A love affair at law school led to DC’s new wine bistro

Photograph by Ian and Mika Carlin.

Mika and Ian Carlin fell in love when they were law students at the University of Virginia. This is also where they fell in love with Virginia wine. After graduating a few years ago, they both started working in wine and restaurant services in addition to their legal careers – Ian at a large corporate law firm, Mika more recently for a organization helping immigrant children. Then, in the midst of the pandemic, they decided to quit their day job completely to pursue their passion. Mika worked as a manager at Fancy Radish and beverage director at Sonny’s Pizza, while Ian was a sommelier at Masseria and a waiter at Oyster Oyster. Now they’re taking it a step further and opening their own wine bistro, Irregardless, on H Street, Northeast in September.

The 50-seat dining room will serve a six-course tasting menu — likely for $80 to $85 — “more on the casual side, the flavor rather than the bustle,” Ian says. A vegetarian version of the menu will also be available (Mika is vegetarian). The same will be true for food and wine pairings, including one dedicated exclusively to Virginia labels. A la carte dishes will only be served at the 12-seat bar.

“We love neo-bistros in Paris that usually offer tasting menus, but in a very casual, very fun way, with an emphasis on fantastic local ingredients,” says Mika. “We want to take that concept to a DC-centric restaurant.”

The Pugs brought on chef Ben Browning, who recently worked at Mintwood Place and whose resume includes Daikaya, Maydan, Obelisk and Reveler’s Hour. Its tasting menu will include homemade pastas and breads as well as plates showcasing all local, seasonal ingredients using French and Japanese cooking techniques. At the bar, you might find Virginia cheese and charcuterie, snacks, and larger plates.

The drink list will include lesser-known, direct-imported beers and “fresh and fun” cocktails (Mika ran the cocktail program at Fancy Radis), but wine is the big focus. Expect about a dozen rotating wines by the glass with made-in-Virginia options in each category (red, white, sparkling, and skin contact). They will start with around 75 bottles and grow the collection from there.

“We want to make sure that all of the Virginia wines that we love are really well represented on this list and are a primary focus. So if there’s any Virginia wine you like, we hope it makes the list for you,” says Ian.

The restaurant takes over the space that once housed Le Grenier, and one detail H Street residents will keep is the vintage Coca-Cola mural on the exposed brick walls. The old townhouse will be outfitted with pendant lights and greenery as well as “classic, timeless furnishings.” They also have a small back patio that they plan to use for casual pop-ups showcasing food from their cooks or local vendors.

As for the name, Regardless? “It kind of elicits a mood, a feeling, a moment of pleasure rather than meaning something exact,” Ian explains.

Regardless. 502 H St., NE.

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.

Nancy I. Romero