Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Jesse Miller of Bar Pilar

Jesse Miller of Bar Pilar

Jesse Miller of Bar Pilar

We’re revisiting our Capital Chefs feature with a series by music reporter Mickey McCarter. A lot has been happening recently in kitchens in D.C. restaurants, and Mickey takes a look into them from his usual seat at the bar in this series, which runs weekly on Thursdays.

Out of art school, Jesse Miller sized up his prospects and took a job at the Elkridge Furnace Inn in Elkridge, Md.

The restaurant has one of the best wine programs in Maryland, offering gourmet French food to hungry customers as well as hosting weddings and catering.

At first thankful for a job, Miller ended up staying there for seven years.

“I was lucky enough to get a job there and that’s how this started,” said Miller, now chef at Bar Pilar and its sister establishment Café Saint-Ex. “Otherwise, I would still be trying to paint and living in the street someplace.”

He learned a lot at the Elkridge Furnace Inn that he applies to Bar Pilar, where his friends and customers hail him as an innovative chef.

“I was taught that a chef should accommodate anything at any time for anyone,” Miller said. “If you don’t like our options, we can always do something.

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Food and Drink, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Malört at Bar Pilar

Even if you don’t know what it is, you probably already hate malört. It is the most bitter, disgusting, offensive thing I have ever tasted in my life. But you can bet that if I see a bottle behind the bar, the night’s going to end sipping that stuff out of a rocks glass. Malört is near impossible to find outside of Chicago, but there it’s an institution (full disclosure: I’ve never been to Chicago). Practically every bar has a bottle of Jeppson’s brand tucked away somewhere. Lose a bet? Want to impress your friends? Winding down the night? You’re likely drinking malört. I don’t know how it started, I don’t know why people do it, but they do.

Outside of Chicago, malört is much harder to come by. It’s far more common in Scandinavia where this style of liquor originated. Italians have their bitter amari, Deutschland has its herbal kräuterlikör, but they’ve got nothing on the bracingly bitter digestivi that come from the land of ice and snow. It’s no surprise then that bäsk, this wormwood-infused style of liquor, is so intensely bitter when you think of where it comes from. Take a shot of this before you leave the house and those harsh Baltic winds won’t seem that bad. It works great on a snowy day in DC, too. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Features

Summer Loving, and Eating

Photo courtesy of kimberlyfaye
courtesy of kimberlyfaye

Dates. Those awkward, exciting, beautiful things we all go on at some point. I am by no means an expert in this field- quite far from it- and I don’t have a magical solution for how to make your next date the best you ever had, so unfortunately you won’t be finding the next We Love DC dating service here (sigh). The inspiration for this post really came from a conversation with a friend of mine the other day. He asked me where he should take a girl out, wanting to strike the right balance between serious young professional, trendy and casual. I realized many of us have gone through this mental exercise before. The exhausting over-planning and over- analyzing we do: choosing the right spot for that first interaction (or second or third), focusing on every detail from time, to dress code, to the big goodbye, mulling over tiny logistics as a method of defense to shift our thoughts away from the weirdness that could ensue.  But enough of that.

I think a shared meal is the perfect way to break the ice, a way to bond over something simple that brings anyone, no matter what level of culinary expertise you may have, together. We all share stories around a dinner table, have memories of a favorite meal, and can reveal oneself through a dish. So for me, sharing a meal is a perfect way of getting to know someone, whether it be a sit down dinner or a casual picnic. I decided to write some recommendations for where you can break bread and the ice along the way, in case you need to outsource thinking on the next time your big date is lined up. I polled some of the We Love DC crew for their suggestions as well, as not all of us are food focused daters.

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Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Bar Pilar Unveils New Upstairs Dining Room, Menu, Drinks

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Bar Pilar Mural
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

It’s a moment you’ve been waiting for on 14th street–Bar Pilar is back, in action and with an entire new upstairs, expanded menu and cocktails. The renovated space reopened several weeks ago and We Love DC finally snapped some pictures at a media preview last week.

Don’t get nervous about the menu changes–the downstairs section will still serve the small plates the restaurant built its reputation on, but now you’ll get to choose from either small plates or an expanded menu with appetizers, entrees and desserts upstairs. With 98 seats total, you’re also more likely to snag a table during the dinner rush.

“We’re excited to offer some larger plates upstairs for people who want a full dining experience,” said Executive Chef Justin Bittner in a press release. “We’ll offer a selection of entrees using a lot more whole animals, we’re getting back into offal, but of course we’ll keep the favorites that our regulars love.”

In addition to more dining space, the upstairs has an intimate six-seat bar with a craft cocktail menu of 25 or so options from the General Manager and Beverage Director, Jonathan Fain. We Love DC’s Arts and Culture Editor, Jenn Larsen,  says the expanded wine, beer and cocktail program is “sure to break new ground. Jonathan has a whimsical way with cocktails.” Look for highlights such as housemade syrups and sugar cane juice in their cocktails.

Check out photos of the new space after the jump.

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Food and Drink, Foodie Roundup, The Features, We Love Food

We Love Food: DC Eats for August

Photo courtesy of
‘Cafe Atlantico’
courtesy of ‘needlessspaces’
Put on your elastic waistband pants, people. There’s plenty to eat and do in the city for the next few weeks. So click on through and you’ll find where you should be wining and dining this month.
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Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Bar Pilar Gets an Upstairs

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘furcafe’

Bar Pilar has been my beloved neighborhood bar for years (even before it was one of my very first We Love Drinks). I wouldn’t have survived Snowpocalypse without it, that’s for sure, trudging the few blocks through the snow to beat cabin fever. Countless evenings hanging out for impromptu gab sessions, long brunch afternoons that turn into dinner, I could almost call it my third space if it weren’t for the other countless times I’ve walked in and walked right out again. Sweatily packed to over-capacity on peak nights, Pilar’s popularity has grown past its 49 seats. Recently I’ve even sworn off evenings there because of some rude pushing incidents. That’s the price you pay when your neighborhood bar becomes a hot spot.

Pilar isn’t just a bar, however, it’s a small-plates mecca (one of the first to have adopted that now ubiquitous model) under talented chef Justin Bittner. I’m addicted to the food there, from the meaty grilled octopus to the salty anchovies on toast which always remind me of Sicily – they even have fried pig ears! So even though the subject of restaurant expansion sometimes rightly gives pause (as Ashley notes earlier) the news that Pilar is expanding to include an upstairs dining room was met with optimism by me.

Let’s look at some renderings (keep an open mind though, computer models are notoriously cold looking). Continue reading

Food and Drink, Night Life, The Daily Feed

Tuesday Night Escape

Cocktail at Bar Pilar

"Cocktail at Bar Pilar" by Jenn Larsen, on Flickr

Starting tonight, you only have three more Tuesday nights to enjoy Cocktail Sessions with mixologist Adam Bernbach at Bar Pilar, before he leaves the 14th Street digs on May 19th (GOG has the full scoop on his future plans).

I really love Pilar, love Adam’s cocktails, especially anything featuring cardamon syrup… but I can’t make it tonight. So my loss is your gain, there’ll be an extra seat, get over there!