If they don’t pay close attention to the D.C. food scene, customers at the restaurant that just opened inside D.C.’s historic new William Hill Sportsbook in Chinatown might not realize that the chef behind some of the city’s most ambitious Italian restaurants is responsible for the potato skin “nachos,” roast pork and rapini sandwiches, and New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp. Nicholas Stefanelli, the owner of Michelin-starred tasting menu destination Masseria and the three-level Officina complex on the Southwest Waterfront, announced his involvement with the city’s new nexus of legal sports betting just ahead of its May 26 ribbon-cutting.
The two-story, 18,000-square-foot facility sits inside Capital One Arena, making it the first betting facility in the U.S. to operate as part of a pro sports stadium. Completely renovated from its past life as a location of the Greene Turtle, the space at 601 F Street NW now has 17 betting windows, a dozen self-serve betting kiosks, more than 100 TVs, and even a mini Jumbotron. A 1,500-square-foot LED screen wraps around the whole area. Events at the arena, including concerts and NBA and NHL games, reportedly attract around three million people a year. Needless to say, it’s not your average sports bar.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Stefanelli says.
Stefanelli wanted to write a menu that would satisfy friends meeting for a pregame meal, people stopping in for lunch, or a late-night crowd. The range of snacks, sandwiches, and composed entrees contains a high-low mix that lists the aforementioned potato skins (with cheddar-jack fondue and tomato-tomatillo salsa) alongside a plate of meatballs blended at Officina’s commissary or suppli al telefono (breaded rice fritters) stuffed with wagyu beef and mozzarella.
Given the atmosphere is more casual than Stefanelli’s other restaurants, the chef felt he had the green light to add New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp, a dish that wouldn’t have made sense on the menu at Masseria or Officina. His version, typically full of butter and Worcestershire sauce, integrates a cognac reduction and Parmigiano cheese. A section for sandwiches include a meatball grinder and a D.C. classic: a chili and mustard half-smoke with sausages sourced from Truxton Circle’s Meats and Foods.
Stefanelli nods to his childhood in Beltsville, Maryland, with a Sunday special for baked manicotti, an Eastern Shore rockfish imperial, and a plate of kielbasa served with baked beans and grilled bread. “It was one of the go-to dinners in my house growing up as we were running from practice to practice,” Stefanelli says of the smoked sausage. The chef’s recipe for double-fried chicken wings in an Old Bay hot sauce mimics the one from a Beltsville pizzeria where Stefanelli held down a summer job.
But it’s not all sports bar standards. The William Hill Sportsbook has a raw bar promising chilled Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab legs, and seafood towers, too. A prime New York strip with salsa verde and homemade steak sauce costs $48. Kaluga caviar is listed as a market-priced supplement. For dessert, there are hot fudge sundays, spoon biscuits topped with macerated strawberries, or a a bowl of “concession stand crunch.”
A list of eight specialty cocktails includes a Zamboni (Evan Williams black, smoked scotch maple syrup, angostura, orange twist). A cardamom egg cream is one of the $5 mocktails. The restaurant at the William Hill Sportsbook opens at 11 a.m. every day, closes at midnight on weekdays, and shuts down at 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The DC Council voted to legalize sports betting at stadiums, sports bars, liquor stores, and on an app run by the lottery in December 2018, about five months after a Supreme Court decision made that move possible. The Office of Lottery and Gaming (OLG) issues Sports Wagering Operator licenses, and bars that want to add sports wagering have to amend their licenses through the city’s alcohol authority.
William Hill’s D.C. sportsbook could be a model for future in-stadium betting facilities. Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the parent company for the arena’s primary tenants, the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, is leasing the space to William Hill on a 10-year deal. The Washington Nationals partnered with BetMGM to open a sportsbook this summer at the baseball stadium in Southeast D.C. FanDuel is on board to bring a sportsbook to Audi Field, the pro soccer stadium in Southwest.
- Capital One Arena just knocked down the final wall between gambling and U.S. pro sports [WaPo]
- How Baseball Fans Will Eat at Nationals Park During a Pandemic Season [EDC]
- At Officina, Stripped-Down Dishes Showcase High-End Italian Ingredients [EDC]
- D.C.’s Michelin-Starred Restaurants for 2021, Mapped [EDC]