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Jan 25, 2008 12:45 PM

Brasserie Beck Dress Code and Menu Recs

I'll be checking out BB tonight for the first time. The website says business casual. Should I be wearing a blazer or is it more casual than that? What about some menu recs (both beer and food please). Thanks!

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  1. I think its more casual then that. When I went I wore a nice pair of jeans and a cute shirt but nothing too fancy. I would think jeans and a button down shirt for a guy would be fine.

    As for the menu I thought their mussels were spectacular, as were the frites. I tried 2 different types of mussels. I had the classic garlic and white wine (or whatever there version is) and my friend had the ones with the apples. Both were delicious and plentiful. The frites were some of the best in town (although I personally hold a torch for the truffle frites at Poste). Enjoy and report back.

    I need to make another trip out to Beck sometime soon. Perhaps this weekend---its perfect cold weather cuisine.

    1. Depends on which section of BB. The bar is kind of anything-goes. Lots of younger people in jeans and fairly casual clothes having drinks and I guess mussels and bar food. Very noisy.
      The back section of the restaurant is much quieter, white tablecloth and older crowd. Lots of couples, well-dressed, suits, ties, at least sport coats. More entrées and full meals. More of a bottle-of-wine group than a beer crowd.
      The Duck Congolese is excellent as is the Coq au vin. There are some really good appetizers but I can't resist the Brandade. You can get mussels anyplace in town these days. Go for the other wonderful stuff on the menu. I love this place!

      9 Replies
      1. re: MakingSense

        I disagree about the back part of the restaurant. I think the attire runs the gamut...we've been for dinner several times and while there are some people in business suits there are others in jeans. In addition, I've seen many tables with individual bottles of beer--and this is not to be missed as the beer sommelier does a wonderful job of pairing the right beer with your meal.
        My family loves the Beef's the perfect comfort food, especially on a cold winter night like tonight (although my husband first tried it on a warmer fall day!). The duck was excellent too. We ordered a side of the haricots verts (not listed on the menu but they made them for us) and they were tasty, although they were floating in a bit too much butter for my taste.

        1. re: KWynn

          I agree with KWynn. When I went I was with a birthday party and we were all mixed with what we were wearing AND sitting in the back of the room. People where suits usually because they are coming from work etc. That's just DC. I wouldn't put on a suit just for this restaurant though.

          A blazer couldn't hurt. But you can certainly wear a blazer with jeans and a nice button down.

          1. re: KWynn

            I don't think anyone in shirtsleeves would be uncomfortable in the back of the restaurant. There have been a number when we've been there. And quite a number enjoying the extensive selection of beer as well. But it's still more "formal" than the bar area with many more people in suits and a lot of older couples. People in Washington still put on blazers/suits or good dresses even when they don't have to, believe it or not.
            I haven't been there on the weekend so it might be very different and much more casual.

            1. re: MakingSense

              I've been to BB three times and since I only wear suits any more to give speeches or appear on television I can say that I was tieless and blazerless-- and so was my wife <g>. The guys in suits (in the bar around 6 p.m.) must have just left their law offices.

              1. re: jkosnett

                I have no idea what it's like at 6 pm at the bar. We've always gone for dinner at about 8 or 9 - the earliest most of us could finish up at work. As I said the bar crowd was more casually dressed and they were younger in general. Just different attitudes. I dress up for work or to meet my friends for dinner unless it's a greasy spoon or something.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  What would the chances be of getting a table or seat in the bar for 3 between 8-8:30 this friday night?? i notice the restaurant part is looked already on open table.

                  1. re: DCDOLL

                    pretty slim, i went there about 9-9:30 last week and the bar was a mob scene

                    1. re: elegantelliot

                      Agreed. By 5:30 or 6, even on a weeknight, the place is packed, and stays that way through last call.

                      1. re: elegantelliot

                        Us too. Last friday we had an hour and a half wait for table at 9:30, bar was so mobbed we went to the bar at Cap. Grill across the street for an hour and came back. Mussels were great, tho.

          2. My husband and I ate here last night (Friday). Is it always such a scene? The place was packed. We had a reservation at 8.30 and had to wait 25 minutes for our table. I was getting grumpy as we could not wait in the bar (too crowded -- it was literally four deep), we were hungry, and there was no chance of an aperitif.

