Hurrah! It’s patio season! The time of year when all you can think about is the next time you are free—sitting outside, drinking a beer, enjoying the breeze on a D.C. patio or rooftop. We’ve got only a few weeks left before it gets stiflingly hot, when we all turn into puddles and lock ourselves in air conditioning. So you should enjoy it.
For brunch, this means seeking out the best table on the best patio with the best service and—of course—the best people-watching. Somewhere you can enjoy the great food and have bottomless mimosas or Marys served to you for most of the afternoon. Yes, I love this time of year.
My friends and I did just that a few weekends ago. And we found all those ingredients—and a bit more—at one place. Vinoteca is an old standby, sitting on the corner of 11th and U, just off the U Street mayhem. I frequent it for happy hours and bocce in the back. But I hadn’t been for brunch in years. It was certainly time for a repeat visit.
We got a table on the front patio, right by the street, so we could conveniently people-watch, and we ordered bottomless mimosas and coffee. There were dogs on the front patio, drinking water out of a restaurant-provided water bowl, enjoying the sunshine.
We ordered the smoked salmon to start, mostly because we were stalling for time. The menu is awesome—bagel-centric things, omelets, great starters, and other options. You can tell everything has been really thought-out, and it was incredibly hard to decide.
First up we ordered the salmon, which arrived set on Asian pear slices and fennel, with horseradish aioli to dip it in. Light and refreshing, but when we tried to share it among the table, we each only got a tiny piece of salmon.
Finally, after many mimosas and deliberation, we decided what we wanted. For Brooke, the lamb sausage frittata, which arrived looking like a messy pizza. It was actually not particularly appealing in its presentation, but in fact tasted amazing. It’s made with ramps, cubes of potato, goat cheese, and tomato. Brooke ordered some cheesy grits on the side, and they arrived looking like soup.
I ordered the Pan con Tomate, which were thick, thick slices of toasted bread, covered with a thin layer of Chorizo de Revilla and Manchego (oh, yum), with two sunny-side-up eggs on top. The entire thing had to be eaten with a knife and fork, but every bite was delectable. It came with a refreshing bunch of mixed greens on the side.
Robb, in his very trendy and adventurous way, ordered the special, which was not on the menu that day—the bison omelet. It came with goat cheese and veggies, and the egg was thick and fluffy. He had no hipster complaints.
Mike ordered the duck confit benedict, which was second on my list of things to try (after the pan con tomate, of course), so I eyed it jealously when it arrived. It didn’t look like it came with much duck, but Mike protested that it’s just thinly shaved and that, actually, there’s plenty of it and it’s awesome.
The “rustic” bread and duck were topped with hollandaise. On the side, more frisée, this time with roasted garlic vinaigrette. Perfect pairing with the Benny.
Mike’s lovely sister—who was in town visiting for the weekend—went with a brunch classic, the steak and eggs. There was much respect around the table for her confident order. But when it arrived, we all burst out laughing. The steak was so oddly shaped—it was completely phallic!
Our server was really friendly and real, and the manager was out frequently at all the tables, checking in and delivering food. We were well taken care of. In fact, when we were done with our food, we sat there enjoying our mimosas, thinking we would take off after we finished this last glass, but instead she kept coming back and refilling our glasses from a big pitcher—without us even asking! We just shrugged and kept enjoying. Can’t turn down free mimosas.
Finally, we decided to take our mimosas and head to the back patio. Little did we know, that is where all the action is. It was a brunch party back there! People were playing bocce in big teams, the bar was packed, the music was loud. Total hipster day party. I felt like I had stumbled on a hidden brunch secret back there that only certain people know about. It was like icing on the cake.
The Bitches say: A. Reliable, friendly, delicious, great patio, great brunch menu.
1940 11th St. N.W.
Vinoteca serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays.