It had been a long week. In fact, it had been a long few weeks. I am nearing the close on my condo and my love just left for a war zone. And Brooke found herself actually in D.C. between two of the million business trips she’s taken recently.
So, we needed pampering. After I had the most miraculous spa manicure and pedicure from Red Door and Brooke indulged in a facial and a pedicure, we waddled from the spa to Boqueria on 19th and M. Little did we know that the pampering would continue through brunch.
Boqueria is trendy. Really trendy. Yet somehow it’s still welcoming. It’s a bit retro, with light wood paneling and cream leather booths. The tables are all high-tops, with chairs that are upholstered in brown leather with orange trim, like a 1960s gym outfit. However, it’s still contemporary and warm, with sleek bars and tables, but chalk boards and stands of fruit. Oddly, it’s right above the Chipotle, but it does have a gorgeous outdoor patio on 19th Street.
As soon as you walk in the front door, you’re greeted by a bouquet of gourmet meats and cheese behind glass, where you can see one of the chefs preparing desserts and tapas. They’re just tempting you, giving you a taste. You are also greeted by some sort of suckling pig, plopped right there on the counter. Just staring at you. Brooke was slightly disturbed, but then quickly distracted by the hunks of Spanish cheese on display.
We went on Saturday, which was day one of their first weekend serving brunch. We were greeted by a chalk sign outside that announced “Brunch is here!” The restaurant itself has been open for two months, serving dinner, and has already made itself into a bit of an evening hotspot for downtown worker bees like me. Not yet for brunch, through. The place was empty, as it was the first weekend. But a few other tables trickled in.
We sat down at a high top that was bathed in light from the big windows. Immediately, we ordered coffee from our very tall but very lovely waiter, who told us that they just printed the brunch menu the night before, and whipped out his cheat sheet, which he had clearly studied. We could tell by the scribbles and drawings all over it. He even let us take a glance at it, and we saw he had carefully drawn sketches of what certain dishes looked like. He was clearly prepared but nervous for the new menu.
No coffee machine yet, he apologized. But he got us cappuccinos and Americanos (Brooke crisis averted). We eyed big pitchers of what looked like fruit cocktails being made at the bar. “What are those?” we asked. Sangria, of course. He brought us a taste of the blood orange beer sangria. It was delicious, so we ordered it—but with cava. It was made with blood orange puree, lime-infused tequila, and house-made lime cordial.
Yes, Brooke and I split a pitcher. A pitcher holds about five drinks. And they were pretty potent—yet you couldn’t taste it. But we could feel it.
One thing I loved about their drinks menu—besides the selection of sangrias and other cocktails, including a Bloody Mary that looked absolutely divine—is that two out of their three beers on tap are local: Port City and DC Brau. This New York transplant could have easily just kept at it New York-style, but instead they’re embracing their local sources. Kudos. (The third beer, fittingly, is Estrella Damm, from Barcelona.)
We ordered two starters. Well, actually a side dish and a brunch entrée to share. First, the Churros Rellenos, which are nutella stuffed churros coated in cinnamon sugar. They were warm and spongy inside, but crispy and had a kick on the outside. It was a heavenly way to kick off brunch, and gave us good feelings for the food to come.
And this point, I whipped out my camera – amazingly suspicious in a nearly empty restaurant. The waiter wandered over and asked shyly – are you reviewing the restaurant? Should I know about this? I told him it was for the ‘food porn,’ which made him a little comfortable. Then defensively blurted out “It’s a hobby!” Yeah, those drinks had a kick to them. Why don’t more restaurants add tequila to their sangria?
We also split the pan con tomate, which is grilled bread rubbed with tomato, garlic and olive oil. The bread was long triangle pieces of fresh bread, and the tomato was spread on the top. It had a bit of a garlic kick, and was soaked in oil, but the bread was crunchy on the bottom.
It came with a little bowl of Spanish olives. Our waiter, who we had now become buddies with, encouraged use to try the pickled garlic that it came with. So we did, and he stayed to watch our reactions to the decidedly bizarre taste and texture. He smiled and wandered off.
For our entrees, I ordered the cochinillo al horno, on the waiter’s recommendation. He had tried it the night before, and described it as a fried egg set atop a bed of house-made potato chips. Just split the yoke, he said, and it will cover the potato chips. Eat it with the roast suckling pig, and it’s so delicious, he promised. I caved.
When I got it, I was a little confused. I hadn’t had roast suckling pig before, and wasn’t ready for what I got. To me, it was a steak of pig fat, with a crispy top, and I felt like I was chewing pure greasy fat. It grossed me out. I think our waiter saw my faces and rushed over. Let me get you something else, he insisted, it’s no problem. It’s the first time I’ve ever not felt guilty about sending something back to the kitchen. It wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
When adventure failed, I went to my standard—the Benedict. This time, the huevos benedictios was atop an English muffin, with Serrano ham, piquillo peppers and hollandaise. The ham was paper thin and simply delicious. The egg poached absolutely to perfection. The Hollandaise was amazing, and the pepper gave it a nice kick. The perfect Benedict? Close to it.
The fries on the side were OK. They tasted much like fries I’ve had at restaurants that aren’t as nice as Boqueria. I expected more—more crispiness, more kick—just something more.
Brooke wanted to get the Huevos con Bistec, Boqueria’s steak and eggs, which is hanger steak a la plancha with one fried egg, fingerling potatoes, shishito peppers, mojo verde. After the waiter’s descriptions of the other dishes, she changed her mind—that doesn’t happen often with brunch dishes, as she always researches the menu the night before.
She went with the Tortilla de setas, a rolled omelet filled with the things she loves the most: mushrooms, caramelized onions and goat cheese. It may not sound particularly unique, but she said is was absolutely delicious. An aspiring food snob, she said that it was amazing what a difference it makes when restaurants prepare the most simple foods very, very well. And that was done at Boqueria. The dish was served with French fries on the side, and also Catalan tomato toast, which we wished we would have known before ordering the pan con tomate—as it was the same thing.
Besides the 10 Spanish brunch dishes, you can also order their classic tapas, salads and sides. Also, they presented us with a dessert menu, but we were completely stuffed. We tottered out, slightly drunk, but very happy.
The Bitches say: A- But it was day one, and I could see this being an A+ brunch with a coffee machine and a few tweaks. The quality is nearly there, and the ambiance is so perfect.
1837 M Street N.W.
Boqueria serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.