A neighborhood restaurant is group. It’s an proprietor saying good day on the door in a single second, then bussing a desk or operating meals the following. It’s a Tanqueray and tonic hitting the bar as an everyday pulls up a stool. It’s a present card donated to help the highschool swim group. The meals—strong, however not essentially revelatory—focuses extra on the friends than the chef and doesn’t break the financial institution. Like a pal who discovered a coiffure that suited them way back and caught with it, the decor can generally use an replace, besides, one factor’s for positive: Whether or not you enter with a walker or pushing a stroller, go there on a date or eat alone on the bar, you’ll be again subsequent week—maybe to one of many eight native eating places we spotlight right here.
Sal’s Italian Kitchen | Cabin John
It’s a Tuesday night in June at Sal’s Italian Kitchen in Cabin John and a server dropping off meals at a desk spots two regulars on the restaurant’s MacArthur Plaza patio. Her face lights up. “Hey, guys! The place’ve you been?” she asks. Later, the three have interaction in animated chitchat, displaying one another cellphone pics. Diners across the restaurant appear to know one another, too, lots of them waving goodbye or good day and fist-bumping on the way in which in or out. “That occurs in any respect three of our eating places,” says Stephanie Salvatore, who, along with her husband, Damian (he’s the manager chef), owns Sal’s, Wild Tomato a number of doorways down, and Persimmon in Chevy Chase. She sees parallels with a sure TV watering gap “the place everyone is aware of your identify.” “There are the explanation why there are locations like Cheers,” she says. “I don’t know what the magical ingredient is. Damian is an everyday man, a very good individual, and so are the individuals who work for us, and individuals are drawn to that.” They’re additionally drawn to Damian’s Bolognese sauce, which friends purchase by the quart, superlative rooster piccata, and Sicilian-style roasted cauliflower with cherry pepper and garlic chili oil.
Sal’s seats 60 inside and 12 exterior. Stephanie admits the decor—wooden banquettes, cement flooring, shelving original with steel pipes—is fundamental, the results of a money scarcity in 2016, once they changed Indigo Home, their Asian fusion idea that lasted 14 months, with Sal’s.
The Salvatores stay in Garrett Park, however lots of Stephanie’s members of the family moved from her native New Jersey and have lived in Cabin John for greater than 30 years. She loves the neighborhood. “When the pandemic hit, the group stated, ‘Not immediately! You’re not going to shut on our watch!’ they usually rallied and supported us. It confirmed such kindness.” Sal’s doesn’t take reservations as a result of, Stephanie says, it retains issues extra informal. “We’re a ‘let’s simply stroll on over, you do you’ sort of place.”
Sal’s Italian Kitchen, 7945 MacArthur Blvd., Cabin John, 240-802-2370, salsitaliankitchen.net
CAVA Mezze | Rockville
Three mates—Ike Grigoropoulos, Ted Xenohristos and Dimitri Moshovitis—develop up collectively in Montgomery County and wind up within the restaurant enterprise, the primary two as servers, the third as a chef. They resolve to strike out on their very own and, simply earlier than Thanksgiving in 2006, open a Greek small plates restaurant known as CAVA Mezze in Rockville’s Traville Village Middle.
Now, there are three different areas of CAVA Mezze (Olney, D.C. and Clarendon) and 130 shops nationwide of CAVA, the restaurant’s fast-casual iteration, however the companions know that the center of their empire beats from its first location.
“Not the sexiest spot, however the landlord was keen to take an opportunity on us,” Moshovitis says. “The neighborhood was actually undeveloped again then. However what we didn’t know was that the neighborhood throughout the road—The Willows [of Potomac]—was large, and the folks there have been ravenous for one thing new.” The place quickly took off, with friends gobbling up tzatziki, kitschy saganaki (kefalograviera cheese set aflame tableside), grilled lamb chops and dishes Moshovitis’ mom, Angeliki, makes to today for the restaurant: spanakopita and baklava. (Don’t miss the watermelon salad with blackberries and feta cheese.)
A mural of the three co-founders adorns one wall of a reasonably nondescript inside that hasn’t modified a lot through the years, aside from white paint on some previously black partitions. The restaurant has 55 seats inside, together with 10 on the bar, and 40 exterior. Moshovitis is the manager chef, however brothers Ramon and Juan Rivas have been the cooks de delicacies since day one.
