First Look: Tico Now Open on 14th Street NW

June 9, 2014
by Rina Rapuano

Boston-based chef-restaurateur Michael Schlow opened an outpost of his popular Boston restaurant, Tico, in the Louis Development on 14th Street NW over the weekend. "Tico," which is said to be slang for a "local" in Costa Rica, has been described as an American restaurant influenced by Schlow’s travels to Spain, Mexico and Latin America. The chef counts many TV appearances and awards among his achievements, including a James Beard Award for Best Chef - Northeast, and Tico Boston was named one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America in 2011. 

You can learn more about Schlow and Tico from this story we ran about a month ago. Back then, he told us that the opening dishes, which will differ greatly from those on the menu in Boston, would likely include crispy soft-shell crab with avocado and aji picante; baby string bean and fava bean salad with queso fresco, chiles de arbol and lime; kingfish ceviche with grapefruit, fennel and mint; and fresh peas with bacon, lemon zest, smoked paprika and a soft-cooked egg.

Schlow isn't like some of carpetbagger chefs who are only just now realizing that DC's culinary scene has been growing by leaps and bounds. He has history here, having spent a lot of time in DC as a child and later working with one of the most influential chefs ever to hit DC, the late Jean-Louis Palladin. When asked what he's most excited about with this expansion into DC, he said, "The list is long, but I would say the most exciting elements are getting to come back to DC, where I spent so much time when I was younger, and to create something that people will really enjoy and to become part of a very special restaurant community."

Tico DC is currently taking limited reservations for this week via phone and will begin accepting reservations through OpenTable in the coming weeks.

The restaurant is now open for dinner from 4 PM-12 AM Sunday through Thursday and 4 PM-2 AM Friday and Saturday, with lunch, brunch and happy hour soon to follow. Take a look at some of the highlights, below.

1926 14th St. NW; 202-319-1400

The 45-item menu is designed for sharing and showcases ceviches, tacos, seasonal small plates, a la plancha items and entrées. We're looking forward to trying the “Can’t Decide” menu, which must be ordered by the whole table and brings a multi-course chef's choice meal. It ranges from “Kind of Hungry” at $35 per person to “Forgot Lunch” at $55 per person to the “Full-on Tico Experience” at $85 per person. The 150-seat restaurant features a 15-seat bar and a seven-seat ceviche bar that peeks into the open kitchen.

"I am lucky that my chef from Boston, George Rodrigues, wanted to move to DC, so I have great comfort with him manning the kitchen here," Schlow told us. Rodrigues (pictured) will work with Schlow to incorporate seasonal ingredients and offer such dishes as fried Chesapeake oysters with Old Bay-spiked romesco and a blue crab taco with bacon, lettuce, pico, tomato and saffron. A few signature dishes, such as crispy Manchego with spicy pomegranate-honey sauce and housemade morcilla with piquillo peppers, pickled onions and a mustard vinaigrette, will also make an appearance on the DC menu.

Elkus Manfredi Architects of Boston and local design firm StreetSense collaborated with Schlow to create "a rustic space that reflects the casual yet imaginative spirit of Tico," according to the press release. Adrienne Schlow, an artist and Schlow's wife, contributed some of the mixed-media art and paintings found throughout the space, and a few of the chef-owner's framed photos from his travels to Spain grace the walls. 

When asked about the differences between the DC and Boston Ticos, Schlow said last month, "The decor is a little different; my wife, Adrienne, helped with a lot of the artistic elements that make for the differences. She worked hard on making the aesthetics just right, and I couldn't be happier with the look. I think we learned a lot over the past years and made subtle changes on design as we hopefully continue to improve."

Director of operations Steve Uhr, who spent time at Le Diplomate and Mike Isabella's restaurants, presides over a beverage program that features more than 140 tequilas and mezcals, local and Latin beers and a cocktail list with a focus on small-batch spirits. Schlow admits to having a fondness for good tequila: "I have many [favorites]: Milagro Silver Reserva, Don Julio, Casa Dragones, La Famiglia 1942, the list goes on and on." Among the beers is an exclusive collaboration brew made with DC Brau, for which Citizen beer was aged for two months in añejo barrels from Avión Tequila

Up for a challenge? If you can drink 88 different tequilas within eight months, you'll earn a membership to Tico’s Tequila Club, which brings invitations to tastings, dinners and other gifts. The wine list will feature varietals exclusively from North America, South America and Spain. (Schlow told us that "France, Italy, Germany, etc., are not represented, but we will have a celebratory Champagne or two, just in case.")

michael schlow
mexican food
14th st nw
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