Dining Notes

Photograph By
Celeste McCall

TD Burger owner/chef Timothy Dean learned barbecue grilling from his North Carolina grandfather.

Destination: Due South

So many choices! From the ever-widening array of culinary options near Nationals Park, husband Peter and I recently decided on Due South. The down-home, yet upscale, restaurant opened almost a year ago in the Lumber Shed at The Yards. Decor is bright and airy with huge windows, bathing diners in early evening sunlight. The decibel level was high, but not ear-splitting.

Due South was created by Bo Blair, who also operates Georgetown Events (with several restaurants there). In The Yards, Blair has Ice Cream Jubilee, Truckeroo, and the Half Street Fairgrounds near Nationals Park. Chef/partner is Rusty Homan, whose custom-made smoker turns out succulent ribs, pulled pork, and smoked chicken and oysters, the latter an appetizer.

To catch that sunlight, we settled by the window. We were tempted by the starters, especially squash puppies (napped with jalapeno aioli) and the aforementioned charbroiled oysters, but decided to proceed to the main event. Southern-bred Peter, a self-proclaimed barbecue expert, was eager to try chef Homan’s highly touted St. Louis-style barbecue pork ribs. But, rather than the ribs, he opted for the pulled pork platter with Anson Mill grits, collards, and a corn muffin. “One of the better pork platters I’ve had in the Washington area,” Peter proclaimed, citing the smoky, savory flavor. “And the piquant barbecue sauce had a bite that went well with the rather bland grits. The collards were sublime.”

I decided on the smoked chicken half, escorted by chili-roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli rabe. Honey mustard barbecue sauce, draped all over the meat, was piquantly delicious, but I found it overpowering and would have preferred it served on the side. The broccoli needed a smidgen of salt, which our served promptly provided. Other tempting options: blackened local catfish and a decadent-sounding bacon pimento cheeseburger. Next time.

Dinner for two, with a glass of wine apiece, came to $80, including tax and tip. Open daily for lunch and dinner, Due South is at 301 Water St. SE; call 202-479-4616or visit www.duesouthdc.com.

Cluck Cluck

As the lazy, hazy days of summer are upon us, Betsy has arrived atop Barracks Row’s Belga Cafe. Created by Chef Bart and team, Betsy is an open-air rooftop serving American fare and gin-oriented cocktails. This hidden oasis is inspired by Chef Bart’s chicken flock, and Betsy is his favorite. The menu focuses on small plates like buffalo chicken croquettes, spicy corn-on-the-cob, and buckets of fried mussels. Herbs plucked from Bart’s rooftop garden often jazz up the cocktails. To find Betsy, head to Belga, then walk behind the building through the graffiti-painted alley and up the stairs. Or follow the signs and chickens graffiti’ed on the sidewalk. Weather permitting, Betsy opens at 4 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, with happy hour from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. daily. Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m., with Belga’s brunch menu from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Call 202-544-0100or visit www.belgacafe.com.

Suds and Burgers

Here’s something fun and easy on the wallet. In NoMa, Timothy Dean’s TD Burger, 250 K St. NE, is running a happy hour special all summer. For just $5 you get a Bud & Burger. Featured is the George Washington Classic – with American cheese, lettuce, and tomato plus a draft Budweiser. Happy hour goes from 4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Not included are the other burgers. The Obama is a juicy patty capped with grilled Mau onions, Swiss cheese, and watercress. A more sinful concoction is the Jean Louis, crowned with foie gras and black truffle aioli. Dean, 46, was a protege of the late great Jean-Palladin.

But the three-year-old TD Burger offers more than burgers. A native Washingtonian, Dean smokes a mean rack of ribs, a skill learned from his North Carolina-bred grandfather. TD is open daily; call 202-546-2433or visit www.tdburger.com.

Beer in the Brig

Just in time for summer, The Brig, Navy Yard’s sprawling, 210-seat beer garden, was set to arrive last month at the “bottom of Barracks Row.” Besides a full bar, 15 types of brewski will flow from taps. Brats, burgers, and the like will sizzle on outdoor grills. You will find the beer garden at 1007 Eighth St. SE. Look for the giant Hofbrau lions out front, imported from Munich. By the way, “brig” refers to the jail where they put misbehaving sailors and Marines.

