Dish: Bar Charley to launch in August

Tom Sietsema
Food critic July 26, 2013

FILLING A NICHE: Restaurateurs Jackie Greenbaum and Gordon Banks say there are too few great bars where they can sip and sup well without shelling out a lot of money. Aiming to change that, they are rolling out Bar Charley and a “casual but upscale” food-and-drinks menu at 1825 18th St. NW, says Greenbaum.

The 1,500-square-foot bar and restaurant replaces the Cajun Experience and is being redecorated for an Aug. 22 launch. Charley is Banks’s middle name: “Snappy but not pretentious,” says Greenbaum.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace. View Archive

“We believe in value,” adds the restaurateur, whose mini-empire includes Jackie’s and Sidebar in Silver Spring and El Chucho, co-owned with Banks, in Columbia Heights. So there will be 20 or so wines by the glass priced between $7 and $12, a “perfect Manhattan” for $8 and a raft of beers, along with a theme-free, something-for-everyone menu built around sandwiches and small plates ($3 to $14).

A sneak peek reveals a lobster roll, bison sloppy joe, salt cod and spaghetti, smoked chicken thighs on dirty rice, shrimp and pork dumplings, papri chaat and frankfurters with warm potato salad. Exceptions to those small plates (subject to change) will be two dishes designed for two: a wood-grilled steak and a whole fish.

The kitchen will bake one kind of dessert: pie. (Yes!) After-dinner drinks will emphasize Sauternes, sherry and brandy.

Bar Charley’s inaugural menu was whipped up by Diana Davila-Boldin, who left Jackie’s for Chicago this past spring, and will be executed by LaMont Mitchell, formerly of Redwood in Bethesda. The new head chef is familiar with his new bosses, having auditioned for Davila-Bolden’s old job, which went to Adam Harvey.

Nevertheless, Greenbaum was impressed with Mitchell’s performance: “I lost sleep thinking of the food he cooked for us!”

Tom Sietsema

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