            As my watch ticked to minute 26, the maitre d' offered to get us a drink while we were waiting -- and my grumpiness evaporated. Seconds after he had taken our order, another host informed us our table was ready. Our drinks arrived in short order (and, in the end, we discovered they were comped -- a nice surprise).

            We had:
            --a 1/2 dozen oysters -- very good, nicely briny.
            --salade frisee with lardons and a poached egg -- excellent! Classic dish, faultlessly prepared.
            --choucrote en croute -- The "croute" was unnecessary -- not sure why they felt it was necessary to wrap everything in pastry. Wish it could have been more of a classic Alsatian preparation of meats and sauerkraut, with mustard on the side.
            --side of frites -- cut thin, crisp and light, with three dipping sauces: plain mayo, ketchup and mayo, and curry mayo. Burn-your-fingertips fresh and crisp, with good mealy center. I actually prefer thick-cut steak fries -- but that's a personal foible.

            Overall, very good food, and a nice evening. But the crowd was slightly overwhelming -- it felt very scene-y and did not make for a very relaxing meal. And the immense space and crowds of people kind of made the place feel like a factory. Would I go back? Yes... but perhaps during the week.

            16 Replies
            1. re: Cookingthebooks

              While it's not QUITE as crowded on weeknights as on weekends, the bar is still four deep by 6p on weeknights as well. Beck's is VERY popular right now.

              1. re: DanielK

                Yes, " Beck's is VERY popular right now," so I think we'll just wait until the trendies find a new bar to move on to. Great restaurant with excellent promise but the noise level in the front of the place is tragic and the otherwise great food service is being spoiled by catering to those who want bar snacks with their after work cocktails.
                Unfortunately, the reality of real estate costs in some section of the city is that alcohol pays the bills. It's squeezing out good restaurants and interesting local retail. Soon everything will be like high-end versions of Ruby Tuesday's.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  I'm sorry, but I disagree. Been to BB's bar four times and I'm not a "trendy," at least not to people who know me. The bar staff are pros and handle large crowds with aplomb, while I've seen many a bar crew ignore some patrons in respect of those who are younger, blonder or regulars known to tip generously. If BB is a victim of anything it is quality and originality.

                  1. re: jkosnett

                    We went this weekend and had raw oysters and mussels (cooked with garlic) and fries. It was different than what we expected: it was perfectly good, just not special if that makes sense.

                    1. re: jkosnett

                      Exactly the point. You've been to the BAR four times. Beck is a terrific Brasserie with a wonderful full menu of excellent French/Belgian food - beyond raw oysters, mussels and fries, the kind of food that you can get at lots of other bars around town. Not that original. They should have high quality and great bartenders at those prices for those things.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        I can't imagine how you can criticize an independent restaurant for being successful and then, in the next breath, complain that the future of downtown is Ruby Tuesday.

                        And honestly, if you have had the skate, you would want to eat there weekly. Plus, if you ask your server for a beer pairing, they do a great job for about $8 a glass. That's one-of-a-kind.

                        1. re: katecm

                          One of a kind? I can get Belgian beer and mussels at Belga or Granville Moore's. So that makes Three of a Kind and there's many, many more places serving the same-old, same-old.
                          BB is the downtown, upscale, trendy version of the moment. A few months ago on this board, everyone was buzzing about Zaytinya or Oyamel. Where will they go next?

                          Ruby Tuesday? Chain? How many places really are stand alones, independents? Beck is a spin-off from Marcel's. Source. Central. BLT Steak. Oceanaire. Charlie Palmer. Capital Grille. José Andres' Empire. Clyde's owns 15 places including 1789 and Old Ebbitt. The folks who own The Oval Room own Rasika, 701, the Bombay Club, Ardeo and Bardeo. Tunks (Acadiana, Ceiba, TenPenh, DC Coast) Should I keep going? It's become an atmosphere and economic necessity.

                          I love Brasserie Beck as a restaurant, for their wonderful Salad Frisée, Carbonnade, Waterzooi, Rabbit and Duck Congolese - the type of foods Washington doesn't have nearly enough of - but I'm not fighting the bar crowd every week for that.
                          Congrats to any place that can find success in the downtown DC market but it's a shame that they have to do it by emphasizing a bar environment rather than the fine mid-range restaurant that Washington needs so desperately. Maybe that's what the economy supports since there are obviously people four deep at Beck's Bar.