Market Watch

Peter and I have stumbled upon a new Eastern Market vendor: Big Holes, a donut-hole bakery stand created by Grant Sarvis. The motto is, “Don’t be an A-Hole, try a B-Hole.” (I didn’t come up with that, they did.) Anyway, the round, tasty morsels come in various flavors including dill/chive with cream cheese, cinnamon treat, and honey lavender. You’ll find Big Holes on Sundays outside Eastern Market. They also cater; call 561-699-3107or email bholebakery@gmail.com.

Makin’ Bacon

We’ve enjoyed various concoctions at Capitol Hill restaurants and elsewhere involving delicious bacon hickory-smoked in Benton, Tenn. So we were pleased to find the tasty pork, priced at $13.99 per pound, at Harvey’s Market in Union Market. Closed Monday, Union Market is at 1309 Fifth St. NE; visit www.harveysmarketdc.com.

Summer Adds

Nando’s Peri-Peri, the African/Portuguese chicken eatery with outposts on 411 H St. NE and 300 Tingey St. SE (Navy Yard), among other locations, has unveiled new items. Most involve thigh meat, in my opinion the tastiest part of the bird. Among newcomers are flame-grilled, skin-on boneless chicken thighs; thigh skewers; and a “thigh and mighty” sandwich on a toasted Portuguese-style roll. Refreshing new summer drinks include pineapple and blood orange/mango lemonades. For more information visit www.nandosperiperi.com.

Lunch and Happy Hour

Beuchert’s Saloon, 623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, now serves lunch on Tuesday through Friday, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., in the dining room and on the patio. Beuchert’s also offers weekend brunch plus a festive happy hour from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with daily specials. Call 202-733-1384or visit www.beuchertssaloon.com.

Diner and Pub

Coming next spring to the Atlas District is Blue Diner, the brainchild of father-and-son team Larry and Justin Harbin. A dressed-up version of circa 1940s-50s eateries, Blue Diner will occupy the second floor of 1248-1250 H St. NE. Spile & Spigot, an English pub, will be downstairs. The Harbins are first-time restaurateurs, but Justin has worked in the food business for a dozen years. We remember him from Cheesetique, the nifty wine and cheese bar in Arlington’s Shirlington Village. The 160-seat Blue Diner will be festooned with subway tiles and vinyl seats and booths, a counter overlooking the kitchen, a patio, and a bar. As the moniker suggests, blue will be prominent, reminiscent of downtown’s long-gone Blue Mirror Grill.

The name Spile & Spigot comes from parts of a cask used to serve ale. Larry Harbin spent time working in a small British town when he fell in love with the pubs. The menu will focus on fish and chips, bangers and mash, plus other dishes with an “international influence,” Justin says. He describes Spile & Spigot as “a lot like a gastropub, but please don't ever call it a gastropub because it sounds a lot like indigestion.”

And …

Arriving at 406 H St. NE is Fare Well, a vegan bakery created by Doron Petersan, who twice took first place in Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. The vegan bakery will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. The full bar will flow with beer and wine on tap, plus cocktails.

RAMMY Winners

Congrats to three restaurants located near Capitol Hill that took top honors at the 34th Annual RAMMY Awards Gala, held June 12 at the Walter Washington Convention Center. Best New Restaurant: Maketto (Atlas District); Pastry Chef: Alex Levin, Osteria Morini (near Navy Yard); Wine Program: Red Hen (NoMa). Presented by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), the RAMMY Awards honor the region’s food-service community.

Goodbye, Dogs

Barracks Row bade adieu to funky hotdog spot DC-3, which was located at 423 Eighth St. SE. Meanwhile, sister restaurant Matchbox has abandoned plans to expand into the nearby space vacated by Las Placitas, which relocated to 1100 Eighth St. SE.

A pair of Teutonic lions guard the recently opened Brig, a German-style beer garden at the foot of Barracks Row.
Al Fresco diners savor the down-home cooking at Due South, near Nats Park.

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