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The sixth edition of New Kitchens on the Block accomplished what the first five did as well. It was a very good way to spend two hours on a Sunday afternoon and an extremely useful guide for food coverage on this site for the next six months.

The twice annual Mess Hall event features 10 or so upcoming restaurants and food concepts before they’re open to the public. From fine dining to fast casual, there’s always something that piques our interest. In years past it was RASA well before they opened in Navy Yard. Earlier this year it was Emilie’s. We finally had a chance to check out Emilie’s because Emilie’s is finally open. The event feels tailor made for food journalists and ‘insiders,’ whatever that means.

This year the three places that piqued our interest range from pop-up status to morning carbs to destination dining.

Bubbie’s Plant Burgers & Fizz served one of the best not-chicken chicken sandwiches I’ve enjoyed in D.C. Their version is nearly as good as veteran vegan restaurant NuVegan Café. The Bubbie’s version can be found in Rock & Roll Hotel. They’re currently opening there as a pop-up on weekends. There’s now a good reason to get to the H Street venue early on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Pearl’s Bagels served the only food I pocketed for later (NKOTB isn’t the type of event where patrons are encouraged to take home food but I did it with less than 15 minutes left in the event and little bagels are really easy to put in a napkin and into your pocket). The soon-to-open bagel shop in Shaw will give Call Your Mother a run for their money. The three sandwiches served and the undressed bagels are on par with the incredibly successful Park View shop. Every neighborhood deserves a place like Call Your Mother and Shaw is lucky Pearl’s will be theirs.

The worst part about this edition of NKOTB was the weather. For an event that’s partially outdoors (one of the two rooms is in a loading dock so it’s relatively safe from the elements but the temperature is obviously affected), it’s unfortunate. It was raining. It rained all day. It was cold and rainy but one dish benefited from the circumstances. The canoa de bacalo, fried sweet plaintain canoe filled with house-salted cod, stewed in a tomato sofrito-infused broth from La Famosa was well suited for the rain. I’ll be looking out for them next spring when they’re hoping to open in Navy Yard.

Here’s hoping the next edition is drier. Even if it’s just as wet, we’ll still be there. Rain can’t ruin this series.

For more on New Kitchens on the Block and Mess Hall, listen to our most recent episode of BYT Radio with Mess Hall’s Al Goldberg:

Photos courtesy of New Kitchens On The Block/Albert Ting

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