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From Matt Baker's New Concept in Ivy City To Michael Rafidi's Cafe in Navy Yard, DC's Restaurant Industry Is Coming Alive

By Michael McCarthy | August 31, 2020 | Food & Drink



Chef Matt Baker, owner of Gravitas in Ivy City, adapts on the fly. Witness the just-opened Baker’s Daughter, a lovely storefront offering prepared foods to go, coffee and gourmet grocery items—located across from Gravitas. The kitchens will operate independently, with the new spot dishing four-course carryout meals like Maryland crabcakes frisee and Korean barbecue salmon with sesame-roasted mushrooms and Broccolini, rice and pickles. Cocktails, craft beer, wine and select spirits are available too. Baker’s wife, the decorated chef Lindsay Jordan Baker, partners on this smart venture, giving it an all-in-the-family vibe. 1402 Okie St. NE,



When chef Michael Rafidi, the former executive chef at Arroz and Requin, opened the modern Middle Eastern concept Albi in Navy Yard earlier this year, the hosannas poured in. The man has abundant talent. He recently opened Albi’s companion cafe and bakery, Yellow, which merges classic French technique with Middle Eastern flavors. Chef Gregory Baumgartner lords over an exceptional pastry program (think harissa- vegetable focaccia and baklava kouign-amann). Look for wood-roasted batata, twice-cooked eggplant, spring pea tabouli and summer melon fattoush. Everything here is built around carryout, so Washingtonians can leave grinning. 1346 Fourth St. SE, 202.921.9592,



Smokecraft Modern Barbecue owner Andrew Darneille had planned to open his Clarendon restaurant earlier this spring. Then, well, the world changed and so did the champion pitmaster’s strategy. The revamped plans include an expansive takeout menu or, when dining at the Arlington venue this month, seating to comply with social distancing guidelines. Executive sous chef William Burke specializes in everything from preserving and canning to low and slow barbecue. Laudable appetizers include smoked avocado deviled eggs and grilled peach and prosciutto crostini. Entrees to savor are St. Louis ribs, wagyu brisket, smoked spaghetti squash and applewood- smoked Chesapeake crabcakes. 1051 N. Highland St., Arlington, 571.312-8791,



Chef Matt Hill and partner Todd Salvadore, who both starred at Charlie Palmer Steak, are set to open Ruthie’s All Day in Arlington this month. Hill says the menu is heavily inspired by his grandmother’s Southern cuisine, so look for seasonal selects from local producers and dishes like grilled rockfish, Maryland blue crabs, tautog, white soy-braised greens and stewed chickpeas. Herbs will come from Hill’s South Arlington plot at a local community garden. Salvadore leads a beverage program featuring local producers. The historic space was once occupied by a chocolate factory and ice cream shop, and the team worked with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the National Park Service to preserve and enhance the building’s original design. 3411 Fifth St. S., Arlington,



While the new Kenyan spot Swahili Village now offers its entire menu as a takeout option, it also has carved out socially distanced spaces inside The Consulate on M Street. Launch the traditional-fare experience with dishes like bhajia (sliced potato, lightly fried in a seasoned lentil, bell pepper and cilantro batter) or Kenyan sausages. From there, we love slow-cooked kuku curry chicken and the maharagwe—red bean coconut stew. Above all, don’t miss the divine sides, especially mokimo (mashed peas, corn, potatoes and sauteed onions) and ndengu (lentils). 1990 M St. NW, 202.629.2353,

Photography by: From top, photo: by Leading DC; by Scott Suchman. All other photos courtesy of restaurants