Emerging Brands

Notable openings and closings: Kwame Onwuachi plots return to D.C.

A dark-and-moody seafood spot opens in San Francisco; Harry's takes its beef Wellington to Florida; and TikTok star Tue Nguyen lands a partnership with The H.wood Group in Los Angeles.
KoKo in Coconut Grove
The new KoKo in Coconut Grove has an indoor/outdoor vibe./Photo courtesy of KoKo.

By all accounts, Kwame Onwuachi’s Tatiana, which opened last year, has been a hit in New York City, and now the chef is plotting a return to Washington, D.C., where he once made national headlines with Kith & Kin and Shaw Bijou. Those D.C. concepts are now gone, but Onwuachi is planning a new restaurant later this year to be called Salamander Washington D.C., in partnership with Sheila Johnson’s Salamander Collection hotel.

Johnson and Onwuachi partnered on The Family Reunion, a culinary event that celebrates diversity in the industry, which is scheduled for Aug. 17-20 in Middleburg, Va., at the Salamander Resort. Johnson is also vice chair of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Washington Wizards, the Washington Capitals and the Washington Mystics.

No details yet on what the menu at Salamander restaurant might look like, but stay tuned.

Harry's South Beach

Harry's on Wall Street brings its classic menu to West Palm Beach. |Photo courtesy of Harry's.

Also expanding out of New York City is Harry’s on Wall Street, which has long been known for drawing in titans of capitalism for beef Wellington and pricey wines. It was founded by Harry Johnson, and the restaurant was mentioned in the novel “Bonfire of the Vanities” and the film “American Psycho.”

Now, like so many New Yorkers, Harry’s is going to Florida in its first (and only) expansion. Harry’s West Palm Beach was opened June 6 by Johnson’s son, Peter, with a menu developed by Executive Chef Joseph Mallol, who led Harry’s New York for 15 years. Ivan Mitankin, the manager in New York, will oversee service and the wine list at the new location.

Carlotto's

Carlotto in New York features a classic red sauce menu.|Photo courtesy of Carlotto.

Meanwhile, back in New York City, the Canada-based Toptable Group in April opened its second U.S. venue. The new Carlotto opened next door to sister restaurant Oceans, a seafood concept by Toptable that opened four years ago. Carlotto will feature house-made pastas and larger dishes like branzino and veal parmesan. The restaurant is led by executive chef Andy Kitko, who opened Oceans and has cooked at restaurants like Café Boulud, Aqua in San Francisco, and Stephen Starr’s Butcher & Singer in Philadelphia.

Grace By Mia

Grace by Nia features dining, cocktails, brunch and music.|Photo courtesy of Mofliks.

On the Boston Seaport, Grace by Nia opened in May as a modern-day Supper Club with a soul-infused menu. It’s a live music venue by local restaurateur Nia Grace (Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, The Underground Café) with a vibrant cocktail lounge and dining room, featuring dishes like gumbo ceviche; green tomato salad; Maryland hot crab dip; country fried chicken and carrot cake waffles. It’s a partnership with Boston-based Big Night Entertainment Group (Empire, Mystique, The Scorpion Bar and more).

On the West Coast, Los Angeles-based The H.wood Group plans to partner with chef and social media personality Tue Nguyen to open the restaurant DiDi, which is slated to open July 15. Nguyen is known for TikToks on cooking Vietnamese food, as well as hosting pop-up events that typically sell out. She shares a bit about her journey here.

Celebrity feeder H.wood Group is known for the concepts Delilah and The Nice Guy, as well as Bootsy Bellows and Harriet’s. The group has 11 restaurants in Los Angeles, another three across the country, and six on deck.

Elsewhere in Los Angeles, the tapas concept La Lo La Rooftop opened on June 1 on the 34th floor of the AC Hotel Downtown LA. There’s live music and a DJ, and spectacular views of the city and beyond. With their cocktails, guests can snack on skirt steak skewers with chimichurri, patatas bravas or churros.

Foxhall

Steaks and other meats are the attraction at Foxhall Steakhouse.|Photo courtesy of Shay Talbi.

LA’s West Hollywood neighborhood saw the opening of Foxhall Steakhouse in May, from the same group known for HRB Sushi and Carerra Café. Executive Chef Marni Sandico is serving up pepper-crusted wagyu steaks, flatbread pizzas and Parmesan-crusted halibut.

Aphotic San Francisco

Aphotic is going for dark and moody.|Photo courtesy of Aphotic.

Catching up with an opening in late March, San Francisco chef Peter Hemsley opened Aphotic there, a concept that promises to “shed light on the dark.”

In a bit of a metaphor stretch, the “dark,” in this case, refers to the deep sea where little sunlight penetrates but underutilized fish abound. Aphotic sources directly from aquaculture practitioners and traditional fishermen. On the opening menu, for example, is crudo made with rockfish caught in Bodega Bay by practitioners of Ikejime, a traditional Japanese fishing method. The restaurant’s interior is dark and moody and the bar program includes house-distilled spirits using foraged local botanicals.

Saaya restaurant

Saaya is the newest from multi-concept operator Milkshake Concepts.|Photo courtesy of Saaya.

