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Bar Pilar

I don't know why this place doesn't receive more recognition. We dropped in on Saturday after a drink at Cork (hey, on a holiday weekend at 5:00 the place is not crowded!). But we didn't want to eat at Cork - even though people were raving about the food.

The menu of small plates at Bar Pilar is extremely interesting. There were only two of us so we couldn't do justice to the choices. We had the chicken liver pate which was velvety smooth and luscious. I had a beet salad with two kinds of beets, orange slices, feta cheese...I love beets and these were sweet and cooked just past the firm stage. SO had a pan seared (insert lovely thick fish here - I can't remember the fish) on polenta. It was yummy.

A large table of very friendly diners next to us ordered almost the entire menu - and everything we saw coming by looked just delicious, which they confirmed for us. Next time I hope the sweetbreads are still on the menu - they looked fabulous.

The only downer is that we ordered the roasted olives as a starter. While they were tasty, there was so much else that would have been so much better. Had we seen some of the food coming by I think we would have skipped the olives and tried something more exotic.

The wine choices are very limited, but we found a white we liked and it was reasonably priced.

If you want to go to a casual place with a refreshing lack of attitude and inventive, yummy food, I think Bar Pilar is a winner.

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  1. It actually does get some good attention. It got a LOT of attention not too long after opening. It had some slides in both food and service, but both of those aspects appear to be on the upswing again based on recent posts.

    Thanks for the info - I liked it the first time I went, but then went 3 times during the slide and had largely crossed it off my list.

    1. That's probably why different people would go there as opposed to Cork...where 'it's all about the wine'. When you say limited, how many reds & whites would you say they have?

      1 Reply
      1. re: DCDOLL

        I can't remember the wine list - maybe 4/5 reds and 4 whites and a sparkler or two? Bar Pilar is known more for cocktails. I don't view it as a subsitute for Cork - the two places are very different. There's nothing upscale at Bar Pilar except the quality of the food. I think Vinoteca is the nearest, closest subsitute for Cork.

      2. I have always enjoyed Bar Pilar, for the cool laid back vibe, as well as the food. It is always a good experience and I think the food has improved lately.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rappel75

          Is there anything anyone wouldn't eat off the menu of meats & fish?

          Fried quail with truffled polenta fries, honey
          Braised chicken, smoked bacon, leeks, mushroom, garlic crouton
          Slow roasted suckling pig with chili-cilantro risotto
          Chicken liver pate with grilled bread
          Strip steak with duck fat hash browns, glace
          Chicken breast with “puttanesca,” olive tomato sauce, caper aioli
          Petite cheesesteak with caramelized onions, cheddar sauce, salad
          Rabbit casoulet, confit, seared loin, pork sausage, white beans

          Crispy spanish mackerel with Moroccan marinated carrots, mint oil
          Seared tuna with truffle aioli, roasted abalone mushrooms
          Calamari with tomato basil sauce
          Spanish White Anchovies with grilled bread
          Seared scallops with New England chowder cream
          Mussels provincial with white wine garlic, roasted tomato

        2. I'm a big fan of Bar Pilar. While I've liked just about everything I've had there. In general, I've enjoyed the vegetable options more than the meat. I had really great kale and mushrooms(with polenta I think) there. I'm remember the suckling pig as being something I wouldn't necessarily order again. Their drinks are fantastic also.
          (For those who were there went it first opned, be warned, the menu is very different-no more tater tots!- and the check can add up pretty quickly if you're a glutton like I am)

          4 Replies
          1. re: marie m

            Is their online menu (that I copied from) fairly accurate in terms of offerings and pricing?

              1. re: Ericandblueboy

                The menu is very seasonal, so it changes a lot -- it's like everything you just saw at the farmers market. I don't go all that often, and it's always been different for me. The first time I went (I think), I had a lamb half-smoke that I was craving the next time, but it wasn't there. Keep in mind, also, when considering prices, that these are small plates. If you go on a Tuesday, sit at the bar so you can order off the special drink menu, which you can't get at the tables. At least I'm assuming he's still doing the Tuesday thing, I haven't been in a while.

                1. re: mselectra

                  Planning on going this Sat early evening. Just boning up before we go.

            1. I had dinner at Bar Pilar last night. I went with 3 others, so we sampled quite a few menu items and shared them all. The highlights for me were:

              ll day roasted pork shoulder with garlic trencher $10 (major highlight - very porky - melted in your mouth)
              Buttermilk fried chicken in peanut oil with pickles $9 (hot and crunchy)
              Spanish white anchovies on grilled bread $7
              Chicken liver pate with grilled bread $8 (good, but not nearly as good as the faux gras at Central)

              We also ordered the following, which were OK, but not exciting (wouldn't order a second time)
              Lamb, pork, and veal meatballs with tomato basil sauce, pecorino $8
              Spanish tortilla with goat cheese $7
              Roasted beets with mixed greens, walnuts, citrus, goat cheese $6
              Country pate with dijon mustard
              Peaches with sea salt (this would have been spectacular if the fresh peaches themselves had been better)

              We sampled all the desserts on the menu:

              Red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting $6 (I didn't taste - friend said it was good)
              Chocolate terrine with toasted pistachios, creme anglaise $7
              Berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream $7
              Peach pie with vanilla ice cream

              The chocolate terrine was so-so; the obligatory chocolate dessert. I really enjoyed the berry cobbler, but the real surprise was the peach pie. There is a photo of it on their website. It's more of a crisp sort of thing, baked in a small round crust. Both the cobbler and the pie were served warm.

              I like the dark and pubby atmosphere of the Bar Pilar. It wasn't too crowded when we were there, which was nice. I would definitely go back.

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              Bar Pilar
              1833 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

              1 Reply
              1. re: woodleyparkhound

                Thanks for your report and the details. It's a place I'm glad is around, I appreciate it, and yet there are enough 'ok' dishes that I don't feel a need to rush back.