Well me hearties, it’s been an unusually long interval since my last post, for which I’m half apologetic. Not entirely so, because sometimes a person needs a break. Mine involved visiting the Washington, DC area, where I discovered one of the city’s not-exactly-hidden gems.
It’s an unseasonably warm day at the end of December, and Ben and I have been wandering around DC for a while, working up a thirst, and an appetite. We walk through Chinatown, past the Verizon Center, and stop under a lamppost to discuss dinner. About that time, we notice that the District ChopHouse is two doors down from where we stand.
Whether or not you dig politics, which are as much a part of DC as its historic brick and stone edifices, the District ChopHouse & Brewery should be on your to-visit list. I failed to learn about this place back when we lived in the area, but I’m here now, so it’s all good. Located in a former bank, it’s a great setting to enjoy a pint, some above-average nosh, and maybe even play some billiards.
It’s also a pretty accessible spot; situated about a block from the Gallery Place Chinatown Metro Station, and within three or four blocks of a couple other stations. It’s also about half a block from the Verizon Center, and about two blocks north of Pennsylvania Ave NW.
I hate driving in DC, and heartily endorse taking the Metro, instead. Not only does this allow the avoidance of city traffic and parking fees, it also means you can have a beer without worrying about driving. Winning! But if you must know, parking for the ChopHouse is street side.
Shortly after our arrival, Ben finds a unique feature of the establishment. I’ll let him tell you about it:
“I once heard the firsthand account of a woman at a restaurant in NYC who had to go through the kitchen, ask the chef to move, go through the trapdoor under his feet, climb down a ladder and then use the toilet which consisted of a hole in the ground. In fact, the head at James Brown’s place in Rochester is pretty similar, and just about as sketchy.
Taking a piss in the District Chophouse is nothing like that. It does, however, consist of taking an elevator downstairs to the vault, navigating through some whiskey barrels and then locating the room of your choice. Mine was hidden behind some pillars. It was a similar experience, without the disgusting parts, and it was like going through secret passages and into a classic speakeasy.”
It’s a tad early for dinner, but our stomachs don’t care. For once, we sit in the regular dining area, rather than plopping ourselves down at the bar. Fortunately, the server is quite knowledgeable about the tap list; “I’d love to talk about any of the beers,” he says.
Ben orders the Doppelbock, one of two “Brewer’s Marker & Seasonal Brew” selections.
It’s a beautiful beer. Served in a nonic pint glass, the stout is an opaque black, with a long-lasting tan (not cream) head.
From the nose, I get vanilla, oak, cocoa, and bourbon. The bourbon and vanilla are fairly prominent, causing Ben to note that it’s “still a young whiskey barrel.” In the nose, he gets “chocolate, molasses, hint of coconut, macadamia.”
The mouthfeel is quite smooth, with the wonderful full flavor and body of a beer-engine pour at the right temperature.
Roasty but not astringent, it tastes of the chocolate, vanilla, and lovely bourbon notes promised in the nose, all overlaying a well-made oatmeal stout. The oak is present, but not overpowering. “It’s a non-boozy Bourbon Stout,” Ben concludes. That’s no mean feat, and I applaud Barrett Lauer, Head Brewer at the District ChopHouse & Brewery.
Later on, I order a Nut Brown ale. This is a good example of the style, and unsurprisingly, makes a tasty companion to my burger.
Naturally, the ChopHouse specializes in beefy entrées, though their menu includes some rather delicious-sounding seafood options, too. Ben goes for a 12-oz. cut of the Slow Roasted Prime Rib, while I check out the Signature Pub Burger. DC is known for many things, but cheap eats isn’t really one of them. Even so, the burger, made with a “blend of short rib and ground chuck” costs about the same as the most upscale burgers at Red Robin. Enjoyed along with seasoned fries, it makes a flavorful accompaniment to the beers. Ben seems to feel about the same about the Prime Rib, judging by how quickly he demolishes it.
There you have it. If you’re in the mood to enjoy a well-crafted beer (and possibly a meal) in a classy joint decorated with large prints of iconic DC people and places, District ChopHouse & Brewery’s got you covered.
Photos by Benjamin Wilson