In Texas, the Dallas-based (and prolific) Milkshake Concepts on June 2 debuted the new Saaya, a Mediterranean restaurant and lounge serving mezze-style small plates, like shawarma, kebabs and Lebanese pizzas known as Manakeesh. There will also be live entertainment, karaoke pods and tableside hookah service.

Crown Block Dallas

Kim Canteenwalla and Elizabeth Blau in the clouds at Crown Block.|Photo courtesy of Bill Milne.

Las Vegas operators Elizabeth Blau and Kim Canteenwalla have ventured down to Dallas where they opened the new Crown Block in late April in the big ball on top of Reunion Tower. Described as a modern steakhouse that “embraces all things grilled” —from a wagyu striploin to a dry-aged porterhouse—Crown Block also has plates like Sticky Iberico Ribs with pickled Fresno chilies and bacon popcorn; an expansive seafood bar and a jazzed-up roasted cauliflower.

Bun B

Rapper Bun B is behind this smashburger concept.|Photo courtesy of Dylan McEwan.

In Houston, the pop-up concept Bun B’s Trill Burgers on June 7th finally opened its long-awaited brick-and-mortar restaurant, though it’s a temporary home. The smashburger concept was co-created by the rapper Bun B with co-founders Andy Nguyen and Nick Scurfield, and chefs Mike Pham and Fernando Valladares. The concept will live in this location until a permanent home is found in the Houston area.

Decade restaurant

Decade's porchetta and charred fennel.|Photo courtesy of Tim Furnish.

The new Decade Restaurant, which opened June 6 in Louisville, Ky., is not so much a new concept as a reincarnation of the restaurant Decca, which closed in 2022. Chad Sheffield, who was one of Decca’s owners, has partnered with former Decca chefs Matt Johnson (Bar Vetti, Proof on Main) and Andy Myers (Gralehaus, The Holy Grale).

The opening menu included dishes like mushrooms in black garlic sauce with nuts and tendrils; Porchetta with charred fennel, honey and watercress; and jalapeno bucatini with rock shrimp, celery-and-herb salad and squid ink breadcrumbs.

In Asheville, N.C., the team behind Little Louie’s hoagies and pierogies joint opened the new Regina’s in early June. Owners Elliott Moss and Michael Piroli are going for a nostalgic Southern-food menu at Regina’s with dishes like Deviled Crab Hushpuppies with Remoulade; Tomato Glazed Meatloaf; or Baked Ricotta Gnocchi & Cheese. The tchotchke-stuffed space is described as “grandma chic,” and there’s a reservation-only bar area opening later this summer that will be called Regina’s Rumpus Room.

Regatta Grove

A rendering of the new Regatta Grove in Coconut Grove.|Rendering courtesy of Breakwater Hospitality Group.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Breakwater Hospitality Group is scheduled to open the new Regatta Grove on Biscayne Bay on June 22. Located in the new Regatta Harbour development in Coconut Grove, the nautical-themed space will include three large bars and outlets from several acclaimed local chefs, including:

  • JJ’s (Guilty Pleasures) by “Top Chef” star Jeremy Ford, which will feature dishes that Ford and his mother would splurge on together, like a soft-shell-crab burger and truffle fries. Ford is known for his high-end concept Stubborn Seed.
  • Chef Jose Mendin is bringing The Piefather, a pizza and Italian concept.
  • Another “Top Chef” alum Janine Booth will do Sunny Side Aussie Bites + Ice featuring Aussie pies, sausage rolls and empanadas, as well as avocado toast, salads and frozen treats.
  • House of Birds and Drop Biscuits are two outlets by chef Kenny Gilbert (yes, also on “Top Chef”). House of Birds will feature fried chicken and Drop Biscuits will be all about sandwiches, salads and sides.
  • Tackle Box by chef Jeff McInnis will include a seafood menu, from local fish tail sliders to stone crab and caviar.

KoKo restaurant Florida

KoKo's cocktail flight.|Photo courtesy of KoKo.

Also in Coconut Grove comes the pretty new Mexican spot KoKo, created by Grupo Bakan, the team behind the restaurants Bakan and Talavera Cocina Mexicana in Miami and Bakan in Madrid). KoKo taps themes from “pre-Hispanic Mexico,” including Nixtamal cooking of tortillas in house using organic corn from Oaxaca, a wood-fired grill and rotisserie and mezcal pairings. The bar has more than 400 mezcals and tequilas.

CLOSINGS

Planet Hollywood Restaurant in Las Vegas reportedly closed in May after 30 years. The restaurant was owned by industry veteran Robert Earl, whose Earl Enterprises also operates multiple concepts, including Buca di Beppo, Bertucci’s and the Earl of Sandwich, and he founded the virtual brand-focused Virtual Dining Concepts.

The Los Angeles restaurant Animal is scheduled to close permanently this month. June 17th is the last night of service. Owners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo first made their splash in LA with this meat-focused restaurant 15 years ago, but have grown their group to include Son of a Gun, Jon & Vinny’s, Helen’s Wines and Cookbook Market.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s first West Coast venture at the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills closed in May after a six-year run. The restaurant was to be converted to a new concept called Espelette.

 

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