When Cori Sue and I heard the news yesterday that Jamie Leeds is selling Commonwealth Gastro Pub, we couldn’t help but reflect back at the brunch we had there. Leeds is planning an extensive expansion of her first D.C. restaurant, Hank’s Oyster Bar, so there’s no surprise she wants to focus on that.
Terry Cullen, who is purchasing Commonwealth, will change the name of the restaurant, expand the bar area, and revamp the menu, but keep the pub theme. The sale is expected to close on the 27th. That leaves one Sunday remaining to try their brunch.
Here’s our review, originally posted on Aug. 27, 2010.
CommonWealth is not the place for Miss Pescatarian, Cori Sue. Pig’s feet, pork’s belly, ham, bacon, more bacon. Expect to literally pig out.
The only reason I chose the restaurantwas because I had passed by the week before and noticed a sign that said “free” and “mimosas,” to which I am apparently drawn to like a wasp – the insect kind, not the typical D.C. native.
I guess I must have been in a haze that day. Because when we went back on Sunday, and reread the sign, I realized it said ONE free mimosa with a brunch entrée. Which pretty much means you get a glass of orange juice. Fail, Becca. Fail.
Nevertheless, we gathered for our one free mimosa, to celebrate my friend Katie’s birthday in her Columbia Heights ‘hood, and had quite the turnout to boot (these brunches are turning into weekend events, I tell you). Ten friends hauled themselves out of bed for brunch on Sunday (OK, one rolled in an hour and a half late and still a little drunk), and so CommonWealth seated us around a heavy wooden table in the private room in the center of the restaurant. Part fishbowl, part panic room, it’s all glass except for huge metal sliding doors. Bizarre.
The restaurant – or should I say, the “people’s gastropub” – is staged to look like a British pub. Now, I’m British, so there’s a special place in my heart for traditional pub fare. I swear I was nursed on mushy peas, Shepherd’s pie, and bangers and mash, all with a cold pint on the side. One point for CommonWealth.
Plus, the joint is owned by Jamie Leeds, who owns Hank’s Oyster Bar and seems to have a knack for developing well-loved neighborhood spots. Two points for CommonWealth.
I also had heard the happy hour is killer at this joint. Half-price beer and wine, plus they kick it up again late-night, after 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Three points for CommonWealth.
Since there were so many of us at brunch, it’s hard for me to remember details about all the dishes we tried. All I can say is that I enjoyed the atmosphere, the appetizers (read: the Scottish eggs) were better than the entrees, and the service was relatively good and friendly for how busy they were. I’m going to let my bitches tell the rest …
From Robb, who had the Butcher Breakfast, $15, Pork Belly, Sweetbreads, Country Ham, Tomatoes & Poached Eggs:
“I’m not sure what I ate. I didn’t order it. I didn’t even see a menu. It was waiting for me when I got there, like a good meal/woman/dog should always be. There was some slimy yellow stuff drizzled over what I assumed to be some form of testicle, but which was rather delicious anyway. Then there was some red glop, which I didn’t sample because somebody said the words ‘Pork Belly’ to me, which I later found out to be the bacon-looking strips of pale flesh. Those were not bacon, and I felt somewhat deceived by the beautifully rugged plate. There were two perfectly poached eggs over hearty slices of beefsteak tomato. Those two elements, combined with the bread and butter and pickle slices on top of whatever magical toast that was, were simply divine. Oh, and there was prosciutto, which was not A-grade, nor thinly sliced, but I was drunk and ate the shit out of it anyway. ‘My, what a lovely day,’ says the butcher as he raises his arm.”
From Tammy, who had the Shirred eggs, $9, served w/ country ham & melted cheddar;
“I was intrigued because, who has ever heard of Shirred Eggs? I thought, ‘baked eggs topped with cheese?’ ‘Awesome.’ But it was pretty disappointing, as the eggs were pretty dry and it came in a meat-pie serving dish. The cheese was meh. The potatoes, which were not even so fabulous, were the best part. Best part of the food on the table: the Scottish Eggs. I don’t remember ever eating halved boiled eggs surrounded on the sides with a layer of ground-up sausage, then dipped and fried in Panko bread crumbs. They came with three dipping sauces. There was a honey-mustard mixture and a remoullaide and some other random concoction. Those eggs were the only thing that came that I thought, ‘I would love to learn how to make this at home.’ Everything else I thought, ‘Hmm, I could make this at home.’”
From Joanna, who had the Bangers & Mash, $14:
“I started my meal hesitantly ordering a Bloody Mary. I am very particular about them, but these were very good! Just enough spice (but more hot sauce on the table if you want to add, which I did) and enough tang and saltiness to satisfy. We shared an order of the duck wings, a nice change from chicken wings. Of course, duck is all dark meat and pretty greasy as a meat, but these had a sweet orange spicy sauce and were just what you need the morning after a night of drinking. My main entree was bangers and mash (I was in an English bar after all). The sausage was a spiral of flavorful pork on top of somewhat soupy mash with homemade applesauce. The applesauce really added a nice sweetness to a salty dish. The texture, however, was a bit too thin for me; I would have enjoyed some chunks of apples or potato. Overall pretty tasty English food, which is a pleasant surprise.”
From Brooke, who had the CommonWealth Benedict w/ Scottish smoked salmon, $12:
“The smoked salmon Benedict was a nice cure to a mild, if not persistent, hangover. It was served on a slice of Texas Toast, which I found odd – why change out English muffins when you are at a British gastropub?! A bit disappointing. The bread overwhelmed the well-cooked eggs and the greasy, salty lox.”
From Matt, who had the Egg in a Hole, $7, made with pan fried bread & farm eggs:
“It was great hangover food because it was hearty without being too greasy. The sausage was packed a little dense for my taste, but the flavor was nice and sage-y and paired well the potatoes. The bloody Mary was kind of bland, but shined up OK with a dash of hot sauce. The mimosas seemed to be inconsistent, some were barely orange, others were very thick with juice. Of course, I will continue to preach the gospel of Scottish eggs, though it usually falls on deaf ears. Overall, it’s excellent drinking food, be it morning, noon or night. (Any negative comments may be attributable to “that’s how they do it in Britain.” Forgive my ignorance if that’s the case.)”
From the Other Matt, who had the CommonWealth Benedict w/ Sautéed spinach, $9:
“The bloody Mary is above average. The spinach Benedict was very good. It was served on a sturdy piece of toast, and had nicely seasoned spinach and perfectly poached eggs (with no salmonella) and a good hollandaise.”
The Bitches say: B. Solid pub food, fun atmosphere.
1400 Irving Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20010