One among CAVA Mezze’s first clients was a widower named Dr. Fred Sanford, a resident of The Willows and a retired Navy doctor who remains to be energetic at Walter Reed Nationwide Navy Medical Middle. “Dr. Fred is like our dad,” Moshovitis says. “He’s been to our weddings, to each of my kids’s christenings and to a few of our different group members’ life occasions. At Christmas, he provides the entire employees a bonus.” Sanford regarded CAVA Mezze from the start as a type of neighborhood pub the place he might eat alone or with neighbors that will present up. “The meals is great, and the standard hasn’t diversified through the years. I simply turned 80, and I plan on going there for a lot of extra years,” he says.
CAVA Mezze, 9713 Traville Gateway Drive, Rockville, 301-309-9090, cavamezze.com
The Each day Dish | Silver Spring
The Rev. John Mudd, a retired Catholic priest, is such a fixture at his favourite neighborhood restaurant that owner-chef Jerry Hollinger and employees consult with him because the mayor of The Each day Dish. “I inform everybody it’s my nation membership. The clubhouse is ideal, however they haven’t constructed the tennis courts, swimming pool or golf course but,” jokes Mudd, who lives in Rock Creek Gardens, throughout Washington Avenue from the Rock Creek Purchasing Middle the place The Each day Dish has operated since 2009. “I stay on my own and have made quite a lot of mates there through the years. I’ve even [performed] weddings of individuals I met there. It’s only a enjoyable place, nearly like household for me.” He notes that the pizzas are good, the hamburgers terrific. “I don’t assume I ever had a nasty meal there.”
When Hollinger, who lives in Silver Spring’s Woodside neighborhood, took over the Purple Canine Cafe and turned it into The Each day Dish, he began providing extra each day specials, utilizing extra contemporary produce and enhancing service. He obtained a liquor license and put in a 10-seat bar that has develop into a hub for regulars. It took a number of years to get established, however now the restaurant is a mainstay. It was named Favourite Gathering Place of the 12 months on the Restaurant Affiliation Metropolitan Washington’s 2018 RAMMY awards.
Chef José Rivas has helmed The Each day Dish’s kitchen for eight years. This June, his specials—all the time guess—included ultratender osso buco, and shrimp and salmon pappardelle with asparagus and peas. Hollinger had bought the veggies on his weekly journey to Amish produce auctions in southeastern Pennsylvania. The menu all the time consists of seasonal fish and seafood, equivalent to soft-shell crabs, rockfish and halibut.
The slender restaurant seats 50 indoors. A glass storage door within the entrance opens to a patio, the place, after the onset of the pandemic, capability doubled from 25 to 50. The restaurant options native art work, and you may catch performances by native jazz musicians twice a month on Sundays from 5:30 to eight:30 p.m.
The Each day Dish, 8301 Grubb Street, Silver Spring, 301-588-6300, thedailydishrestaurant.com
Pacci’s Trattoria | Silver Spring
For North Potomac resident Spiro Gioldasis, who opened Pacci’s Trattoria in Forest Glen in 2012, the system for an ideal neighborhood restaurant is pasta, Neapolitan-style pizzas baked in a wood-burning oven, and a loyal, kid-friendly employees.
Pacci’s seats 75 in a collection of small rooms and 55 on a big patio. When indoor seating was prohibited throughout the pandemic, Gioldasis spruced up the place by portray the inside and including numerous photos from Italy (Sophia Loren figures prominently).
For Pacci’s common Joe Petrucci, having a neighborhood restaurant is private. He grew up in a small city in southwestern Pennsylvania the place all his favourite neighborhood locations in his teenage years had been changed by big-box eating places. Olive Backyard’s arrival delighted townspeople however “disgusted” Petrucci, he says, as a result of it changed a beloved joint known as Jimmy’s Lunch.
Petrucci had met Gioldasis by mates, and he, his spouse, Meghan, and their two kids, now 17 and 19, began frequenting the Pacci’s on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring when it opened in 2011. (It closed in 2018.) “When Spiro stated he was going to open the trattoria [in Forest Glen], we had been thrilled as a result of we will stroll there. We common perhaps 80 journeys a 12 months there now,” Petrucci says. “Our children have gotten to develop up having a neighborhood place like [Meghan and I] did. We all the time see folks from the neighborhood there. We go together with different neighborhood households on Sunday nights a few instances a month and name it ‘Household Dinner.’ ” Whereas different diners rave in regards to the Margherita pizza, pappardelle bresaola and rooster marsala, Petrucci is dedicated to a grilled pork chop particular mounded with cherry tomatoes sauteed in butter with garlic, onions and herbs. “I’ve in all probability had 300 of these through the years,” he says.
