After a brief hiatus…Pearl Dive

So I’m sorry I’ve been absent for a bit. Started a new job that was wearing me out with all the learning of new skillz. But I’m back and I’ll try to keep getting to of all of the DC barstools that are out there. So we begin again with an old favorite: Pearl Dive.

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As we all should know by now my heart sings for oysters. Simple, raw oysters. Specifically east coast oysters, because the east coast is better. The east coast ones are meaty and have a sweet finish, while the west coast oysters taste like salt and then cucumber. But you can get either type of oyster at any self-respecting raw bar. What really drives me to Pearl Dive over and over again are the drinks and the people.

Who else has great Vodka martinis as a happy hour special? Though the more I learn about cocktails I might have to amend my usual dry martini order. The speciality cocktails are far too delicious and I always end up drinking more than my wallet would appreciate. The little sidewalk patio is great in the summer, and the people watching is always top-notch.

Plus the bartenders that I’ve met, George and Enzo, are great to talk to if you are sitting at the bar alone waiting for some friends or just killing some time. Or if you’re with a group; so really anytime. They also happen to be quite knowledgable and make superb cocktails. Beware, though, this is 14th street so expect 14th street prices. And it does get pretty crowded.

Overall rating: Oysters: fantastic. Cocktails: supreme. I’ve never ventured in for the full menu but I keep ending up here by choice, so that has to mean something.

Cleverly Named: Park Tavern, it’s in a Park

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The Navy Yard is doing some great things to revive the area around Nats Park. Clearly they have their heads on correctly because they knew, every great park needs a tavern. Obviously. But Park Tavern isn’t your usual dark wood, don’t-know-what-time-of-day-it-is type tavern. LEED certified and bright and airy, this is a great place for pre- or post-game drinks and food.

I didn’t have a lot of time to delve into the drink menu when I was there, I was stopping in briefly before seeing Space Jam in the park on a large blow-up movie screen outside. Summertime, am I right? But the food was worth mentioning. Apparently there have been some ups and downs with this place, their first head chef being a real stand out and then a few subsequent ones turning out to be duds. The new chef though, definitely a winner. I had the fried fish sandwich and the breading was light and crispy, the fish melted in my mouth. I was picking up the bits and pieces that fell out of my sandwich as a causality of eating. I couldn’t leave any on the plate.

I ate at the bar inside because it was just me but they have an expansive patio with a great view of the LED lit fountain that you can run through. Which I’ve done because apparently I’m 6.

Overall rating: Come visit the park or go to a game, stroll around for a bit, and then have a nice meal at the tavern on their patio. To work off the meal on a hot day, splash through the fountain with the kids. The recipe for a great summer afternoon. And if that little fountain isn’t enough, head to the waterfront, there is a whole splash pool.

Cheese, What Could be Better? Answer: Cocktails

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If you know me at all you know I love cheese. If I were ever inspired to write poetry it would be an ode to cheese. So naturally I found my way into GCDC. What’s better than cheese and carbs? Cheese and carbs, grilled. Unfortunately, GCDC’s full menu is during lunch time and there is just no way I can get over to Penn Quarter during lunch at this time. Someday. So stopping in for happy hour is the best I could do.

The grilled cheeses were unsurprisingly phenomenal. Between my friends and I we tried all four on the evening menu. Now be prepared, they aren’t a slice of cheese byproduct slapped between 2 overly processed slices of white bread. It’s real cheese and real bread. So while it won’t transport you to your childhood full of tater tots, you will have a delightful adult meal. The house-made chips were also great. Next time I go I’m going to get a cheese board, apparently the mozzarella is a real stand out.

The surprise here was the high-quality, inventive cocktails made by Ben. (As a side note here to DC Craft Bartender’s Guild: I think you need new judges for your competitions. It seems to be the same 5 mixologists that make it to the finals.) I had the Garden Variety Rickey made with Gin, from scratch celery shrub, and soda. Ben was planning on making a Rye-based beet Rickey for the competition. I need to try this. I also tried his Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, which was created for the Bombay Sapphire “Most Interesting Cocktail” competition.

Overall rating: CHEESE. Would’ve been enough said but damn those were some mighty fine cocktails. If you can’t make it for lunch and tell me how the rest of the menu is, do yourself a favor and go for happy hour. You won’t be sad about it. Also they’ll soon be offering cheese classes. You know where you’ll find me.

