Food Roundup: Best Bar Food

Photo courtesy of LaTur
They may be America’s last pioneers………..
courtesy of LaTur

When I think bars, I naturally think booze. Cocktails, beers, wine, maybe even the occasional shot. But many of the watering holes I frequent either don’t serve food or serve variations of fried things that I wind up eating out of sheer desperate hunger (read: no one wants to drink on an empty stomach). So in this feature, a few of the We Love DC writers and I bring you our picks for some of the bars with the best food. Go out there and a grab a drink, and for heaven’s sake, put down the greasy mozzarella sticks at that dive bar and head somewhere with something good to eat.

Photo courtesy of furcafe
courtesy of furcafe

Churchkey – It’s no secret that Birch & Barley serves up good food, but when you can’t snag a table downstairs you can still head upstairs and get chef Kyle Bailey’s food. Sure you’ve got the dishes like disco fries or arrancini that have been there for a while, but the “beer bar” has also rolled out some hearty dishes that really impress, such as the pork carbonara, farro salad (yep, you can eat a salad at a bar) and the pork enchiladas. Keep an eye out for interesting menu changes there.

Bar Pilar – So they’re presently under some renovations at the moment, but I’m itching to see what gets added to the menu when Bar Pilar starts serving up food (and more cocktails) again. Chef Justin Bittner makes a pork trencher–roasted pork shoulder on crusty bread–that is to die for. I’m guessing the menu is going to change a little when the kitchen re-opens, but if the meatballs are back on the menu, go for those as well. And of course, the buttermilk pie. Get that too and you won’t be sorry.

Photo courtesy of Carly & Art
courtesy of Carly & Art

The Passenger – Yes, it’s easy to love their drinks – they’re the best in DC – but it’s just as easy to love their bar food. Between brunch options on Sunday (get the biscuits and gravy) and their delicious slaw dogs during the week, there’s no excuse for leaving Passenger on an empty stomach. Oh – and trust me – get the beef jerky. It’s the work of NRG’s Nathan Anda, and carries the Red Apron imprint.

Dodge City – The best part of a good dive bar isn’t the cheap drinks, it’s the good but frugal eats. Dodge City has been serving the fine sausages of 13th Street Meats, whose half smokes are better than Ben’s. They’re always good, but don’t limit yourself just to the half smoke, branch out to their poblano sausage and their chicken sausage. It’s worthy.

Photo courtesy of maxedaperture
The Passenger 7
courtesy of maxedaperture

American Ice Company – The bar may be known for its crazy late night sandwiches, and of course I can’t resist getting the ungodly good pork barbecue every single time, but what I really dream about is the queso. Chips and queso, to be precise. A mound of cheesy goodness cradling a few naughty jalapeños, it’s good to the last desperate scrape, at which point I usually moan, “why oh why is this so good and yet so wrong?!” The chips are equally evil, crisp and salted to perfection. My guilt upon finishing is so great that I simply have to get another drink.

Photo courtesy of philliefan99
glass view
courtesy of philliefan99

Room 11 – This fantastic neighborhood bar draws me in for wine or cocktails, but their food menu is completely great, too–and fully stands up to the high standards of the drinks. If I just want a snack at the bar, I adore the charred cauliflower which has crunchy little garlic bits and creamy tahini dressing, or I might go for the roasted beet salad with salty Bulgarian feta. If I am craving something a bit more indulgent (like, say, if Room 11 is the last stop of a long night, and the booze is starting to get to me), I can easily be talked into their grilled cheese – a blend of three different classy cheeses, served with a spicy marinara sauce dip. Brunch is great here, too, with each dish taking a creative little turn – savory chili French toast, for example, or fruit served with blackberry-jalapeno coulis.

Photo courtesy of Jenn Larsen
Dickson Wine Bar
courtesy of Jenn Larsen

Boundary Stone – Such a lovely whiskey bar, killer manhattans, and some serious food to match. This neighborhood joint offers everything from a burger with bacon jam and aged cheddar, to a DC Brau can roasted chicken sandwich served with pickled green tomatoes and bourbon BBQ sauce. Bourbon in BBQ sauce, ’nuff said.
Brittany added: The seitan “wings” at Boundary Stone are assuredly made of the most delicious magic.

Black Jack – Right upstairs of another favorite, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, offers a great selection of fresh oysters on the half shell and loads of fine old American Pie options, like the Swine Lovers–a pizza with salami, smoked bacon, copa, mozzarella and spicy marinara, or the Green Goddess–broccoli, artichoke, black jack greens, pesto, and sharp provolone. And you can play bocce ball when you are done.

Dickson Wine Bar – Nothing like a grand selection of vino and cheese, but they also serve a killer bahn-mi.

Marissa was born and bred in New Jersey, but moved to DC for undergrad at GWU (Go Colonials, go!), fell in love with the District and learned that there was life and civilization beyond New York City. She loves eating at white-tablecloth-three-forks-at-your-place-setting restaurants, but she’ll also be the first to suggest we scarf down some chili dogs at 2 am. Simply put, she loves all things food. You can also read about why she loves DC. Follow her on Twitter and email her at mbialecki (at)

5 thoughts on “Food Roundup: Best Bar Food

  1. Just putting this out there: Boundary Stone is also open for lunch, and easily my favorite spot in the District for lunch.

  2. Sadly, the slaw dog is gone at Passenger. Your dog choices are the chili half smoke or kimchi dog, both of which are tasty. My new go-to order is the duck lettuce wraps. And for brunch, get the biscuit & gravy AND the chilaquiles; mix together for a delicious mess (and probably share it with someone else).

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