The farm-to-table dining movement lands smack in the middle of Capitol Hill with the opening of Beuchert’s Saloon on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Yes, this long, narrow eatery occupies what was an art and frame shop, but that space years ago was a true speakeasy, serving homemade alcohol to those who made their way through a residential apartment and a secret door. Dark wood floors contrast the tile walls and blond wood ceiling, while retro lights give a warm glow that put the space somewhere between neighborhood mainstay and trendy downtown hot-spot. Beuchert’s captures the mood and style of the early 1900’s Prohibition Era, but the cocktails and food are more comfort and whimsy than historic diorama.
Chef Andrew Markert brings the farm-to-table idea to the forefront of his cooking. Many of the ingredients on the menu are sourced from HIS family farm in Poolesville, Maryland. The hometown of other items are noted on the menu next to their descriptions. The food menu is divided into small and large plates – the former referred to as snacks and the latter “whole meals.” Vegetables can be served as appetizers or side dishes as they are interesting enough to stand on their own. Charred carrots are a surprise when they arrive – purple vegetables cooked al dente and served with a pickled mustard sauce that does not overpower the earthy taste. The Gpod French Fries are crisp, not greasy, and delicious on their own. The accompanying sauce is found on the bottom of the mound of strips (not the most intuitive location).
The entree list is short but covers the basics. My braised lamb comes shredded and surrounded by rosemary gnocchi and wilted spinach. Here’s a prime example of comfort food. The dish did not require a knife, and the combination of flavors evoked thoughts of everything from pulled pork sandwiches to shepherd’s pie. My only wish is that bread was served so I could sop up the sauce (take the hint Beuchert’s). My dining companions ordered a tried and true and a special. The roasted chicken was a generous half bird served skin on and was moist and flavorful. The daily fish special was a nut-encrusted swordfish with spinach. A bite of the fish and greens was both savory and sweet, and rightfully something that should be offered more than occasionally as I would choose that for my main course when returning.
The drink menu is varied, with specialty cocktails, beers, wines, and prosecco on tap (who does that?). Many of the cocktails feature prosecco as an ingredient, including the Beuchert’s 75 – a combination of gin, lemon juice, prosecco, and seasonal herb syrup. While light and refreshing, the libation lacked a punchline I was hoping for. The B’s G & T win house-made tonic was a bit too sweet for my taste and the added soda water seemed unnecessary. I think when I return to Beuchert’s I may stick to wine and beer, both of which are well-represented on the menu.
Save room for dessert. The house-made candy bar is like a giant Twix of crunchy chocolate and coffee cream. It’s light and satisfies the chocolate craving. I wish, like a Twix, it came with a twin in the package. Seasonal pies and house-made ice creams are also offered, as are a variety of popsicles (s’mores was my night’s selection).
Service was friendly, and if you enjoy a close-up view of the cooking snag a seat at the kitchen bar. Seats are limited but reservations are available for parties of four or more, and in the warmer months a back patio lined with fruit trees and herb gardens will I am sure be a popular place for the after-work prosecco.