Red River Renamed

Posted April 13, 2005 at 4:18pm

The former Red River Grill officially has a new name: Union Pub. The revamped restaurant and bar, slated to open June 1, will trade in its old Tex-Mex theme for an American pub feel. [IMGCAP(1)]

Owner Matt Weiss has hired an executive chef to oversee the lunch, brunch and dinner menus, which will offer salads, paninis, burgers, homemade fries and reasonably priced entrées.

Weiss is hoping to bring back fans of Red River Grill while also attracting families from the neighborhood. The refurbished dining room will be nonsmoking in an effort to be more family friendly.

But that doesn’t mean Union Pub will eschew its bar roots. For the drinking crowd, there’ll be a menu of 15 or so specialty frozen drinks, 10 beers on tap and a dirt-cheap Wednesday Bud special.

Latin-Asian Trend (Finally) Hits D.C. Fusing Latin and Asian flavors has been a popular restaurant trend in the past few years, and D.C. is finally getting in on the action.

Mexican-born Chef Richard Sandoval is expected to open Zengo at 781 Seventh St. NW in September. Adamstein and Demetriou, the award-winning design team behind Zaytinya and IndeBleu, have been hired to design the 7,800-square-foot interior. The decor “will combine clean lines of Japanese design with South American vivaciousness,” according to a press release.

Look for dishes made for sharing like dim sum-inspired dumplings, ceviche and sushi. Main dishes, such as whole grouper with sweet and sour sauce and ancho chili dust, will marry Latin and Asian flavors.

Likewise, mojitos and sangria will share space with sake on the cocktail menu.

Sandoval owns six other restaurants, including the original Zengo in Denver.

Meanwhile, the owner of Grillfish and Logan Tavern is expected to open Merkado at 1443 P St. NW in the next few days. Billed as a Latin grill with Asian flavors, Merkado will feature wonton empanadas, Asian paella, Baja California rolls and make-your-own nachos.

No Pepsi, Coke! Chicago’s legendary Billy Goat Tavern, which was immortalized in the famous “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger” sketch on “Saturday Night Live,” is expected to open a branch in Washington this summer. The new spot, located at 500 New Jersey Ave. NW, will be the restaurant’s first location outside of Chicago.

The Billy Goat’s diner-style menu will offer burgers, egg sandwiches, grilled cheese and hot dogs.

On a historical note, when the Republican National Convention came to Chicago in 1944, the Billy Goat posted a sign saying, “No Republicans allowed,” according to the tavern’s Web site. Republicans proceeded to pack the diner in protest, demanding to be served. Considering the new location’s proximity to Capitol Hill, there probably won’t be any partisan preference.

Updates. Oya (777 Ninth St. NW) opened its doors at the end of March, unveiling its swanky interior and upscale menu of dishes inspired by Caribbean, African and Asian cuisine.

Creative offerings include lentil soup with plantain oxtail gnocchi; braised short ribs with vanilla pear purée; and, for dessert, mini pineapple baked Alaska.

The comfortable lounge area encompasses two intimate nooks and a bar covered in red leather. Breaking up the sea of white marble and white leather in the dining room are lines of flickering fire and sheets of flowing water in the walls.

On Capitol Hill, crowds are already flocking to The Old Siam (406 Eighth St. SE), which opened in mid-March. The family-run restaurant offers Thai staples like chicken satay, red and green curry, and pad Thai, along with crispy whole fish, stir-fried duck with chili and basil leaves, and a variety of vegetarian offerings.

In other restaurant news, Five Guys, the popular burger franchise, is opening a location at 1100 New Jersey Ave. SE, near the proposed site for the Nationals’ new stadium on South Capitol Street.

To Do List. Belga Café is hosting a beer tasting of Rodenbach ale this afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. The Belgian brewmaster will be on hand to discuss the taste, history and brewing of the sour red ale, which is being re-launched in the United States. The tasting may be a popular stop for crowds on the way to the Nationals’ home opener at RFK Stadium.

On Monday, head to the Mandarin Oriental for “Pinot and Pork,” a walk-around tasting featuring six pinot noir wines paired with pork dishes prepared by top chefs. The event, hosted by Kobrand from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., costs $65. Proceeds will benefit Slow Food USA, a nonprofit organization that celebrates regional food and wine traditions. For reservations and information, call (866) 562-7263.

Gourmet magazine Editor Ruth Reichl will be at Politics and Prose at 7 p.m. April 22 promoting her new book, “Garlic and Sapphires.”

In her third memoir, Reichl provides an inside look at her time spent as the restaurant critic for The New York Times, including details about the elaborate disguises and characters she created to conceal her identity.