We sat down with Shane Henderson, the man calling the shots behind the hot, wood-fired grill at Bar Deco, one of our favorite neighborhood haunts. Here’s what he had to say.
Tell us about your culinary background.
I worked as a server at Mike’s American Grill in the late 1980s, then I moved to Napa, California where I became a vegetable cook at Meadowood Resort in St. Helena and Auberge Du Soleil.
While at Auberge, I applied to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Upon my acceptance, I moved back to the East Coast and went to CIA from 1991-1993, completing my externship in Houston at Citi Grill. After graduation, I was hired by Club Med where I had the opportunity to cook and travel to the West Indies and various states in the U.S.
Upon leaving Club Med, I came to the D.C. area to work for for Sutton Place Gourmet and Stella’s restaurant in Alexandria. In 1994, I moved back to Napa Valley and opened the Dean and DeLuca in St. Helena as Assistant Produce Buyer in addition to working at Greystone doing catering parties in the caves.
I then went back to work for Meadowood and became sous chef in the dining room. It was an amazing experience to write menus and work directly with vintners on exclusive options as well as inviting chefs from around the world to come cook with me.
Since then, I came back from California to operate as the Chef De Cuisine at the Loews Hotel in Annapolis, Maryland and Hyatt Regency as Executive Chef for Corked Wine Bar and Steak House. Now, I am currently the Executive Chef of Bar Deco in D.C.
What’s the story behind Bar Deco? What inspired the concept?
Bar Deco is housed in The Bulletin Building, which was built in the 1920s as a printing press. We took inspiration from the art deco era to create a space that was modern, but still honored the original design of the building. Our four floors each have unique personalities–on the ground floor is our entrance way, show kitchen with our smoker, and our full kitchen; the second floor is our dining room which has beautiful natural light and can hold large events or parties; the third floor is our bar which is a massive, light-filled area; and the fourth floor is the rooftop!
What drew you to this building and location in D.C.?
When I first saw Bar Deco it inspired me to want to create fun, new interpretations of old bar food classics and even start new ones.
Tell us about your amazing new rooftop space!
Our rooftop is great–it’s one of the few outdoor spaces in the neighborhood. The fans make it enjoyable even on a hot D.C. day–in my opinion, it’s the perfect place to grab lunch or get some food and drinks before a game or event at the Verizon Center.
What inspired the drinks on the cocktail menu?
Our new cocktail menu has something for everyone! We’re excited to head into NFL season and we’re all set for the drinking to commence!
How would you describe Bar Deco’s menu?
Bar Deco’s menu is upscale, with fresh ingredients and various preparations that include wood grilled and slow smoked, while being carefully crafted.
What’s your favorite dish on the menu and why?
I love the gouda short rib sandwich. It has the perfect combination of sweet, salty, crunchy, and chewy. Pretty much everything you’d want in one sandwich. It’s comfort food at its best.
If someone came to Bar Deco for the first time, what is one item they must try?
Not only is the 901 burger great to look at but it’s also unique and something you won’t find anywhere else. It has a caramelized onion bread pudding bun with a grass fed burger, Swiss cheese, a fried egg, pub mustard, and pickled red onions. There are layers and layers of flavors. I was inspired by my days when I lived in San Francisco; my friends and I would go out for awesome and greasy patty melts after a night out. This is my unique take on that nostalgic memory.
Any upcoming events or weekly specials we should mark on our calendars?
We’re starting to get baked goods from our partner, Junction Bakery and it’s been pretty exciting. We’re serving some breads, biscuits, and desserts. We have amazing new desserts! We feature these breads and biscuits Thursday through Sunday, and the desserts are here all week long. I especially love the chocolate hazelnut cake, the lemon bar, and the cookie pot, which is a slow cooked chocolate chip cookie in a pot with vanilla gelato. We’ll eventually start doing more seasonal desserts as the seasons start to change. It’s been a real treat and interesting opportunity to be able to pair with a place like Junction, so we’re definitely taking advantage of it.
Fans should also look forward to the NFL tailgate menu on Sundays — and our Sunday Funday party with you on November 6th for the Ravens/Steelers game! The menu is available starting at noon and we’re serving a great chili with cheddar and sour cream, as well as wings. I created this awesome mombo wing sauce, which is a spicy Asian spin of the traditional characteristics. I also created the Dragon Wings which are grilled on the wood fire. I made a sauce from dragon fruit and fresh peaches and tossed the wings in it to make a sweet grilled option. What’s great about our wings is that there are four options, so if you want your classic Buffalo or BBQ you’re all set, but then we also have some interesting and funky options for the adventurous palate. For the vegetarian fans, we also have roasted cauliflowers nuggs tossed in curry sauce on the tailgate menu. The sauce is made with harissa and tzatziki. It’s unique and refreshing—people love it.
Bloody Marys or mimosas?
Bloody Mary. Ours is killer, too. Really good.
Brunch in or out?
Just started getting Sundays off, so I’m going to say in.
Favorite dish to cook for brunch? (And eat!)
The French Deluxe Sandwich which is made with fried eggs, American cheese, and bacon on homemade brioche. It’s so good. Make sure you slather it in the whipped maple butter.
If you could invite five people to brunch, who would they be?
Julia Child–I made her and her publicist breakfast once in her hotel room before she unfortunately passed away. No one else was up for the challenge, but I was! I felt like a superstar.
Did she like it?!
She said she loved it! She could have been lying, but I don’t think so!
Other than her I would bring Herve Glin, who taught me how to cook, my mom, Terri, and friends.
Bitches Who Brunch partners with Bar Deco. While this article was written independently by us, we do receive compensation from the company.