Naturally in between all of the great sights we visited while in DC, we needed to take a break and check out some of the great places to eat and drink in the city. We were only there for a few days so clearly we have a lot more to explore on our next trip, but these were some of our favorites this time around.
Astros Doughnuts came about as a recommendation from our friend Dave who works in the area. Luckily it was right around the corner from our hotel and well worth the rain soaked walk to pick up these delightful gems. I loved the perfect mix of sweet and salty the maple bacon provided, and Elise could not speak highly enough of the intensely flavor of the passionfruit blackberry doughnut. Their fried chicken is definitely on my list for our next trip.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
We kinda overdid it at Ben’s Chili Bowl. This is one of those great American food icons touted as being one of those places that everyone must stop at during their visit to DC and I highly encourage you to do so. The half pork, half beef half smoke has just the right amount of spice to differentiate it from the hot dog without quite crossing into sausage territory, cooked with just a bit of char to make things snappy. Ben’s chili is more meat sauce than chunky, stand alone chili and serves as a great, spicy addition to top any of the offerings at Ben’s (although when you top the half smoke, the cheese fries AND the burger with chili, the flavor begins to dominate and begs to be broken up a bit). No point in comparing the chili to the
weak sauce meat sauce we use on our mini dogs in the Capital Region, it beats it hands down.
Birch and Barley/ChurchKey
I honestly didn’t think we would have a chance to get a table at Birch and Barley the entire weekend. OpenTable was booked up until Monday, the day after we’d already be on the road, and with no reservation on Valentine’s Day and being on a time constraint before the show at the Lincoln Theater, we headed right up to ChurchKey hoping for better luck there.
We grabbed a drink and after realizing the clock was ticking and no seats were opening up any time soon, I decided to see if there were any available spots downstairs at Birch and Barley. We were in luck! We chose to sit at the bar and order up a bunch of boards and flatbreads to share. (My apologies for the crappy cell phone pictures, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to get my camera into the Lincoln Theater or not.)
Birch and Barley shares the same beer menu as ChurchKey, both in draft and bottle list. It’s interesting to see since all of their draft lines split off into ChurchKey first, then travel down to the first floor to Birch and Barley. This is the first time I’ve seen a set up like that. To describe bottle list as “extensive” would be an understatement. While traveling I like to keep my beer choices local, but with some of the great bottles available on their beer list, it made it a tough mantra to stick to. I caved and we chose Cantillon 100% Kriek for dessert.
After a long day of sightseeing the next day we decided to head back and this time experience ChurchKey. Both the bar and the tables here are seat yourself, and that unfortunately leads to patrons eying up tables with checks on them like vultures (Elise and I are both guilty of that). But once you’re seated you’ll be treated to just as great table service as you are in Birch and Barley.
After a huge lunch a Ben’s Chili Bowl we decided to do a small dinner with another couple of boards along with a round of drafts before eventually diving into that extensive bottle list again, and then following things up with an amazing dessert of both the Lime Bar and the S’mores Ice Cream Sandwich. The Stillbow Oxtisnal was expensive, but I’ll likely not find that beer on my travels elsewhere (yes, even though I was in Portland just a couple days prior) so it made sense to splurge on this bottle while it was available. Both the Stillbow and the Intense Red were outstanding and rounded out a perfect weekend of dining at ChurchKey and Birch and Barley.
Located about 15 minutes outside of downtown, DC Brau is not the easiest to find. The entrance is in the back of a strip of warehouses, and if there was any signage for the brewery I didn’t see it. No matter, I was there for the beer, of which there was plenty flowing that day. Not only was I able to snag a case of On The Wings of Armageddon, I was able to grab their latest DIPA release, Solar Abyss. Mosaic is definitely the hop of the moment (although it definitely hasn’t dethroned Citra just yet) and this beer featured it prominently, doing it’s best to cut through it’s big, 10% ABV and much fuller mouthfeel than OTWOA.
BONUS: Mama’s on the Half Shell
Not in DC, but I’ll be damned if we don’t travel down the east coast without getting Elise one of her favorite dishes: crab cakes. We didn’t run into any in our meals in DC, so I prayed to the gods of Google Maps to find us a place for brunch on the way home that offered a decent crab cake. Thankfully, Mama’s on the Half Shell delivered, not only with the crab cakes, but with the corned beef hash as well.
There you have it, the beer and food of our trip to DC in a nutshell. Already looking forward to our next long weekend down there. Where should we go to next?