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            "One of a kind? I can get Belgian beer and mussels at Belga or Granville Moore's. So that makes Three of a Kind and there's many, many more places serving the same-old, same-old.
                            BB is the downtown, upscale, trendy version of the moment. A few months ago on this board, everyone was buzzing about Zaytinya or Oyamel. Where will they go next?"

                            MakingSense I could not disagree with you any stronger. I had dinner at the bar at Beck tonight and had "fat" moules two weeks ago in Nice at their best seafood restaurant as part of a "traditional" bouillibasse (L'Ane Rouge; I have a post on the France board about the dinner: ) and six weeks ago in Brugges at the restaurant that arguably has among the best moules and frites in Belgium.

                            Beck has lines four deep at the bar because of their food. Perhaps it's trendy or whatever but tonight, @7:00PM, every single person seated at the bar was eating. Half of them had one of the three preparations of moules. The mussels are plump, succulent with (for me tonight) a garlicky, velvety white wine sauce to sop up with excellent bread (Bread Line?). Shoestring frites are good (not as good as the best in Bruxelles) but the three mayonnaisey dipping sauces (especially the curry) are outstanding. Flecks of a green herb (Parsley?) are sprinkled on the fries which, in combination with the dipping sauces are just delicious.

                            There is nobody, not Central, not West End, not in Olney that is doing moules this consistently well right now in the D. C. area. Not in Occoquan either. These are legitimately delicious. Having used every crumb of bread and having spooned every drop of "soup" from the bowl of moules I pulled the stool back, satisfied. It was a Good meal.

                            Over time I've done my best to eat my way through
                            Brasserie Beck from Waterzooi to Carbonnade with an Alsatian stop or two. Still, tonight, fresh off a train from New York I chose Beck's moules et frites over an early dinner at the bar at Babbo.

                            I made the right choice.

                            The "simple" moules et frites I had at Beck tonight were as good as I have had in Belgium. Several people were behind me-just killing time until I left. It did feel cramped. And the ambience does not have a timbered ceiling nor white stone walls and a brick floor such as what you might find off of the Grand Place. But it does have really good food. And moules and frites that are remarkably good for this side of the Atlantic. THAT is why it is so crowded. For $20 this is a real bargain for an excellent grazing dinner, if you will.

                            I must also add that living in Reston, Town Center is home to exactly what you are describing: Clyde's, Paolo's, McCormick and Schmick's and other homogonized outposts of rural or national chains with nondescript, vanilla courses which attempt to pacify the locals who come to socialize and graze.

                            I would kill to have Beck's open here. Well, maybe not kill, but certainly agitate as best I can.

                            Whatever Beck's bar is like for singles for those of us who go to eat, even to occasionally dine, I love this noisy place (although you are right, I do bitch about that!) because of its food. Sorry, I've eaten a lot of moules and frites on both sides of the Atlantic over the past 30 years and these are among the best-anywhere.

                            And, let's not start talking about Rasika which is one of the best Indian restaurants on the East Coast and would hold its own in England.

                            And, The Source? I have a lengthy post on here comparing it to Chinois which was my wedding dinner and a restaurant I have returned to every year for fifteen. Based on three dinners (including one 10+ course) in its first three months of operation it was better than Chinois.
                            An exception to the rule of clones? Yes. But, as of my last visit in late December we are indeed lucky to have this here.

                            Knowing how bad some of his "clones" are, indeed very lucky!

                            Your point is well taken about outposts, offsprings and off shoots (even wannabees!). But I think you are off the mark with Beck, Rasika and The Source. At least for now.

