Your New Neighborhood Diner

Insatiable

Public Trust kicked off our great meal with crisp, light duck spring roils.

Is Brookland the New Shaw? DC has now officially added another neighborhood to the growing roster of dining hot spots I cant keep up with. Thanks God for friends moving to Brookland and the World Cup offering plenty of excuses to eat out on the increasingly hot 12th Street NE strip. You’ve eaten authentic Italian pizza at Menomale and low country cooking at Little Rickys. Get ready for the hottest new trend, your new neighborhood diner.

Brooklands Finest: Your New Neighborhood Diner

My husband Jason and I arrived with friends to children running gleefully around the entrance to Brooklands Finest (3126 12th St NE), and a dining room equally split between families and hipsters all engrossed in watching the US beat Ghana on the big screens above the bar. The setting inside was festive, but the restaurants most distinctive feature is the patio bar, which opens into the restaurant by means of a garage door that rolls up. As long as summer stays cool, these will be the six most coveted seats in the place.

The four of us tucked in to eat our way through as much of Chef Shannon Troncosos, formerly of Matchbox Barracks Row, menu as possible. The barbecue Pit Beef sandwich was nice and smoky, brightened by pickled ramps and perfectly moistened by the sauce. It sat on the same tender, light brioche bun as the burger, which was the best thing we ate off the menu. Topped with the sharp bite of Oregonian Tillamook cheddar and rich, salty applewood-smoked bacon, it was perfectly cooked and delicious.

The crispy brussels sprouts chips were, as promised, crispy. Caramelized for light sweetness, they were balanced beautifully by a bold, dill, sour cream sauce. The tempura onion rings, however, didnt measure up. A favorite when crisp outside and melting inside, these sat blandly somewhere in the middle.

My pork chop was moist and tender with bright, vinegary red cabbage and a rich bourbon cream sauce, but the dish were running back for is the catfish. Perfectly fried, the flaky fish was crisply coated in cornmeal with an amazing, house-made lemon tartar sauce. The sides, spicy greens and creamy mac and cheese with smoky, gamey, bacon lardons, were every bit as good as the fish. 

Smiths Public Trust: Your New Neighborhood Diner

Ten days later, following the excitement of USA versus Germany and before the spectacle of the NBA Draft, Jason and I met our friends at the newly-opened Smith Public Trust (3514 12th St NE). From the folks that brought you Smith Commons on H Street, Public Trust feels like a restaurant in a smaller town, open and a bit echoey, outfitted with quirky furniture and art. The bar service and crowd was as small-town friendly as the atmosphere.

A few basics you should know: first, the awning out front still reads The Library Bar.Ignore it and walk in. Secondly, they are still in soft launch mode, open for just a week, so youll regularly find new items added to the menu as they get up and running.

We started by ordering the arugula and watermelon salad, the duck spring rolls and the green curry and coconut milk mussels. The salad was summery and bright. A sweet, ginger dressing balanced the peppery greens and made the sweet watermelon pop. The duck spring rolls were amazing! The duck was ground, rather than shredded, keeping the texture and flavor light. The addition of leeks was inspired. The mussels? Our one disappointment of the night. The shellfish themselves were sweet and fresh, but the curry, coconut milk broth delivered little other than a hit of heat.

Any disappointment was swept away when the nachos arrived. Smith Public Trust’s rendition was topped with spicy, moist achiote pork with cilantro crema over house-fried tortillas. I wanted seconds before I finished the first plate. Equally good, and featuring most of the same ingredients, are the tacos (shut-up, yes I ordered both!). We cant wait to go back and taste the menu as it expands.

Steel Plate: Your New Neighborhood Diner

After dinner at Smith Public Trust, we crossed the street for a nightcap at Steel Plate (3523 12th St NE), open for its second night of business. The dining room downstairs was hopping as we headed to the upstairs bar.

Stuffed from dinner, I salivated over the dinner menu while tucking into the drink list. The short of it? Great beer list with 12 taps at the bar. As for cocktails, while my BB Gun bourbon Moscow Mule with a basil balsamic reduction balanced bold spirits with herbal freshness, I should have listened to our bartender and started with the St. Elsewhere, a mix of blueberry vodka, St. Germaine, Watermelon and Fever Tree Tonic which is incredibly refreshing with none of the sorority-girl sweetness the ingredients imply.

Nooshi Sushi: Your NewNow this is just getting silly!

Brooklands many takes on American comfort food which today comfortably includes egg rolls and ramen, left me wanting some sushi. My friend Greg, suggested we hit Nooshi Sushi ( HYPERLINK "http://www.nooshidc.com" www.nooshidc.com, 524 8th St SE) on the Hill. He had been trying to describe its location to me for weeks and I finally understood the challenge as we walked down a tight, paved path along the side of a building and headed up to the second floor.

The sushi, by the way, was fresh, but Ive had equally good sushi in other places. However, there is nowhere in DC that has equaled Nooshi in the quality of its moo-shi pork. I grew up on moo-shi at a small restaurant in western Massachusetts, made with farm-fresh local vegetables and hand-made mandarin pancakes. The greasy mix of cabbage and carrots with heavy tortillas or sticky egg roll wrappers served so often in DC has been a constant disappointment, until now.

Nooshi served light, delicate, steamed pancakes which I brushed with hoisin and topped with the fresh mx of rich pork, mushrooms and sweet, pillowy scrambled egg. It is perfect. And I will be back.

Good luck USA!

By the time this is in print well be close to the close of the world cup and in search of another excuse to spend nights eating our way through new menus and drinking our way through their bar lists. Rumor has it that Shaw, not to be beaten by Brookland, has a few new restaurant openings in July. How can we say no?

The burger is the best thing going at Brookland’s Finest.
Crisp cornmeal crusted tender catfish served fully southern with greens and lardon mac and cheese.
These are the nachos I’ve been searching for. House fried tortillas and spicy achiote pork.

Jonathan Bardzik is a cook, storyteller and author living in Eckington. Known for his weekly, live cooking demos at Eastern Market (Saturdays from March to November), Jonathan loves cooking fresh ingredients as much as seeking them out in DCs growing restaurant scene. His first cookbook, Simple Summer: A Recipe for Cooking and Entertaining with Ease is available now (and would make a wonderful gift!). Grab a copy and find out what Jonathan is cooking at www.jonathanbardzik.com or his Facebook page What I Havent Cooked Yet. Need some foodporn? Follow @JonathanBardzik on Twitter and Instagram.