Cafe Deluxe’s Burger Days of Summer Kicks Off Today

Burger Days of Summer Menu
Burger Days of Summer Menu
Cafe Deluxe, the DC-area mini-chain offering familiar American classics, kicks off its “Burger Days of Summer” menu today. From now until the end of July, the weekday lunch menu will feature a gourmet slate of six creative burgers (including salmon and veggie versions), priced from $13-16, accompanied by a side of shoestring fries. On Wednesdays, the restaurant will have a special treat-the burgers can be ordered all day for half price. The restaurant has two DC locations-the original in Cathedral Heights (3228 Wisconsin Ave. NW) and the new flagship location in the Hilton Garden Inn in the West End (2201 M St. NW), along with several others in the MD/VA suburbs.

Barred in DC was invited to the West End location on a recent evening to sample these tasty new burgers and enjoy a few great drinks. I can foresee these substantial patties, all sandwiched between great buns (the jalapeno cheddar version being the standout) from the local wholesaler Uptown Bakers, being quite popular for both tourists staying at the Hilton Garden Inn and the many hotels within the block as well as nearby summer associates at its West End location. The handsome modern airy space features front wall-to-ceiling windows at the corner of 22nd and M.

Dining room at Cafe Deluxe West End
Dining room at Cafe Deluxe West End
7 ounces of ground angus beef were juicy and well complemented by creative toppings on each of the 4 bovine burgers:

Porter Burger
Porter Burger
  • Porter: my favorite one of the evening, with onions slow braised in Anchor Porter beer, applewood-smoked bacon, provolone, and porter mayo on an onion poppy seed bun;
T-Coast Burger
T-Coast Burger
  • T Coast (named as an homage to Tortilla Coast, part of same chain): two types of peppers (red peppers and jalapeños) and pepper jack cheese, house made avocado spread (which cuts down on the heat), topped with crunchy cumin-dusted tortilla strips, between halves of a stunningly tasty and handsome jalapeno cheddar bun;
  • Red White and Blue: probably the simplest concoction  on the menu with blue cheese complimented with a sweet and tangy red onion marmalade and horseradish mayo on a sesame bun;
Philly Cheesesteak Burger with cheese sauce
Philly Cheesesteak Burger with cheese sauce
  • Philly Cheesesteak (homage to Chef Jason McIntosh’s hometown): massive burger featuring provolone topped with prime rib and house made cheese sauce on the side (made with cheddar and American cheeses in a bechamel sauce). Pro-tip: dip your fries in the cheese sauce, you won’t regret it.

Austin Veggie Burger
Austin Veggie Burger
Pescetarians will enjoy the Salmon Burger #3  with a heavily Asian influence that has a taste resembling a salmon sushi roll; this burger is made with ground salmon (with egg and panko as the binder), topped with seaweed salad, pickled ginger, crispy spring roll strips and wasabi mayo on a oat/wheat bun, while vegetarians can scarf down the 23-ingredient Austin Veggie – with black bean relish, jack cheese, avocado spread and sandwiched in a jalapeño cheddar bun.

Blue Lemonade & GT 500 cocktails
Blue Lemonade & GT 500 cocktails
Cucumber Martini
Cucumber Martini
Aside from the burgers, Cafe Deluxe’s cocktails were a surprising highlight of the evening. The $10 Blue Lemonade cocktail, with house-infused lemon vodka, lemon juice, and blueberries captured the essence of summertime lemonade with a crisp tartness, along with fruity secrets, while the $10 GT 500 was a fresh gin and tonic/club soda combo. The $12 Cucumber Martini topped with a twist of cracked pepper is summer must. Elderflower liqueur aficionados and not-such-big fans will be pleased. Enjoy on a summer day-make sure it’s hot as the cucumber will work better that way; sit near one of the big picture windows that open to the fresh summer breeze and let this balanced cocktail get you in the groove. A solid list of beers also go well with the burgers-I had a Reviver Red IPA from Starr Hill. Happy hour is on deck weekdays from 3:30-7p at the bar with $4-6 bar bites and $4 Stella Artois drafts & house wine, $5 rocks margarita & a Cosmopolitan, and $1 off all drafts.

