In a city where brunches abound and crowds clamor for bottomless, it’s hard to find a hidden gem among the masses. But look hard enough, and they can be found. The Ella Grace on H Street feels like a secret that likely won’t be kept for long.
On a particularly chilly Sunday, my boyfriend and I walked through the unassuming doors to find an intimate restaurant brimming with charm and a bar worthy of multiple Instagram stories. We were warmly greeted by the bartender who showed us around the restaurant and gave us a peek of the second floor lounge. Upstairs, choose from plush couches and jewel toned velvet settees. The bartender shared that the space really shines when the sun goes down.
After our quick tour, we settled in at a beautiful marble table by the window, which gave us the perfect vantage point to admire the restaurant’s subtle details like the pineapple chandelier, vintage stemware, and gold picture frames.
Drinks were very much in order, and I went with the house speciality, The Ella Grace. It’s a twist on a French 75, comprised of Plymouth Gin, thyme syrup, Cocchi Americano, lemon, and a dash of sparking wine. The glass was as exquisite as the cocktail. Ever the adventurer, my boyfriend went with the “dealer’s choice,” which is a drink created on the spot to match the drinker’s palette. The dealer’s choice ended up being a take on prohibition cocktail “last word,” combining absinthe, green chartreuse, lime, and vermouth. The drink was a smooth, complex treat – so good he ordered a second. If those two drinks don’t sound tempting, the menu has six other choices as well as a wine list — forget the mimosa and try something new.
After admiring our drinks we moved onto food. The menu is fairly small, as The Ella Grace is still dipping its toes into the brunch scene. The small menu might be a good thing because everything sounded fantastically well thought out. Expect to find standard brunch classics with an eccentric twist. I ordered the French toast which is soaked overnight, infused with star anise, and served with honey-brown butter and cooked berries. The presentation was top notch, and the texture was crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. The honey-brown butter added an interesting dimension to the dish, and I had to pace myself to make it last more than a few seconds.
My boyfriend opted for the savory breakfast panini, which combines avocado, black forest ham, Kerrygold Dubliner cheese, and a runny egg all on focaccia. The Ella Grace makes their focaccia in house daily, and the bread has a slight crunch and warm center making it the perfect choice for the sumptuous panini.
Our waiter suggested we try one more thing, and brought out a slice of their black sesame cake. The cake can only be described as intriguing — a black sesame mousseline, cherry compote and black sesame praline combine to make a dessert that is a riddle for the palette. Of all the dishes we sampled this was truly the most unique and a must-order item.
As we finished our cocktails and cake, more brunchers started to wander through the door, making me think that this secret might already be out of the bag. If you need any other reason to visit The Ella Grace, the owner donates a percentage of sales to Navy doctor Thomas Catena, who is currently filling a crucial medical void in South Sudan’s Nuba Mountains — so get another cocktail, it’s for a good cause.
The Bitches Say: Five Champagne Flutes
The Ella Grace is a 1920s-esque speakeasy paradise for craft cocktail lovers and foodies alike. We’re eager to return to sample an expanded brunch menu and stick around to see the intimate lounge at night.
The Ella Grace serves brunch Saturday and Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.