Dining Notes

269
The bar at St. Anselm, near Union Market, welcomes customers with cozy ambiance and a vintage clock.

Restaurants just keep coming. Among Union Market’s newest neighbors is St. Anselm. Sprawled on the corner near Trader Joe’s, the two-level space was once a warehouse. Rustic brick-lined walls and a brightly lit bar with a vintage clock welcome customers. A joint venture by St. Anselm founder Joe Carroll and award-winning restaurateur Stephen Starr, the newcomer is Washington’s first outpost of the same-name restaurant in Brooklyn. Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s menu focuses on steaks, including lesser known cuts like Denver flank (flatiron). There’s also lamb tartare, lamb Merguez, pork porterhouse with apricot chutney, tuna steak and whole mackerel.

Bound in a metal cover, St. Anselm’s enormous wine list encompasses approximately 350 bottles offered by the full, half-bottle, glass and on tap. Equally impressive is the cocktail menu with “classic” options like zesty bloody marys and “Hemingway” daiquiris.

A mid-day special, avocado toast, goes beyond the clichéd concoction. A thick slice of Scandinavian-style dark bread is heaped with velvety avocado and generous chunks of blue crab,  garnished with baby radicchio leaves and thin cucumber and radish circles. More crab invades a quartet of deviled eggs, perched on a commemorative plate from George H. W. Bush’s 1989 inaugural. The vintage plate, along with mismatched cutlery and other accouterments, were purchased from antique shops in Frederick, Maryland.

The oysters-and-grits dish consisted of five or six plump bivalves, lightly breaded and fried, escorted by Anson grits. Corn kernels in the grits imparted a rather off-putting sweet taste. The crowning touch was a poached egg drizzled with golden-hued Hollandaise. Piece d’ resistance: a tiny bottle of hot sauce. Open nightly plus weekend brunch, St. Anselm is located at 1250 Fifth St. NE. Call 202-864-2199 or visit www.stanselmdc.com.

Valor GM/beverage director Brian Marvel showcases “French-pressed” cocktails.

Valor, Beer and Chow
Soon, if not already, Valor Brewpub will brew its very own beer, made by Navy veteran Greg Maddrey. A salute to America’s veterans, Valor sports a down home atmosphere, reminiscent of the American Legion. But Valor offers more than beer.

GM/Beverage Director Brian Marvel’s bar specializes in French-pressed cocktails, employing the same principle as French-pressed coffee; try his basil gin fizz. Also enlivening cocktails is Travis McVey’s Heros vodka. A former Marine (stationed at the Marine Barracks across the street), McVey guarded former president George H. W. Bush. Having lost two buddies in Afghanistan, McVey created Heros vodka to honor his fallen comrades. Ten percent of proceeds from his award-winning vodka go to veterans groups.

Heading the menu is executive chef Ryan Hackney’s half smoke-fried rice, a mélange of sausages, “carryout” fried rice, griddled egg and scallions. “Ingredients from my childhood,” the DC native explained. The savory “small plate” portion was generous enough for an entrée. Another locally influenced dish is Mariners chowder swimming with Maryland crab, shrimp and Old Bay. Smoked collards are enhanced with bacon and a splash of spicy vinegar.

“KFC” is a plate of Korean-style fried wings enlivened with tangy black vinegar, basil and  crushed peanuts. Zesty and finger lickin’ good. Other international dishes, like vinegar-soy-braised pork and Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken, reflect Hackney’s stints at 701, Bibliana and Adams Morgan’s Lucky Buns.

Food is presented on plain metal trays. “My kind of place,” said husband Peter, another Navy veteran. The price was right; dinner for two with a drink apiece came to just $45 before tip. Service is pleasant and professional. Located at 723 Eighth St. SE, Valor is open daily for lunch and dinner; call 202-547-8459 or visit www.valorbrewpub.com.

Owner Thomas Boivert fills in as chef at Pursuit Wine Bar, on H Street NE in the Atlas District.

Not Trivial Pursuit
Wedged in the east end of H St. NE is Pursuit Wine Bar, 1421 H. Open for four and a half years, Pursuit, owned by Thomas Boivert, pours foreign and domestic vintages by the glass and bottle. Besides the handsome, slate-covered bar, there’s additional seating upstairs, including a comfy couch. Pursuit’s tiny kitchen turns out “smaller plates” including bruschettas and house-made pastas, which run the gamut of traditional Bolognese, meatballs and an intriguing “BLT” with pancetta, arugula, tomatoes and parmesan.

You can’t go wrong with cheese, and the kitchen uses lots of it. Besides several varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches (try the chicken bacon ranch), there’s a divinely rich, Old Bay dusted shrimp and grits, replete with cheddar and pepper jack; pulled pork mac-and-cheese (on the Sunday brunch menu along with the popular chicken with waffles. In this version, white meat nuggets are coated with corn flakes and lightly air-fried.

Currently located at 1421 H St. NE, Pursuit is moving to 1025 H next spring. Open nightly plus Sunday brunch (no dinner that night); call 202-758-2139 or visitwww.thepursuitwinebar.com.

Books, Coffee and Wine
We’ve explored Solid State Books, a spacious, independent bookstore/wine/beer and coffee bar in the sprawling Apollo complex at 600 H St. NE. We browsed awhile, taking in the wide selection of fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, children’s books and more. Watch for book signings. Owned by Scott Abel and Jeke Clumsky Whitlock, who came from Dupont Circle’s Kramerbooks & Afterwords, Solid State is open daily, ‘til late weekends. Call 202-897-4201 or visit www.solidstatebooksdc.com.

Christmas Cheer
Not all Washington restaurants close on major holidays. Among places serving hungry celebrants are Café Berlin, 322 Mass. Ave. NE, which will continue its goose and wild game traditions December 24 and 25. For reservations and details call 202-543-7656 or visitwww.cafeberlindc.com. La Plaza, 629 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, will also serve lunch and dinner both days. For exact hours and menu call 202-546-9512 or visitwww.laplazamexicancuisine.com.

World Class View
Coming next year to the District Wharf is Gerber Bar, atop the Intercontinental Hotel. Perched on the 12th floor, the stunning 3,500-square foot space will feature a terrace with breathtaking views of The Wharf, anchored by a massive U-shaped bar. Hues of purple, grey, eggshell white and navy will be set against a backdrop of wood, marble, leather and steel. While mainly a bar, Gerber’s kitchen will turn out light fare like individual pizzas, burgers, soft pretzels, hummus and veggies. Address will be 801 Wharf St. SW.

Gerber Bar is the latest offshoot of the Gerber Group, which operates properties around the world. For updates visit www.GerberBars.com.