Spike Mendelsohn Doesn't Make Tiny Pizzas

If variety is the spice of life, then D.C.'s pizza scene is bland.

In fact, it's boring.

Want a pizza in D.C.? Here's what you'll get: an over analyzed 8 inch pie, cooked to a crisp in a 7,000 pound stone oven hand carved by Sicilian grandmothers, blessed by the Pope and shipped to America by the decedents of Amerigo Vespucci. The toppings, what few there are, will be sustainable, local and if you're lucky, "interesting."

The foodie culture - in which I am a participant - has transformed the simple pizza pie from a meal into social discourse. And every now and then, that's fine. I like the pies at 2 Amy's and Pizzeria Paradiso (to say nothing of the pizza at RedRocks, Matchbox, Pizzeria Orso, Ella's, Lost Dog, Seventh Hill, Il Canale, Comet Ping Pong or Pete's Apizza), but I can't tell the difference between a Neapolitain-style, New Haven-style and a thin crust pizza (if there is one). And every now and then I want a slice of pizza that I don't have to think about and can't finish in two bites. Sometimes I just want a slice of pie and a cold beer.

Spike Mendelsohn gives me that.

94770023Instead of precious pizzas for one, Mendelsohn's Capitol Hill pizza shop, We, The Pizza, peddles in large pies and large slices. The pizzas are the size of traditional New York style pies, but thicker, which the Top Chef alum refers to as Capitol Hill style. Although he likes New York-style pizza, the additional thickness helps support the toppings. Yet, they're not so thick that you can't fold them.

The toppings range from cheese and pepperoni to roasted potato and pancetta. And while Mendelsohn is quick to note that he sources locally, uses fresh ingredients, makes his sauces in-house, etcetera, etcetera, his slice of pepperoni glistens with enough pork grease to make me not care. The 30 kids lined up at the register don't care, either. It doesn't matter to them whether Mendelsohn pronounces mozzarella correctly or whether the cheese came from a grass-fed buffalo or cow. They want pizza, not a culinary experience (unless you count gawking at celebrity chefs).

Pie2 What I like most about We, The Pizza is that it manages to be different by being familiar. They're not cranking out the best pies I've ever had (Geno's East), but they are producing solid, tasty pizza. Look at the photo to the left. Where's that pizza from?* RedRocks? Pizzeria Paradiso, maybe? 

That's the problem, isn't it? When everyone is making the same pie, the only thing that separates them is quality (which is relative), location (which is relative to where you are) and for me, beer selection (that's why I like Pizzeria Paradiso so much). Otherwise, there's no damn difference between most D.C. pizzerias. Their pies are as redundant as they are flimsy. After a while, I get tired of the delicate little pizzas that cost me $20 a pop (and if I'm dining with my wife, let's make that $40, because I'm 6'2", 195 pounds, so the one pie ain't going to cut it).

I'll say again, I like the many of the pizzas served around town (sit down Jumbo Slice and Pizza Mart, you make mediocre pizza for twentysomethings too drunk to know better). I just want a few options, and that's what We, The Pizza gives me.

94770020Mendelsohn agreed that the District is oversaturated with Neapolitan-style pizzas, which created a market for his New York-cum-Capitol Hill pies. Although his pizzas are considerably bigger than the Neapolitan-style pizzas, his stainless steel ovens are easier to use and maintain than the wood-burning pizza ovens that are de rigueur for the typical D.C. pizzeria. Besides, for all the fire and fuss, Mendelsohn said most Americans don't like the Neapolitan-style pizza's soggy, soft crust.

He's right. Most folks aren't as wrapped up in the authenticity of the pizza experience. They just want a good slice of pie.

Every Friday night, my wife's parents enjoy a couple of beers and a pizza at ABC Pizza, a small pizza chain in Florida that's as authentically Italian as Popeyes. It's their thing. While they've enjoyed the pizzas at 2 Amys, and my mother-in-law raves about Pizzeria Paradiso, they still love their Friday night pizza at ABC. Sure it's familiar. Sure it's simple. But it's good pizza, and that's what keeps them going back every week.

94770001"When you go into the pizza business everyone thinks you have to be Italian. We have a few Italian touches here and there," Mendelsohn said, "but this is a true American pizzeria."

It is a true American pizzeria. It may have taken a Top Chef to give D.C. a simple, American pizzeria, but we're better for it. 

We, The Pizza
305 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003
(202) 544-4008

*Comet Ping Pong

The Queen Vic: A New Restaurant On H, An Actual Gastropub For D.C.

Ryan Gordon knows what a gastropub is.

"It's a place you go to have a drink, first."

That's absolutely right. But if you want to eat, there's a menu that combines traditional pub fare with plates typically scene in white tablecloth dining rooms.

Ryan knows this, too. He should, he's opening a gastropub next week.

89500003 On April 4, Ryan and his wife Roneeka will open The Queen Vic, the newest addition to the H Street dining corridor. On paper it looks good: 20 beers on draught and 20 bottles, soccer and rugby on the flat-screen TVs hanging behind the two bars, and a menu that hits the U.K.'s greatest hits while managing to work in enough culinary flourishes to put the gastro in gastropub.

The restaurant's name is even a nod to the long-running BBC soap, EastEnders.

But just because a restaurant calls itself a gastropub doesn't mean it is. Frankly, most of the gastropubs in D.C. aren't gastropubs, and some of the ones that were eventually dropped the concept.

CommonWealth opened as a gastropub in 2008. Offering cured pork belly, oyster pie and house-made head cheeses along side fish and chips helped establish the Columbia Heights restaurant as a solid example of a British gastropub. In time, however, the menu became more "continental Europe" and less creative. CommonWealth closed in February.

This begs the question: can The Queen Vic succeed where CommonWealth failed? Does D.C. know what a gastropub is and is it a concept people are interested in?

We're going to find out.

89500004 The Gordons, and silent partner Kevin Bombardier, brought in Adam Stein as their executive chef (on the right next to sous chef Blake Aredas). Stein -- who worked under chef Matt Jennings at La Laiterie in Providence, R.I., before returning to the area -- is a farm-to-table adherent. He plans to butcher in-house. He plans to source locally and cook seasonally. Even the British staples will be sustainable. So while the fish and chips may be standard fare, the fish Stein will use will change based on its availability and sustainability.

For inspiration, Stein cited April Bloomfield and Fergus Henderson. Henderson might not have invented nose-to-tail cooking, but he picked up a Michelin star revolutionizing it in his London restaurant, St. John. Bloomfield's New York restaurant, The Spotted Pig, is widely considered the best gastopub in the country. So when you say that your restaurant's cuisine will tack closely to Bloomfield's and Henderson's, the world knows what to expect ... and where you fall short.

