Friday, April 10, 2015

District Commons Food Review

Lamb Sausage Flatbread

Once upon a time, Washington Circle was merely a way to slow down traffic in and out of Georgetown. Now it plays home to the likes of District Commons. That's a far cry from the old George Washington Hospital (the one President Reagan was taken to) since replaced by heavy (culinary) hitters such as BTS, Devon & Blakely and the aforementioned District Commons. I'm all for hospitals (fear not, they moved across the street) but give me great food and service too. District Commons does that, and then some. Let's dig in!

Lunch starts with an elegant host station, where the staff actually takes notice (not-so-gentle jab at nearby Founding Farmers.) District Commons is deceivingly spacious (after all, it's on a circle) and I was led to a lovely spot near the kitchen, and a myriad of amazing scents. Table spacing is generous, and despite a large number of guests (it was full before noon) the noise level is more than adequate. It's all very comfortable and conducive to good eating, topped off by a serene window view of Washington Circle and an even more picturesque flower (see below.)

Hot Pretzel Baguette

My server Chris stopped by with water and a friendly welcome. No stuffiness here... just exceptional service with a smile. I placed an order for cranberry juice (ice or no ice? Thanks for asking) and a Hot Pretzel Baguette to start. It costs only $3 but is worth 4-5 times as much. For starters (pun intended) it arrives glistening, with a container of creamy beer mustard butter (a first for me) on the side. The crust is super-crispy, like a pretzel's supposed to be; but the mind-blowing part comes on the inside. The dough is soft and luscious, soaking up beer mustard butter with unrivaled gusto. Who knew bread had gusto? What I do know is this: It cracked our Dirty Dozen (12 Best Bites in DC.) It literally doesn't get better than that.

The District Commons “Burger” with French Fries

From there, it was on to DC's Lamb Sausage Flatbread, one of six creative flatbread pizzas on the menu. The kitchen certainly knows how to put the crisp in crispy. It also knows how to pair salty olives, sweet eggplant, and spicy sausage with dazzling precision. What could have been a meal in and of itself, was quickly disposed of by one person (guess who?) One of these days, I need to learn how to distinguish between starters and entrees: Perhaps there's a book or something? Lucky for me, each bite of this particular flatbread was different, save for the lingering goodness of rich olives. Great smell too.

Boston Cream Pie

Next up, The District Commons "Burger" with French Fries ($16.) First, the kicker... It's not a traditional burger per se, but rather barbecue-braised Pineland Farms short ribs with sweet & spicy slaw and a healthy dose of British AP Sauce. The bun is to die for (incredibly soft) but I kinda wish they'd let the ribs pour out, instead of forming them into a "proper" burger shape. The burger isn't messy, and ultimately a little bit denser/drier than I'm used to. The flavors are still there (the slaw helps a lot) but sometimes you need to get your hands dirty.

Now that's a window with a view...

Speaking of, don't expect dirty hands from DC's killer fries... That's because they're finger-licking good. Served hot and well-seasoned, they're actually not that crispy; but that only makes them easier to devour. I literally polished them off in under three minutes, without a single glance at my burger. Surprisingly fabulous.

Shame on Chris for talking me into dessert, something normally reserved for dinner. At the same time, give that man a raise for turning me onto DC's decadent Boston Cream Pie. Picture pillowy soft sponge cake with mounds of rich chocolate sauce and a few decorative (and delicious) strokes of salty caramel. Were it not for the Pretzel Baguette, I would have considered it for our Dirty Dozen. As far as sweets go, it's a home run (and I hate the Red Sox! Obvious diss on Boston.)

So let's recap: One new inductee into our Dirty Dozen, one honorable mention and a fantastic flatbread and killer French fries in between. That's a good day's work, don't you think? Couple that with stellar (very attentive) service inside a bustling yet comfortable space, and you have one of Foggy Bottom's two best dining options (along with Rasika West End.) A good day's work indeed.

Atmosphere: B+ (Sweeping views of Washington Circle. Very comfortable inside.)
Burger: C+ (Good, but not quite what I expected.)
Fries: B+ (Very impressive... and I'm Irish.)
Pizza: B+ (Great combination of flavors, and incredibly crispy.)
Dessert: A (All lunches should end on such a sweet and tasty note.)
Service: A- (Hats off to Chris, and a superb front-of-house.)
Overall: A- (Don't forget the Hot Pretzel Baguette, to boot. A for amazing.)