Updated Nov 3, 2023 - Food and Drink

Hot fall food and drink pop-ups around D.C.

A woman eats a piece of cake behind a bar

Bake master Jill Nguyen is all about cake and cocktails. Photo courtesy of Capitol Jill Baking

A ton of fun fall restaurant and bar pop-ups are happening around D.C.

Why it matters: Compared to your average dining room, pop-ups and chef collabs bring a lot of energy and creativity to the table — and they're often a chance to try out an upcoming hotspot or rising star chef before they go big.

Flashback: Now-popular restaurants like quesabirria queen Taqueria Xochi started as a pop-up. Ghostburger did, too.

Cool pop-ups to try now: Smashburgers, cakes with booze...

🐇 Moon Rabbit: Chef Kevin Tien's shuttered French-Vietnamese restaurant lives on at Bryant Street Market in Edgewood. Guests can book tables for an oft-changing menu with hits like crawfish noodles and new fall dishes.

🍔 Mélange Burger: Chef Elias Taddesse revives his D.C. smashburger concept inside his Doro Soul Food takeout near Howard University. The former fine dining chef fashions milk bread buns, dry-aged beef patties, and 'shroom burgers in-house, but flavors are nostalgic (e.g. that Big Mac riff).

👻 Black Lagoon: You only have a few days left to try the Halloween pop-up bar, which takes over Trouble Bird in Navy Yard. Go for spooky cocktails, costumes, and themed fun like "astrology Tuesdays."

🎂 Cakes & cocktails: Capitol Jill Baking heads to Hill East Burger for an afternoon of cakes and booze on Saturday, Nov. 4 (3pm-5pm). On tap: drink specials, burgers, tarot readings, and specialty sweets including a Texas devil's food sheet cake with spicy chocolate buttercream and Vietnamese coffee mousse.

🧑‍🍳 Chef's Table: Centrolina chef Amy Brandwein's private dinner series continues in November with collaborative suppers highlighting talents like Katsuya Fukushima (Nov. 1) and Erik Bruner-Yang (Nov. 14).

And coming soon…

An onigiri rice ball
Garlic bread onigiri at Tonari Cafe. Photo courtesy of Vina Sananikone

🍘 Tonari Cafe: Daikaya Group next month is launching a coffee shop and daytime café inside their Japanese-Italian restaurant in Chinatown. On tap: Italian-style coffee service (hello, espresso + tonic), egg sandos, and fun onigiri (rice balls) like lamb ragu or a riff on garlic bread.

🥩 Chinese Prime Rib House: American-Chinese flavors meet chophouse swagger at chef Tim's Ma Any Day Now in Navy Yard, which is launching a regular series. Expect a family-style menu of five-spiced prime rib, mashed potatoes with Szechuan gravy, and many martinis ($80 tickets). This first one sold out quickly; look for another event, likely in December.

Between the lines: If you're a pop-up fan, there are a few usual suspects I like to follow on social media to be in the know about their next surprise feast.

🐯 Magpie and the Tiger: In addition to KBQ home feasts, the Korean-American cooking duo are pop-up masters (just look at this recent collab at pizza spot Boogy & Peel, which also hosts various chef friends).

  • The next event is Nov. 9 at Nido Market in Mt. Pleasant: an intimate dinner with Hana Makgeolli and an autumnal Korean feast (tickets $60-$165).

🇵🇸 Shababi: Chef Marcelle Afram's traveling Palestinian-American concept started during the pandemic, and they frequently host pop-up events and make meal deliveries in neighborhoods around D.C.

  • Their next pop-up is Nov. 8-10 at Hill East Burger (5-1opm, dine-in and takeout) for a Palestinian-inspired spin on burgers and fries. Yes to a musakhan-spiced fried chicken sando with "French onion" labneh, shredded iceberg and pickles.

🐦 Thirsty Crow: In addition to being a cool Malaysian American sports bar with a drink-friendly menu, the Columbia Heights spot hosts frequent pop-ups with industry friends.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add new pop-ups.

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