Signs of Bloomfield's and Henderson's influence are tucked into The Queen Vic's inaugural menu. There are the fried oysters on the half shell - a trio of fried oysters served with foie gras, duck confit and cornichons. There are the rich, roasted marrow bones, an appetizer Stein said he is lifting directly off St. John's menu.

The chefs' influence will also be seen in the daily specials, which will showcase the benefits of butchering on-site, such as house-made head cheeses, braised beef cheeks and sweetbreads. Stein said the specials menu is where he will react most quickly to changes in seasons and ingredients.

While Stein clearly wants The Queen Vic's menu to be thoughtful and progressive, it's some of the traditional items that stand out. Certainly, you can't open a British restaurant without fried fish and french fries, but the traditional English breakfast (beans and all), pork scratchings and curries show an attention to detail that most of the British (and Irish) themed eateries miss.

(I can't overstate the significance of a good Cornish pasty. They're like a large empanada without the egg. Absolutely simple, absolutely fantastic. However, most of the ones I've had here in the states are sorry. More often than not, they're like doughy wontons straight from the frozen food isle. Stein promises the real thing. If he delivers, I'll trust anything he puts on his menu.)

89500018 As for the bar, the opening draft selection isn't all it could be. The taps are dominated by familiar names: Guinness, Harp, Kronenbourg 1664 and Smithwicks (none of which are British). However, there are a few bright spots, including Fullers ESB, Wells Bombardier, Harviestoun's Old Engine Oil and Old Speckled Hen.

Ryan admitted the beer lineup was the best he could do in a short amount of time. By the end of April, he expects to replace many of the beers with more interesting offerings.

89510006 In the mean time, thirsty punters can check out the Vic's bottle list, which includes Young's Double Chocolate Stout, St. Peter's Organic English Ale, Manchester Star and Skull Splitter scotch ale.

Although the gastropub doesn't have a beer engine behind the bar (a real shame, especially as so many beer bars around town now have one or five), there are four nitrogen taps behind the upstairs and downstairs bars. So there may not be the hand-pulled beers so typical of British pubs, but there will be eight taps pouring plenty of smooth, creamy pints.

It's not hard to understand where the level of detail that's gone into The Queen Vic came from: Roneeka was born in Britain and raised in Wales. Her parents own and operate a hotel and restaurant in Bridgend, Wales. Before she was a teenager, Roneeka was already working in her family's restaurant. The Queen Vic isn't so much a concept as an extension of the cuisine that she grew up with. At least it should be.

Just to make sure Stein is clear on the concept, Ryan and Roneeka sent their chef on an eight-day tour of Britain and Wales. The tour began at her parent's restaurant, the Bokhara Brasserie. It was there that Stein learned how to make murgh makhani, a butter chicken dish Roneeka grew up with. From there, Stein headed to a butcher shop in northern Wales and spent time in London, dining at The Bull & Last and St. John.

If the gastropub concept doesn't fly, it won't be for lack of effort.

89500007 Like the menu, the restaurant looks the part of a traditional British pub. The red and black exterior opens to a cozy bar and dining room. The layout is repeated on the second floor, which leads out to an outdoor deck on the back of the restaurant.

Ryan said The Queen Vic will accommodate a little less than 100 people, a couple dozen more if you count the deck.

While the gastropub may be small, it took a sizable effort to get it ready for its debut. The building burned down, twice. Before work could begin to turn the building into a restaurant, it needed to be gutted and rebuilt. The façade was out of alignment and had to be screwed back into place, and much of the roof was replaced. The deck was a new addition.

89500022 To give the rehabbed restaurant an older feel, they used as much recycled and refurbished materials as possible. Doors came from old schools, the phone booth is, well, an old phone booth. The roof may be new, but the exposed beams, stained a dark mahogany, help add a rustic, old(er) pub feel.

The Queen Vic will be located along the ever-more popular and ever-more crowded H Street corridor. Ryan, who's an investor in the neighborhood bar The Pug, says the gastropub should fit right in. Although H Street has an increasing number of bars and restaurants, it's an eclectic mix. So rather than being lost in the myriad of options, The Queen Vic do well situated between the sushi and tater tots joint and the Philly style sandwich shop.

Besides, Ryan said, the cadre of new bars and restaurants that have sprung up on H Street over the past few years tend to support one another (Teddy Folkman, executive chef at Dr. Granville Moore's, introduced Stein to the Gordons). It's the rising tide lifts all boats theory: the more traffic and positive attention one bar or restaurant can attract, the better off all the neighborhood bars and restaurants will be.

89500021 But positive press and big name inspirations will only help so much. The British gastropub is a great concept that most people misinterpret or simply don't understand. If The Queen Vic is a success, it'll be because Ryan, Roneeka and Chef Stein find a way to give D.C. a true gastropub, one that will hopefully stick around a while.

The Queen Vic
1206 H St., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 396-2001 

DC Beer Week 2011: It's Going To Be A Busy Week

DCBeerWeek Break out your calendars folks, the dates of DC Beer Week have been announced. And if Teddy Folkman is to be believed, it's going to be a busy week ... a very busy week.

Folkman, executive chef at Dr. Granville Moore's, leads the coordination of the seven-day beer celebration he helped put together two years ago. Every year since it's inception, the event has grown bigger with more bars, breweries and restaurants taking part. This year looks to be no different.

In the sweaty days of Aug. 14 to 20, Folkman is expecting more than 200 events spread across the District (I don't think he expects you to attend all of them). In addition to beer dinners and bar events, this year's DC Beer Week will focus on retail shops, include a homebrewing competition and may feature special one-off beers made for the event by participating breweries. 

Folkman is also reaching out to the area's upstart breweries, such as Black Squirrel Brewing Company, DC Brau Brewing Company, Chocolate City Beer and 3 Stars Brewing Company. Breweries to our north and south - including Flying Dog, Heavy Seas, Port City and Starr Hill - will also be welcome, but will have to do events in conjunction with District bars and restaurants, Folkman said. Other outsiders will include Great Lakes and Goose Island (which happens to have a hometown connection with the family at 1600 Penn. Ave.)

Although the dates have been announced, there is still a lot of planning going on. Folkman has designated a number of the city's craft beer bigwigs as "captains" to handle recruiting and coordinating in their neighborhoods. So you can expect ChurchKey to hold a number of events for DC Beer Week because Beverage Director Greg Engert volunteered to be a captain. Engert will also be responsible for coordinating events with the bars and restaurants near ChurchKey, as well as the two Rustico restaurants in Virginia. Other captains include Greg Jasgur, bar manager for Pizzeria Paradiso, and Dave Coleman, general manager and beer director for The Big Hunt.

