Spanish chef Rubén García’s anticipated flagship restaurant and tapas bar brings the downtown corridor a lively new destination for live-fire cooking. Casa Teresa is the first solo venture for the José Andrés Group vet of 16 years, who got avant-garde Minibar its pair of Michelin stars along the way.
Casa Teresa anchors the Square, downtown’s ambitious new food market spearheaded by García and fellow Andrés alum Richie Brandenburg (1850 K Street NW). For his breakout debut, the Catalán chef goes back in time to revive ancestral recipes of the culinary matriarchs he grew up around in Terrassa, Spain. Casa Teresa celebrates time-honored cooking traditions of Basque Country and Catalonia with family-style feasts of whole fish and pass-the-plate grilled meats like a 16-ounce bone-in Roseda Farm ribeye cooked open flames and oak charcoal.
“There’s no better way to go back to my roots than go back to the most basic style of cooking, which is fire,” the Catalán chef told Eater.
The homey hearth also carves out room to simply prepare local vegetables over the embers. Highlights include grilled artichoke with romesco sauce; slow-cooked potatoes finished with beef fat, parsley, and garlic; and roasted eggplants, onions, and red peppers with escalivada dressing. A Jamón Ibérico cart dedicated to live carvings of Spain’s prized pig joins a selection of imported cheeses like Manchego and slow-cooked stews sparked by old family recipes.
Opening hours are Monday to Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Book a table via OpenTable.
Starters and sides that remind him of home include salt-cured anchovies from the Cantabrian sea, croquetas mimicking his mom’s creamy chicken and bechamel fritters, and beef fat-fried potatoes like his aunt Chavela used to make. Four types of salsas engineered with olive oil make multiple appearances from start to finish.
Desserts include goat cheese burnt Basque-style cheesecake with walnuts and lemon sorbet with a Cava float.
A 95-seat, terracotta-toned dining room designed by award-winning Barcelona firm El Equipo Creativo conjures memories of his upbringing. “The heart of the house is the kitchen — it heats the house in winter and is where the family stands around and stories are shared,” he says.
As such, a big open kitchen in the center of Casa Teresa carves out room for an intimate, 12-seat “Teresa’s Table” that encourages chatty chef-guest interactions over tastings.
A four-course tasting option ($105) takes diners on a trip to his homeland, complete with theatrical intermissions like cava poured from a porrón. A neutral-toned private dining nook framed with wine seats 18 guests.
Casa Teresa’s full-service central bar with room for 32 goes big on Spanish vermouth, gins, sherry, and red wines. Highlights from bar director Owen Thompson include a Bandarra Vermouth and sour orange soda and Tarragona Manhattan with rye, BCN Vermut, Yellow Chartreuse, and Antostura.
An abundant bottle list from wine director Sarah Vanags romps around all corners of Spain, with a particular emphasis on women-owned wineries.
Casa Teresa is named for his great grandmother Teresa Espinosa Moreno — a female and labor rights activist during a tumultuous time for Spain when dictator Francisco Franco took power in 1939.
“To put her name on the entrance comes with a big responsibility. We are still having to fight for equality for everyone [today],” he says.
He plans to use his deeply personal project as a platform to support female wine producers and farms. Look for locally sourced beef, poultry, and vegetables, plus a dry-aging program in-house.
After spending five years at Catalonia’s three-Michelin-starred modernist marvel El Bulli, García met fellow El Bulli alum Andrés and took his career to the U.S. As creative director of Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup (now José Andrés Group), García helped build up its coast-to-coast restaurant empire before leaving in early 2020 to pursue his own endeavor.
García and Unfold Hospitality partner Brandenburg are currently filling out the surrounding Square food hall with 16 vendors that include tacos (Taqueria Xochi), top-rated sushi, an oyster bar and cafe from D.C. industry vets Ann Cashion and Johnny Fulchino, a Peruvian pad from Causa chef Carlos Delgado, and multiple Spanish stalls.