To say Capital Teas’ founders, Manelle and Peter Martino, know tea might be a bit of an understatement. Fifth-generation tea merchant Manelle’s great-great-grandfather, Francis Van Reyk, was a Dutch tea planter who immigrated in the 1870s to present-day Sri Lanka, where he planted and managed the Diyagama Tea Estate, from which the Martinos now source their Great Grandfather’s tea. Manelle’s family has been in the tea trade ever since, a tradition she has carried to her own specialty tea business, which has boutique locations throughout the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland area. Additionally, Peter has become a popular speaker at World Tea Expos, where he frequently educates and inspires the tea world.
In addition to tea from Sri Lanka, Capital Teas carries more than 200 loose teas and herbal infusions from 18 countries including India, China, Japan, Malawi, and Kenya. A sniffing wall dispenses wafts of black, oolong, and green teas, and knowledgeable employees drift around the store’s tasting stations to explain each flavor’s nuances.
Capital Teas also pairs customers with accompaniments such as teapots, infusers, treats, and artisanal honey. In-store patrons may sample free tea samples—which are brewed fresh daily—while online purchasers receive a free sample with every order.
Even though Portuguese explorers couldn't pronounce the Swahili name for the African bird's eye chili—pili-pili—the sailors fully embraced its flavor shortly after landing in the region known today as Mozambique. Intrigued by the small, fiery pepper, they combined it with aromatic doses of herbs, garlic, and lemon to create the first peri-peri sauce. That sauce eventually became a wildly popular marinade for poultry, and the tasty concoction made its way to South Africa over the next several centuries. There, in 1987, two friends decided to honor this culinary legacy by founding the first Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant. The eatery continued to remain true to its South African roots, even while expanding to encompass locations in 24 countries across four continents.
Beginning with fresh chickens that never see the inside of a kitchen freezer, the chefs furtively marinate the birds in a secret peri-peri sauce for 24 hours before grilling them over an open flame. Diners dictate the heat level of their order, requesting that the grilled chicken arrive relatively mild or that wings be slathered with even more incendiary spices. The succulent chicken can be plated with hearty side dishes—such as Portuguese-style rice with herbs and peppers or peas with mint—or served in the form of a sandwich, wrap, or pita. To complement the menus' African flavors, Nando's worldwide locations collectively feature more than 4,000 pieces of African artwork.
In the dead of night in 1976, the Abi-Najm family boarded a cargo ship bringing only what they could carry; an escape from Civil War in Lebanon called for a quick getaway. They traveled across the ocean to safety in Arlington, Virginia, where they were able to open a small cafe in 1979. To save money, they changed the eatery’s name from “Athenian Taverna” to “Lebanese Taverna” so that they only had to update one word on the eatery’s marquee.
From these modest beginnings grew a series of eateries that today comprises of six cafes and four quick-service cafés, all still operated by the Abi-Najm clan. One look at the menu explains the success: chicken shawarma, spicy hummus, lamb tartare—all Lebanese staples that helped the restaurant earn a spot on Northern Virginia magazine's list of 25 Iconic Eats. There's even kibbeh, or stuffed meatballs, which blend ground beef, lamb, almonds, and pine nuts into fried spheres suitable for felling miniature bowling pins on top of the table before entrees arrive. The decor is as striking as the cuisine; inside the Bethesda location, light filters through the colored glass lanterns that decorate the dining room.
Crush Kitchen & Winehouse
In addition to its elegant, warmly decorated lounge and hand-selected stock of wine, Crush Kitchen doubles as an intimate gathering place—a place that lets groups connect over small plates and test pairing tips doled out by knowledgeable servers. The wine list features premium, uncommon wines crafted by small producers from around the world, and wine-tasting events give patrons a chance to learn about pinot noir or American varietals from wine experts. Crush also makes all of its breads, dressings, desserts, and soups in-house everyday, and daily specials encourage patrons to try out new dishes.
Slate Wine Bar + Bistro Slate Wine Bar + Bistro, carries on the family tradition of pouring fine wines in welcoming surroundings. A carefully curated selection of bottles—with an emphasis placed on wines—pairs with brunch, lunch, and dinner menus of New American cuisine. The wait staff offers insight so guests can perfectly match their meals of pan-seared duck breast with a red wine cherry sauce, grass-fed burgers, or seasonal risotto, and wine experts provide in-depth information in curated tasting events.
Chefs use grass-fed beef, cage-free chicken, and steroid-free pulled pork that hail from sustainable sources to craft a bounty of tortilla-wrapped treats that take their names from the likes of Caddyshack, Fletch, and Seinfeld. It's this dual mindset of serious food and irreverent attitude that tinges every one of the eatery's southwestern morsels, from the Art Vandalay burrito to the John Coctostan quesadilla. As the kitchen staff crafts their daily batch of guacamole to join the lineup of six zesty salsas, diners choose from a list of more than 20 ingredients to fill out the entree that will soon be conjured before their eyes. Because dishes are made to order, each finds easy customization for vegetarian, gluten free, and low-calorie diets, and the absence of microwaves, trans-fats, and MSG keep eats wholesome. Meanwhile, a complimentary accompaniment of chips and salsa turns portions into full meals faster than an industry-grade blow-up ray.
Luna Blu’s walls showcase hand-painted murals of an idyllic Naples coastline, its cerulean hues echoing the dining room’s candles and blue glass accents. While the decor evokes the Italian landscape, the cuisine barrels straight into authenticity. Owner and executive chef Erin Dryden peppers the pasta dishes and stews with fresh seafood, just as cooks in Naples might fill their entrees with fish from the Tyrrhenian Sea. Additionally, sweet Italian sausage or artichoke hearts mingle with colorful cheese tortellini, and an ample wine list complements entrees.