At Granville Moore's, Folkman expects to hold at least one event every day of DC Beer Week. Many of those events will include beer from Allagash. The brewery may be based in Portland, Maine, but Folkman noted that D.C. is its biggest market.

More details about DC Beer Week 2011 should be out in mid to late June. 

Must Haves: Red Hook Lobster Pound's Lobster Rolls (but you knew that already)

IMG_0981 Must Haves focuses on some of D.C.'s best dishes.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Last year, I sat down and put together a list of favorite dishes for this Must Haves series.

There was the burger, the pork sandwich and the french fries covered in gravy. There was also a lobster roll. It's served at a great little restaurant in Dupont. Having grown up in Florida, I wasn't exposed to this New England staple until I moved to the area, so the one in Dupont was my first. I've had others since, but this one remained the favorite.

And then a new lobster roll rolled into town, literally.

If you know anything about the recent food truck trend, you know about its brightest star: the Red Hook Lobster Pound truck. These guys need more publicity like I need a hole in the head.

The Washington Post, the City Paper and The Washingtonian have all praised the four-wheeled seafood shack. So why am I focusing on it? I'm late to the game and the big boys have already filled you in on how wonderful the food is, in particular the $15 lobster roll.

The thing is, they're right. In fact, they might not be stressing the point enough: for $15, you can buy the best damn four bite sandwich in Washington, D.C. (unless lobster's not your thing, in which case they're selling fondue in Penn Quarter).

Every time I order one of Red Hook's lobster rolls, I'm disappointed in how small they are. We're talking about a $15 sandwich that's served on a hotdog bun that's probably not six inches long. But man, do they stuff that tiny bun. Try as I might (and I try), I can't wrap my mouth around the lobster roll. There's just too much lobster meat. It's a buttery cornucopia of lobster plenty. 

The rolls come in two styles: Maine and Connecticut. The lobster meat in the Maine-style roll is lightly dressed with mayo, celery and seasoning (I guess Maine invented mayonnaise). The Connecticut is nothing more than lobster and warm butter in a bun.

Both versions are outstanding, but the Connecticut is absolutely amazing. It's just you, butter and a pile of sweet lobster meat (which is how I'd like to be buried one day). Quite simply, it's the very embodiment of the lobster roll. It makes the long lines worth it and the price perfectly acceptable.

It is the best lobster roll in D.C.

IMG_0971 Now, there is one other reason I wanted to feature Red Hook Lobster Pound's lobster rolls. I have a feeling this food truck thing might be more fleeting than the great cupcake craze of 2010. I hope I'm wrong. I do. But I like sitting down when I eat and maybe having an adult beverage. And when you're eating off a food truck, those options aren't available.

Besides, D.C. can be a fickle town and once the novelty of the trucks wears off, I'm afraid their legions of supporters will head back to traditional sit-down restaurants and turn their attention to the next big thing (I hear it's pie).

If that happens, it'll be a shame. Good food is good food, regardless of whether you buy it in a restaurant or from a food truck. And when it comes to lobster rolls, the best you can buy may be rolling through a neighborhood near you.

DC Restaurant Week January 2011 Menus

Well, here we go again! It feels like Summer Restaurant Week just ended and here we are starting all over again with Winter Restaurant Week. As you're probably already well aware, January Restaurant Week in 2011 will be from January 17th through January 23rd. As usual, we at DCFoodies.com are contacting all of the restaurants gathering all of the restaurant's menus in a single place for your convenience. We will make this reference as conclusive as possible so our readers have all the details they need to make a decision about where to dine. As we receive more menus, we'll continue to update this throughout the month. 

If you are looking for advice about where to go, or are wondering "What the hell is this Restaurant Week that everyone's going so crazy over?" please refer to our guidelines on DC Restaurant Week.

Also soon to come is our list of restaurants that are extending DC Restaurant Week!

DC Restaurant Week Menus

1905 Dinner Only
Dinner Menu 

15 Ria - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu

2941 - Lunch Only
2941 will be offering the Restaurant Week price for a three-course lunch from January 10th to January 31st. There lunch menu is here.

701 Restaurant - Lunch and Dinner
Menus for Lunch and Dinner are posted on their web site at http://701restaurant.com/. Click on "Events" and then "Restaurant Week". Their lunch menu features a Chestnut and Mushroom Soup and Duck Confit. For Dinner you will find a Beef Cheek appetizer with Truffled Sweet Potatoes and Caramelized Apple. Sounds yummy!

Acadiana - Lunch and Dinner
Acadiana's menus are on their Facebook page 

Adour at the St. Regis - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu 

Againn DC - Lunch and Dinner
Againn is extending restaurant week from January 10th to the 30th. Here are their restaurant week menus

Agora - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu

Argia's Italian Restaurant - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu     

Ardeo - Dinner Only
Ardeo is offering their full menu for DC Restaurant Week. You can choose one Item from their Vegetables, Small Bites, or Soup & Salad Selections; one Item from their Pasta, Meat or Seafood Selections; and one Dessert

Assaggi Osteria - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu

Bangkok Joes - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner Menus

Barcode - Lunch and Dinner
Barcode is extending DC Restaurant Week for an additional week until January 30th. They're also mixing things up with the offer. For lunch you get 3 courses instead of the usual 2, with free coffee or tea.  For Dinner you get 4 courses instead of the usual 3. In addition, for dinner during the first week, you will get a free glass of any wine on the menu  up to $9. For dinner the second week, all bottles of wine are half off (Barcode usually offers this on Tuesday nights). 
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu 

Belga Cafe - Lunch and Dinner
Belga Cafe has a very limited menu for both Lunch and Dinner.

Bibiana - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu 

Bistro Bis - Lunch and Dinner
Bistro Bis is offering their full menu with some up charges for a few items.  

Bistrot Lepic - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu 

Blacksalt - Lunch Only
Lunch Menu

Bombay Club - Lunch and Dinner
Bombay Club's menu is on their web site now. After entering the site click on "events" and you will see the option for the Restaurant Week menu. 

Buddha-Bar - Lunch Only
Lunch Menu

Cafe Atlantico - Lunch and Dinner
Extending DC Restaurant Week until January 30th. There is no menu available yet, but we will post it as soon as it is available.

Cafe Berlin - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu

Cafe Promenade - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner Menu 

Casa Oaxaca - Dinner only
Extending Restaurant Week until January 30th.
Dinner Menu 

The Caucus Room - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner menus are on their web site. 

Ceiba - Lunch and Dinner
Ceiba's menus are on their Facebook page

Charlie Palmer Steak - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner Restaurant Week menus are here

Chef Geoffs - Lunch and Dinner
Chef Geoff's offers their whole menu during DC Restaurant Week. 