Food Coma Worthy

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I’m from New England, when I say “let’s go to the deli” I don’t mean the deli counter at a grocery store. I mean an unassuming little sandwich shop that doesn’t do gourmet $14 sandwiches, but classics like the Italian or a plain old bologna sandwich. Simple and delicious. You might even get a house-made pickle if it’s one of those uppity delis. But that doesn’t really exist around here (as far as I know, please inform me if I’m wrong). That and good bread is hard to find.

The north is finally making some inroads into DC with DGS Delicatessen. While not a hole-in-the-wall deli by any means—the interior was simply decorated, accenting the textures of the building—they serve up some amazingly fantastic deli fare, with great drinks to boot. I went with a friend for “Deli After Dark” (seems to be on Thursdays) with special guest 3 Stars Brewing, so of course I went for a beer. But my friend got the house punch, a delicious combination of white rum, aged rum, pomegranate, pineapple and orange juices, cinnamon, lime, and star anise.

But once the food arrived silence descended upon our table. Between the two of us we ordered almost every side item, but it was such a deal: for $20 you can pick brisket or chicken (we got both, smoked to perfection) and 3 sides. The baked beans and mac and cheese were especially great. The grilled corn on the cob was to die for. We couldn’t resist dessert, even being stuffed to the gills, and ordered the black-and-white cookie hazelnut-ice cream sandwich. Totally worth it.

Overall rating: Definitely hit up “Deli After Dark”, it’s a great deal and they have a special menu. But I’m going back to try their regular menu. Go hungry, you will definitely need the room.

Not Firing on all Cylinders

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For the first time ever, I’m going to tell you to skip the cocktails. Yes, it happened, I ran into a place that was lackluster on the craft when they should’ve been spot on. The Green Pig Bistro in Clarendon is absolutely owning it with their food. Order everything on the menu. It’s so damn delicious. Especially the Heirloom Tomato Salad if they have it. But skip the mixed drinks and go for beer or wine. You’ll enjoy your meal more.

Recently I read in David Wondrich’s Imbibe an excerpt from Household Words from 1853 that

The barkeeper is a scholar and a gentleman [or woman]…making them [beverages/cocktails] not only exquisite to the taste, but also delightful to the view.

Well the cocktails at the Bistro missed on both accounts. While the ingredient combinations all sounded intriguing and delicious, both the cocktail I had and the one my friend Lori had tasted sort of the same, overly tart and a little too sweet. And the presentation was the same for every cocktail on the list, a soda glass with a listless lemon. It’s sort of a waste of the interesting ingredients used in the drinks.

Overall rating: Definitely stop in for dinner as many times as you can and enjoy their comprehensive wine and beer list but save your money and skip the cocktails.

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Another

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I don’t normally review things in other cities. It doesn’t really fit the theme of my blog but guys, if you ever find yourself in Vancouver do yourself a favor and dedicate an entire day to Granville Island. Not only do they have a killer rooftop at the Sandbar restaurant, but they have their very own distillery, the Liberty Distillery.

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Rooftop at Sandbar with a great view of False Creek.

You better believe I spent almost a whole day there and may have imbibed a little more than I should have (I got back to the hotel just fine). They are doing some interesting things, like a vodka that actually has it’s own flavor. The Truth Vodka was easy going down and had hints of botanicals and vanilla. The unaged white whisky, Railspur No. 1, had a bit of a burn but carried delicate flavorings like honey. The Endeavor Gin was one of the best gins I’ve had, right up there with Green Hat, which wins out only because I can actually buy it at home. If they both were local, it would be a tie. Liberty’s gin was floral and bright, the juniper only coming through as a compliment. For those opposed to gin because it tastes like a Christmas tree, this is a great gin for you.

Each cocktail I had really showcased their liquors, except maybe the Caesar, the Canadian Bloody Mary, but it’s really hard to taste anything besides tomato and clams. But I had to try it. When in Rome and all that. Each was well balanced and far too delicious. Plus I was able to taste test a coffee martini that they are working on for their cocktail list, which makes sense since they open at 10am.

Overall rating: If you live in or visit Vancouver, put this spot (and take time to wander around the island as well) on your must see list.

