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Bitch at Us: Derek Brown of Mockingbird Hill

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Derek Brown has solidified his spot as the king of Shaw with four restaurants located in the neighborhood. All of the restaurants have varied concepts, Eat the Rich being a seafood and punk rock mash-up, Mockingbird Hill featuring sherry and ham, Southern Efficiency showcasing whiskey and comfort food, and The Passenger elevating bar food favorites and making some of the area’s best cocktails in the bar-within-a-bar Columbia Room.

All of the spots are a fabulous pick for a night out, but we recommend a Derek Brown brunch extravaganza: coffee and small plates at Mockingbird Hill, gourmet grub at the Passenger (RIP),  biscuits and cocktails at Southern Efficiency, rounded out by oysters and champagne at Eat the Rich. We can’t wait to check out the updated brunch at Eat the Rich, coming soon.

Derek took time out of his hectic schedule to chat with me about cocktails, neighborhood favorites, and his ideal “restaurant crawl” of his establishments. Read on to see what he had to say and check out our review of Eat the Rich here.

Derek Brown

Where is your favorite place to brunch in town?

Well there a couple different answers. Cashion’s Eat Place has a great brunch; you can get a whole array of stuff like your more classic brunch dishes but with local ingredients. They also have interesting pairings like their craft beer brunch. I’m not into bottomless brunch and getting the cheapest alcohol; I’m looking for a reason to get up in the afternoon. I also like going to Market Lunch in Eastern Market where they have blue bucks. Those are a real treat.

What is your favorite dish to cook for brunch?

When I really want to do something that’s a complete waste of money, I do olive oil poached eggs, but I’m still a big fan of eggs over-easy with sausage or bacon and toast with maybe kale or something green on the side. When I go out to eat brunch, I order things pretty simple, too.

Do you prefer to brunch at home or out?

I prefer at home to read the paper and sit for a long time. It wouldn’t be fair for me to stay at a restaurant that long. Sundays are precious so if I go to brunch, it’s gotta be somewhere good.

What brunch item do you have to order if it’s on the menu?

Just about anything with Surryana ham from Edward and Sons because I’ve seen some really cool things where people have used it in Eggs Benedict or biscuits. They’re a great local product and they have that beautiful smoky taste that works for brunch (and all the time).

What is your favorite item on any of your restaurant’s brunch menu? What is the most-ordered item?

Those are the same thing so that’s easy” the Chesapeake boil at Eat the Rich which is made with tuna, striped bass, sausage, beans, and coddled eggs. I lived for a little while in Charleston and they had a low country boil which is just seafood done well and its great. We do the same thing.

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Do you prefer Bloody Marys or mimosas?

Can I have an addendum to that? I like the red-eye; it’s beer and tomato juice, but in that contest I prefer Bloody Marys. I think that it’s good for you so that’s why I drink it. I don’t know if it is, but in my mind it is.

If you had to invite a group of local celebrities to brunch, who would they be?

Let’s start with Travis Croxton who I work with but I love going out with him because he has a great perspective on seafood and, if there’s no one to shuck the oysters, he can. The musician Brian Baker who is the guitarist for Bad Religion and formerly of Minor Threat. I just want to hear his stories about all the great punk shows and hear about all the punk legends in D.C. Amanda McClements of Salt and Sundry because she’s got such good taste. She likes champagne and I like champagne so we’re instant friends.

All of your restaurants (Eat the Rich, Southern Efficiency, Mockingbird Hill, The Passenger) have very different concepts. What was your inspiration for each?

I get my inspiration from local products, music, and things we love. At the end of the day, every single one of these bars is filled with things we love. They’re not half measures. Most bars are focused on “here’s what we know customers want”, which is fine, but the more important thing is to say “let’s have them try and discover new things”. To me, the most exciting thing about going out is trying that new whiskey or seafood you’ve never tried or sherry- something you’ve never had.

A lot of people have started doing a Derek Brown restaurant “crawl”. If you were to do one yourself, what order would you do it in and what would you order at each destination?

Yes, they call it the “DB 3”. Oysters and champagne at Eat the Rich to begin, then I would go to have sherry and small plates at Mockingbird Hill—ham, deviled eggs, and boquerones. I would end up at Southern Efficiency, having some whiskey and chicken and dumplings. Then, I would double-up and finish with another whiskey.

What is your go-to drink? What would you put in your ultimate cocktail?

My go to drink is whiskey. My ultimate cocktail has always been a dry martini but I like it classic; it has to be made with gin.

You’ve said you “drink like it’s your job, because it is”. So what is your hangover cure secret?

Egg drop soup. Order the large, drink the whole thing, and you’ll be fine. A little Gatorade doesn’t hurt either.

I’m sure you spend a lot of time in Shaw given your restaurants are located there. What are your favorite dining destinations?

I love Izakaya Seki; it’s a little place but – oh my god- it’s so great. I love the chicken sandwich over at Right Proper and Fishnet for a casual place. We’re lucky our neighborhood has so many great places; that’s just a handful.

You certainly have an impressive presence in Shaw. What’s next for you?

You know, we keep working on the places we have. We know there are a lot of people who haven’t been through the door and we want people who have been here to come back. We try to change the menu seasonally, so we want people to come in and see what we’re up to.

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