Co Co. Sala - Brunch and Dinner
Co Co. Sala is extending the DC Restaurant Week offer until the 29th.
Brunch Menu
Dinner Menu

Columbia Firehouse - Brunch, Lunch, Dinner
Extending until January 30, Columbia Firehouse is also offering Brunch on Sundays.

Cuba Libre - Brunch, Lunch
Brunch Menu
Lunch Menu 

Darlington House - Lunch and Dinner
Extending DC Restaurant Week an extra week until January 30th.
Lunch and Dinner Menu 

DC Coast - Lunch and Dinner
DC Coast's menus are on their Facebook page

Dino - Dinner Only
Dino is NOT participating in Restaurant Week for the entire month like they have in the past. They have extended it until January 31st though and they offer their full menu.  During Restaurant Week, they offer their "Wine Madness" program where you can get 33% of all wines over $50. This makes Dino an especially good deal during this time of the year if you appreciate fine wines. Also, on Sundays during Restaurant Week, they will be participating for Brunch as well.

District Chophouse - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu 

Domaso Trattoria - Lunch and Dinner
Domaso is offering 4 courses for dinner instead of the usual 3 for DC Restaurant Week.
Lunch Menu (soon to come)
Dinner Menu

El Manantial - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner Menus 

Eola - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu 

Evening Star Cafe - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu 

Extra Virgin - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu

Farmers and Fishers - Lunch and Dinner
Extending DC Restaurant Week until January 30th and starting every table with a complimentary three cheese pizza. They will also offer their Sunday brunch for the Restaurant Week lunch price of $20.11.
Lunch and Dinner Menu

Firefly - Lunch and Dinner
Firefly is offering a their full menu with a few upcharges. Below are their current menus.
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu

Flemings Steakhouse - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu 

Georgia Browns - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu 

The Grill at Morrison House - Dinner Only
The Grill is participating in Alexandria Restaurant Week (the week following DC Restaurant Week) with the same menu so technically, they are extending the offer. 
Dinner Menu

Harry's Tap Room - Lunch and Dinner

Hudson Restaurant - Brunch, Lunch, and Dinner
Hudson is extending until January 31. Here are their menus:

Indique - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu

Indique Heights - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu 

Jackson 20 - Lunch and Dinner
Jackson 20 is participating in Alexandria Restaurant Week (the week following DC Restaurant Week) with the same menus so technically, they are extending the offer. Also, their beverage specials will be available during Restaurant Week including bottomless mimosas for brunch, Wine Down Mondays and their 20/20 wine list (20 wines for $20).   These are their current menus on their web site.

Jaleo - Lunch and Dinner
Jaleo is extending DC Restaurant Week until January 30th. There is no menu available as of yet. We will post it as soon as it is available.

Juniper Restaurant - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and dinner menus 

Kellari Tavern - Lunch and Dinner
Extending DC Restaurant Week from January 10th through January 30th. From their web site, it looks like they're offering the same menu for both lunch and dinner.(http://kellaridc.com/special_menus.php).

Kinkead's - Lunch and Dinner
For lunch, Kinkead's is particpating in DC Restaurant for all weekdays during the month of January (starts January 3rd and ends January 28th.) For Dinner, Kinkead's is following the standard Restaurant Week days.
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu (TBD)

Kushi Izakaya - Lunch and Dinner
This is the first time Kushi is participating in Restaurant Week, and they are extending it another week until January 30th. They will offer a four-course progression including the pork belly and duck sausage kushiyaki, wood-grilled maitake mushrooms, and sea-salt gelato.
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu 

La Bergerie - Lunch and Dinner
La Bergerie has extended DC Restaurant Week until January 30th.
Lunch Menu (Their web site only has the dinner menu)
Dinner Menu 

Le Chat Noir - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu 

La Chaumiere - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner Menu

The Landmark at the Melrose Hotel - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu 

Legal Seafoods DC - Lunch and Dinner
Dinner Menu
No lunch menu posted on their web site yet

The Liberty Tavern - Lunch and Dinner
Liberty Tavern is offering their full menus for Lunch and Dinner

Lima - Dinner Only
Lima is extending until January 30th and the full menu is available. Guests can make their own 3 course menu! (Current dinner menu is at http://www.limarestaurant.com/storage/DinnerMenu.pdf)

M Street Bar and Grill - Lunch and Dinner
For both Lunch, M Street Bar and Grill is letting you choose any appetizer or entree from it's lunch menu. For Dinner, they are letting you choose three courses from their normal dinner menu.   

Masa 14 - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu

Me Jana - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner Menus are posted on their web site.

Mie N Yu - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu

Morton's Arlington - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu

Morton's Reston - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner Menus

Morton's Tyson's - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu

The Monocle Restaurant - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu

Mourayo - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner menu 

Nage Bistro - Lunch and Dinner
Nage is extending DC Restaurant Week the ENTIRE MONTH! Some example dishes include Smoked Chesapeake Perch Salad, Ricotta Gnocchi with Buffalo Mozzarella, and rich Doubleshot Espresso Tiramisu. Here is their full dinner menu.

Neyla - Lunch and Dinner
Dinner Menu 

Occidental Grill and Seafood - Lunch and Dinner
Occidental is extending DC Restaurant Week until January 31st.
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu

Odeon Cafe - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner Menu

Open Kitchen - Dinner Only
Restaurant Week menu will be posted here when it's available. 

Oval Room - Lunch and Dinner
Oval Room's menu is now on their web site. Click on "Event" and you will see a link to their Restaurant Week menus. 

Oyamel - Lunch and Dinner
Extending DC Restaurant Week until January 30th. 
Lunch Menu 
Dinner Menu

PassionFish - Lunch and Dinner
At PassionFish for DC Restaurant Week, you get your choice of appetizers listed on the menu below and any entree on the normal menu. Lunch and Dinner Menus are here: http://passionfishreston.com/pdf/pf_restaurant_week_menu.pdf

Perry's - Lunch and Dinner
Perry's is extending Restaurant Week until the 31st.
Dinner Menu 

Policy - Dinner Only
Policy's dinner menu

Rasika - Lunch and Dinner
Rasika has their Restaurant Week menus on their web site now. Click on "Events" to see them.

Restaurant 3 - Lunch and Dinner
Extending DC Restaurant Week an additional week until January 30th. Also offering a complimentary glass of house wine or draft beer during dinner. For Lunch, choose from dishes such as Southern-style Savannah Wings or the Cuban Sandwich with Slow Roasted Pork, Tasso Ham and Fontina Cheese. Or for dinner, choose from dishes like Fried Green Tomatoes with Goat Cheese, Green Tomato Relish, and Creole Remoulade, 16 ounce Bone-In Rib Eye with Mashed Potatoes, and Chocolate Bread Pudding with warm white chocolate sauce. 

