Celeb-restaurateur Stephen Starr's D.C. takeover begins
Le Diplomate's Stephen Starr opens a splashy Mexican spot near Union Market today — part of a big D.C. expansion for the hospitality guru.
Why it matters: Starr is one of the hottest names in the biz, and if El Presidente and his next D.C. ventures are as popular as Le Dip and St. Anselm — watch out José Andrés, there's another mega-restaurateur in town.
What's happening: The palatial Mexican restaurant is outfitted with a velvety "theater room" for dining, has a bar area inspired by Mexico City social clubs, and a big patio.
- Dinner reservations are already edging into the "before-5, after-9" realm (and sold out for most September weekends) but they're taking walk-ins. Lunch and brunch start soon.
- In addition to original concepts, Starr aligns himself with fellow industry dynamos to build culinary powerhouses — a unique play in this fiercely independent industry. Take his partnership with Keith McNally (of Balthazar fame and infamy), with whom Starr reopened and expanded Meatpacking District legend Pastis. A new Pastis will open near Union Market.
- Ditto for Starr's partnership with LA-based Nancy Silverton, with whom he's creating "a mega Italian concept" in Georgetown's old Dean & DeLuca space based around Silverton's Hollywood institution, Osteria Mozza.
What's next: A rumored takeover of the Willard Hotel's restaurant overlooking the White House.
By the numbers: Decade-old Le Diplomate is D.C.'s second-highest-grossing independent restaurant, according to a survey last year from Restaurant Business, with annual sales above $21 million and more than 347,000 customers served.
What they're saying: Chef Matt Baker, who's opening a Mediterranean wine bar across from El Presidente, tells Axios there's Starr power wherever he's expanding.
- "If you see Stephen Starr taking a good chunk of [the neighborhood], I feel pretty good about it. We could live off his residuals."
On the menu: El Presidente blends favorites from Philly hot spot El Vez — strong margaritas, craveable fish tacos — with a fresh lineup of Mexico City-inspired fare.
- Diners can duck in for barbecue bacon tacos and crab guacamole, or make a night of it with Mexican-style seafood towers and a $120 tomahawk steak with guajillo demiglace and grilled marrow.
In your glass: Party drinks include shareable "Michelada service." Or, perhaps a bid for Le Diplomate regular Joe Biden, a rum-and-salted-grapefruit "Air Force Uno." What say you, El Presidente?
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