Nick Stefanelli opens a Greek wine, cocktail and gyro bar in downtown DC

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Kaimaki, a Greek wine and cocktail bar opens in DC. Photograph by Vina Sananikone

Midtown Center, a booming new development at northwest 15th and L streets, has become a foodie destination in recent months thanks to a flurry of restaurant and bar openings. In addition to the Dauphine hotspot in New Orleans, there’s clubby Japanese dining room Shoto; Little Chicken with its large fries buckets and drink pitchers; and three projects by Masseria Chef Nicholas Stefanelli. These include Italian cafe Officina, Greek tasting room Philotimo and now Kaimaki. The Greek wine and gyro bar opened on Thursday evening.

Eventually, Stefanelli plans to run Kaimaki all day, starting in the morning with a Greek coffee service that pays homage to the place’s name (“kaimaki” refers to the coffee’s frothy cap). But with the inconsistent traffic of downtown DC’s offices, Stefanelli’s focus is on two things that will reliably draw diners: booze and spit-roasted meat, served late (for downtown, that’s is 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends).

The bar channels the Mediterranean and has 37 covers, with an outdoor patio to come.

The glass-enclosed bar area, which seats about 37 people (there’s patio seating coming soon), channels a stony Mediterranean seascape. All the cooking happens a few steps away at Philotimo, which roasts pork on a spit for gyros and souvlaki over a wood fire. The sandwiches are made with homemade pita and tzatziki and stuffed with crispy fries. There are also snacks like Greek cheese and charcuterie boards, stuffed vine leaves and, if you’re feeling comfortable, savory loukoumades (fritters) topped with caviar.

To drink: Greek wine, and lots of it. Philotimo has a 4,000-bottle cellar, and explorers will find plenty of lesser-known Greek and Mediterranean wines here by the glass and bottle. Bartender Joseph Kocjan is behind the drinks – if your only knowledge of the Greek spirit is ouzo, try mastiha, a slightly nutty liqueur mixed into drinks like Medicane, with rum, fruit syrup and bubbles .

Kaimaki. 1100 15th St., NW.

food editor

Anna Spiegel covers the restaurant and bar scene in her native DC. Before joining Washingtonian in 2010, she completed the MFA program at the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in New York and St. John, in the US Virgin Islands.

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