Ris - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu 

Ristorante Piccolo - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner Menus 

Rosa Mexicano - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu

Sette Osteria - Lunch and Dinner
Dinner Menu 

Smith Commons - Dinner Only
Smith Commons is extending DC Restaurant Week until January 30th and offering a complimentary draught beer to each RW guest, 21 and over.
Dinner Menu 

Smith & Wollensky - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu 

Sushi Taro - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner Menu 

Taberna del Alaberdero - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner Menu

Tagolio - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu 

Tallula - Dinner Only
Tallula is offering their full menu. Check their web site for the most current menu.

Please note that Tallula always offers what they call the Neighborhood Nosh all night Sunday and Monday, and  Tuesday through Thursday, 5:30 - 6:30. From their web site, "Enjoy a Three Course Dinner for only $35. Our entire menu is available for you to sample and discover!"

TenPenh - Lunch and Dinner
TenPenh's complete Restaurant Week menu

Tosca - Dinner Only
Tosca is having a very large menu for DC Restaurant Week. They often fill up quickly because they are a popular option for Restaurant Week.  

Tuscana West - Lunch and Dinner
Tuscana West is extending an extra week until January 30th.
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu 

Urbana - Lunch and Dinner
Urbana will be offering their full menu. Menus coming soon.

Vento - Dinner Only
For Restaurant Week, VENTO is offering four courses with your choice of Appetizer, Pasta, Entree, and Dessert.  Here is their full menu. 

Vermilion - Brunch, Lunch, Dinner
Brunch Menu
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu

Vidalia - Lunch and Dinner
Vidalia is offering their full menu with some up charges for a few items.

Vinifera - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner Menus 

Westend Bistro - Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner menus

Wildfire - Lunch and Dinner
Wildfire's menus include your choice of soup or salad, a Wildfire signature main course with choice of a side, and dessert for $20.11 at lunch and $35.11 for dinner per person. 
Lunch Menu 
Dinner Menu 

Willow - Lunch and Dinner
Willow is extending DC Restaurant Week until January 29th.
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu

Zaytinya - Lunch and Dinner
Extending DC Restaurant Week until January 30th. 
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu

Zengo - Lunch and Dinner
For Lunch, Zengo is offering a selection of Bento Boxes and a Signature Dessert. For Dinner, choose from One Small Plate, One Large Plate, and One Signature Dessert from their dinner menu

Zentan - Dinner Only
Dinner Menu

Zest Bistro - Lunch and Dinner
Citrus Fennel Salad
Oyster Stew
Homemade Lamb Sausage with Tzatziki Sauce

Lunch Entrees:
Peking Duck Tostados with Cabbage and Plum Sauce
Tuna Nicoise Salad, Frisee, Olives, Green Beans, Cherry Tomato, topped with a Quail Egg
Tagliatelle Pasta with Porcini Mushrooms, Asparagus, Over Roasted Tomatoes, Pesto, and Pine Nuts

Dinner Entrees:  
Pan Seared Scallops with a Bacon and Mushroom Risotoo and Tomato Cream Sauce
Veal Scallopini with Truffled Root Vegetables and Madiera Sauce
Tagliatelle Pasta with Porcini Mushrooms, Asparagus, Over Roasted Tomatoes, Pesto, and Pine Nuts 

Upside-down cherry chocolate cake with hot fudge
Winter Fruit Crumble
Sage, white pepper crème brulee 


Must Haves: Dolcezza gelato (and warmer weather)

Must Haves focuses on some of D.C.'s best dishes.

I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I like desserts well enough, but aside from a few slices of pumpkin and pecan pie during the holidays, I can generally take or leave the sweets.

That said, Dolcezza makes a mean gelato.

Looking at the picture above, you may assume that even in 40 degree weather I seek out the creamy dessert. I don't, but I did for this post. I've been meaning to swing by the Penn Quarter farmers' market where Dolcezza has a booth, but didn't get around to it until the temperature crashed the other day. 

For my trouble, I came away with a half pint of Crookneck Pumpkin gelato. Honestly, I could've taken the Mexican Coffee (which was spectacular), Tahitian Vanilla Bean or Valrhona Chocolate Amargo, too, but like I said, I have a weakness for pumpkin.

9 The poor woman manning the booth also had a selection of sorbets, including Heirloom Apple Cider and Honey Tangerine. They were good (especially the apple cider that's made with locally sourced apples), but I prefer the sorbet selection during the summer months when Dolcezza rolls out flavors like Mojito, Meyer Lemon Vodka and Strawberry Tequila.

I also prefer the summer months.

If I was a brighter man, I would've swung by one of Dolcezza's stores where I would have had a larger selection and heat. But I'm not a bright man. However, I am a man with pumpkin gelato, and that counts for something.

ChurchKey: Ambitious Vision Is Realized As D.C.'s Very Best Beer Bar

Everything you need to know about ChurchKey is on the draught list.

Look at it. Drafted on tan, heavy paper - good paper, hardy paper - it's a black script roadmap to 55 drafts and casks. Hoppy, spicy, fruity, smoky beers are offered by the taste and by the glass. Along side each beer is the name of the brewery, its style, its place of birth. There's the alcohol percentage, the serving temperature, the price and the proper glassware. In case you don't know a tulip from a pint, there's a key of glassware silhouettes along the bottom of the menu.

Churchkey6 It's polished, elegant and written for nebbish beer geeks, but designed to guide anyone through ChurchKey's substantial selection of beers. 

It's the best menu I've ever seen.

The bar is almost as nice. From the solid burnt orange bar with its inset of keys, to the gothic chandeliers and floor to ceiling windows overlooking Logan Circle, ChurchKey is a beautiful establishment that was built to impress.

Without a doubt, it is one of the best bars I've ever set foot in. ChurchKey is not just one of D.C.'s best beer bars, it's our most important bar. The Brickskeller was ahead of its time when its lengthy beer list made the record books. But Miss Havisham has had her day and D.C.'s beer scene has come into its own. Portland has the Horse Brass Pub and Brussels has the Delirium Cafe. Now, thanks to Michael Babin and Greg Engert, we have ChurchKey.

I'm not the only one who's noticed.

"I was very pleasantly surprised with the professionalism [of the ChurchKey staff] and especially Greg has a great knowledge," Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, the Danish brewer behind cult beer favorite Mikkeller, told me via email. Earlier this year, Engert hosted Mikkel at a beer dinner at ChurchKey's downstairs sister restaurant, Birch & Barley. "It is hard to compare [to other beer bars] as ck is unique, but it is definitely one of the best beer restaurants I have been to."

Then of course, there are the local awards (two Rammys and the City Paper's pick for Best Beer Bar/Best Beer Menu) and national recognition (Food & Wine, The New York Times, Paste, All About Beer). Clearly, the arrival of ChurchKey and Birch & Barley has not gone unnoticed.