I’m on a Boat

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It was a classyish sorority party on a boat, just as I hoped. People drinking and carrying on like they were in Clarendon, but on a boat. But we were smart and got a spot on the upper deck of the Boomerang Party Yacht. The Coast Guard only allows a max of 34 people on the top deck, but it was worth staking out our spot. We could partake in the rousing party music but with a gentle breeze and prime night time views of the Kennedy Center, the monuments, the Memorial Bridge, and my favorite bridge: the Key Bridge. It was an up-close-and-personal view of the sights that I literally see every day. I can see the appeal of owning a yacht. Now if only someone would give me a ton of money.

The drinks were a sugary mess in my opinion, but that’s not the draw. I’d do this at least once in your life, though I think the sunset version might be more my speed. I’d imagine the Spirit and Odyssey dinner cruises are more subdued and sophisticated, but you’re definitely going to pay out the nose for it. The Boomerang came in closer to something we could afford and we knew exactly what we were getting. I definitely recommend getting there early to get a spot on the deck and to make sure they don’t leave without you (someone’s friend was definitely left standing on the dock.)

Overall rating: It’ll be like a college-age bar crawl disaster, but the views of DC can’t be beat and the people watching is just as entertaining.

The Rooftop Tour Limps Along

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The first time I went to Jack Rose I was denied in my attempt to visit the rooftop by a private event. It turned out fine because I was comforted by great bourbon. But still, I was determined to make it up those stairs. So when I returned a few weeks later I headed straight for the stairs eagerly. I would not be denied again.

The breeze was just perfect, it wasn’t crowded yet, and the drinks (as always) were top notch. I didn’t check it out, but there is a tiki bar in the back and a cigar area in the front.

Overall rating: The rooftop was worth waiting for. I’ll be back August 3 for the results of the DC Rickey competition.

One Stop Shop of Deliciousness

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Everyone knows when you drink, you need a good base. Daikaya/Izakaya has the answer. Not only do they have amazing cocktails upstairs, but you can get a giant bowl of ramen downstairs. They are even working on a cold ramen for the hot DC summers but customs is messing things up. I’d recommend making this a destination for the evening, as you may need a nap after. It’s impossible to stop eating the ramen when you’re full. It’s just so damn delicious.

But don’t miss the cocktails upstairs. Lukas Smith is whipping up some refreshing cocktails for the summer. Seriously, they have Moscow Mules on tap (enough said, am I right?). I started with the “Sba World” (on the left in the picture). It’s a gin based cocktail with Vermouth, rosé, and bubbles. I was leery about as it sounded super sweet and I don’t really roll that way. But I thought I’d be a good friend and get a drink my friend Sharon might actually want to try. It was extremely well balanced and not as sweet as I feared.

Before heading downstairs for a bowl full of deliciousness, I had Lukas make me a Karl Mélon because with gin, watermelon tonic, cucumber, and lime it sounded so refreshing. It worked out well, pairing with my Shio ramen with extra bamboo.

Overall rating: I’ll definitely be back to check out each cocktail as the menu changes. I have to go back to try the other two cocktails I didn’t get a chance to try before it switches. It’s just the right pairing of filling food and inspired cocktails.

 

The Places I End Up

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Sorry for the blurry pic, I try not to be obnoxiously taking pictures when I’m out.

I go to all sorts of events I’m really not supposed to go to. Like a reunion for a college that I didn’t attend for the graduating class that I wouldn’t have been a part of anyway. I’ve got some mad skills, and they landed me at Crios for one of these events.

Mexican isn’t typically my favorite. I mean I’ll house guacamole with the best of them, but how are refried beans a thing? How did anyone look at them and think, “yeah I should eat that mush.”?  But the food was free so of course I tried just about everything and it was tasty. A few notables were the fish tacos with what I think was pickled cabbage, fried yucca, and the carnitas sliders. The guacamole was pretty good as well.

More important however is the drinks. I started with a margarita, obviously. It had some kick, especially with what I’m guessing is a chili salt rim. But half way through my drink I realized they had Flying Dog‘s Bloodline on tap and it’s been on my beer list. It’s an IPA brewed with blood orange. I’m starting to think that my self-proclaimed dislike for IPAs is a lie, that or I just like unusual beers. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so I bought a 5-pack of it the next day (the 6th was their Easy IPA which is another easy-to-drink IPA. Am I a convert?).

Overall rating: While not really my style, I had an enjoyable time and I’m not unopposed to trying it on a normal night to compare. For science of course.