                            1. re: Joe H

                              Beck has wonderful food. I stipulate. Completely. Some of the best in town. We go but for dinner and sit in the back where we have some hope of lingering over a wonderful meal in peace. Not the point.
                              More and more of the new restaurants in town are, as you call them, "outposts, offspring, offshoots and wannabees," all starting to seem alike with noisy bar scenes that encourage eating at the bar rather than dining. Or eating bar-style offerings (grazing dinners as you call them) at tables.
                              Look at the amount of space devoted to bars over more tables in many of these places. In some, the noise from the bar overwhelms the dining area.
                              Not to say that the food in many of them isn't excellent and to your liking (if not necessarily mine,) but they are substantially different from what restaurants were just a few years ago. Bars were an adjunct and usually set apart so that they didn't interfere with the dining experience.
                              I think it's economics. Many people simply couldn't or wouldn't eat out if they had to pay the full meal prices. Alcohol is where the profits are. Even Source has a lower price annex that likely adds to their bottom line. "Chains" and bar emphasis may be the direction of the future.
                              It has definitely changed the restaurant scene in Washington and I don't think it's for the better. With few exceptions, most of the new places seem to be bars with restaurant subsidiaries.
                              I love to go out to dinner, but I don't always want to eat in a bar. My options are not improving.

                        2. re: MakingSense

                          I have another question: we are going for the first time next friday night and we aren't mussel fans so we'll be trying some of the other recs here. Has anyone had the monkfish ? it's one of my faves and i was planning on trying that. Also, although hubby is a beer fan as well as being a wine fan, i am merely a wine fan (although i did like some of the beers i've tried in Belgium).
                          Would it be a huge mistake to order glasses of wine at Beck in lieu of beer or is their wine good too? I was thinking of maybe asking for a wine pairing for each course but i suppose i could also do that with beer if they do 'tasting' sizes? What do you all think?

                          1. re: DCDOLL

                            The wine list is fine, but consider that they have a BEER SOMMELIER in house. They do a spectacular job of pairing beers with the menu - I would highly recommend taking advantage of this.

                            I had the monkfish not long after they opened, and thought it was very good.

                            1. re: DanielK

                              thx...i'll probably do that then. Do you know if they do 1/2 glasses of the beer w/ the courses or is it a whole glass? I suppose -- when in Rome -- or in this case Belgium --- :)

                              1. re: DCDOLL

                                You know, I don't remember if they do short pours of the beers they have on tap. A bulk of the list is in bottles (they have perhaps a dozen or so taps), so if you share the bottle with your dining companion, that's equivalent to a short pour.

                                The beer list on the website does not seem to list short pours.

                                Brasserie Beck
                                1101 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

                            2. re: DCDOLL

                              I got wine there, I tried a couple beers they let me try some in a little mini-mug so I could taste and see what I wanted. I really liked a couple but they didn't sneer at all when I wanted a glass of wine and it was very nice.

                              1. re: ktmoomau

                                I hope it didn't seem as if I was knocking the wine list - it's a nice list, and not TOO overpriced. I'm assuming that the Sommelier from Marcel's, Ramon Narvaez, put the list together, and I'm sure that the menu can be paired quite well with bottles or glasses from the list.

                                I was just trying to point out that there are few restaurants ANYWHERE in the US that boast a dozen Belgian beers on tap, about 100 in the bottle, and have a Beer Sommelier on board that can help you find something to suit your taste and budget to pair with your food choices. To me, this is an opportunity that should not be passed on lightly.

                              2. re: DCDOLL

                                Yes, the monkfish is great! Probably one of their lightest entrees (if that matters)--it's very flavorful and in a savory sauce. Please report back with your thoughts on it.

                    2. You'll be fine in jeans and a button down. The dress code does indeed run the gamut. The rabbit is excellent! Very, very good and something you don't have everyday. If you do save room for dessert, I like their bread pudding. The beer sommelier can guide you to good beer choices, but I love the Kwak (if for nothing more than the yard glass holder!)

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Since I haven't been yet: how does it compare to: Granville Moore's, Bar Pilar, or Bistro du Coin?

                          1. re: beauxgoris

                            Definitely a cut (or two or three) above. The food is wonderful. G. Moore's is a bar that serves really good food and doesn't pretend to be anything else. Not on the same plane. BdC is excellent, comfy, but not the same polish. Pilar is Pilar.
                            Do not miss Brasserie Beck. More expensive than the others but worth every penny.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              ^^ "pilar is pilar" - what does that mean? I haven't been yet to Pilar, so I don't know anything about it other than what the facade looks like.

