Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Birch & Barley, ChurchKey Headed to Logan

Before we head off on a week-long excursion across the pond to the great Roman colony of Londinium, we thought we'd leave with a bit of restaurant news to chew on during our absence.

Remember the new restaurants/bars that were to take the place of the not-yet-forgotten Dakota Cowgirl? Well, although beer-centric establishments "Birch & Barley" and "ChurchKey" are a bit behind on their anticipated openings, we caught up with Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG) publicist Amber Pfau last week, who gave us a sneak peek of what's to come at the new beer-themed establishments.

That's executive chef Frank Morales pictured above (left right), alongside beer director Greg Engert (you know a place is serious about their beer when they employ a "beer director"). Morales will head up the kitchen at "beer and wine friendly" Birch & Barley on the ground floor of the former Cowgirl building. According to Pfau, B&B will feature a "modern American menu [that] will pay homage to beer in every way." Morales, who will stay on as executive chef at Alexandria's Rustico, is planning a menu that will feature wood-fired artisanal pizzas, as well as more unique dishes such as "duck confit and Kabocha squash crepes with grilled Mandarin orange and roasted red pepper." Altogether now: Mmmmmmm.

Upstairs, Engert will oversee the selection for beer-heavy "ChurchKey", which will serve over 550 beers representing over 100 styles and 30 countries. 50 beers will be on tap, half of which will be American, and 30 of which will rotate out weekly. ChurchKey will also feature something "five authentic hand pumped cask conditioned ales representing rare English and other international styles." With Engert, who serves in the same capacity at Rustico, beer connoisseurs are clearly in good hands.

NRG owner Michael Babin is also pursuing a rooftop deck for ChurchKey, although details about it--or renderings for the establishments--weren't available at this time.

Oh, as to that all-important opening date? While spring was once a "best case" opening scenario, NRG is now gunning for a summer opening, but are prepared for a fall opening as well--presumably if things don't all proceed according to plan. Regardless, the opening of these two establishments further pushes Logan as a culinary destination in the city.

With that, we're signing off for a week to wander about the streets of London and, hopefully, sample some good English ale. Cheers!


Mike Janssen said...

I'm pretty sure that's Engert on the left in that picture.

David Garber said...

for someone who didn't know anything about these establishments before right now ... this is exciting. Both places sound cool.

Anonymous said...

Remember when articles on food and restaurants featured food in them, and not photos of steel and chrome and overpaid chefs? Washington is not a food town. Not by a long shot. Awful restaurants and restaurant experiences.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

Mike - thanks. Updated the caption.

Anon - Give me a break. For a restaurant that looks to be 4-6 months away from opening what, exactly, would you like to see pictures of? And all this "DC is not a food town" is a bunch of 80s-holdover nonsense. We've got a slew of great restaurants here; so much so that the point doesn't even need to be made anymore. Whether Birch & Barley will be "great" remains to be seen, but bashing a restaurant's quality before they've even opened their doors is absurd.

Anonymous said...

I can see why the association with the restaurant was made based on my comment, but it was really more a critique (sorry!!) of people who think DC is a good restaurant town. It is obnoxious, perhaps. I'll grant you. But I stand by my opinion.

The typical good restaurant costs a lot, ok, that's fine. But what do you get - chewy fish, load, VERY loud music, wine that comes in glasses that are way too big, waitresses and waiters (who will NOT leave you alone) who provide flashlights as part of their routine because they know the lighting is off. The experience is not about food. The experience is about creating an atmosphere in which the customer pays as much money as possible at as many junctures during the meal as possible. You have to have good cooks and a nice relaxing pace of life to have a good food town. Everyone's too much about number one here - so it seems to me.

Jason said...

Not to go way off the beaten path here ... but have you tried Proof? It might change your mind a bit. Though prices are steep, food quality, drink selection, and service are fantastic!

In regards to the new place ... give it a chance! I think this will become a big go to destination for beer drinkers and locals. Greg has some pretty big plans as far as tasting events, dinners, etc. for the new establishment.

Anonymous said...

"Not to go way off the beaten path here ... but have you tried Proof? It might change your mind a bit."

The very last place I went to!, and go down the list:
flashlights, loud music, wine decanters for glasses, waitress (very nice yes) but way too attentive - check, check check. It's the way these restaurants (alike in so many ways) use a formula to separate you from your money, again, which I am happy to have happen if the food is good, which it wasn't at all. It usually is fairly disappointing in these places.

As for the 80s comment (not yours Jason), I moved here after the 80s were long since over.

EdTheRed said...

Clearly you moved here long after the '80s were over, or you wouldn't be bashing the quality of the restaurants we've got here today, which, despite whatever issues you have, are light years better than what was here Back In The Day™, I assure you.*

*The late, great Jean Louis Palladin's place aside, which I hear was absolutely world-class, but never had the coin to try.

Anonymous said...

1994 is when I moved here.

I visited once a year before that, and remember a couple of good restaurants in Adams Morgan. There might not have been as many restaurants overall, though.

Point is that Washington really never has been and from the looks of it, never will be a place known for its good food. Yeah, ok, probably it's decent overall, but not consistently good and certainly nowhere near great.

Now, on the food front, some interesting things have been happening - some great specialty shops have opened up (cheese, etc) that really make one's personal kitchen at home sing. But no restaurants that I've eaten at really sing.

cameronsmith said...

DC is an absolutely incredible food town! Move somewhere else!!! Or stay home, make some mac and cheese and keep of our fantastic restaurants -- I'll enjoy them for you.

Anonymous said...

Please - share your good experiences!

cameronsmith said...

Just last week I went to brunch at Marvin and it was out of this world amazing... Try the shrimp and grits.

Cork, always incredible. I always want everything on their menu and have a hard time picking a few. Their flights that change every month is a great way to try new things, as well.
Your comment about wine glasses being too large in this city is somewhat odd... Most places use pretty appropriate wine glasses for the wine they're serving -- it's about the nose.

Posto is amazing, and new. I had an incredible dish of homemade pasta with a duck ragout. At the bar while waiting, the bartender recommended an amazing sparkling red, it was something I'd never experienced.

Vinoteca's happy hour is also a new favorite of mine. You can mix and match the sliders (I love the lamb and tuna), share an order of the pate and you've got dinner for 2, 3 glasses of wine each, and a tip to the waiter for under $50.

I'd love to know of the new markets you mention... For cheese, I can never give up Cowgirl Creamery, however...

Michael said...

Hurray for news! That spot is golden, and I'm glad its not languishing in development hell like the other side of the street.

I'm ready for a beer mecca!

Benzo said...

This place has been slated to open FOR-EV-ER.

I want those cask conditioned ales, just do it already!!!