Chinatown’s newest restaurant and bar Taffer’s Tavern opened its doors to an excited crowd the morning of September 1, 2022. The tavern-style bar and restaurant franchise is the brainchild of Jon Taffer, a hospitality expert who is most well known for his long-running TV series “Bar Rescue”, where he helps save struggling bars across the country with a “tough love” approach.
Unlike his “Bar Rescue” persona, Taffer was all smiles at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in D.C. and during my interview with him ahead of the opening. Taffer tells me that every single detail of the restaurant is intentional.
“We’ve worked very, very hard on this interior. This is not something that happens quickly. I’ve worked on this concept for five years perfecting every finish of the fabric, every color palette, the menu, the uniforming, the staffing, the pace; our video system and video walls are all curated video. We curated every minute of it.”
The space feels cozy, with sofas greeting you at the entrance, dim lighting and a mixture of comfy booth seating and table seating. It’s not meant to be a fine dining experience, but it’s inviting all the same. Its Chinatown location is perfect for families and folks wanting to grab some dinner and drink before a game or show at Capital One Arena, which is just steps away.
The menu at Taffer’s Tavern is filled with comfort food classics. Dig into a starter of the Tot Roast Fries, (tater tots topped with slow-cooked shredded beef, mushroom béchamel sauce and creamy cheese curds), an entree of Taffer’s Chicken & Waffles (crispy chicken breast and pearl sugar waffle tower with house-made orange bourbon syrup and golden corn fritters) or Jon’s Roast Beef Au Jus (roast beef with caramelized onions and Swiss cheese on toasted ciabatta, paired with au jus dipping sauce).
The drink menu hosts cocktails like The Cloud 9, a beautiful, citrus and vodka-based cocktail, served with a bubble of smoke on top, and a side of cotton candy for garnish. Or you can go all out and try a flight of the Tavern’s four most popular cocktails (at $20… this is a steal).
While perusing the menu, I was pleased to see that mumbo sauce was included as one of their chicken wing flavor offerings. Mumbo sauce is beloved to D.C. natives and transplants alike, and as a D.C. native myself, I was very impressed.
Taffer wanted to infuse the feeling of home with the D.C. market.
“When we put the concept together, we realized that locale is important,” he says. “Local beers, local spirits and wines are important. Local foods are important. It’s called respect. When you open a restaurant in Washington, D.C., you respect Washington D.C., and you respect the culinary tastes and habits of that market and you infuse them into the restaurant.”
Taffer’s Tavern is the kind of spot I’d take my parents and not my foodie friends. And, honestly? That’s okay by me.
Taffer’s Tavern is open every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.