Sundevich, one of Barred in DC’s Essential Sandwich Shops is expanding once again, this time to the area southwest of Union Station known by some (many?) as part of Capitol Hill. An alert tipster (oh wait, it was me) found that the global-inspired sandwich spot’s website now lists a location at 601 New Jersey Ave. NW (basically 1st and F/G NW). This location, which shares an address of coffee shop/wine bar The Ministry, sits directly across from Georgetown Law and around the corner from Irish bars The Dubliner and Kelly’s Irish Times. Elizabeth O’Gorek of the neighborhood paper Hill Rag reported in November that this building may also add a bar/beer garden, so stay tuned to see if there’s any partnership.
Per the website, the new location will open sometime in 2020. Sundevich originally opened in 2011 as one of Shaw’s first alley food and beverage spots; had a food truck for bit; had a short-lived location in Park View in 2017-2018; and opened a still-standing Georgetown location in 2016.
More to come on Barred in DC’s Essential Sandwich Shops.
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.
7 ounces of ground angus beef were juicy and well complemented by creative toppings on each of the 4 bovine burgers:
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 (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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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”.
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 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.
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.
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 diningexpertTom 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
[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).
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.
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.
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).