When I first moved to Washington and I told people I was living near 14th St., the first reaction was always, “there are so many new places opening there.” I obviously didn’t have much of a concept of what “14th St.” was or what scale “so many” really meant. Now that I’ve been here a few months I have a much better picture of both phrases. I thought Chicago did a good job of opening new places, but I think this section of DC might take the cake. It seems every week you walk down the street there are not one, but MANY new spots to check out. It’s moderately ridiculous, and from what I’ve heard it’s not slowing down. If this was rappeats circa 2010 I would be in heaven and overwhelmed. Unfortunately the reality of full-time employment and a few years of wisdom (debatable) yield less available time to explore the local dining scene at the same pace as previous times would have allowed (maybe that can change when winter arrives and there will be less competing distractions??). In any event, I have managed to briefly check out two new-ish spots on 14th for happy-hour and/or snacks – Ghibellina and B Too.
This was the choice for a Friday evening happy hour. And it was a good choice because the vibe is great, the bar is exquisite and the food (pizza) perfect for the time/place. You can only eat if you have a seat in or at the bar area which can be a challenge but since the bar is 30 yards long (literally) there is a lot of turnover. From what I remember the happy hour (ends at 6:30) is half off beer and pizza. It’s a good deal when beer is usually $7 and pizza $15. Of course we stayed long past the happy and made up for the savings with $7 Peroni, but c’est la vie. The two pizzas we tried were the sausage and Bianca (veggie with rapini, mozzarella, garlic, calabrian chilies, fennel seed and pecorino romano). Both were quite tasty, particularly when fresh, hot and firm crust. The Bianca had a nice spice kick to it and I enjoyed the combo of ingredients used. The sausage was equally nice and devoured. I’m not sure which on I would order again first. So from a taste of two pizzas and a lot of beer, and a good value for part of the evening I really don’t have any complaints. The rest of the menu looks nice too and a fun place to dine with great décor and a high energy atmosphere. I would definitely go back for happy hour and hope to get a chance for a full meal.
I had a shorter, but possibly more informative experience at B Too. We were looking for a quick spot to get a drink and walked past while two seats opened up at the bar right next to the wide open sidewalk windows. Perfect. The style is Belgium, which is admirable for the uniqueness but I’m not convinced it’s a concept that this side of the ocean is really craving for. Yes, the beer is great and BT doesn’t disappoint with the beer list (though, like all Belgian beers, NOT cheap). I just needed a snack so didn’t order a full meal but after browsing the menu, I’m not certain I would have anyway. It’s a strange combination of mussels, waffles (both savory and sweet), fries, various animal meat choices, and everything in between. There’s not a lot on the menu that screams familiar or comfortable. Maybe that’s the point and it is as authentic as you can be – I’m just not certain it’s for me (do you choose the frog legs or the blood sausage??). In that vein, Sharon ordered lobster waffle (kinda cool), and I supplemented with sides of mac ‘n cheese and brussel sprouts (couldn’t resist the irony). The bite of waffle wasn’t bad, for something I didn’t know went together (I’m more sweet with that stuff) and my sprouts were quite good, nice and crispy with good seasoning/flavor. Mac n cheese wasn’t memorable so not sure if it was good or not. And maybe I shouldn’t judge so quick for a place with a unique bent, great drink options and potentially tasty food. But again, I couldn’t find many things I actually wanted to eat, and the pricing of the menu is quite astonishingly high. So to get myself excited to spend a lot of money on food I’m not dying to try is a tall order. Maybe someone else will convince me otherwise, but with all the choices on 14th now it might be a hard sell.