48580023 It's never easy, or cheap, to open a restaurant, much less two of them in a shitty economy. Yet, Babin (above, right), co-owner of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, did just that. Last year, he turned a former hamburger joint into a destination beer bar set atop an upscale restaurant. The establishments are treated separately, but are equally bound by a lineup of beers that stretch between floors and into the hundreds, all of which is overseen by a beer director that obsesses over every little detail. Needless to say, it was Babin's most expensive project, but it made Engert (above, left) a very happy man.

Before spending most of his waking hours at ChurchKey, Engert was (and is) the beer director of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, including Rustico, Babin's beer-centric restaurant in Alexandria. Although Rustico was launched with a beer program, it was Engert who focused and expanded it.

He brought in interesting beers, cask ales and a hand pump, hosted beer dinners, started a library of rare beers, headed up beer themed events, and eventually started talking to his boss about an even better beer bar.

Babin and Engert knew there were limitations to what they could do with Rustico. There was only so much space, all of which was built before Engert was hired, and they wanted Rustico to remain a neighborhood restaurant. So a plan was hatched. Babin asked Engert what he would do if he could do anything. Engert responded with ChurchKey.

"Every single thing I wanted to do with beer here, I did," said Engert, who is also a partner in ChurchKey and Birch & Barley.

33680011 It shows. If you know anything about ChurchKey or the District's craft beer scene, you probably know these stats: 555 beers on hand, 55 of which are drafts, five of which are hand-pumped cask ales. It's impressive in its size and scope, but it's not the most impressive aspect.

No, the most impressive thing is the trio of coolers. Each cooler is set at a different temperature (42, 48, 54) based on the style beer being stored (for example, lagers are stored at colder temperatures than ales). The draft lines that run the beer from the coolers to the taps are insulated and cooled to ensure that the beer filling your glass is the same temperature it was when it left the keg.

It's an attention to detail most people will overlook, but it separates ChurchKey from most bars in the country, much less D.C.

33680014 Consider the bottle list. It's 500 deep, yet there are dozens and dozens of names you probably don't recognize. As he did with the beer list at Rustico, Engert organized the beers by flavor rather than style or place of origin. Understanding that hundreds of somewhat obscure beers don't sell quickly, Engert keeps a limited number of each beer. And when one sells out a new one usually comes in.

33680017 Engert's regular rotation of rare and eclectic beers, on draft and by the bottle, has led some folks around town to question how he gets such unique products. Some have suggested that ChurchKey and the
Neighborhood Restaurant Group can spend more money than other bars and restaurants, while others speculate that because ChurchKey is the popular beer bar in D.C., brewers and distributors are lining up to get their products in.

Engert said it's none of those things. Rather, he said, it's simply a matter of working harder than everyone else to find out about new beers entering the market, establishing relationships with the brewers and distributors, and keeping his draft lines pristine and his coolers at the proper temperatures. ChurchKey also maintains a stash of 76 casks that they ship to breweries to keep the hand-pump selections interesting.

And then there's the beer dinner series and meet-the-brewer nights, the vintage beer list, and the firkins (because five beer engines pumping fresh cask ale just isn't enough - and it's not), but I should stop. I should note that ChurchKey may be designed with beer enthusiasts in mind, but they make their nut on the curious and the uninitiated.

For Engert, ChurchKey is an opportunity to teach. The less you know the better. Come in and peruse the pretty draft menu or thumb through the bound bottle list. If you can't make up your mind, that's fine. Engert and his staff will show you the way. That's why he spends an hour and a half every day working with the bartenders and servers in ChurchKey and Birch & Barley on the beer program. If you have a question, everyone should have an answer.

"We believe very strongly that this would be an eye-opener for many people," Babin said. "You get people in the right mood to try new things."

Of the many trips I've made to ChurchKey and Birch & Barley since it opened last fall, I've only caught one bartender off guard. The guy gave me the wrong beer and assured me the stout I ordered was the bitter I received. However, he double checked with Engert, who relaized the mistake and got me the right beer. A rookie error by a new bartender that was quickly addressed.

That's it, though. Babin and Engert have hired a lot of staff, and all of them (well, most of them) are clearly well trained.

48580017 When ChurchKey is packed, I like to grab a seat at the bar in Birch & Barley. All the beer is the same and you get to admire the copper "beer organ" that houses the draft lines coming from upstairs. However, Birch & Barley's bar doesn't have direct access to the bottles or cask ales on the hand pumps. Nevertheless, the bartenders always seem more than happy to run upstairs for an order. It's a nice touch.

Babin and Engert are quick to note that much of ChurchKey's success - and Birch & Barley's for that matter - is also due to the work of Executive Chef Kyle Bailey and Pastry Chef Tiffany Macisaac. They're right to do so. Bailey and Macisaac do an excellent job servicing two restaurants with semi-distinct menus (there are some crossover dishes). They even keep in the spirit of things by working beer into a number of dishes.

I would add to that Nahem Simon, who's worked with Engert for years, bartending at both Rustico and ChurchKey. Simon is an excellent bartender and may be as well versed in his product as Engert.

So is there a bad thing to say about ChurchKey? Maybe some nitpicking.

DSCN5408 One man's eclectic beer list is another man's frustration. Engert obviously puts a lot of thought into his bottle beer list, but I think it's a bit over thought. As much as I like to try new things, I also have a number of favorite beers I'd expect to see at a place like ChurchKey. Rather than an obscure gueuze beer from Belgium, how about sticking in a couple Titan IPAs from Colorado?

I'd also like to see more local beers. Engert is skeptical of the concept of localism and builds his beer list around flavors rather than geography, but I can't see the harm in supporting local breweries. He's done a few events with Frederick's Flying Dog and Brian Strumke of Baltimore's Stillwater Ales, but he can do more by keeping a few bottles of our exceptional local breweries on hand.

Normally I knock beer bars that have a strong dining presence, but for all of Chef Bailey's hard work (there's poutine, people), the food is a supporting player at ChurchKey.

Finally, this might be might strangest criticism yet, but ChurchKey is just too popular. It's been open nearly a year, and it still draws a mob. In time, the crowds will thin and the line to get in will disappear. When that happens, ChurchKey will cease to be a scene and settle into being D.C. very best beer bar.

Score: 18 of 20 (beer: 7 of 8, atmosphere: 4 of 5, bartenders: 5 of 5, other elements 2 of 2)

The Best Beer Bars so far: Birreria Paradiso (17 of 20), The Galaxy Hut (16 of 20), Franklin's (14 of 20), Rustico (16 of 20), Lost Dog Café (12 of 20), The Black Squirrel (16 of 20) and Dr. Granville Moore's (15 of 20). And don't miss our special feature on D.C.'s best German bars.

