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Old Town’s Playful New Wine Bar Pairs Tartare With Lay’s Chips

Plus, beer festival Snallygaster is back, WaPo food critic Tom Sietsema drops star ratings, Hill East Burger starts serving, and more intel

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Elegant steak tartare gets a low-brow edge with a bag of Lay’s scooping vessels at Virginia’s Darling.
Virginia’s Darling
A ricotta salad pumped up with parsnips, fennel, and baby sweet potatoes screams fall.
Virginia’s Darling

Chef Nicole Jones just doubled down on Old Town with the opening of a new American restaurant next to her all-day Mae’s Market and Cafe. Virginia’s Darling debuted last week with a large cellar full of women-owned wines, hearth-baked breads, duck confit atop chickpeas, and sharable plates showcasing local farmers from Virginia’s Northern Neck peninsula and Lancaster, Pennsylvania (277 S. Washington Street, Alexandria, Virginia). A long marble bar wrapping around an open kitchen is the spot to watch Jones bring the seasonal menu to life. There’s also a casual outdoor patio, intimate dining room, and space for live music and private events. Cheffed-up snacks include charred dates drizzled in California olive oil; marinated olives with fennel pollen; and salt and vinegar pistachios fried in olive oil. Fun fact: Jones’s partner is Andy Brown (Andy’s Pizza), who’s helping out as a food runner.

Disco Pizza shimmies into Clarendon

Recently revived nightclub Clarendon Ballroom added a new in-house slice shop over the weekend. Revelers can walk up to a dedicated bar dubbed Disco Pizza to grab a slice throughout the night or to-go pies on their way out. The opening menu includes cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and white varieties. Hours (until 2 a.m.) will expand down the line.

Drink over 400 drafts next to the U.S. Capitol

Now in its 10th year, D.C.’s massive fall beer festival Snallygaster returns to Pennsylvania Avenue NW (between Third and Seventh Streets NW) on Saturday, October 8. Try unlimited tastes of 405 beers from 178 American and international breweries, along with cider, wine, and cocktails. Snallygaster comes from Neighborhood Restaurant Group, the beer-fueled hospitality company behind bars like Bluejacket Brewery, Shelter, Churchkey, and the Sovereign. VIP passes are sold out, but $65 general admission tickets are still available (2 p.m. to 6 p.m.). Proceeds benefit sustainable farming nonprofit Arcadia.

Scenes from a packed Snallygaster, which will include bands, DJs, a local market from Shop Made, and 20 food vendors this year.
Neighborhood Restaurant Group

This weekend is also the 5th annual Oyster Wars (Sunday, October 9, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) at Ivy City’s Other Half taproom, featuring breweries, oyster farms, and big-name chefs like Kyle Bailey (The Salt Line), Robert Rubba (Oyster Oyster), Matt Adler (Caruso’s Grocery) and more. Tickets start at $60.

No more Sietsema stars

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema stopped dishing out stars to restaurants during the pandemic, and now he’s eradicating the rating system permanently. “Especially now, given all the industry’s challenges, restaurants merit more than a symbol to sum them up. Words allow for nuance. Stars, not so much,” he wrote. Eater critic Ryan Sutton dropped stars last year, noting they lead to “countless baffling and unfair comparisons.”

Hill East Burger starts serving in Southeast

The owners of barbecue outfit Sloppy Mama’s (Joe Neuman) and Tex-Mex standby Republic Cantina (Chris Svetlik) quietly opened Hill East Burger last week, but without booze for now. The anticipated smoked burger saloon slides into the old Wisdom gin bar near the Potomac Avenue Metro station (1432 Pennsylvania Avenue SE). The star of the show — served between a local potato bun or atop greens — is a blend of Sloppy Mama’s prime brisket trim and grass-fed Roseda Farms beef. There’s also Texas-style chili, buttermilk-brined fried chicken thigh sandwiches, half-smokes, and a veggie burger made with black eyed peas.

Penn Quarter’s dueling piano bar sets an opening date

Howl at the Moon, a national chain known for its high-energy shows, rum-heavy Hurricanes, and 86-ounce cocktail buckets, will makes its D.C. debut on Friday, October 21 in the long-vacant space that housed Ping Pong Dim Sum (900 Seventh Street NW). Howl at the Moon currently has a dozen locations from Hollywood to the high seas (it partners with Norwegian Cruise Line).

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