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Celebrity Chef Kwame Onwuachi Reveals Name, Theme of His D.C. Comeback Story

Plus, chef Matt Adler reunites with Osteria Morini, Roofers Union reopens with a cocktail lab, and more intel

The Salamander Washington DC, situated along the revitalized Southwest Waterfront, welcomes chef Kwame Onwuachi this spring.
Jonathan Thorpe
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

More details are emerging about Top Chef star Kwame Onwuachi’s anticipated return to D.C.’s dining scene this spring. Situated at the foot of the 373-room Salamander Washington DC, his incoming Afro-Caribbean restaurant dubbed Dōgon (pronounced “Doh-gon”) pays homage to D.C.’s late-1700s land surveyor Benjamin Banneker and his ties to the West African Dōgon tribe. Onwuachi’s in-the-works menu explores his own Nigerian, Jamaican, Trinidadian, and Creole heritage, Banneker’s capitol-creating connections, and “all the cultures within D.C.’s four quadrants.”

Billionaire businesswoman Sheila Johnson’s D.C. Salamander, formerly a Mandarin Oriental, is undergoing a full-scale renovation.
Eric Stein

The thoughtful project builds upon the success of Onwuachi’s critically acclaimed NYC newcomer Tatiana, and the two share the same designer (Modellus Novus). Chain curtains framing lobby-level Dōgon reference the mathematical device Banneker used to map out city lines, revealing a 200-seat dining room with a bar and patio (1330 Maryland Avenue SW). An astrological-like ceiling speaks to the starry night sky the historic urban planner turned to as a geographical guide. The James Beard Award-winning chef is best known locally for his time at the Wharf InterContinental’s long-closed Kith/Kin, and Dōgon marks the national culinary icon and author’s second act inside a posh hotel along the scenic Potomac River.

Chef Matt Adler teams up on a new Osteria Morini venture

Navy Yard pasta parlor Osteria Morini is making good on its previously announced plans to take over and transform its Mt. Vernon Triangle sibling spots. NYC-based Altamarea Group’s now-closed Nicoletta Italian Kitchen and its adjoining cafe Brew’d will combine into one upscale Italian eatery called Cucina MORINI this spring. Chef Matt Adler of Capitol Hill-born hit Caruso’s Grocery — and Osteria Morini’s opening executive chef back in 2013 — makes a surprise comeback to the company as a named partner on the project. Cucina MORINI plans to serve a cross-section of Osteria Morini classics and lighter Southern Italian fare.

Ice Cream Jubilee maps out a DMV-wide expansion

Ice Cream Jubilee, the fast-growing D.C. scoops shop at The Yards and Ballston Quarter food hall, is gearing up to sprinkle several more across the region this year. The brand teased out upcoming expansion plans in a guessing-game way, posting a vague map on social media pointing to four future locations (plus a new food truck). Followers speculate the cartoon cones represent neighborhoods of Reston, Falls Church, Georgetown, and College Park, to which Ice Cream Jubilee “liked” but is keeping it a “surprise.” The decade-old brand, which recently shut down in Shaw, whips up whimsical flavors like banana bourbon caramel, Thai iced tea, and caramel popcorn, plus boozy cocktails and sundaes.

Roofers Union returns with a snazzy cocktail lab

Roofers Union, Adams Morgan’s towering American beer hall and restaurant since 2014, reopened under new ownership this week. Partners from Code Red, the Prohibition-styled speakeasy next door, stepped in to revive and reinvent the three-story institution following its surprise closure in November (2446 18th Street NW). Its first-floor space, most recently home to Agave Room, resurfaces as Level 1 Cocktail Lab on Thursday, January 25. The dimly-lit level specializes in variations of Rickeys, Old Fashioneds, and Negronis, plus classics like a Sazerac and Paper Plane.