(Note: The Best Beer Bar series is going on hiatus. I'm taking six months off to check out new beer bars or beer bars I haven't visited in a while. I will also be revising the criteria that I use to judge the beer bars. If you have any suggestions for places I should visit or what I should look for in a good beer bar, leave me a comment below.)

Must Haves: Capital Q's Barbecue Burrito - It's Not A Taco!

Must Haves focuses on some of D.C.'s best dishes.

Sometimes, a clever twist can make a good dish great. Sometimes the right packaging can do the trick.

Take Capital Q in Chinatown. They make good barbecue. Not great barbecue, but good barbecue. Nevertheless, with a Subway next door and a Fuddruckers across the street, the tiny Texas barbecue joint is easily one of the best places to eat in the neighborhood.

Even with good barbecue, though, Capital Q has a great barbecue dish: the barbecue burrito.

You won't find it on the menu. Instead, you order a "taco." I say "taco" because the "taco" is a 12 inch flour tortilla, which makes the "taco" a "burrito," and I really like burritos. (I was honestly pissed off for a while after realizing the taco I routinely passed up was actually a burrito. What the fuck? Just call it a burrito.)

DSCN5280 Within that burrito you can have anything. Beef brisket and black beans wrapped in a warm flour tortilla? Done. Pulled pork, collard greens and corn salad? Done. Smoked turkey, mashed potatoes and banana pudding? Sure, but don't.

The point is, I can walk in anytime and order a burrito stuffed with all kinds of barbecue. And if that ain't great, I don't know what is.

Now, there's another trick to this. The guys working the counter at Capital Q are generous. If you order a pulled pork burrito with black beans, greens and hot sauce (as I often do), you'll have a mound of food piled on your tortilla. Picking it up will be out of the question, and if you're using a fork and knife you're missing the point. So the trick is to order everything on the side, including the sauce (and if you're smart, a second tortilla - you'll have plenty to fill both).

With your tray of sides and meat, grab a seat and a roll of paper towels at the front window and build your burrito(s). As you stuff that soft bundle of barbecue into your mouth you can watch the tourists jaywalk their way into Fuddruckers. Suckers.

Must Haves: Blue Duck Tavern's Bone Marrow Appetizer

Must Haves focuses on some of D.C.'s best dishes.

Last year, I predicted 2010 would be the year of offal. I was wrong. This has clearly been the year of cupcakes (really?) and food trucks.

I was on to something, though. Trotters have made their way onto charcuterie boards around the city, sweetbreads and foie gras are as popular as ever, and even my mother knows Chris Cosentino (though from his role on Chefs vs. City, not his evangelizing about offal, but still).

So it's no surprise (well, a little surprising) that something as primitive, as ethnic, as absolutely fantastic as bone marrow has made its way into the tony spaces of Blue Duck Tavern.

DSCN5502 Let's get this out of the way: cooked bone marrow looks like hell. If I were honest, it looks like a warm loogie. But the taste. Oh my, the taste. Some have described it as meat butter. That works for me. Bone marrow that's had time in the oven or a sauce is wonderfully rich and savory. It's the Cracker Jack treat in ossobuco, the poor man's foie gras. 

Whoever dreamed up the bone marrow appetizer at Blue Duck deserves a raise (and whoever took the ribeye with bone marrow sauce off the menu should be out on their ass). It's the only appetizer I've ever had that has dictated a return visit. Chef Brian McBride has put together an elegant American menu and I enjoy the nods to the purveyors his ingredients. The restaurant is beautiful, the staff is excellent and the bartenders make a good Negroni.

But when I think of Blue Duck Tavern, I don't think of any of that. I think of a $13 appetizer.

It's a complete contrast. The kitchen roasts two split bones until the bone marrow is rendered into a soft gelatinous state and serves it on a silver tray with a head of roasted garlic and a tiny coke spoon perfect for scooping. Despite the trappings, there's something inelegant about scooping warm bone tissue onto toast points. However, with bone marrow this is as nice as it gets.

The bone butter is wildly popular with other cultures, particularly in Asia. That's why Indian restaurants rough chop the bones in their dishes. The cooked marrow flavors their sauces and diners enjoy sucking the remnants out of nature's stiff straw. Sitting along the windows in Blue Duck's sunny lounge watching the West End go by, I can't imagine giving felatio to a femur, but if that was the way McBride served it ...

The offal revolution may have lost out to two chicks and a pastry, but as long as roasted bone marrow resides on Blue Duck's menu I will be perfectly happy being wrong.

Dr. Granville Moore's: Best Beer Bar is Belgium on H Street

Every bar is the same: four walls, one roof and booze to drink. What differentiates one from another, importantly, is the atmosphere inside.

A good bar will have a good atmosphere. The beer, the liquor, the food, all that's secondary. The people around you and the people serving you will determine whether you stay or you go.

Then again, sometimes you go because you're an idiot.

Halloween 2008, my buddy Columbo and I walked up to Dr. Granville Moore's from my old apartment on Capitol Hill. The Belgian restaurant looked as it always does: the low ceilings of exposed timber, the knotty wood bar backed by elegant beer cabinets and chalkboards advertising food specials and beer. Amongst it all was a hive of people feasting on mussels and emptying glasses of golden ales and Flemish reds.

66020001 What I remember most, though, was our bartender. Decked out in a little pink cowgirl hat and little jean shorts, she asked if we liked whiskey. We said "Yes ma'am," unhesitatingly. With that, the three of us and a waiter hanging out behind the bar shared a round of American bourbon ... gratis.

I loved it. A generous moment with strangers, free whiskey, and those short shorts. Man, those short shorts. Without a doubt, it was the highlight of the evening. Then we made the biggest mistake of the night, we left. The night was too young, so after a few beers and food, we decided to check out a couple other places. Nothing was as good. We peaked early and the rest of the night was a slow let down.

On a recent Saturday night, my wife and I stopped in for a beer. The hectic energy of the Halloween night was replaced by families and twenty-somethings drinking quads and dining on the signature mussels and fries. We sat at the downstairs bar between a couple guys pouring over pints and a punch bowl of fries, and a 10-year-old girl and her family having dinner.

Both nights were great.

I know I rant about families and food in bars. I still prefer my drinking establishments to be drinking establishments, not family-friendly eateries. But this is what a pub looks like in Europe, at least the ones I've visited. The Belgian gastropub may have been designed with New Orleans in mind, but the creaky floors, tight spaces and dim lighting give the H Street restaurant an appropriately older feel. It may be in Northeast, but it feels like Antwerp.