Pacci’s Trattoria, 6 Publish Workplace Street, Silver Spring, 301-588-0867, paccistrattoria.com
Buck’s Fishing & Tenting | Higher Northwest D.C.
“Nicely, come on in” is painted on the glass entrance doorways of Buck’s Fishing & Tenting, an crucial I’ve been heeding ever because the restaurant opened in Higher Northwest D.C. in 2003. That’s not fairly my neighborhood, however the charming 70-seat eating room with purple partitions, big white Japanese lanterns, elaborate sprays of flora, and tables bedecked in red-checkered cloths calls me again time and again. An added lure is the car parking zone behind the strip of companies (which incorporates the Politics and Prose bookstore, typically a post-meal cease), as is the 20-seat patio that fronts Connecticut Avenue.
I’ve attended or hosted numerous birthday celebrations and dinners with mates at Buck’s, typically on the communal desk operating down its heart, however principally it stays a frequent Friday date evening vacation spot for my partner and me, ensconced on the bar going through artist Lucy Hogg’s monumental portray of cherubs hovering above a unadorned Venus.
Chef James Rexroad helms the kitchen at Buck’s, which depends closely on seasonal, domestically produced substances. I like many dishes on the quintessentially American menu—the fish and chips, the roast rooster, the tower of ethereal onion rings—however normally order the wedge salad rife with creamy horseradish dressing and bacon, adopted by a 16-ounce, wood-grilled prime New York strip—the most effective steak on the town and, at $39, the most important discount, too. Proprietor James Alefantis is loath to boost the worth. “I stated all these years in the past that we will’t go above $40. Now, folks come for it. We make a bit on it, however it’s a loss chief,” he says. The restaurant’s sole dessert, a sq. of buttermilk chocolate cake topped with heat chocolate sauce and unsweetened whipped cream, is divine.
Normal supervisor Siiri Saloma and server Nour eddine Bouzerda, who’ve labored at Buck’s so long as I can recall, make visits there further particular. “They know everyone,” Alefantis says. “Siiri is aware of who can sit subsequent to whom and who obtained the restaurant within the divorce.”
Buck’s Fishing & Tenting, 5031 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 202-364-0777, bucksfishingandcamping.com
Vasili’s Kitchen Recent Mediterranean | Gaithersburg
In 2001, Kentlands residents Julie and Vasilis “Invoice” Hristopoulos opened Vasilis Mediterranean Grill on Most important Avenue, a 1,500-square-foot restaurant with 50 seats that served easy Greek fare. In 2016, the mom-and-pop operation moved 4 blocks away and rebranded as a extra upscale model, Vasili’s Kitchen Recent Mediterranean, a 4,200-square-foot restaurant that accommodates 186, together with 20 within the bar space and 80 on the patio. Katiria Morales is the restaurant’s chef. D.C. agency HapstakDemetriou+ designed the farmhouse industrial stylish house, full with Edison bulbs, reclaimed wooden, a wood-burning oven, and a bar with glass cabinets suspended from the ceiling to carry bottles of liquor.
Dona Allen, a Kentlands resident for 15 years, goes to Vasili’s Kitchen two or 3 times every week. “I stroll within the neighborhood on a regular basis and had my eye on this place from the second they moved the primary timber. [My husband and I] couldn’t wait to go in. I believe we helped open the door on the primary day,” she says. Allen loves the beet salad, grilled lamb chops, branzino and the grilled talagani, a Greek sheep’s milk cheese. “It’s all smooth and gooey and going proper to your waistline, however it’s scrumptious!”
Allen considers the employees and managing companions to be like household, however reserves her highest reward for common supervisor Angelo Xenakis. “There’s not one side of administration that Angelo doesn’t take part in, from repairs to kitchen responsibility to creating new menu gadgets that clients typically get to pattern,” she says. “My husband handed away in April  in the course of COVID. There have been no church buildings, no solution to have a funeral. Angelo stated, ‘Why not have it right here on the restaurant?’ ” The service was held there on Sept. 1, 2020, when indoor seating capability was at 50%. “I’d have by no means thought to have a funeral in a restaurant,” Allen says. “Angelo has a rare understanding of individuals.”
