Home Sea food Lively Spero Bar is coming soon with seafood-centric, wood-fired cuisine

Lively Spero Bar is coming soon with seafood-centric, wood-fired cuisine


Expect hyper-seasonal seafood from Bar Spero. Photo by Casey Robinson.

Chef Johnny Spero describes his restaurant with tasting menu in Georgetown as instrumental rock band Russian Circles: “It’s kind of like heavier, ambient guitar sounds.” By comparison, his next restaurant, Bar Spero, will be more like Philadelphia band Soul Glo – “loud as shit and pretty fast.”

“Daydreaming is a bit more subtle. I wanted Bar Spero to be the opposite, because that’s nice of me. I’m a bit of both,” says Spero. “I can be a bit buttoned up, but I’m usually a bit loud.”

The restaurant, which opens in the Capitol Crossing development in mid-to-late summer, is inspired by the fast, high-energy meals that Spero fell in love with while living in Spain’s Basque country. Bar Spero’s moniker mimics San Sebastian’s downtown restaurants – Bar Nestor, Bar Ricardo – named after their chefs.

Maine scallops dressed in olive oil aged in sherry casks, candied citrus fruits and nasturtium at Bar Spero. Photograph by Casey Robinson.

That’s not to say it’s a Spanish restaurant, although Spero’s cooking style and approach to sourcing quality ingredients is influenced by his experience in Spain and his work for the celebrity chef. Spanish José Andrés at the Minibar. What you’ll find is a seafood-focused menu with raw bar and wood-fired cooking.

“A lot of the focus is on finding the best seafood and that could mean it’s only for two weeks, like those little baby squids that we can find and then it’s off,” says Spero. “We work very closely with Maine fishermen. They might be able to send us a live spider crab or two every other day, and we’ll focus on that. »

You can also expect to find a rotating selection of oysters on the half shell (as well as roasted over coals), fresh sea urchins (when in season) and live Maine baby scallops dressed simply with olive oil. olive aged in a sherry cask. Spero doesn’t like to serve mussels in the shell (“that’s a weird thing of me”). Instead, he’ll finish plump shellfish over the hearth and serve them with guanciale, lardo, melted leeks, and creme brulee with part of the embers.

Grilled whole lobster from Bar Spero brushed with brown butter with a vinaigrette of tomalli (lobster tripe) and herbs. Photograph by Casey Robinson.

Other highlights include a whole grilled lobster and a whole roasted Spanish turbot, which Spero calls “THE greatest flatfish”. The latter will be served with a rich Basque-style pil-pil sauce (olive oil, garlic, chillies) accented with kombu and brightly colored herbs. Don’t like fish? Spero will be serving pork in a variety of preparations (loin on the bone one day, crispy-skinned belly the next) from fall olive farms in the Shenandoah Valley. For dessert: a Basque cheesecake transformed into an ice cream cake.

Bar Spero basque cheesecake ice cream cake
Basque cheesecake, but ice cream. Photograph by Casey Robinson.

The bar is the beating heart of the stylish 120-seat space, but with a bar menu meant to accentuate the food. The minimalist drinks menu will include European-centric wines, sherries and vermouths, as well as fine classic cocktails and regional draft beers. Spero doesn’t drink, so he’ll make sure to have non-alcoholic options as well.

“We want a crowded bar every night,” Spero says, “and the dining room kind of surrounds it.”

A rendering of the oak paneled bar at Bar Spero.

Bar Spero. 250 Massachusetts Ave., NW.

Jessica Sidman

food editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind DC’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian as of July 2016, she was a food editor and Young & Hungry columnist at the Washington City Paper. She is originally from Colorado and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.