Early Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend we boarded Mega Bus en route to Washington, DC. With Prem's parents in tow, who had never been to the capital, our goal was to make sure they experienced the monuments and history but also the food and culture. These are two important sides of life in DC but couldn't be more different; the area around the monuments and White House is very quiet and pristine, while there's more hustle and bustle and "city life" around U Street, 14th Street and Dupont Circle. Here are some food and drink highlights from our short weekend.
Food: Prem and I first enjoyed a meal at Birch and Barley, near Logan Circle, while visiting DC in summer 2014. With a strong dedication to beer (they have over 500) and a market driven food menu, they seamlessly handle this relatively uncommon combination. Their beer director and chef work closely with each other and with outside vendors such as Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture to ensure the use of quality ingredients. Every bite we ate, both visits, was bursting with flavor, from their unique radish board appetizer to their duck breast entree. The bread, served with pork butter, is fresh and made in-house. The ricotta cavatelli with fennel pork sausage and ramp pesto was incredibly rich but so delicious that I sacrificed feeling uncomfortably full in order to keep eating it. The doughy flat bread was topped with loads of well-cooked spring vegetables.
Slipstream falls under "food" and "coffee" because we didn't realize they offered the former until we stopped in for the latter after a less-than-stellar breakfast elsewhere. After seeing their food menu we made a point to come back the next day for breakfast, and we're glad we did. The various toasts were a popular breakfast item, with variations on toppings including avocado, butter and apple jam, ricotta and honey, and mushroom and goat cheese. All can be topped with a poached egg or two. We also ordered the simple Japanese rice bowl with shaved radish, topped with a poached egg. The relaxed vibe allows you to take your time without feeling rushed through your Sunday morning breakfast.
Our last dinner in DC was at Blue Duck Tavern, tucked into the Hyatt Hotel on a tree lined street near Georgetown. Don't let the "hotel restaurant" scare you off. This large space with an open kitchen serves seasonal American food family style and they do it really well. We usually steer away from ordering chicken at (most) restaurants in order to try something more interesting, but their roasted chicken sounded too good to pass up. And it was. Tender and juicy with a slightly sweet glaze that we couldn't get enough of. Prem's Wyoming-bred wagyu, he concurs, was only almost as delicious.
On the other end of the spectrum there is a line of food trucks serving tourists at the National Mall. Lined up near the Washington Monument, hungry customers purchase their food and find a spot on the grass to sit and enjoy. Where the trucks lack in variety, at least on the day we were there, they make up for in quantity; there are probably two dozen trucks, at least. The majority seem to be Middle Eastern and Ethiopian, with a smattering of ice-cream and run-of-the-mill hot dogs mixed in. Prem really wanted to try some Ethiopian food in DC as we hear it surpasses what you can find here in New York, but we never actually ended up trying any. Next time!
The coffee at Slipstream was spot on. The first time we visited we sat at the bar and chatted with the friendly baristas, who took pride in preparing the coffee. The space itself is open and clean. There was a mix of people working on their laptops, catching up with friends, or sitting with their families. Well worth spending some time here.
The beer menu at Birch and Barley comes to you in a heavy leather-bound book. It's slightly intimidating but if you have a sense of what you like you can narrow your choices down following their various beer descriptors, such as "malty", "crisp" or "hoppy". The staff is also very knowledgeable and willing to assist. Of course, you could always just shut your eyes and play beer roulette. Drafts are served by 4 ounces and full glasses allowing the thirsty to try a few varieties, which you'll want to do given their extensive list.
Every time we come back to DC there seems to be a new restaurant or cafe to discover. Even so, I'm sure we'll make a point to visit Birch and Barley and Slipstream again. Conveniently, they're right next door to each other!