Restaurateurs Ben Jordan and Baback Salimi might have started the Airedale as a tribute to the best of Europe’s caloric, heavy bar food, but the Columbia Heights spot, named for a wire-haired breed of terrier, is instead fetching a reputation for an all-American dessert offering.
Jordan had been experimenting with making ice cream at home when he had a stroke of boozy brilliance. The result: The gastropub offers soft-serves made with Old Overholt rye whiskey and Angostura bitters. Put the former in a glass of alcoholic Not Your Father’s Root Beer and you have a dangerously good float, or order a swirl for an ice cream old-fashioned. There’s an ounce of alcohol in every serving.
“It is better than it has any right to be,” said Jordan. “I eat it every day, and I’m lactose-intolerant.”
One can’t blame him for risking his health; similar hazards are a driving force for the Airedale’s menu, which features a number of items you might see inside the gates of the state fair. Take the Monte Cristo, a retro ham, turkey and cheese sandwich that is dipped in batter, deep-fried, topped with confectioners’ sugar and served with a side of sweet Lambrusco wine jelly. “It’s a statement,” Jordan said of the “monster sandwich,” which tastes like funnel cake and is the kind of thing you might eat on a dare. Hope you have low cholesterol!
Same goes for La Mitraillette, a sandwich that comes from Belgium but is also referred to as l’Américain. That’s because — one won’t be surprised to learn — it’s a combination hamburger-sausage-french fry sub with ketchup and mayo. (The links, made in Baltimore, are better than your traditional franks.) Your choices are to either eat it with a knife and fork, or unhinge your jaw like a snake.
Helmed by chef Mark Lum, the Airedale is a soccer bar — there’s a framed Messi jersey in the back — and its menu offers a smattering of dishes representing pub food from France, Germany, Belgium and the U.K. The beer list is European-focused as well, with eight regular taps and seven that will rotate seasonally.
“I grew up traveling around Europe,” said Jordan. (For the record, his team is Chelsea.) “That culture of bar food in Europe, I don’t find it well represented back in the U.S.”
It can be hit or miss at the Airedale. They serve an acceptable fish and chips and schnitzel, but the bacon-topped deviled eggs are bland, and my dry croque madame could have used more béchamel. A sausage plate — your choice of bratwurst, schweinewurst or a half-smoke — is a good bet, especially for the accompanying pretzel bread and beer cheese. If my friend’s wan quiche is any indication, this is not a place where vegetarians will find much to love. And the menu boasts of the poutine’s real cheddar cheese curds, but the melted cheese rang more disco fries than poutine to one of my guests, an ex-Montrealer.
With brick walls and lofty ceilings, the former Mad Momos space has plenty of TVs and a rooftop beer garden. A second-floor street-view balcony is a good people-watching perch; the huge windows below it open all the way, so you can sit indoors and feel as if you’re dining al fresco. It’s best to take advantage of the space with a boozy root beer float, slurping down the few remaining warm evenings of the year as the sun turns the sky Angostura orange and sets faster than your dessert melts.
3605 14th St NW. 202-722-1212. www.airedaledc.com . Appetizers $5 to $8, entrees $10 to $16.