I don’t make it over to Barracks Row nearly enough. I love the charming row of restaurants on 8th Street, which is buzzing in the early hours with folks at brunch or happy hour and calms down later at night. Barracks Row boasts several of my favorite brunch spots: Medium Rare, Cava Mezze, Lavagna, and the Garrison. And then there are the Belgians—namely Chef Bart Vandaele, owner of one of my go-to 14th Street spots, BToo and Belga.
Nowadays, I typically order a lot of food at brunch and share everything. This is the best course of action for both blogging and enjoyment. Particularly when there are only two of you and you order quite a bit of food. Lauren, my brunch date and frequent travel companion, is happy to abide by this structure as she loves trying everything.
While we waited for our table by the window, we ordered a couple of mimosas at the bar. Belga offers a few varieties of mimosas as well as a few tantalizing champagne cocktails. I ordered the tangerine mimosa, served in a classic flute, while Lauren had the Napoleon, a pink cocktail served in a stemless martini glass.
We began with the berries and granola, which is served in Belga’s quirky Belgian manner in a Chimay beer glass. In the large beer glass was yogurt, a classic plain Greek yogurt, and heaps of fresh berries; blueberries, blackberries, raspberries. The granola was the kicker—super crunchy and super sweet, this granola packed a ton of flavor and had us going back for more each time.
We wanted something green and fortunately Belga has a literal option on the menu: the green eggs. These eggs are green as a result of pesto, and served atop an English muffin with sautéed spinach and slices of crispy bacon. What I love about this dish is that it’s something you could make at home: scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, and English muffins, but is elevated with pesto. While I’m sure there are plenty of people who could figure out how to put pesto in eggs and make it taste great, I am not one of those people. And that’s why I’ve made a career out of getting other people to cook for me.
We also ordered the mushroom eggs to sample. This is a no fuss, no frills breakfast, served with bacon slices, a toasted English muffin, a slice of watermelon, and delicious, shredded hash browns. It’s everything you might want for breakfast on one plate, and each item is perfectly well executed. The eggs were well seasoned and absolutely delicious.
I’m a carnivorous gal, so I usually select steak or short rib if given the option. The short rib at Belga did not disappoint. Served in a large cast iron skillet, the short rib was served over polenta with fried eggs over easy, slices of thick, fluffy grilled white bread, and spirals of fried onion. The short rib was moist, melt-in-your-mouth beef marinated in a rich red wine sauce that oozed over the creamy polenta. It was a satisfying, flavorful mix of textures: creamy polenta, crispy, salty fried onions, moist short rib, and hot fried eggs. This is probably one of the more satisfying and tummy-coating dishes I’ve enjoyed to date.
The bucket of bacon was a must-order—I don’t brunch without ordering bacon. I prefer my bacon on the crisp side of the spectrum, as too much excess fat is unappealing to me. Belga’s bacon is even crispier than my preference, but that’s the style they serve. It’s crispy and crunchy and greasy—but not burnt.
We went bananas for dessert, selecting both the banana waffle and the banana Nutella crepes. Like B Too, Belga has an assortment of savory and sweet waffles, with the ingredients often baked into the dough itself. Such is the case with the banana waffle, as the bananas were baked into the waffle, which is then sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with a creamy Nutella banana sauce. Like most dishes at Belga, the dish is beautifully presented, with a dollop of whipped cream, slices of fresh bananas and strawberries, and strips of crispy bacon in an X atop the whipped cream. While the presentation was anything but simple, as they say, “It’s what’s inside that counts.” Each bite of the waffle was immensely satisfying: soft, fluffy bites of warm bananas and a hint of banana in the waffle dough.
Meanwhile, the presentation of the Nutella crepes was quite fancy. The crepes were formed into pinwheels, filled with slices of bananas and Nutella, then topped with whipped cream, drizzled with chocolate sauce, and topped with a single raspberry. This is the ideal dessert at any meal, though it was quite a bit decadent at brunch. It reminds me of being a little girl, with my father making crepes from scratch at my ardent request every time I had friends over for a sleepover.
The Bitches say: A. Belga Cafe is a D.C. dining institution, serving up waffles, moules frites, and artfully crafted Belgian fare—with a lot of Belgian spirit—for more than a decade on Barracks Row. The brunch is reliable and delicious, with tons of options for tastes.
514 8th St. S.E.
Belga serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.