Back in 2007, when I was a fledgling student reporter in Chapel Hill, N.C., I interviewed Mike Benson, owner of the charming Southern Rail. The restaurant is built inside restored vintage railroad cars nestled next to an active railroad in Carrboro, Chapel Hill’s hippie neighbor. And with that interview, my brunching seeds were sewn early—I was a regular at Southern Rail’s brunch for their fantabulous pancakes that can cure any co-ed’s hangover.
While interviewing Mr. Benson, he told me about his other transportation and vintage themed restaurants—an aviation-themed Café St. Ex and a Hemingway nautical-themed Bar Pilar—both located in Washington, D.C. A Hemingway aficionado, I had just read For Whom the Bell Tolls while abroad in Spain, and longed to visit Bar Pilar.
Two years later, in 2009, I’m new to the District and new to the dating scene. A charming young man (who you now know as “boyfriend”) took me on our first date for drinks and appetizers at Bar Pilar—where we were able to hit it off chatting about Hemingway over a few rounds of sangria.
Nowadays, said couple lives a few blocks away and frequents Bar Pilar and Café St. Ex, so it was only a matter of time before we headed to our first-date spot for brunch. This Saturday, we were able to check out Bar Pilar’s vintage décor in the sunlight—including the authentic helm of Hemingway’s boat, Pilar, the namesake of the restaurant and the female protagonist of For Whom the Bell Tolls.
I settled on the berry pancakes ($9). Each pancake was filled with a different berry—raspberry, blueberry and blackberry. They were perfectly cooked—I hate it when filled pancakes are mushy on the inside—ack.
Meanwhile, boyfriend had the chicken salad sandwich ($9), served on thick, crispy, buttery bread with a side salad of mixed greens with the most phenomenal dressing.
Brunch was very quiet—we were the first ones in the door when it opened at 11 a.m., a very different ambiance from evenings at Bar Pilar. Brunch was also affordable—entrees were $8-12.
The bitches say: B+ delicious, affordable food in a charming spot—though we prefer Bar Pilar for dinner and drinks.
1833 14th St. N.W.