Words By Logan Hollers, Photos By Nicholas Karlin
The D.C. dining crowd loves new things. The pintxos and cider at ANXO are new things. The D.C. dining crowd also loves good things. The pintxos and cider at ANXO are very, very good. This is a good combination.
First things first: ANXO is a Basque restaurant. The Basque country is famous for their pintxos, which are similar to tapas but are frequently pierced with a toothpick onto bread. (Hence the name – “pintxo” literally translates to “thorn” or “spike.”) Pintxos are a social food, meant to be enjoyed with friends while drinking. Drinking what, you ask? Cider.
ANXO has an unparalleled collection of ciders. They have over 20 ciders on draft (the largest collection in the U.S. of ciders on draft, no big deal). They make their own ciders, using apples from across the D.C. area. They have a network of friends and family with their own apple trees, they’re in the process of adopting apple trees in D.C., and they recently started a crowdsourcing project through which people can send the restaurant pictures of apple trees they find around D.C. that could be used for cider. They’ve won national awards for their proprietary cider blends. It’s the first ever licensed winery in D.C. They use a 660-gallon wood barrel to ferment ciders in-house. The team is obsessed with cider.
Whether you’re looking for tart and funky, sour and vinous, or bold and tannic, ANXO has a cider that fits the bill. Those ciders all pair well with the pintxos and larger dishes from Chef/Owner Alex Vallcorba.
ANXO fills numerous niches. Looking for a few glasses of a booze you probably don’t know much about? Stop in, drink, and learn. Looking for a quick bite that pairs well with delicious drinks? Stop in, drink, eat some pintxos, and learn. Looking for a full Basque meal? Stop in, put your name down, drink, snack on some pintxos and learn while you wait for your table.
ANXO has two levels, with a bar on each. The first floor is more cider and pintxos-focused – laid out across the bar is a smorgasbord of authentic pintxos. Pick what looks good and the bartender will plate you up bites and recommend the a cider pairing. The second floor is more of a traditional restaurant. Larger plates of Basque cuisine are available to pair with the ciders. Again, this team is obsessed with cider.
Big or small, the food packs huge flavor into small bites. ANXO’s pintxos are fresh, showcasing Chef Vallcorba’s admiration for the natural nature of the ingredients. Traditional options include some of the biggest, sweetest mussels you’ll find in D.C., topped with diced peppers, olive oil, and vinegar; salt cod fritters, crunchy outside and fluffy within; a bracingly refreshing gazpacho; and an escalivada montadito, which combines roasted eggplant, a sweet baby pepper, and a marinated anchovy that’ll convince you you’ve loved anchovies all along.
Chef Vallcorba’s large-format dishes also slay. Think vegetable broth with a soft-poached egg and peas that are the platonic ideal of peas, crunchy and sweet; cider-poached octopus, impossibly tender, with saffron mashed potatoes; fried pig ears, simultaneously crunchy, fatty, and gelatinous (perfect drinking food), with a vinegar-laced pocha bean salad; and juicy roasted quail with crispy Serrano ham and artichokes, which should honestly just be on the menu as “You Have to Order This.”
The Truxton Circle building is gorgeous and has been vacant for the last 60 years or so. The space looks both retro and modern while preserving the exposed brick and wooden beams of the original structure. Even better: hooks and outlets (with USBs!) under every single bar seat.
D.C. has never had a legit cidery. D.C. has never had a traditional Basque restaurant serving pintxos. Now D.C. has both.
ANXO Cidery and Pintxos Bar is located at 300 Florida Ave NW and opens to the public on Wednesday, July 13.