Mt. Vernon Triangle isn’t the city’s busiest or most charming neighborhood. It’s most known as the home of the D.C. convention center and the Carnegie Library of Washington building. Other than that, it’s an area largely in transition, peppered with office buildings and hotels along with new construction and old buildings waiting for refurbishment.
Outside appearances aside, the neighborhood has some new and improved restaurants worth exploring. Here are a few to set your sights on.
465 K St., NW
This casual Italian newcomer comes from the chef behind Tico and The Riggsby, which have both become District favorites. The food at Alta Strada, which also has two locations in New England, is simple, fresh and approachable. It’s the place to go for traditional Italian fare like antipasto, pasta, thin pizzas, wine and cocktails. This isn’t stuffy food. The space feels airy and fun.
The menu is varied and prices are fair. You could easily have a modest meal of salad and pizza or splurge on a multi-course feast. Expect to pay $17 to $19 for a pasta like tagliatelle bolognese or spicy shrimp chitarra. Pizzas are around $15, and are best washed down with some house wine or a cocktail.
124 Blagden Alley, NW
Just north of Mt Vernon Square, you’ll find the relaunched Columbia Room. The high-class cocktail bar found its new home in January after closing down its old location due to impending construction. The space is organized into the spirits library, the seasonal punch garden and the reservations-only tasting room.
Drinks in the open-seating spirits library and the punch garden hover around $15, and you get what you pay for in atmosphere and quality. The Columbia Room, however, is obviously the main attraction. The $75 per person ticketed experience includes three cocktails and bar snacks. Guests can upgrade to a five-course tasting for another $25. There are other supplements to, like caviar, champagne or pastries.
425 I St., NW
Ottoman Taverna opened in early May and aims to be the standard-bearer for Turkish cuisine in D.C. The owner and chef are both from Istanbul, so you can bet the menu and recipes are most definitely traditional and well-tested. The vibe is a upscale, but dining here doesn’t have to blow the budget.
The food runs the gamut of the former Ottoman empire, drawing in from cultures like Greece, Turkey and North Africa. Familiar dishes like hummus, doner kebab and rice pilaf are all well-executed. Prices for entrees average in the mid-20s, and there’s also a selection of cold and hot mezze. Don’t skip on dessert either. If nothing else, a cup of strong Turkish coffee will ease the digestion process.
438 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Sixth Engine isn’t new – it opened in it’s refurbished firehouse location in 2012 – but it recently welcomed a new talent to the kitchen. Chef Kyle Bailey came on board earlier this year after a six years at Neighborhood Restaurant group properties, which include the popular Birch & Barley and Bluejacket restaurants.
The food at Sixth Engine aims is a mix of bar fare and seasonal American cooking. There’s bound to be homemade pasta on the menu, such as hand-cut tagliatelle with merguez sausage. There’s also steaks, salads, bar snacks like hush puppies and quesadillas and house-made charcuterie, which is one of Bailey’s signature items.
Along with the food, Sixth Engine features a large patio and a quality bar program with local beer and thoughtful cocktails.