Ivy City’s stylish new two-story attraction will showcase the bold and flavorful cross-section of Mexican and Lebanese cuisines, caffeinated cocktails, energetic music, and more.
Industrial-chic Vera (2002 Fenwick Street NE) is the brainchild of Nayef Issa, co-founder of Dupont’s buzzy Residents Cafe & Bar, and partner Nour Chaaban. Vera is named for Veracruz, Mexico’s historic port city that welcomed a huge wave of Lebanese immigrants back in the late 1800s. Vera strives to honor those Lebanese cooking traditions and ingredients introduced along the Gulf of Mexico over a century ago, which are staples there today (think: chickpeas, sumac, and tahini). The blended cuisines that go heavy on spices, herbs, and chili peppers could include items like falafel tacos and shawarma al pastor. Dish details will be announced soon, as will its chef.
Issa and Chaaban always dreamt of creating a culinary tribute to their own Lebanese ancestors and heritage, which includes the communal dinner party culture that its Mediterranean-hugging capital of Beirut is known for. Mexico City-based Sulkin Askenazi, a top design studio behind modern hospitality projects around the world, put together a vibrant and intentional look that speaks to similarities between the two coastal countries.
Vera, scheduled to debut this spring in the brick building formerly occupied by Big Chief, starts off with a ground-floor bar and lounge tucked under an atrium with an adjoining private dining room. A huge upper level spanning 4,000 square feet houses the main restaurant under a retractable roof, along with a second bar and lounge area. Commissioned area artists splashed the space with colorful murals.
The beverage program plans to highlight a selection of carajillo—Mexico’s popular hot coffee cocktail considered a distant cousin to the espresso martini. Since opening in 2019, Issa’s Michelin Bib Gourmand-designated Residents has quickly earned a reputation for having one of the best ’tinis in town. At Vera, look for a traditional take on carajillo—typically made with espresso and Licor 43—plus two new versions looping in Lebanese influences. The bar will likely play up arak, a clear, anise-flavored Levantine spirit, along with mezcal and tequilas.
The roomy restaurant, decked out in beachy elements like leafy palms and reclaimed wood, shows signs of seamlessly transitioning from a sit-down dining destination to a lively nighttime hotspot. Issa is also the founder of Nü Androids, a music production company with a proven track record of booking and bringing big-name DJs to D.C.