12 Mar 2010

Liberty Tree Takes Root on H Street

Chef Graig Glufling discusses the menu with patrons at the bar

Liberty Tree is a welcome addition to the restaurant scene on H Street NE. It’s a more sophisticated space than the bars and gastropubs that line the east end of the H Street corridor, but don’t confuse sophisticated with fussy and over-priced. At Liberty Tree you get more than you pay for—from atmosphere to food and drinks.

My friends and family were eager to try the restaurant I had been talking about all week. When we walked through the heavy blue curtains into the warm yellow dining room, we were pleased to see our table was ready and waiting for us. Our party of five and a half (we brought our 18-month-old daughter to dinner with us), fit comfortably in the booth in the front window, and despite the construction equipment that sat outside we found the interior to be very inviting.

We started with a bottle of wine—an Argentine Malbec that was both affordable and delicious—and chose offerings from the “small plates” and “appetizers” section of the menu. Our server brought our wine to the table, but struggled—for what felt like an eternity, but was probably only five minutes—to open the bottle. It would be the only hiccup in our evening.

When our small plates and assorted appetizers arrived mere moments after we placed our order, we eagerly filled our plates. The peppadew peppers stuffed with goat cheese had a spicy kick at the end of each bite.  The toasted bread that accompanied the white bean dip was unfortunately too hard to bite into, so I simply ate the dip with a fork. My friend enjoyed the seared scallops and recommended that we all take a taste of the fennel bed that held the scallops, though he never actually passed the plate around. I had frowned upon placing an order for hand-cut French fries when there were so many other options on the menu, but boy were we glad we did. The fries were the perfect mix of crispy and soggy and reminded me a lot of the fries I got on the boardwalk as a child. If only they served good ol’ Heinz ketchup, that classic American condiment!

Despite the many offerings on the menu, we had a few duplicate orders at our table with two orders for the pine nut crusted rare tuna salad and two for the sirloin steak. For my dad, our dinner’s benefactor, the subtle black olive vinaigrette was the perfect complement to the greens and the tuna. I ordered the steak just so that I could try the mashed sweet potatoes, and was pleasantly surprised at how perfectly my steak was cooked. The steak was a welcome cerise color from middle to edge, and the sweet potatoes—with just a hint of nutmeg—were an excellent complement to the cranberry port sauce. My husband ordered a small house salad and a knife and fork meatball grinder. He was equally pleased with both:  the salad featured sweet dried cranberries—and the sandwich, which really does require that one eat it with a fork and knife—had a nice spicy kick.

As our server cleared our table she teased us with the promise of three tasty dessert options. Not one to turn down dessert, I opted to share the blueberry crisp with my husband and daughter, while the couple that joined us for dinner selected the chocolate bread pudding for their dessert. My dad seemed intrigued by the traditional hot fudge sundae, but he settled for a second glass of wine instead.

Photo courtesy of Kyra DeBlaker-Gebhard

We opted to get a side of vanilla ice cream with our blueberry crisp, which gave off a steam when it came in contact with the cold ice cream. The dish was perfectly sweet, as was the chocolate bread pudding. A perfect ending to an excellent meal.

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  • Steve

    Great review of a great place! We live just steps from the Liberty Tree and have been there 3-4 times already, for dinner, drinks and appetizers, and even just dessert. The bredth of their menu is fantastic and there doesn’t seem to be a bad dish on there. Best of all everything is appropriately priced and the unpretentious atmosphere encourages frequent return trips. Don’t feel like dining in? They have take out too!!

  • Asher Borradaile

    LOVED the dinner! Will go back again and again, warm friendly atmosphere, cozy for winter and I can see it will be cheery for the summer. Perfect “sharing” menu to chose lots of small dishes to mix-match dinner. Staff were knowledgable and helpful! Felt like we were in a personal dining room.
    Loved it and you will too!

  • Went there Saturday night at 830pmet – they don’t take reservations but do have seating at the bar for about 10 or so.
    Service was very impressive, food was really good, and the price was perfect. DC is a hard town to find good middle-of-the-road restaurants (its either bar food or Citronelle-like places), and this one stands out.

    What amazed me was the wine menu – every bottle was 30 dollars.

    Once they get their outdoor seating, definitely going to be a hot-spot for wine and pizza

  • Kyra Deblaker-Gebhard

    The owner told me that there would not be a bottle of wine over $30 on their menu. That was a very conscious decision on their part.

    I suspect my biggest complaint will be having to wait for a table at Liberty Tree. (This is also my biggest complaint about Matchbox–Chinatown or CH.)

  • Steve

    In future reviews, please include the address. Also, I suggest Liberty Tree put its address on its home page, and not make those interested click through the site to find it.

  • Kyra

    I just wanted to mention that we thought our server at LT was delightful. And any issues with the wine were the fault of the corkscrew and cork, and not our server.

    Steve, I took the easy way out and added the link to the website rather than include the info in the post. I didn’t realize how hard it was to find.

    I would also suggest Liberty Tree post their hours on the site as well. I’ll try to remember to mention it next time I’m there.

  • Charlotte

    Kyra – you are just the sweetest, best person I have ever waited on.

  • Kate

    We had a great dinner at Liberty Tree last night and were thrilled to take advantage of the H Street restaurant week special. Mmmm….scallop and lobster pot pie, calamari, citrus cured salmon, a burger smothered with deep brown caramelized onions and craft beers. We’ll be going back soon! I would love to see them invest a bit more in their signage…it’s certainly worth the discovery.

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