The Blind Dog Cafe at Darnell's Bar
By Rina Rapuano
Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012
A pop-up restaurant is supposed to be temporary. But when business partners Noah Karesh, Jonas Singer and Cullen Gilchrist launched theirs the week of Valentine's Day, they hoped the Shaw neighborhood would fall in love.
"It's a trial to see if we fit in with the natural fabric of the community," says Karesh, 29, who was friends with Singer, also 29, growing up in Chevy Chase. "If the community wants us to stay, then that's definitely something that's on the table."
Originally, the trio worked out a deal to operate during the off-hours at Darnell's Bar. Karesh says they made a few small changes; the space already had a homey, living-room feel. They named the cafe for Singer's blind Jack Russell terrier, Baxter.
Gilchrist, 26, who works as a line cook at Ardeo + Bardeo in Cleveland Park, crafted the menu. Among the sandwiches ($10 each), served on a baguette with a side salad, we liked the turkey spiked with Sriracha aioli, and the roast beef slathered with walnut-pesto aioli. Meats for both are house-roasted and topped with mixed greens, heirloom tomatoes and peppercorn salt. A caprese-like sandwich with the same pesto aioli doubles down by adding fresh basil leaves and basil salt.
Try the tart house-made pickles ($3) that soak for a week in a red wine vinegar brine. Entree salads ($8) include combos such as quinoa with cucumbers, tomatoes, preserved lemon and paprika salt.
PT's Coffee Roasting Co., which Karesh calls "beyond fair trade," provides beans for the excellent lattes (12 ounces, $3.75; 16 ounces, $5) and brewed-to-order cups of the house blend (12 ounces, $2; 16 ounces, $3). House-made syrups, including vanilla, passion fruit and blood orange, are used for sodas (16 ounces, $2.50) and coffees.
Breakfast brings a chive-and-tarragon-infused frittata on a croissant ($5) and pastries such as the meltingly tender apricot scone ($2) baked by Gilchrist's sister, Greer, who runs her Black Strap bakery from the kitchen: "a start-up within a start-up," according to Karesh. Her work is one of many reasons we hope the Blind Dog Cafe will sit. And stay.