DC Bread & Brew

$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

Top-notch food without the fuss is the rage at fine-dining restaurants. Thankfully, it's also increasingly true at cafes, such as DC Bread & Brew, where we eat far more of our meals.

Bread & Brew's menu features local, seasonal and, where possible, organic ingredients. Dairy comes from Trickling Springs Creamery, and Tuscarora Organic delivers much of the produce; both are in Pennsylvania. The honey comes from a Virginia apiary, Bees 'n Blossoms. Even the chips are from Route 11 Potato Chips, based in Mount Jackson, Va.

The upscale approach was a given for owner and Washington native Teri Van Goethem. Before opening Bread & Brew in January, she had been a catering director for Balducci's and a general manager at Dean & DeLuca. The cafe's chef, Eugene Ngono, hails from Dean & DeLuca in New York.

Bread & Brew serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and buzzes late at night in its basement bar, which specializes in craft beers. The kitchen cooks everything from scratch: the turkey, the roast beef, even tuna, which is roasted in-house and chopped for salads and sandwiches. Stocks for the assortment of homemade soups are made daily: "It's more labor-intensive, but it's not more expensive to make stock," Van Goethem said. "It's very beautiful to have huge stockpots simmering on the stove."

Bread & Brew's menu of sandwiches, salads, quiches and pizzas changes daily. Our favorites were the portobello French dip sandwich ($8), with meaty slices of mushroom, spinach and melted cheese and served with a not-too-salty broth for dipping; and the plain-but-perfect turkey BLT ($7.50). The spinach and cheddar quiche ($7 per slice) was light and fluffy, though we didn't taste much cheddar. A generous Norwegian salad ($9.50) topped with silky smoked salmon and two almost-runny poached eggs on fresh greens would have gone for almost twice the price at a more formal restaurant. An arugula pizza ($10) was topped with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and spicy greens.

Our one complaint had to do with seasoning. Just about everything we sampled could have used a generous sprinkling of salt, especially the otherwise delicious and chewy pizza crust. (Van Goethem is working on getting a permit for a wood-burning oven.) The good news is that, unlike at fine-dining establishments, no one at Bread & Brew will be offended when you reach for the salt shaker.

-- Jane Black (Good to Go, Aug. 12, 2009)