Happy Hour Menu
Happy Hour Menu
Cocktail Menu
Cocktail Menu
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The Gryphon is Back…

and so is social dining experience

Guest post by J Palm, BIDC co-editor
Follow, Tweet me @charmedlivingDC

The Gryphon's Raw Bar in action
The Gryphon’s Raw Bar in action

A few weeks ago, I drank and dined with the editor-in-chief of Barred in DC at the new The Gryphon. We were invited to the newly revamped restaurant & bar to sample and share small plates and taste new cocktails. Yep, our meal and drinks were comped, as a matter of disclosure, but as has always been hallmark to BIDC, the reviews are real and can’t be bought. (Well, maybe they could be, but the price hasn’t been right yet—wink)

You may remember The Gryphon as a fledgling upscale sports bar with dozens of screens trying to make its mark as a destination to watch “the big game”. But as previously reported by BIDC, that didn’t quite work out so the owners, who also represent The Gryphon’s sister Lost Society, drew the curtain, went back to the drawing board, and came up with a toned-down yet elegant (and a bit sexy with its rich color palate and snakeskin patterned wall paper) social dining experience, featuring a raw bar with a robust selection of oysters and clams to suit your taste, along with shrimp and lobster cocktails to share, and modern twists on your favorite ceviches. And let us not forget the real reason we all rely on BIDC—it’s really all about the bar for us, and the bar is good, serving creative, delicious, and well-balanced cocktails that provide a clean and craveable canvas for The Gryphon’s social plates.

Social room/back dining area
Social room/back dining area

First, el jefe ordered the Artemis Virtue—a refreshing cocktail of gin, lime juice, cucumber, mint, and sweet vermouth, sweetened with agave and topped off with a splash of soda. Think summer in a glass. It was a dark and stormy Tuesday evening, so we really needed this. Yours truly enjoyed her own summery concoction—the signature cocktail of the joint—The Gryphon consisted of Grey Goose L’orange, strawberry puree, lime juice and sweetened further with simple syrup. Watch out, for this cocktail is clearly easily drinkable, but it’s dangerous and will sneak up on you—sip leisurely. To accompany our drinks, we started our social dining experience with a shrimp cocktail to share. Apparently, the raw bar chef is always creating new renditions of this classic, so we had to see if he could show us something new (and he did).

The shrimp cocktail special when we dined was a spicy Latin twist on your traditional shrimp cocktail. This dish felt like Cabo. Shrimp, avocado, cocktail sauce, extra horseradish and other spices all mixed together and served on ice was a nice setup for what would be coming ahead from the team at the raw bar and the Texan chef, Joseph Evans (formerly of Smith and Wollensky).

Prosciutto-wrapped monkfish
Prosciutto-wrapped monkfish

As the name of the game at The Gryphon now is surf and turf, we had to have a good smattering of each. After the cocktail, we had a hearty dish of Monkfish wrapped in prosciutto—reminding you of the more traditional bacon-wrapped scallops. Nice flavors and a good sear on the fish made this dish a star. Continuing with “surf”, we definitely over indulged in the highly touted (by the staff) lobster gnocchi. I cannot tell you what a revelation this dish was in making a gnocchi a viable dinner option for me (I usually don’t like the stuff). It’s not just gnocchi, it’s better, and there’s so much lobster that you can’t believe the price.

Star dishes here - fried brussels sprouts & lobster gnocchi
Star dishes here – brussels sprouts & lobster gnocchi

At this point in the meal, I felt good enough to indulge in an additional cocktail (it sneaked up on me), so of course I couldn’t resist a drink named Aphrodite’s Kiss, who could? I fell in love—the blend of Absolut vanilla/regular and lavender syrup was surprising. It was light and sexy and I wanted another immediately (though I didn’t have one), so I ate more delicious food instead.

Tasty cocktails
Tasty cocktails

Moving on to “turf’, we sampled a couple of dueling steak dishes. I was eager to try the hanger steak (maybe it’s the simple country girl in me), but our most kind and attentive server strongly suggested that we try the Cajun filet mignon as well, as it was his favorite. While I was certainly not disappointed by either, I have to say that my favorite was the hanger steak. Its beautiful sear (verging on char) and fresh, bright green herb sauce was simply an all-around joy for my taste buds. The filet was also delicious, but even for me, the Cajun marinade/seasoning was a bit heavy handed. I noted to our server, who came back ‘round to hear my verdict, that with the seasoning the filet lost some of its “filet-ness” and really, to me, could have been any cut of beef since I’m not sure you’d necessarily be able to taste it beyond the seasoning.

Delicious Hanger steak
Delicious Hanger steak

More good news though—the beer, wine, and spirits list is well-rounded enough to scratch any itch and prices are in line with other DC hot spots, with the exception of a higher-than-usual priced DC Brau ($9). After a couple cocktails, a Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager soothed BIDC’s chief and I took a break (despite the sparkling wine calling my name) before dessert drinks—it was a Tuesday night.