66020019 Again, that's just the trappings. Disney can get the trappings right. What seals it for Granville Moore's is the people on either side of the bar. Three years in, the place remains one of the most popular destinations along the increasingly crowded Atlas corridor. Certainly, some of the folks filling the booths and bar stools are tourists and Food Network fans hoping for a pot of Chef Teddy Folkman's (left) blue cheese mussels and maybe a glimpse of the man himself. But the rest, the bulk, are a healthy mix of neighborhood regulars and beer enthusiasts.

Assisting them all is a hurried group of servers and bartenders who are happy to take the time to sherpa you through the beer list, steering the wary toward the safe (Stella Artois) or the adventurous toward something new (St. Louis Gueuze), all the while getting jostled in their tight confines.

Before D.C. fell hard for craft beer, it was infatuated with the Belgians. In 2004, Bart Vandaele opened D.C.'s first Belgian restaurant, Belga Café, on Barrack's Row. Three years later, Dr. Granville Moore's and Brasserie Beck followed suit. And then came Marvin, Et Voila, Sur la Place, and now Mussel Bar in Bethesda.

Clearly, there are a lot of places to spend your money on Trappist ales and croque monsieur, but there's no better place to do so than Dr. Granville Moore's. This is a bit if a surprise if you consider that with the exception of Marvin, it's the only Belgian restaurant that isn't owned or affiliated with someone from Belgium. Yet, it's easily the best Belgian beer bar of the lot.

Joe Englert is a prolific bar and restaurant owner, who's responsible for several places along H Street, including The Argonaut, Palace of Wonders, The Rock and Roll Hotel, The Red and the Black, The Pug, Sticky Rice, and the H Street Country Club.

Englert's managing partner in Granville Moore's, Chris Surrusco, built the original beer list and recruited his college buddy, Teddy Folkman, who was running the kitchen at Balducci's and had no experience with Belgian cuisine.

Keeping the theme going, Granville Moore's new beverage director, Matt LeBarron (sitting next to Teddy), grew up in Annapolis working in his parents' butcher shop. Aside from talking his father into stocking a few Belgian beers, LeBarron had no experience with Belgian beer before Granville Moore's. After working as a host and server for six months, LeBarron was given the keys to the beer cabinets and told to update the beverage program.

If you know anything about Belgian beer, you know that developing a beer list can be difficult. First, most people don't know much about Belgian beer. Second, there are hundreds of styles of beers produced by hundreds of breweries in a country about the size of Maryland. Add to that the growing number of American craft breweries that make Belgian-style beers and you have and bewildering variety of beers to build a list from.

66020011 So far, LeBarron's approach is to keep the core list of 40 or so bottles intact, keep the seven taps rotating at a break-neck pace (with the exception of Stella, the beers change multiple times per week) and add more than a dozen 750ml bottles and branch out into French ciders and meads. In the next several months, he hopes to double the bottle selection (a daunting challenge seeing that he already stores cases of beer in the dining room). LeBarron has instituted training classes for the staff and he's hosting beer dinners that bring Folkman out of the tiny kitchen and into the crowded dining room.

Above all else, though, LeBarron's job is to keep the customers happy. Case in point: if you don't like your beer, you can send it back, even the wine-bottle sized 750s. This doesn't mean much if you're dealing with a $3 Coors, but when it's a $16 Rochefort that's a nice touch. LeBarron said he'd rather replace the beer and eat the cost then have someone go away unhappy. And the thing about Belgian beers, it's easy to drop $20 on a beer you'll hate.

For example, just because you like the sweet clove flavors of a Delirium Tremens doesn't mean you'll enjoy the face-puckering qualities of a Monk's Café Flemish Sour. A Poperings Hommel farmhouse ale might look like a Gouden Carolus tripel, but it sure doesn't taste like it.

To minimize the buybacks, LeBarron and the bartenders will warn customers about what to expect, especially if someone is transitioning from a pint of Hoegaarden to a bottle of Duchesse de Bourgogne (they're very different). But if it's a sour you want, it's a sour you'll get.

Despite the complexity of Belgian beers and the proliferation of American craft beer bars in the area, Belgian restaurants are as popular as ever. On weekends, you can still face an hour wait for a table at Granville Moore's. Robert Wiedmaier, who opened the Belgian-themed Brasserie Beck in 2007, is drawing crowds to his newly opened Mussel Bar in Bethesda.

Folkman chalks up the popularity to the fact that the District is a city of transplants, many of whom are open to new experiences. D.C. residents are also a traveling bunch, so it's not unusual for someone to come into Granville Moore's looking for a beer or a meal they enjoyed in Brussels.

Whatever the reason, places like Granville Moore's and Belga Café set the stage for the American craft beer craze now thriving in D.C. Belgian beer gave us a foundation to build on, an identity. As with any trend, craft beer and Belgian beer will eventually surrender the floor to the next big thing. When that time comes, it will be the quality of the service, the loyalty of the regulars, the atmosphere that will keep a place like Granville Moore's alive.

As long as Folkman and LeBarron keep doing what they're doing, Granville Moore's will be just fine.

That's not to say there aren't a few things to nit pick.

66020013 First, LeBarron does need to expand the beer list. What they have is good, but with so many Belgian beers available, the list could be many times larger. I'm not suggesting adding 200 labels, but LeBarron needs to find room for another 40 to 60, even if that means Englert rents them some off-site storage. That would put them in the same range as Brasserie Beck, arguably their chief rival.

That expansion could include a few more Belgian-style beers made here in the states. Had LeBarron kept the beer list Belgian only, I'd be fine with it being Belgian only. But he opened it up to the Americans, so he should take the opportunity to further explore what's available. The handful of American offerings seems unduly small. Organizing them on their own beer list or chalkboard would also help customers differentiate between what's made in Belgium and what's inspired by Belgium.

And how about some signage out front? Obviously, Granville Moore's doesn't have a problem drawing customers, but I've walked by that beige row house numerous times without realizing it. I now use The Pug next door to let me know when I've arrived. I'm all for preserving Dr. Moore's legacy, but I think he'd be fine with dangling a shingle out front.

Score: 15 of 20 (beer: 6 of 8, atmosphere: 4 of 5, bartenders: 4 of 5, other elements 1 of 2)

The Best Beer Bars so far: The Black Squirrel (16 of 20)  Birreria Paradiso (17 of 20), The Galaxy Hut (16 of 20), Franklin's (14 of 20), and Rustico (16 of 20), Lost Dog Café (12 of 20). And don't miss our special feature on D.C.'s best German bars.

(Bonus!: New to Belgian beer and not sure what to order at Granville Moore's? LeBarron says you should consider a Houblon, a hoppy triple that he describes as "Belgian candy," a Saison Dupont, a cloudy gold farmhouse ale with a crisp, dry flavor, or the malty and robust Maredsous 8. If you don't like one of these, you don't like Belgian beer.)