Mexican restaurant Espita Mezcaleria, a favorite gathering place for mezcal drinkers in Shaw, intends to add a sibling establishment in the near future.
“We are definitely planning to expand. We have actively been trying to develop new concepts,” Espita general manager Josh Phillips tells Eater. No leases have been locked down just yet, but Phillips says he hopes to have a second D.C. location well under development within the year.
Here’s what Phillips tells Eater about the future south-of-the-border bar/restaurant:
- It won’t be a replica of Espita, which just turned one this spring. ”I am not interested in making multiples of the same thing. That is not interesting for anyone, including myself.”
- The TBD restaurant/bar will, however, also focus on southern Mexican fare. But not the Oaxacan flavors that Espita showcases.
- The chosen region will be dependent on the physical location the Espita team picks: “The building itself has to feel appropriate for the food concept,” he says.
- The size will be the same, if not bigger, than Espita’s current 130-seat layout.
The team just returned from Oaxaca, Mexico — its third trip there since opening in March 2016 — with a new chef on board. Robert Aikens, Phillips’s brother-in-law, was hired this summer from the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center. “[Rob] is a machine,” says Phillips. “He comes into Espita at 7:30 a.m. and leaves at 11 p.m. six days a week.”
Phillips compares the team’s Oaxacan travels to buyers attending Fashion Week, in that, as he describes it, it takes some time before the chosen “collections” (or ingredients) hit the U.S.
“We are looking at a preview of what to plan to buy three months from now,” Phillips says.
A highlight of the trip: breakfast in Santiago Matatlan complete with huevos al comal, or eggs cooked on a smooth flat clay griddle traditionally used for tortillas.
“It gives the eggs a savory, almost dirty flavor that is delightful,” says Phillips.
The most memorable mezcal moment was meeting Maestro Mezcalero Rómulo Sanchez in the scenic rolling hills of Candelaria Yegole, Zoquitlan. His mezcal brand Rey Campero, available at Espita, is one of the team’s favorites.