Vasili’s Kitchen Recent Mediterranean, 705 Middle Level Means, Gaithersburg, 301-977-1011, vasiliskitchen.com
Fontina Grille | Rockville
Within the span of a couple of minutes on a bustling Saturday evening, Fontina Grille’s majority proprietor, Ali Abduljabbar, wearing a black T-shirt just like the bussers, greets and seats friends, fixes a celebration’s wobbly desk leg, delivers meals to patio diners and laughs with regulars on the bar.
Abduljabbar grew up in Derwood, earned a Bachelor of Science in info programs from the College of Maryland in 2003 and went into IT and finance. “I used to see cornfields in King Farm. Once they constructed the event [in the late 1990s], I knew a restaurant would do very effectively there,” he says. When Fontina Grille, which had opened every week earlier than 9/11, turned obtainable in 2008, he purchased it. 5 years in the past, he made supervisor Jad Malaeb a managing accomplice and co-owner.
Coming into the restaurant enterprise with so little expertise, Abduljabbar, who lives in Rockville, knew that establishing relationships within the neighborhood early on was essential to the survival of his enterprise. King Farm resident Deann O’Brien, who works in enterprise growth for M&T Financial institution, has been an everyday at Fontina Grille because it opened. Not too long ago, she celebrated her mom’s 84th birthday there. “The bartenders, Jad, Ali know my mom. She feels particular there. My daughter lives within the neighborhood and brings my 20-month-old granddaughter to my home in her stroller and we stroll to the restaurant—no automotive seat to cope with. It’s enjoyable for my husband to go to the bar alone when I’ve to be at occasions at evening for my job. He made quite a lot of mates that manner. When I’ve a consumer lunch, my first place to take them is to Fontina. It’s our Cheers,” O’Brien says.
The restaurant’s 180 seats embrace 50 within the massive bar space. “Most of my employees has been with me for greater than 10 years, the kitchen employees from day one. Many begin as bussers and go into supervisor positions. I’m very blessed in that sense,” Abduljabbar says. Bestselling dishes, ready by chef Orbin Rodriguez, embrace penne a la vodka, eggplant parmigiana, seafood in a tomato cream sauce, and New York-style brick oven pizza.
Fontina Grille, 801 Nice Drive, Rockville, 301-947-5400, fontinagrille.com
Gringos & Mariachis | Potomac
On her brother’s suggestion in 2015, Potomac resident Rachel James, a instructor at St. Raphael Faculty in Rockville, found Bethesda’s hip Mexican restaurant Gringos & Mariachis. “He instructed me I needed to have the duck tacos. Regardless that I don’t eat duck, I attempted them anyway they usually had been wonderful. And the margaritas had been life-changing,” she says. So when the restaurant opened a location in 2017 in Park Potomac—“strolling distance on a pleasant day” from her Regency Estates dwelling—she was elated. Since then, she and her husband, Brian, a monetary analyst, have gone there two or 3 times every week, whether or not for a Friday date evening or for dinner or noshes between soccer video games with their three youngsters. She particularly likes that the restaurant, with house for 100 diners inside and 50 exterior, has massive home windows and storage doorways which are opened when climate permits. “Even for those who’re indoors, you’re nonetheless outside with the breeze coming by,” she says. One other plus: low employees turnover. “It’s good to see the identical faces time and again. The house owners [Marc Miranian and Roberto and Riccardo Pietrobono] stored so many individuals working throughout the pandemic. It makes you assume they handle their employees.”
Day of the Lifeless-themed decor, together with many murals by Mexican avenue artists, and a bustling bar scene contribute to Gringos & Mariachis’ cool vibe. Servers Billy Moore and Javier Melendez placed on a present by lining up as many as eight plates of tacos, guacamole, ceviche and different specialties on every arm from hand to neck. And don’t cross up one of many 10 flavors of margaritas, James says. “I really feel actually fortunate to have this in our neighborhood. There’s not loads happening within the 2-0-8-5-4.”
Gringos & Mariachis, 12435 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac, 301-339-8855, gringosandmariachis.com
David Hagedorn is a cookbook creator and the restaurant critic for Bethesda Journal and Arlington Journal.