I simply adore my friend Christina, one of my UNC sorority sisters who has been living near me in Dupont Circle for a few years. Though we have very different personalities, we have several marked commonalities: purposeful careers in clean energy, a love of the District and Chapel Hill in the fall, a heavy dash of wanderlust, a predilection towards witty humor, and a penchant for stylish, understated preppy attire.
It’s always a treasure to spend time with Christina, who also loves brunch, as the conversation is always sincere, thoughtful, and engaging. When we met at Nopa Bar + Kitchen in Penn Quarter, we were both struck by the stylish decor in the enormous restaurant across from the Portrait Gallery.
Christina aptly described the ambiance, saying:
“I need a place downtown that’s not crawling with tourists or foodie wannabes. I want a place that’s a combination of chic and familiar— like that cashmere cape sweater you throw on for brunch to look and feel fabulous-yet-comfortable for recounting a particularly adventurous night with your girlfriends. And do I appreciate a restaurant that nods in the general ambiance of our preppy colonial heritage? I do indeed. So extra points for the presidential portraits and stuffed game birds, mixed with understated contemporary glamour. Where were you for my Birthday brunch last year, NoPa?”
Now that we’ve covered the decor (Thanks, Christina!). Let’s talk about the food and spirits.
We began with cocktails, the traditional mimosa for me and the Bloody Mary for Christina. The mimosa was normal and unmemorable but the Bloody Mary, reports Christina, was phenomenal as the mix was made in house, and full of flavor, with a hint of mustard and pickled radish. A very nice touch.
We also sampled the cafe negroni cocktail, made with coffee scented campari, plymouth gin, dolin rouge, and orange. The lovely pink cocktail was really well-made and certainly served up the hair of the dog. I get the feeling that Nopa Kitchen + Bar is a great place for happy hour or cocktails on a Friday night.
We also loaded up on coffee, which was rich, bold and flavorful. They serve up a great cup of coffee.
For brunch, Nopa offers a brunch deal of two courses— either an egg dish or main along with an appetizer or dessert–and bottomless mimosas for a mere $30. This brunch was on the house, and we effectively tried everything and rolled out a few hours later.
Christina says, “the food was fabulous and you know this because I was completely satisfied with every dish, never jostled out of my post-Saturday fog, but not thrown into a stupor the way some greasy spoon places do. NoPa has a perfect balance for DC brunch.”
We began on a unhealthy note with the pastry sampler and the gluttony continued from there until the alcohol, sugar-fueled conclusion of brunch several hours later. The sampler included a blueberry coffee cake topped with a cinnamon crumble, a chocolate chip muffin, and a banana nut muffin, which was the best of the trio. The pastries were alright, though the coffee cake could have been more moist. The bonus for the sampler is that they include whipped butter, strawberry jam, and cinnamon marscapone so you can lather your carbs with whatever suits your fancy.
For an appetizer, we shared the grapefruit and tangerine brulee with cinnamon mascarpone. A bruleed grapefruit is one of my favorite ways to start the day, and the only other time I’ve seen this was at Farmers, Fishers, and Bakers brunch. As you know, we Bitches like fruit in the morning, and are Bitchy when it’s not done right. Well, the grapefruit and tangerine brulee was light, sweet, and flavorful and the perfect way to start the day.
For her entree, Christina knew she was going to have the frisee salad with a poached egg and Dijon bacon vinaigrette. Having lived in Paris, she’s a bit of a Francophile, this one. She said it was really delicious, as frisee is her favorite type of green, and the Dijon bacon vinaigrette added a really nice, hearty flavor.
For my entree, I opted for the lobster and paprika egg salad sandwich. When they say lobster and paprika, they aren’t kidding about the paprika. There was a lot of it. There wasn’t enough lobster– but then again, is there ever enough lobster? The sandwich was served on a fluffy, yummy ciabatta bread and loaded with arugula, my favorite green. There was also a side of light, healthy fresh mixed greens, which was a pleasant complement to the sandwich.
We both love Brussels sprouts, so we selected a side of them, which were dressed in a slightly sweet pear and white sesame dressing. These sprouts were served crispy and caramelized, which means we had no trouble eating our greens that Saturday.
As if we weren’t full enough, we concluded with both the pecan sticky bun and the doughnut sampler. Despite the Bitch-mandate that you must order doughnuts at brunch, I’d say if you had to decide on one dessert or splurge at Nopa Kitchen’s brunch I would go for the pecan sticky bun.
The doughnut sampler rotates seasonally, and this one was full of the flavors of fall. In the back, a goey chocolate ganache doughnut. Also on the plate, was a apple cinnamon doughnut hole, which was lovely. The third doughnut looked delicious and very clearly inspired by the Girl Scouts’ Samosas, as it was covered in coconut flakes and layered with coconut and caramel. It was far too sweet for this gal with a sweet tooth, but if you love coconut this might be your dream doughnut dessert.
As for the pecan sticky bun, this was like Cinnabun but so, so much better. The ooey gooey, dense pastry was brimming with cinnamon pecan stickiness, smothered in pecans, and served with a side of house-made vanilla icecream. Perfection, and I sure hope they serve it at dinner.
The Bitches say: A-. A reliably chic and delicious brunch spot and the mustard in the Bloody Mary added that extra personality to the whole affair.
Nopa Kitchen + Bar
800 F St N.W.