If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I've been really hard on the DC restaurant scene in the past. Seems to me like they're contrite because they have to appeal to both left (communist) and right (boring) sensibilities in a town like Washington.
So that seems to be the problem with the "nice" restaurants. Every place that's no-frills, or cheap, has been at least decent, and a couple have been really good.
I was in DC this weekend for work. My twin brother, who is much a more talented writer than I, and better looking to boot, lives in DC with his wife Javi. The three of us get along for lots of reasons - a shared mistrust of politicians, a desire for the snow to go away, and a love for food that some would call perverse.
Anyway, they fed me a couple of times and gave me a couch to sleep on one night.
Before I get to the restaurant portion of this blog, I must tell you of one place that's starting to feel like home to me in DC - the Capitol Lounge, at 229 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. We've been a handful of times, and their pub fare is decent, affordable and touts the right amount of grease. Also, they have Dale's Pale Ale on tap, and that makes me feel right at home.
It's apparently a Michigan State bar, and that's okay, because while I might prefer U of M, most of the people inside are nice folks, a welcome relief from the DC bar scene.
Anyway, food. On Sunday night, we ended up at a place called Bar Pilar. Everything about this place screams hip, and when we sat down and had an immediate problem with our waitress, I was thinking, "Here we go, again." After receiving our drinks, the place started to fill up and our waitress went from late to absent. But that's DC, so I won't mention her again. We tipped her well, cause God Bless Her, SHE WAS TRYING SO HARD, but there's only so much of being ignored you can take.
I was pleasantly surprised at the food, though. We all shared plates, and the portions, while small, were reasonably priced. Javi: Cremini mushrooms that reminded me of the county fair and a Shrimp risotto that only I liked. (Andrew said it was too creamy. Javi didn't say much about it at all, which means she just wasn't a big fan.) Andrew: Caramelized Exotic mushrooms that were really earthy and meaty. Duck Confit in a homemade dijon mustard, cooked fantastically with a crispy outside and juicy in. Me: Roasted potatoes with rosemary and a lemon-garlic aioli. The potatoes were cooked well and flash fried in what tasted to me like a thinned down bacon fat. And I also had suckling pig that almost caused me to forget how far I was from home.
They both loved it, and so did I, aside from the minor freakout I had about almost losing my wallet. "The food's probably the best I've had in DC so far," Andrew said.
I second that emotion. It's sort of close to one of the many bad parts of town, and in the middle of being gentrified. Dangerous! But it's worth the drive to NW, and it's worth wading through the scarf-wearing, tight-jeaned, let's-drink-PBR crowd. Lots of times, these people will eat any old thing if it's moderately priced and they hear from their dealer that "it's good," but this time, these hipsters are lucky that the chef of Bar Pilar actually cares about the food he's serving to a bunch of ironic JD Salinger disciples. Me included.