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Birch and Barley report

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Had my third visit to Birch and Barley this weekend and have decided that it officially tied with Rasika for my favorite place in DC to eat. The top notch service and the laid back atmosphere add to how much I enjoy this place.

I went with my mom during her visit this weekend for us to hit up the What's Cooking, Uncle Sam exhibit. We got to sit in the back by the kitchen which was great - although my mom thought it was a little warm. I didn't mind it but my back was to the kitchen so maybe that's why?

The waiter (wonderful!) asked if we had any dietary restrictions, and I mentioned my only one was needing more pretzels on the bread board. He happily brought us a couple more on the board which is, I must say, amazing. It's hard not to eat it all right away. I the had the pumpkin flat bread which was the low point of the meal - it was good, but not amazing. I think I'm holding out too much hope for their flat bread and they're just so-so. I think that if I were upstairs at Churchkey they'd be really good as a meal.

For dinner I had a small bowl of the beet risotto which was really, really good - sweet from the beets, a little acid from the balsamic, and the creamy goat cheese melted on it to create a variety of temperatures and textures. Plus, the color from it was gorgeous.

We both had the mini confections for dessert which are out of this world good. One of the desserts came with pumpkin ice cream, and the waiter happily brought me a sample of it and said that the manager told him they would send me home with some if I wanted, but my Weight Watchers points allowance wouldn't be happy with that!

We were fortunate enough to be seated next to the pastry sous chef, too - he, his wife (who works at Buzz) and his grandparents were there and had every dessert at dessert time - I was SO jealous and they all looked incredible.

All in all it was a wonderful meal. I am very much looking forward to trying brunch there, as I've only been for dinner. Can't wait to take my hubby there!

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Rasika Restaurant
633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

Birch and Barley
1337 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

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  1. Is their food different from ChurchKey's? Because I've only eaten (a couple times mind you) at ChurchKey (while enjoying their great beers), but have been pretty unimpressed.

    4 Replies
    1. re: mdpilam

      I've never been to Churchkey. It's all bar food, from what I understand, while downstairs is a restaurant. I don't know how the menu differs beyond the fact that B&B has a full menu

      1. re: Jeserf

        Churchkey has somewhat "upscale" bar food. I believe the menu differs substantially downstairs, although there may be some small overlap in Flatbreads and appetizers.

      2. re: mdpilam

        Same kitchen, but completely different menu. Bar food vs Modern American dinner.

        I've only had the shrimp corn dogs at Churchkey. They are great.

        1. re: Steve

          steve, speaking of shrimp corn dogs, trader joe's is apparently offering those, too. ;-)).

      3. Thanks for the report! I'm booked there for the joint birthday dinner next week, based on your recommendation a few weeks ago, and I was worried you were going to say they'd dropped in quality. Now I'm even more excited!

        6 Replies
        1. re: katecm

          Please report back!

          1. re: Jeserf

            Well, that was quite stellar. We at at the counter with the kitchen view and got the tasting menu, since that always encourages me to eat things I wouldn't order. We went for the supplemental cheese course, started with cocktails, and went for the beer pairing. Everything was just wonderful. There were a few things that puzzled me at first bite until I got a bit of each part on the fork and then - wow. It all just popped. The best part of the meal was the gnocchi and oxtail, which was one of the best things I've ever eaten. The gnocchi were unlike any I;'ve ever had, so light and tender, and the oxtail put Inn at Little Washington's beef cheeks to shame. The beer pairings were incredibly inspired and interesting, and other than the first one, they were beers I've never heard of before. It was a really, really special meal.

            1. re: katecm

              fantastic! Go back, order the risotto:)

              How was your dessert?

              1. re: Jeserf

                They were so nice - the dessert on the tasting menu was a cheesecake, which neither of us like. Now, I'm sure it's probably one of the best cheesecakes ever, but we just don't like it. They allowed us to order others off the dessert menu, which is especially nice of them since that meant breaking up the planned beer pairings. I got the maple mousse with pumpkin ice cream, which was incredible, and he got the friend apple pie, which was pretty much the best thing to ever happen to an apple pie.

                1. re: katecm

                  you must try the plate of small old school confections - easily the best dessert I've had in DC

                  1. re: katecm

                    "They allowed us to order others off the dessert menu, which is especially nice of them since that meant breaking up the planned beer pairings. I got the maple mousse with pumpkin ice cream,"

                    Awwright . . what beer went with that?

          2. Does anyone know how often their tasting menu changes? The online version has been the same for a while.

            Any suggestions on tasting vs. a la carte? Beer pairing vs. other drink options?

            7 Replies
            1. re: gregb

              Everyone has to do the tasting menu, so if someone in your party doesn't want it, you can't do it. And you'd both get the same "tastes". I would do a la carte, personally. And the mixed drinks are expensive - strong, but expensive. I think the beer is probably the way to go - the staff is very well educated in pairings, so I would trust them if you aren't sure what you want.

              That's just my 2 cents

              1. re: gregb

                I wasn't impressed with the tasting menu, go for simpler dishes and spend less money.

                1. re: Steve

                  In a sense, I have done a tasting menu twice. Once for brunch and once for dinner as part of beer dinners. I have not been impressed either. The dishes were small and a little too bizarre. Our table agreed during both events that the beer far outshined the food. For just that reason, I eat a sandwich or flatbread upstairs with a few sampler beers.

                  1. re: daves_32

                    Check out the Tator Tots upstairs at ChurchKey. And ask the bartender for the story of the woman who makes them.

                    1. re: Lewes

                      I went to Churchkey last night - the tater tots were good. Not amazing and my friend and I both agreed that we could have done without (but were both really hungry when we got there).

                      That said, everything else upstairs was amazing.

                      Except for: the coffee (french press, and the cup was full of grinds - ick) and the fact that towards the end of our dinner, we had random people's butts in our faces/table. I get it- it's a bar....but I'm too old for that. I'd probably try to get there earlier next time and grab a table by the window to avoid stranger's tushes.

                      1. re: Jeserf

                        Most weeknights are pretty relaxed, particulary before 8 or so. I also have found that pulling up to the bar is a good bet. If you find seats on the far right (towards the street side), the crowds don't make it over there.

                        1. re: daves_32

                          That's where we sat, and people were like vultures waiting for us to vacate our table. Which is not THAT bad - I expected it because of the place and hour (on a weekend). However, I sort of wondered if the one guy with his rear end almost on our table realized how close he was to the candle....

                          Even so, it was worth it. Already thinking of when I can go back!

              2. I got taken out to Birch and Barley over the holidays - had been wanting to go for ages.

                I absolutely LOVED the bread plate! One of the best I've ever had. I would go back for just that. I also loved the beet risotto. I wish I'd stopped there however.

                I got the brat burger - it was very good, but I was way too full to enjoy it properly.

                Finally, we had to order the house made confections: Hostess cupcake, etc. My favorite was the peppermint patty. I was really too ill to enjoy it and left most of it there - I NEVER do that!

                Next time I go I'm going to pace myself better!

                1 Reply
                1. re: woodleyparkhound

                  that beet risotto is one of the best dishes I've had in DC - it's so flavorful.

                  and the house made confections are also one of the best desserts I've had in DC. There wasn't a peppermint patty when I went though!

                  I'd LOVE if they opened a Buzz in the area - wait, scratch that, I'd be there too much, so best there isn't one close by...