It must be noted that the side dishes were fantastic—Brussels sprouts are the new “it” veggie, but I promise, you actually do have to try these perfectly roasted, seasoned, and browned sprouts sprinkled atop with parmesan cheese. Southern girls know macaroni and cheese, and I’ve struggled with the creamy, over-truffled dishes being served all over the metro area. At The Gryphon, the mac is like what mom would make, no—grandma—but more up-to-date yet classically presented, bubbling over in a sizzling cast-iron dish.

Delicious Mac N' Cheese
Delicious Mac N’ Cheese

Bread pudding and cognac was a gluttonous end to our meal. The pudding was rich and creamy (even without the ice cream on top for there were technical issues in the kitchen). Not too sweet, but who needs all that sugar when life (and dinner) can be this good?

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nightcap cognacs
Bread pudding
Bread pudding

Further disclosure: Your guest poster, J Palm, is engaged to BIDC’s chief. We will marry in October. We dine and drink together frequently at home and “on the scene”.

Front bar area at The Gryphon
Front bar area at The Gryphon
Meat locker at The Gryphon
Meat locker at The Gryphon
Folks enjoying new patio from open air front area
Folks enjoying new patio from open air front area
Previously home to an awkward back bar, now plush banquettes
Previously home to an awkward back bar, now plush banquettes
Another view of back bar
Another view of back bar

Bar Charley

The bar at Bar Charley
The bar at Bar Charley

Bar CharleyFacebookTwitter,  1825 18th St. NW (at Swann/T), opens at 4p on weekdays, 10a on weekends, closes at 11p Sun-Thu, midnight Fri-Sat, HH 4-6:30p M-F, est. 2013 [Post (Sietsma), Post (Hahn), InTheCapital, PoPville, Forking DC, EaterYelp]

A welcome respite from the circus that is the nearby Lauriol Plaza, Bar Charley is one of my favorite places to grab a cocktail in DC. This new spot in the north part of Dupont, from the folks behind the popular Silver Spring establishment Jackie’s and El Chucho in Colombia Heights, is well worth a visit, whether you’re a neighbor or come from afar.

The dining area at Bar Charley
The dining area

The space, previously home to the short-lived Cajun Experience, is a few steps down from street-level but feels comfortable and neighorhoody without being divey. Although there are no TVs, a rarity for DC bars that I like to frequent, the absence contributes positively to the pleasant and casual, yet upscale vibe. To the left of the entrance is the establishment’s cozy bar area where folks can grab a stool or stand up while ordering from one of two bartenders, who often come out from behind the 10-seat bar to take orders and serve drinks. You can usually find me posting up on one of the 5 stools next to the bay window opposite the bar; this is a good spot to have a group consisting of both people who like to stand (me) and those who prefer sitting (most people). The rest of Bar Charley is made up of the main dining area to the right of the entrance: comfortable seating along one of the exposed brick walls; a communal table in the center of the room; and a large, semi-secluded booth in front of another bay window. In warmer months, visitors can enjoy food and drinks out on the back patio.

Back patio at Bar Charley
Back patio

The stars of the show are the cocktails created by co-owner Gordon Banks. The menu includes the quite economical (for DC standards) classic cocktails ($8 for a Sazerac, Jack Rose, Monk Buck, and fantastic Old Fashioned), on-tap Tiki drinks ($7 for a Mai Tai and Suffering Bastard served in tiki-themed ceramic cups), and more standard-priced creative concoctions (such as the Quack-Quack-erac, made with a duck fat wash and the Stepdad which involves a blowtorch). While the pretty solid wine list, both by the bottle and glass, serves as an ample co-star, the beer list, despite nary a macrobrew, is at best a fledgling starlet. Three drafts don’t rotate as often as I would like and many of the bottles on list are $15-25 large format bottles.

Tiki drinks at Bar Charley
Tiki drinks

Although it has only been open since September, Bar Charley has quickly generated a tremendous amount of buzz (both positive and negative). The spot has already appeared in the Post FOUR times (including critiques by bar guru Fritz Hahn and dining expert Tom Sietsma), and Bar Charley’s request to be open normal DC bar hours (2a weekdays, 3a weekends), has quickly become a source of controversy in its hood, as previously documented by this blog here. Many neighbors vehemently oppose the hours extension, though I personally know several proponents of it.

One of the fancier cocktails
One of the fancier cocktails

Since later hours of operation have not yet been approved, when you stop by for a drink (which you must do), make sure you go on the early side, as Bar Charley closes at 11p sharp weekdays and midnight Friday and Saturday nights.

