I walked into Brookland Pint – the sibling restaurant to John Andrade’s Meridian Pint and Smoke and Barrel – last night, not realizing just how much publicity it had gotten pre-opening. Well, it’s safe to say, “The word got out.”
The bar was a mob scene, and I walked through a completely full (but not at all raucous) dining area to wash my hands. Brookland Pint has a completely co-ed restroom area, with individual, private toilet rooms for either sex, and communal sinks and hand dryers (which is very European). There are only a handful of restaurants like this in DC, and every time I come across one, I’m taken out of my element for a brief moment – I like it!
Walking back to the large bar area (with a patio that was also completely full), I couldn’t get a seat, so I stood and waited for my drink order to be taken. Brookland Pint has draft beer only (save for two bottled, gluten free beers), and there are fully 24 of them, all in a row, and none of them had obvious labels on the taps last night – it was remarkable that the bartenders could tell them apart, but they did.
I ordered a Riot Rye (6.2% ABV, $6 for a nonic pint) by Monocacy Brewing Company in Frederick, and grabbed a stool at one of the tables near the bar. Sipping my beer, watching the Nats (who pulled out their third straight walk-off!), and waiting for a bar seat to open, I kicked myself for yet again ordering a “Rye P A,” always thinking that the rye will somehow compensate for the IPA hoppiness, and it never does. I am just not a hophead, and am starting to think I have a character flaw for disliking hop-heavy beers as much as I do. With this whole “American Craft Beer movement,” there really isn’t much for someone like me to drink – get me to Munich, London, or Prague, please. Personal foibles aside, the Riot Rye was well-stored, well-poured, and exactly what it should have been, with a wonderfully clean, refreshing aroma – I could have just sat there and whiffed the glass, but the Nats were doing enough whiffing for me, heh, heh.
Just as I finished my beer and was ready to order another, a bar seat opened up, and I nabbed it. Determined to find something malty, I ordered a 10-ounce tulip glass of 2012 Oxbow Oxtoberfest (5.5% ABV), a barrel-aged saison from Oxbow Brewing Company in Newcastle, Maine. At the same time, I ordered my dinner because I knew that the kitchen would be slammed, and things were going to be backed up (if someone told me that 750 people had walked through the door yesterday, I would believe them). Although I expected a hint of smoke from the beer, I wasn’t prepared for what hit me – the beer smelled of aged ham, and although it was pleasant, I had to really work to get through the glass. I sipped, I watched the Nats go into extra innings, I sipped some more, I overheard bartenders warning customers that the kitchen was backed up with open tickets, and I sipped some more.
I was thoroughly enjoying just being there, in such a vibrant setting, but I could also see that the bartenders were under duress. That makes sense, I suppose, but I would hope that customers could see and understand just how crowded they were, and there was no way for the restaurant to know this was going to happen – you don’t predict crowds like this, you just can’t. My meaty, ham-like beer was growing wearisome, and just as I was about to choke down my last few sips and order an Apple! Cider!, something terrible happened: my bartender – as nice as could be – came over and apologized that the food was taking so long (it really wasn’t taking that long – I hadn’t even noticed!). He then placed a beer in front of me, and said, “This one’s on us.”
“Oh, you didn’t have to do that,” I said, “but thank you very much. Which beer is it?”
“It’s the one you just had.”
My food arrived shortly thereafter, and it was a mixture of interesting and very good – very good especially considering that I guarantee the kitchen, from a distance, looked like everyone in it had been bitten by fire ants.
Some people I respect say that, while most Banh Mi in Falls Church aren’t worth the trouble, the ones at Bánh Mi DC Sandwich stand apart from the crowd (they don’t; they’re the same crap you get everywhere else). The best Banh Mi I’ve had in the area have been at Ba Bay (now closed) and Dickson Wine Bar, with a nod to the old Dino for their Tuscan Banh Mi which I respected, but ultimately didn’t care for.
At Brookland Pint, The Banh Mi ($13) with roasted pork, chicken liver pâté, pickled veggies, cilantro, and chiles on a baguette, was not very authentic. Then again, neither were the ones I’ve had at Dickson Wine Bar or Dino, but they were honorable … and so is this. In fact, it’s not just “honorable”; it’s very good, with roast pork you would actually look at (when’s the last time you’ve dared to have a face-off with the meats in an Eden Center Banh Mi? You just don’t. You eat it with the bread closed, and say to yourself, ‘this is really tasty!’ (And then you finish it and begin your next one – to quote Jake Parrott, “The only filling banh mi, is a second banh mi.”)) The chicken liver pâté is house-made, and works well in this sandwich (it’s also available as an appetizer, and based on this, I would certainly recommend getting it). That said, it’s something of a dominator because they spread a generous portion, and it finished longer than even the chiles did – if you like chicken liver pâté, and don’t mind it being at the forefront, you’ll like this sandwich. The roast pork was quite fatty, but at least it wasn’t processed (there’s that “authenticity” thing again).
With any sandwich, the diner can choose from fries, sweet potato wedges, coleslaw, or side salad, and based on my one experience, I would urge everyone to get the sweet potato wedges. They arrived at room temperature (remember, the kitchen was backed up), but the quality was clearly there, and I would be shocked to find out these weren’t fresh. In fact, if these are frozen, I want to know the source so I can buy some for myself (the vast majority of sweet potato fries (not wedges; fries) you get in this area are frozen). Serve these hotter, and you have a $13 meal that I can heartily recommend to everyone except Banh Mi purists. The baguette, I believe, comes from Gold Crust Baking Company, and is not a hindrance in the least.
This would have been plenty of food, but I also ordered some Deviled Eggs ($7), primarily because I was intrigued by the toppings of garam masala [NB: check menu spelling] and toasted coconut flakes. These added a kick, but not a kick in the nuts – the deviled eggs were zingy, but still within acceptable parameters. The only criticism I have (and it’s one that can be easily addressed) is that they were most likely taken from the refrigerator, and hadn’t thrown off their chill, but they did throw off some condensation in the form of water on the plate. I am quite certain this will not be a long-term problem.
Congratulations to Brookland Pint for what was surely one of the busiest opening nights in Washington, DC history. Apparently, they hit capacity at 7 PM, and God only knows what time the crowds began to thin.
At one point, late in the meal, I looked up to my bartender – busy, frazzled, and without time to even think – and said to him, “You’re going to be tired when this night’s over.”
“I’m already tired,” he said.