hospitality vet Mark Kirwan is opening a traditional Irish pub featuring 4,200-square-feet of room inside and 1,000-square-feet of outdoor seating space. ETA: October
Ben and Jerry’s: Asadoorian says the Vermont-based ice cream chain has signed a lease to join the complex. The shop is slated to go in near Hank’s Oyster Bar. ETA: October
Hank's Oyster Bar: Local restaurateur Jamie Leeds is opening her fourth seafood restaurant, but this is the first one she’s been able to place near actual water. The 3,500-square-foot space should host nearly 100 customers inside with 70 seats in the dining room, 17 at the bar, and six more at the oyster bar. Also: 70 seats on the patio, six more at an exterior bar, and standing room for 20 more folks. One innovation: a carry-out window dispensing seaside snacks such as lobster rolls, seafood corn dogs, and potato funnel cakes. Leeds calls the window “our little homage to the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach.” The restaurant will also serve slushies and frozen drinks created by beverage director Jessi Weinstein. Restaurant at Patowmack Farm alum Chris Edwards will oversee the menu. ETA: October.
Whiskey Charlie: Details are somewhat sparse about Whiskey Charlie, but here's what is known: it'll be a 2,200-square-foot rooftop cocktail bar and lounge topping the Canopy Hotel, where the drinks and view of the Washington Channel (not the food) will be the main draw. Whiskey Charlie's name is meant to evoke a nautical vibe — WC, the venue's initials — are the call signal for boat captains entering this particular body of water. A release tells Eater that the food is "designed to enhance the evening, not dominate it. Some menu items called out: tuna tartare, macarons(?), and, of course, crab cakes. Whiskey Charlie will be an indoor-outdoor spot — outdoors will have a fire pit, "seating coves," and water views, indoors will have an airy feel ... and more water views (though through glass of course.) ETA: October.
King Ribs BBQ: The freestanding barbecue spot currently serving meaty fare in a neighboring park is now expected to formally join the modernized Wharf. Where it will land remains in flux, as does a reopening date.
Photography by Warren Rojas / Eater
Correction: This story has been corrected to show the overhaul costs $2.5-billion, not $2-billion, and to correct the official name of The Anthem.