I was in the tiny bathroom at Tabaq, clutching the counter for fear of being sick, when Stef bursts through the door, into a stall, and crumples over the toilet. I thought I was in bad shape, but Stef was much worse.
She was sick—motion sickness from the ride to brunch—a side effect of a year of medication, chemotherapy, and the general body battering that comes with fighting breast cancer. My hangover paled in comparison. What a woman, I thought, listening to her wretch; and what a way to bond with a friend.
Cancer sucks; it’s the truth. But it really sucks for those under 40, who are blind-sided by the disease, struggling to cope with suddenly having to face their mortality well before they’re ready to. My brother had to face that when he was 15 and diagnosed with testicular cancer. Stef had to face it in her 30s. Years apart, but many of the same issues.
The disease doesn’t discriminate by age, and yet many people in our generation remain oblivious to the risks and fail to pay attention when their body is trying to tell them something. That’s why, along with Stef, I’m helping out Pink Jams, a D.C.-based organization with the sole purpose to raise awareness (and help provide treatment) in the under-40 set.
Tonight, Stef will be parading down the runway at Pink Jams’ Pink Rocks the Runway party (have you got your tickets? If not, get them quick.). We met for brunch last Saturday to talk about the event and a few other projects we’re working on. I think it was the three flights of stairs up to Tabaq that did us both in that morning.
Tabaq is a great, scenic spot for brunch. It’s like you’re sitting in a glass greenhouse atop a U Street brownstone, and the views of D.C. go on for miles. But it does require a climb up not one, not two, but three steep sets of wooden stairs. After that much exertion—after a night of drunken dancing exertion—I could do nothing but collapse in my chair and be served.
Thankfully, the service at Tabaq was great, and the waitress didn’t question when my first order was simply, ‘Toast. Please.’ It wasn’t even that crowded in there, which was surprising considering it was the most glorious fall day. There are smartly designed, chic taupe curtains that hang from one end of the ceiling to the other. Servers shift these around on poles depending on where the sun is shining from and where their guests are sitting.
You feel on top of the world up there, high up, like you’re sunning yourself on a rooftop, but with good food and mimosas. What could be better?
The bartender was mixing up mimosas en masse, and the food was being hauled up via the restaurant’s little pully system. Seriously. They load the plates from the kitchen on the ground floor into a metal chute and pully the thing up to the roof to be served to guests. It’s bizarre, but it works; like the curtains, I suppose. Tabaq: all about functionality.
The brunch menu gives a lot to choose from. Soups, salads, omelets, an amazing variety of eggs Benedicts, sandwiches, sides, and a number of Tabaq breakfast specials, including an eggs casserole, steak and eggs, and Belgian waffles, and other classics. We ordered a few side dishes, to fill the empty space in our stomachs. I went for a plate of bacon, which was Canadian bacon, sliced thickly. The lamb sausage also came out by itself. Both meats were delicious.
This is such a classic brunch menu, but extensive—it’s really great. Everything came with a cup of fruit on the side. But not the usual fruit: balls of fruit, scooped out from watermelons, cantaloupes, melons, and pineapple with a small ice cream scooper. It was so refreshing.
The chicken and waffles were exactly what I needed … two hours after brunch. I actually couldn’t stomach it there, but I boxed it up and took it home, only to devour it later. The Belgian waffle was fluffy and light, even later. And the open-faced fried chicken—though it’s no Marvin chicken and waffles—hit the spot. It was like a couple of chicken tenders, but with lots of spices and flavoring.
On the side, a little cup of barbecue sauce, I think. At first I thought this ramekin held the syrup, but realized it was definitely not syrup after attempting to dip my chicken into it: it was very sticky and thick. Is this the “pure maple syrup” or the gravy that’s described on the menu? To me, it tasted like barbecue sauce, which was an odd addition, but I appreciated at the time.
Brooke had the bagel, cream cheese, and lox. She had the choice of plain, sesame, or everything bagel, and it was served open faced with two massive slabs of cream cheese on one side, and two massive slabs of smoked salmon on the other. On the side of the dish was a seasonal salad with champagne vinaigrette.
Oh, and she got two eggs, scrambled, though you can get them any style you’d like, with a choice of sautéed potatoes or fries. She opted for fruit, instead, which they were happy to substitute. The dish was substantial, and yet nicely presented all on one plate.
Stef ordered an omelet, of which she had many choices: Serrano ham and manchego cheese, shrimp and crabmeat, herbs and spinach, sautéed veggies, or egg whites, mushroom, spinach and tomato. She went with the shrimp and crabmeat, and it was solid. I love that this place offers such healthy options, especially options for vegetarians.
I was really impressed with the selection of Benedicts at Tabaq. They have an old fashioned Benny and two vegetarian options: a Florentine-style, and one that is served with braised seasonal veggies inside. Sounds delicious, even to this carnivore. For the pescetarians, there’s a Norwegian option and a crab and spinach Benny, too. Each come with fruit or potatoes. I must go back to try their Benedicts. It is my standard, after all.
The deal isn’t bottomless, but the drinks are cheap. Only $3 for a mimosa or Mary, unless you want a fancy pants “flavored” mimosa, which’ll cost you $6. In fact, the entire menu is rather affordable. The most expensive dish was my chicken and waffles, at a whopping $13.95.
The Bitches say: A. A solid, inexpensive brunch with lots of options, including vegetarian. Cheap drinks; just be ready for the three flights of stairs.
1336 U Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20009-4445