                            2. re: beauxgoris

                              Since I haven't been to Granville Moore's or Bar Pilar, I can only speak about Bistro du Coin. A couple months ago I tried their mussells and was incredibly disappointed. They were not even close to the same category as Brasserie Beck. The food at Beck is certainly better (and of course different since it's french bistro) compared to BdC. I don't mind Bistro D'Coin as a nieghborhood joint open late with quality cuisine. But for mussells and the like I would choose Brasserie Beck.

                              1. re: beauxgoris

                                Granville Moore is a really fun place! It's a definite hole in the wall, but that adds to the whole atmosphere. There's a chalk board with all of the beers listed as you walk in. A great bar downstairs with a few tables, and more tables upstairs. The mussles are very good, as are the fries.

                                It's not an upscale eatery like Beck, but that just means that you aren't jockeying for the bartender's attention. The bartenders at Granville know a few things about beer, and they're very helpful.

                                Plus, just a few steps away is Palace of Wonders. When a sideshow museum closed down in Baltimore, the owners bought a lot of the museum pieces and opened Palace of Wonders. It's a great bar.

                                You should definitely make a night of checking out the new places popping up on H Street. It's worth a visit in my book.

                                1. re: dckw

                                  I agree dckw! Smaller places like Granville's is the real deal. Great beers, educated staff, more intimate ambiance. I think BB focused on architecture more than the food. I was seriously disappointed with Beck's. Had to send the mussels back twice due to sand/grit plus boring sauces, the specials were rich yet not memorable. Overpriced hype seems to be a trend in most places in the District.

                                    1. re: Joe H

                                      Hey, Joe, chacun a son gout. Not everyone has your palate or agrees with you. And frankly, the Flemish-style food of Beck's is not common these days, so it is likely to be more foreign to most diners in Washington than Thai, Indian, Salvadoran,Middle Eastern, Ethiopian, Chinese or any of the stuff with hot peppers.
                                      But most people really, really like the fries. Keeps them happy while they have drinks at the latest trendy place.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        Honestly, I think you need to make an effort to not hold a bar business against a restaurant - or to equate it with DC specifically. Most restaurant owners, from Midtown Manhattan to Western Montana, will tell you that alcohol sales are the most important part of their business. Not only do they get the highest amount of the money back, but the bar is also a very important way to keep customers in the restaurant despite a wait, instead of going to the place around the corner.

                                        I don't think that Beck's bar is that huge or bothersome. Granted, it is near the front door, but that is perfectly reasonable. But it's still a quarter of the size of the dining room, and it's rather separate from most of the dining room, so I can't quite see how it is so offensive.

                                        Also, not to nitpick, but you accused Beck of being run-of-the-mill and yet now are saying that the Flemish food is not common. I begin to wonder now whether you have a bone to pick with Mr. Wiedmaier.

                                        1. re: katecm

                                          Wiedmaeir is one of the best we have in town. I've had good meals at Beck. We don't eat at the bar.
                                          Beck, as a restaurant, is anything but run of the mill and that's not what I said.
                                          I was lamenting that Beck, like many of the new downtown restaurants, had been designed to emphasize the bar business, probably out of just the necessity that you mention - it's a major profit center.

                                          Unfortunately, the bars in many of the newer restaurants aren't "holding areas" for people waiting for their tables to be ready. They are the only area of the restaurant that many people ever experience. The menus reflect that and as the bars are increasingly busy, the kitchens get overwhelmed and less attention is paid to the full-service dining side. Obviously, a restaurant puts its efforts where it makes its money.

                                          The foods that many of the posters here report eating at Beck however are hardly unusual Belgian or French specialties. Mostly mussels and fries. Beck's versions may be great but those are pretty standard fare around town. They do bring people into Beck's upscale bar for the expensive Belgian beers though, don't they? That pays for the real estate so that we can have a very good meal if we can get a table in the back where it's quiet enough to have a conversation over dinner. The bar scene has become an economic fact of life I suppose.

                                          If you enjoy the style of bar/bar-food/small plates restaurants that are becoming the new norm downtown, I can see why you don't find them offensive. I don't find them "offensive" so much as simply a sign that the mid-range restaurant may be increasingly a thing of the past. It may have to be supported by a high volume of alcohol sales. So more and more space in more and more restaurants is being designed as noisy bar space to pay the rent and the menus are getting more pedestrian.
                                          Not singling out Beck - just a general observation.