A cluster of noteworthy restaurants and bars opened their doors within the space of the week. Some were in the works pre-pandemic, others are a direct result of the past year's upside-down dining culture. Pho Bac secured a new downtown location (with its first banh mi program) because owners and sisters Yenvy and Quynh Pham like to drink at Le Caviste, and owner David Butler tipped them off to an available space next door. These four spots have disparate origin stories, but together they ensure both lunch and cocktail hour just got a lot brighter.
Let the ribbon-cutting ceremony with a cameo from the mayor serve as a reminder: The restaurant’s return to the Central District is a big deal. The new location at 23rd and Jackson has seen some serious lines since its debut on Juneteenth. In this corner space with its cheerful yellow logo and stools to match, owner Terrell Jackson is carrying on the legacy of his grandparents, who ran the original Catfish Corner at 23rd and Cherry for 25 years. Jackson ran a few short-term versions of Catfish Corner farther south. Now his permanent home, less than a mile from his grandparents’ original, serves that familiar lineup of cornmeal-dusted catfish, hush puppies, shrimp, greens, gumbo, and the Ohbama burger. Check Instagram before you go; food has been selling out fast. Central District
Don’t call it a tiki bar. The team behind Rumba decided to drop that word from its vocabulary as it readies an otherworldly watering hole, which you can only access by going through Rumba itself. Instead, Inside Passage looked to Pacific Northwest waterways for inspiration. Dramatic installations surround the 40-seat space, with a tentacled sea creature swooping overhead to give you the impression you’re drinking exacting rum cocktails at the bottom of the sea. Inside Passage opens Friday, June 25, and between the minimal seats, the no-reservations policy, and the Covid restrictions, you might want to brace yourself for a (worthwhile) wait. Capitol Hill
Jordan Koplowitz and Caleb Hoffmann are the first members of 2020’s class of sourdough-loving pizza popups to edge into a brick-and-mortar space. Blotto began as a Broadway Alley popup and now occupies the former Chungee’s space on 12th Avenue. Request pizza via phone or walkup orders (no preorders); the rest of the space functions as a corner market. The quartet of pies rotates often. Blotto has a handful of seats for dine-in and makes pizza Thursday through Saturday, so organize your day accordingly. Capitol Hill
The upstairs cocktail bar isn’t in the mix just yet, but family behind Seattle’s original pho shop just added a new location at 1923 Seventh Avenue, near Westlake. The pho lineup (including dry noodles) will surely look familiar, but this Pho Bac also does banh mi. Housemade baguettes come stuffed with salted egg meatballs, tofu, or pork roasted in a banana leaf infused with pho fat, then garnished with pineapple fish sauce. Hours are 10 to 4. Denny Regrade