St. Patrick’s Day broke a few brunch records for me. Those being earliest, biggest, longest, and perhaps rowdiest brunch ever.
It happened like this: The kind managers at P.J. Clarke’s succumbed to my week’s worth of begging and gave me a much-coveted table for that Saturday morning. Even though they were hosting a massive St. Patrick’s Day event, I kept pushing my luck by making it larger and larger until, eventually, I found myself emailing lovely Emily, the manager, that I’m so sorry, but I actually have 20 people coming. Yes, twenty.
No problem! She replied. Life is just so easy when you’re planning on dining at a restaurant full of ridiculously nice people. Her great attitude extended to the hostesses and bartenders, and especially to our two great servers that morning, GeGe and Dan, who were patient and kind to our increasingly drunk, and increasingly rowdy, party.
When we arrived at 10 a.m. (10 am! On a Saturday!) we compared our shades of green attire and ridiculous statement shirts (“Green Shirts Are For Pimps,” ahem, Frenchy), and immediately asked for pitchers of mimosas, Bellinis, and Marys. No can do, they said, claiming it’s the law (really?!), promising us that our glasses would not be empty for more than 30 seconds.
We drank our hardest to make them falter, but GeGe and Dan kept that promise. If my mimosa glass was half-full, and I quickly glanced to the side to chat with my neighbor, I turned back and it was topped off. If someone took their last sip, Dan was pulling the glass from their hands and immediately replacing it with a full one. Amazing. Why can’t every brunch have servers with a full glasses of champagne constantly at the waiting?
The bottomless deal wasn’t just for brunch cocktails that morning, though. Thanks to our luck of the Irish, Guinness and Harp were bottomless, too. The Kegs & Eggs deal on drinks came with your choice of a brunch entrée and side, all for only $35. What a steal. It lasted until 1pm, at which point we waddled off to other watering holes.
Brooke’s sister, Brenda, arrived from running the Rock and Roll Half Marathon, to thunderous applause, and immediately the two sisters slammed Irish car bombs, to even more thunderous applause from all sides of the restaurant.
We chose to be seated in the main level (we want sunlight! and lively people!), but the basement level, known as P.J. Clarke’s Sidecar, was equally as packed with revelers. P.J. Clarke’s is very K Street D.C., meaning, around happy hour it’s full of downtown workerbees, lobbyists, and people generally trying to look important in suits. They all gun for tables in the Sidecar, downstairs, which typically serves a different (and presumably more upscale) menu to those who are lucky enough to snag a spot.
We were quite glad we were sat upstairs, in the end, because traversing up and down those stairs to play some cornhole and get some sunlight would have become tiring. The weather was perfect on Saturday; gorgeous, not a cloud in the sky. The restaurant had set up a big tent over what’s usually its front patio (overlooking 16th Street), and there were high tops, a bar, and cornhole, which we dominated, obviously.
There were also the His-and-Hers Vespas that the restaurant raffled off to raise money for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. For a $20 raffle ticket, which bought a spiffy P.J. Clarke’s St. Patrick’s Day 2012 T-shirt that will likely stay in my drawer for the next three years, two lucky people won those gorgeous shiny red and white Vespas. I’m slightly sad that it wasn’t me. I was beginning to day dream about zipping to brunch on a red Vespa. No, really.
Soon a bagpiper arrived and started marching around the restaurant, as we egged him on with our hooting and clapping. Tammy started a GroupMe text to communicate around the enormous table, and we immediately started chattering about what we were all to order.
There were only six options available on the brunch menu that morning (or if you didn’t want to do the $35 deal, you could order from the larger menu), so there were a lot of repeat orders. The crisp apple pancakes were by far the prettiest dish.
A stack of small cakes were piled on top of each other, with sliced apples, whipped cream and cinnamon butter on top. The whipped cream tasted homemade—not from a can or tub. On the side, an adorable pouring cup of syrup. So lovely.
The spinach and coach farms goat cheese omelet was rather plain. It was nothing to write home about, but it was cooked well and had a good amount of spinach. I wished it was slightly more customizable (perhaps some tomatoes, please), and the goat cheese could have been better distributed. But on St. Patty’s day, I am sure the kitchen was working on overdrive.
The Parmesan crusted garden fritatta was the most popular dish on the table. It looked much like an omelet, and was topped with a bit of fresh greens. It had a good amount of vegetables, but was fairly bland. Also, the Parmesan crust was not so much a crust as just a little bit of Parmesan sprinkled on top.
There was a burger option, which lots of people had. It was the morning “Cadillac” burger, served with a fried egg on top. The egg broke apart immediately and was super runny, which kept the burger nice and juicy. It came with bacon, lettuce and tomato.
I had the eggs Benedict, of course. It was served with thick slices of Canadian bacon and hollandaise sauce. I wasn’t that impressed with this Benny, sadly enough. Even after many, many mimosas. The egg was completely overcooked – hard all the way through, not poached. The hollandaise sauce had dried into a crust on top of the dish. The biscuit was just an English muffin, as far as I could tell. Le sigh.
There was also the option to get the country breakfast, with eggs any way you want them, home fries, and choice of bacon or sausage. With your entrée, you could have a side, and choose between three options: smoked country bacon. Chicken apple sausage, and buttered potato home fries. All the bacon on the table was cooked perfectly—just a bit crispy. As for the potatoes, I had one, which burnt my mouth, and then they were given to the general cause of the table.
It wasn’t the food that was memorable at this brunch—but I suppose it wasn’t meant to be. Of the four hours we were there, we only spent maybe 30 minutes devouring the food. Rather, we had a ridiculous amount of fun. As soon as the plates were cleared, we were up, chatting, switching seats, running amok. It was great to have all my Bitches together for one massive brunch. After all, P.J. said it himself, this is the party that was 129 years in the making.
The Bitches say: B for bottomless! Great service, great brunch deal, food was average, but this might have just been because it was a special holiday event. So, try it for yourself.
1600 K Street N.W.
PJ Clarke’s serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays.