The Spanish chef credited for popularizing tapas in the 1990s popularized himself in 2011. D.C.’s most visible cook won the James Beard Award this past spring; his culinary talents confirmed, Andrés has seized the spotlight. One minute he’s lecturing at Harvard University. The next, he’s on Conan O’Brien talking to coconuts. Andrés’ cranked-up, kooky-cook act made virtually every morning and late-night talk show. In the most telling sign of his cultural significance, he was mocked on The Simpsons.
If Andrés is worried about overexposure, it doesn’t show. Jaleo, his pioneering tapas spot, is getting a makeover. His six-seat Minibar, arguably the toughest reservation in town, will be expanding. He plans to open his first restaurant outside the continental U.S. at a Ritz-Carlton resort in Puerto Rico, and is also launching his own food truck in Miami (trends colliding!).
In his most daring move, Andres closed Café Atlántico in July to make way for a new, but supposedly temporary, concept: America Eats Tavern, an edible counterpart to a National Archives exhibit on the government’s role in food history. The level of hype attached to this fancy European take on traditional American recipes was matched only by its prices: $3 homemade ketchup, a $10 (later reduced to $8) peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and $28 deconstructed clam chowder. While certainly not the District’s most sensible dining option, it was easily the cleverest method of shuttering an underperforming restaurant—while simultaneously setting up what could prove to be the most lucrative tourist trap in town.