Four buzzed-about restaurants are headed to Northern Virginia in the coming weeks and months, and two others opened yesterday. There’s something for everyone to be thankful for in this class of newcomers, from ramen and barbecue to naan pizza and fresh pasta. Here’s what to expect at Yona, Texas Jack’s, Palette 22, Hank’s Pasta Bar, Spice-6 and Hula Girl Bar & Grill.
Status: Opening Nov. 30
Location: Ballston (4000 Wilson Blvd., Suite C)
Hours: Daily from 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Yona completes the Mike Isabella Concepts’ trifecta at 4000 Wilson Blvd., joining Pepita Cantina and Kapnos Taverna at the Ballston dining hub. The final piece is a 50-seat noodle bar and small plates restaurant from chef Jonah Kim in partnership with Mike Isabella. Kim was most recently executive chef at PABU in Baltimore by Michael Mina
Restaurant: Texas Jack’s
Status: Opening Dec. 7
Location: Arlington (2761 Washington Blvd.)
Hours: Daily from 4 p.m.-2 a.m.
You can smell heavenly smoke before you even open the doors to Texas Jack’s from partners Steve Roberts and Paul Capetanakis. The Greek Americans don’t bat an eye about opening a barbecue joint. “We started it all 7,000 years ago,” Roberts says. “There is a two-sided terracotta grill (known as the firedogs) in Santorini that forms the oldest grill on earth,” he add as evidence. But Roberts and Capetanakis won’t man the kitchen. That job belongs to chef Matt Lang, who brings experience from Hill Country BBQ locally and Fette Sau in New York.
Lang is particularly proud of his Texas-style brisket and beef short ribs, as well as his pork shoulder that’s inspired by the Yucatan dish cochinita pibil. “It may not be served on a banana leaf, but I am injecting it with bitter orange juice,” he says. Also expect fresh takes on sides that won’t weigh you down, seasonal pies for dessert, a brown liquor-based cocktail program and an arsenal of craft beers.
The expansive space is divided into a bar, main dining room and private dining room all appointed with handmade furniture and rustic stylings by Akseizer Design Group. But what draws you in is a digitally printed black-and-white mural of an 18th-century etching that could keep kids playing I spy for hours. The motif is even printed on to-go bags. Eating here you might feel like a cowboy, as you should: Texas Jack’s is named after Jack Omohundro, a Virginia-born cowboy who Roberts describes as the Brad Pitt of his time.
Restaurant: Hank’s Pasta Bar
Status: Opening Late December
Location: Old Town Alexandria (600 Montgomery St.)
Hours: Dinner and weekend brunch
Hank’s Oyster Bar has spawned a sibling that will serve up something a little different. Chef/owner Jamie Leeds will be launching Hank’s Pasta Bar in Old Town Alexandria at the end of the year. Chef Nicolas Flores, who has cooked at two Hank’s Oyster Bar locations, will lead the kitchen. Leeds and Flores have been preparing: “The Hank’s Pasta Bar team has been doing research all over D.C., but we’ve also been lucky enough to visit New York and Philly to taste Italian food,” Leeds says. “One of the best meals we had was at il Pittore in Philadelphia because they had the most unique and delicious pastas. Along the way, we learned what works and what doesn’t. Overall, we got a lot of great ideas and we can’t wait to share them.” Expect a meal to start with antipasti followed by housemade pastas, roasts and whole fish all backed by a strong Italian wine program. The restaurant, designed by SwatchRoom, will have a 100-seat dining room, private dining room and small patio.
Restaurant: Palette 22
Status: Opening February
Location: Shirlington (4053 Campbell Ave.)
Hours: Sunday-Thursday from 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-midnight
The Palette 22 dining room doubles as an art studio for local artists. That’s because art is an integral part of the new concept from Alexandria Restaurant Partners. The eager and growing restaurant group is also behind Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap and a just-announced Alexandria waterfront project. Overseeing it all is corporate chef Graham Duncan who will roll out a small plates menu at Palette 22 come January.
Duncan says his menu draws inspiration from the street stalls of Thailand and Vietnam, the mercados of Mexico and Latin America and top food trucks in Chicago, New York and Seattle. Think duck carnitas tacos, harissa-coated lamb ribs, beef bulgogi skewers and Greek-style octopus. “Tables will be stocked with forks, knives and small plates because the whole idea is to get the table involved, order a half a dozen things and have everyone try it as it comes out of the kitchen,” Duncan says.
While the small plates phenomenon is not unique to Palette 22, the Art is Residence program is. During 90-day residencies, local artists will showcase their work inside the restaurant, even working on their installations during operating hours. If you like what you see during dessert, note that the artwork is for sale. In exchange for providing a lively place to work, Palette 22 will take a 20 percent commission from all art sold. “Having live artists working means the décor of restaurant is constantly evolving,” Duncan says. “It’ll be different every time you come in.”
Status: Opened Monday, Nov. 23
Location: Dunn Loring/Merrifield (2674- I Avenir Place)
Hours: Daily from 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Few food hybrids are worth celebrating as much as naan pizza. Spice-6 is responsible for this delight, which greeted the world at the first location of this Indian fast casual restaurant in Hyattsville, Maryland. Monday marked the opening of the Dunn Loring location. In addition to naan pizzas, diners can also dig into rice bowls, salads and lassis. Everything is colorful and customizable; diners choose from various curries and chutneys as they build their meals. Another notable dish is chaat papri, an Indian street food akin to nachos in that naan chips and chick peas are piled and topped with sauces and garnishes. Everything is made from scratch, but the prices don’t show it. Spice-6 from, owner Vik Singh and chef Upendra Thapaliya, joins The Shops of Avenir Place, where Thai by Thai also recently opened.
Restaurant: Hula Girl Bar & Grill
Status: Opened Monday, Nov. 23
Location: Shirlington (4044 Campbell Ave.)
Hours: Sunday-Thursday from 5-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 5-11 p.m.
If you work in an office-dense area, chances are you visited the Hula Girl Food Truck, or perhaps you saw it on The Travel Channel. That’s where Mikala Brennan, who was born and raised in Hawaii, got her start. When the doors to Hula Girl Bar & Grill opened yesterday, it completed Brennan’s food truck to brick and mortar restaurant success story. The retro surf-shop vibe complements the casual cuisine and easy, breezy Hawaiian cocktails. Diners can opt to build a plate lunch for dinner starring proteins like kalua pork or chicken katsu that Brennan matches with a sauce, two scoops of rice and cabbage. Alternatively, a meal can be made out of small plates, known as pu-pu’s, including three varieties of poke, Spam musubi, Waialua root beer sticky ribs and smoked ahi dip. Don’t be afraid of Spam. The canned meat makes multiple appearances on the menu because it is as common as the word aloha in Hawaii. Hula Girl Bar & Grill currently serves dinner, and they will begin lunch service in mid-December.
Laura Hayes hails from Philly (but don’t hold it against her). She’s been covering the local dining scene for three years, and her work has been published in the Washington Post, Food Network, Washington City Paper, Arlington Magazine and more. Having lived in Japan for two years, she finds herself in a constant state of craving sushi. Laura always orders her favorite savory dish again for dessert and keeps her gut in check through lots of CrossFit classes.