Barred in DC Rating: 4.5/5

View of the bar with dining room in background
View of the bar with dining room in background
The dining room at Bar Charley
another view of Bar Charley dining area
Bartender making an excellent cocktail at Bar Charley
Bartender making an excellent cocktail at Bar Charley
Bar Charley from 18th Street
Bar Charley from 18th Street

Vendetta

Vendetta, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1212 H St. NE, opens at 5p everyday, HH 5-8p daily, est. 2013 [Yelp, WaPo, Washington City Paper, Washingtonian, NPR]

Upstairs bocce court
Upstairs bocce court

Bocce is the group sport du jour in Washington, especially for  forever-young adults graduating from kickball or those too unathletic to play softball. While other bars have dabbled in the Italian lawn bowling game (e.g., Vinoteca, Blackjack, and Penn Social),it was inevitable that a bar fully devoted to bocce would open in DC.

First Floor Bar
First Floor Bar

That place is Vendetta, the new Italian restaurant/bocce bar from bar impresario Joe Englert on H Street. Located in the old Red Palace space (which itself was a combination of two very different bars, The Red and the Black and Palace of Wonders, neither of which I visited), Vendetta is a nicely decorated spot, with red walls accompanying Vespas hanging or embedded in the wall. A nice 25 foot bocce court highlights each of the two floors; it’s free to play and easy to learn if you haven’t played before. There is small, bare bones deck (with chair umbrellas) off the 2nd floor.

Second Floor Bar
Second Floor Bar

Pasta and gnocchi make up the food menu, while the beer list is nothing special, moderately-priced (for DC) cocktails ($8-10) and prosecco on tap are the draws. For the straight guys out there, take note: the clientele was about 75% women on my visit, and friends have confirmed the favorable mix at other times. A nice addition to the H Street landscape.

Barred in DC Rating: 3.5/5

Vespa in the wall
Vespa on the wall
Upstairs 2nd Floor Patio/Deck
Upstairs 2nd Floor Patio/Deck
Another view of the upstairs bocce court
Another view of the upstairs bocce court

GBD

GBD, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1323 Connecticut Ave. NW (just southeast of Dupont Circle), opens at 8a (weekdays) 10a (weekends) closed 2-4:30p everyday, no dinner Mon., HH 4:30-7 Tue-Sat., 9p-close Sun., est. 2013 [Yelp, WaPo, Washington City Paper]

Fried chicken, doughnuts, and beer are three things that are stellar on their own. Still, one place dares to put them all together—GBD (Golden Brown Delicious).  This new Dupont Circle joint, from the same folks who brought you the uber-popular Churchkey and Birch & Barley, is located in sliver of a storefront previously (ironically) occupied by Yola, the yogurt parfait + coffee shop (operated by a young, idealistic fellow UVa alum, as chronicled in this illuminating Washington City Paper story in Oct 2012). GBD mostly lives up to its hype as a welcome change from the meat markets that make up Dupont/Midtown—though the anticipated throngs have not yet materialized.

GBD's cool sign
GBD’s cool sign

Open nearly all day and night (save for mid-afternoon and Monday nights), GBD offers great doughnuts all day, solid-but-not-great fried chicken (at its best, it is still underseasoned), the best biscuit (crème fraiche) in the city, a variety of beers (helpfully organized as fried chicken or doughnut beers), and tasty punches (a recent visit found bourbon, gin, and vodka punches) in a low-key environment that inspires one to just chill and let the Luther-induced food coma slowly take you over (in case you don’t know, the Luther is a sandwich made up of a donut sliced in half with a piece of fried chicken and bacon in between; it’s delicious and heart attack-y as it sounds).

Bar & Front area at GBD
Bar & Front area at GBD

GBD contains two rooms: the front area includes bar stools by the front bay window (good for people watching) and the only bar; the back contains tables and a few booths. Most crowded during the great happy hour ($3-5 beers & punches from 4:30-7p Tues-Sat., along with an industry happy hour after 9p on Sun.), GBD has sadly been relatively empty the times I’ve stopped by after midnight on the weekends (10-15 people in the entire place). No one likes a crowded bar, but more patrons would definitely add a needed jolt of energy late night and keep this place sustainable long-term. A well-advertised late night happy hour (drinks and/or food) may be a good idea. Still, GBD is a solid place to get good eats and beers in a more Metro-accessible location.

