Beuchert's Saloon soft-opened on Tuesday, but the new Capitol Hill bar, run by a team of former PS7's employees, won't stay under the radar for long. There was a wait of around 30 minutes for a bar stool, and even longer for a table in the dining room, by 7:30 p.m. Thursday night. Thankfully, it's worth the hype. Here's why.
The History: The owners like to boast that this is the second Beuchert's Saloon at 623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. The original was opened in 1880 by John Beuchert, a German immigrant. During Prohibition, the owners say, a speakeasy operated in a back room while the storefront was used as a sewing machine store and a gramophone store. During renovations, the original sliding door to the speakeasy was discovered. It's set to be used on the back patio, when that opens in a few months.
The decor is designed to evoke an early 20th century saloon, from the elegant walnut back bar to the pair of giant bison heads that loom over the bar. It's dimly lit, cramped, but wonderfully atmospheric. A long bar at the front gives way to a long bar facing into an open kitchen, where you're inches from a chef braising lamb or preparing a striped bass. Further back is a table-filled dining room with space for two dozen diners.
What to drink: The menu is filled with classic cocktails, such as the Seelbach (bourbon, Cointreau and sparkling wine) and the Hanky Panky (a cousin of the Negroni with Fernet Branca instead of Campari). The B's G&T – a gin and tonic made with a rich house tonic syrup – is fine. More delicious is the Jenkins Hill, an easy-sipping spiced rum cocktail sweetened and brightened with pear brandy, orgeat syrup and a bit of cinnamon and clove from allspice dram. All cocktails are $11. A selection of craft beers, including gluten-free Estrella Damm, is available on tap.
What to eat: Chef Andrew Markert's menu is focused on ingredients from local suppliers – especially the East Oaks Organic Farm, which is owned by Brendan McMahon, a partner in Beuchert's. Markert butchers his own animals and uses unconventional cuts, as in the oxtail tagliatelle, with savory cuts of meat on a bed of pasta, mushrooms and hazelnuts. Check out the section of the menu labeled "Markert's Market" for small bowls of seasonal veggies, such as sauteed cherry bell radishes in sea salt and fennel pollen, or Brussels sprouts flavored with vermouth and marjoram,. At $6 each, or three for $15, you can easily make a meal that way. As the kitchen finds, Beuchert's is offering 30 percent off all food through March 15. (Cocktails don't count, even if you consider them sustenance.)