It’s been awhile since I’ve ventured into bottomless brunch territory. For us, it’s common that there’s typically an inverse relationship between the number of bottomless options a restaurant offers, and the quality of the food. So it’s no surprise that, as brunch snobs, we usually avoid all-you-can-eat-and-drink specials.
Still, it was my friend Rachel’s birthday and who am I to decline an invitation to a birthday brunch? Rachel picked Philos, a relatively new Mediterranean restaurant in the Mount Vernon Square/Chinatown area, as she was lured by the prospect of bottomless hummus.
Spoiler alert: It was not bottomless, but we’ll get to that later.
We were a big group, but the ten of us fit easily into the spacious restaurant at 11:30 a.m. The space is well lit, with a modern feel and high ceilings. They were bumping techno and dance hits from the early 90s, which was odd given the relatively emptiness of the restaurant. There’s also a great patio outside for people watching on the always busy Massachusetts Avenue.
As our party straggled in, our waiter took our drink orders—assuring us that the bottomless drink option covered your usual mimosas and Bloody Marys, but also red and white sangria, and “any rail drink you can think of.” Between all of us, the brunch drink basics were covered, but a vodka soda seemed a little aggressive before noon.
My first drink was a mimosa, but honestly I don’t think it could even be considered that. It tasted like straight Sunny D. It’s one thing to serve a weak mimosa, but to not even use actual orange juice? Come on. To add to my confusion, a fellow diner was later poured a concoction that definitely had pulp, and bubbled with champagne.
Not sure what happened there, but I wasn’t about to order another. The Bloody Marys were boring and could have benefited from more garnishes. We all agreed that the red sangria was better than the white, but both would have been better with more fruit. So far, the drinks were not impressing us. When one of my fellow diners tried to order a beer, our server informed him that the entire party must do the bottomless deal and that beer wasn’t included.
Luckily, he was kind enough to make an exception for us. I will say that our waiter was wonderful. I always feel bad for the servers stuck with huge groups of buzzed brunchers for the two-hour limit, but he handled it like a champ. He was very attentive and made several exceptions to the bottomless brunch rules for us. On to the food. We ordered the spread sampler for the entire table.
It was a huge bowl of light, fresh pita bread, with bowls of hummus, yogurt dip, and baba ghannouj. The Baba ghannouj was too smoky for my taste, but the yogurt dip was amazing, and the hummus was solid. Our waiter assured us that all three are made in house. If I were to return to Philos, it would definitely be for a glass of wine and these spreads during happy hour.
The entrees available on the bottomless menu were less interesting. Given the large group, and our determination to get our money’s worth of bottomless food, we pretty much sampled the entire menu. We determined that at $35 price point you had to try at least three entrees to make it worth the money.
The omelettes were ordinary. The Benedicts were tasty, but you only got one, which was weird. The French toast was nothing special. The grilled cheese was cold.
The only notable entrees were the crepes. We liked the Nutella crepes and the strawberry ones, but they were made with jam, not fresh strawberries. They also served a Crepes Monsieur which was an interesting twist on the Croque Madame.
Despite everyone trying multiple entrees, nobody was particularly impressed with the food. Like lots of bottomless brunches, they expect you to get so drunk you can’t taste the food. But given the light pour on the drinks, they weren’t getting any favors.
The Bitches Say: C-. Neither the food nor the drinks were particularly impressive. I might go back for a happy hour, however.
Philos Mezze + Wine Bar
401 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Philos serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays