Tue 29 Sep 2009
In case you’ve forgotten, there’s a third member of the Capital Spice team who contributes little more than some cute photos from time to time. On a recent weekend morning, however, Murphy performed a much more valuable function: he cast the deciding vote on where we would go for brunch.
It was ridiculously pleasant out, the perfect weather for an outdoor meal. It was also the perfect weather for a long walk with our dog. So we decided to combine the two and seek out a restaurant where we could enjoy a nice patio brunch with Murphy in tow.
I can’t find the post now, but I remember reading that the Argonaut’s patio was decidedly dog-friendly and that they were offering brunch on Saturdays starting at 10. I also read something about a “Bloody Mary bar.” It was the perfect combination. We headed out for a walk and gradually made our way toward 14th and H Streets, NE.
So of course we were early. Thankfully the staff was nice enough to let us make ourselves comfortable on the patio while they got ready for service. While we were waiting, we looked over the menu. What we saw got us hungry in a hurry.
A brunch menu with punch, complete with the appropriate make-your-own morning cocktails, after the jump.
To most visitors, the Argonaut is that vaguely pirate-themed bar all the way down at the far end of H Street. Or it’s the site of the weekly Booze Clues trivia game every Wednesday night. For us, though, it’s something more. The Argonaut was the first new establishment to open on H Street, way back in August of 2005. It was the first of the original eight properties that Joe Englert was to bring to the neighborhood, and it signaled the very beginning of what H Street is (and is still in the process of becoming) today. So, yeah…it’s got a special place in our hearts.
On this particular weekend morning, however, it was the brunch menu that was doing the wooing. Elizabeth opted to start off with a bottomless mimosa ($9) and I perked up at the idea of a Bloody Mary bar. For $5, your server brings you a glass with the appropriate pour of vodka and then points you in the direction of a table near the bar.
The overhead globe lamp (literally a lamp inside an old globe) could just as easily be one of those heavenly shafts of light you see in the movies. It illuminated a table laden with: two kinds of Bloody Mary mix (regular and spicy), lemons, olives, Worcestershire sauce, several kinds of hot sauce, prepared horseradish, pepper, Old Bay seasoning, chili flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, celery salt, and several other items I couldn’t quite place. If it wasn’t there, it doesn’t belong in a Bloody Mary.
I returned to the table after making my ideal drink – extra spicy, with chipotle tabasco sauce for a smoky kick – and we placed our food order. Elizabeth was immediately drawn to the French Toast, which is not an unusual occurrence. In this case, however, the unique twists offered by the Argonaut made me stop and take notice, as well. This isn’t just some day-old bread dipped in egg and tossed on a griddle; for $8 you get French Toast that comes topped with chopped pecans, warm maple syrup…and brie. The soft, ripe cheese lends a tangy note that works really well with the sweetness of the syrup. It’s a surprise, but a very good one.
For my meal, I chose a “Northern Necker” sausage patty. The menu touts the homemade Virginia pork sausage that comes served atop an English muffin for $8. Alongside the patty were a cup of cheese grits and a scoop of apple butter. While the sausage itself was savory and well-cooked, the accompaniments were a bit confusing. The grits were soupy, with a pale orange color that suggested a lot more cheese than the taste delivered. The apple butter was unexpectedly thick and coarse with only a subtle apple flavor. Although it worked as a spread for the sausage patty, it was less than satisfying when tasted on its own. All in all, I found myself jealous of Elizabeth’s dish even as I polished off the full sausage patty.
Maybe it was the attentive service, or the beautiful morning, or the fact that we had just finished a walk with our dog, but we had a great brunch at the Argonaut. Considering the role it’s come to play in the H Street community, I shouldn’t be all that surprised. But don’t let that stop you if you’re not from the neighborhood – the Argonaut isn’t just for locals, and the Bloody Mary bar alone is worth the trip.