Barred in DC Rating: 4/5

Fried chicken and the awesome GBD biscuit
Fried chicken and the awesome GBD biscuit

J&G Steakhouse – Wine Bar & Patio

J&G Steakhouse – Wine Bar & Patio, website, Facebook, Twitter, 515 15th St. NW (15th and Pennsylvania near G), open 5-11p (Sun-Thu) 4p-midnight (Fri.-Sat.) + lunch non-Sunday, est. 2009 [Yelp]

View of the Patio and the Treasury Building
View of the Patio and the Treasury Building

[Update 6/22/13: Wine Bar and newly constructed bar upstairs to be renamed Bar 515, opening in mid-September] The W Washington hotel, with a location a block from the White House, is a popular spot for celebrities (I think I saw a Jonas brother one time) and presidential fundraisers.  It also is famous for perhaps the best view in all of the District(of the Monument and the Mall and the White House) in its rooftop P.O.V. Lounge bar; surprisingly, I actually still have not made it there in its current incarnation (I once had an awkward summer associate outing when it was the decidedly less hip Hotel Washington).

J&G Wine Bar
J&G Wine Bar

Down below, you can find one of the best steakhouses in DC, the J&G Steakhouse, where tucked under the dining room, somewhat below the ground level, is one of the more pleasant surprises in downtown DC, the Wine Bar.  It’s a nice, cozy, rarely crowded spot with a small bar with about 6 seats, a long communal table in the middle, a few tables off to the side, and more bar stools along a railing that faces the patio.  Speaking of which, J&G’s Patio (which sort of seems to be claimed by both the J&G Restaurant and its Wine Bar), is one of the nicest non-roofdeck patios in the city.

Umbrellas and tables on the patio
Umbrellas and tables on the patio

Facing both 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, this expansive space has several tables with umbrellas along with small firepits surrounded by brown couches.  Owing to its location right in tourist central, there are often more tourists here than the typical DC spot, as the patio is hard to resist, but it’s rarely crowded (these pictures are misleading as they were taken at the Spring Patio Launch Party) and the Patio often hosts barbecues and parties to coincide with big events like July 4th.

Another view of the Patio
Another view of the Patio

Not really a late night spot (good for happy hour or early evening), the Patio and Wine Bar are solid, nicer choices downtown with solid cocktails and wines (though the beers are the standard Stella/Amstel/Heineken bottled kind of crap).

Barred in DC Rating: 3.5/5

 

DGS Delicatessen

DGS Delicatessen, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1317 Connecticut Ave. NW (between N and Dupont Circle, near 18th and N), 202-293-4400, open for lunch/brunch & dinner (5:30p) everyday, closes at 10p (Sun-Thurs) 11p (Fri-Sat), HH 5-7p everyday, est. 2012 [Yelp, WaPo]

Hiddenish entrance to bar on 18th St.
Hiddenish entrance to bar on 18th St.

What is a bar? Webster’s defines a “bar” as…I’m not looking up bar in the dictionary. Generally people think of a bar as a place you go to drink.  The overwhelming majority of the bars I’ve listed and I will review are traditionally bars, though many of them serve food.  Some of the places I’ve listed, along with DGS Delicatessen-the subject of this review, are actually really restaurants.  I’m not going to list/review every single restaurant, but I’ve included some worthwhile spots to drink, like DGS, which have a very defined bar area/menu (look at that sweet sign below) and/or have solid happy hour specials, that are not traditional bars and close before midnight, even on weekends.

Sign showing where you are
Sign showing where you are

DGS Delicatessen, which opened up in late 2012, has itself been subject to some yuppie controversy over what’s in a name, as folks are upset  that it really is a spotless, upscale restaurant as opposed to a traditional deli, with gargantuan sandwiches and a lot of old-world character.  With that not in mind, we stopped by for their happy hour on a Friday to grab some bites and drinks in their sliver of the bar tucked in the back with its own hiddenish entrance off 18th street.  Get there by 5:15 or you won’t be able to get one of the 10-15 seats, though the standing room area isn’t too crowded against the exposed brick behind the barstools.  It’s a friendly spot, with some clear regulars there for chopped liver, pickles, latkes, pastrami chili and cheese fries (we got the latter two, which were very good, as was the tongue sliders).  A wide range of ages in there, with some elderly folks along with young couples on a date.  We sampled a few of their cocktails, priced $6-9, mostly $7 (themed names-The Chosen Highball, Le Marais, the Mensch), which were very good and had a couple beers (the ones on special were fairly random-Genesee Cream Ale in a can, Tsingtao and Mama Little Yella Pils in a 12. oz draft) for $3-4.  Tunes from the 70s played on the speaker the whole time we were there, which gave it a pretty chill vibe.  All in all, a solid place for happy hour to get a drink and some unique (for DC) eats.

DGS

Sign out front
Sign out front

Barred in DC Rating: 4/5