11:30 a.m. strikes, and people start filing in to claim a spot at this eight seat lunch counter in Shaw. Newcomers stare at the chalkboard indecisively because everything just looks so good. The lucky ones grab a seat, while the only slightly less fortunate order something to-go or grab an item from their fully stocked takeaway fridge. Green Almond Pantry is the midday spot that goes beyond the lunch alliteration of beloved soups, salads, and sandwiches.
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Just off of Blagden Alley is a tiny restaurant that serves lunch only for eight people at a time at a long wood bar. Today I sat at the end and became friends with two women who meet at Green Almond Pantry for Thursday lunch. Together we stood in awe of the chef and her creations. Roasted peach and serrano ham salad was my order. From the first to the last bite, it was clear Chef Cagla pours her heart into her cooking. Trained at some of the world’s best restaurants, she used to lead Etto’s kitchen. She left to start her own concept that would allow her to spend more time with her daughter. Now she cooks lunch only and the inspiration she receives from her daughter shines through each plate. I’ll be coming back next Thursday with my new friends.
Green Almond Pantry has an ever-changing menu due to emphasis on seasonality and market-freshness, but there a few things you can count on: some sort of tinned fish thing, fresh vegetable salads, dips, and bread. And we ordered a rendition of these exact things.
To start, we shared the focaccia, followed by an eggplant confit sandwich, Swiss chard with anchovies and eggs, topped off with a chocolate soufflé cake.
So there’s this flavor and texture about Roman focaccia that is unlike any other salty, fluffy, oily masterpiece we have ever encountered. The Green Almond Pantry tomato focaccia is the Roman focaccia’s closest relative in D.C. It’s so moist and decadent. I would go so far as to call the bread itself juicy.
Just to so you really understand how incredibly talented owner Cagla Onal-Ure is at pastry and bread-making, you’ll find that the first thing you notice about the eggplant confit sandwich is the bread. A roll and baguette hybrid, the sandwich bundle is a burrito sized creation of the gods. Each bite is complemented by fresh goat cheese and a salty, astringent pesto. The tender eggplant melts all the carb-y, cheesy goodness together for a slightly messy, but well worth it experience.
The plate of spicy chard, tomatoes, anchovies, and fried egg transcends seasonality. You truly can order it any time of year, and it’s equally delicious. It’s a more acidic and less complicated version of shakshuka. The added anchovies add vibrant umami and really get your tastebuds salivating. There’s some heat here that’s calmed by a neon yolk and buttery, crispy bread slice. The dish was light, lovely, and we left no drop of sauce or oil behind. This is an example of how simplicity can reign supreme.
Upon finishing our savory selections, we felt perfect – like the bread-makers and farmers of the Italian south had come together to feed our bellies and souls in the most delicate of ways. We weren’t quite done yet, though. We had eyed the round chocolate soufflé waiting to be severed in the window of the shop. We ordered a slice and immediately “You Sexy Thing” started playing in our heads. The molten center was held up by a thin, bittersweet, and flakey wall of chocolate perfection. The cake is best enjoyed with a dollop of fresh, unsweetened whipped cream. I don’t think we will be able to go to Green Almond Pantry again without ordering a slice.
The Bitches say: five Champagne flutes
Whether you get one of those eight seats or not: you order, you eat, and you thank the chef for bringing her skills to a kitchen near you.
Green Almond Pantry Serves Brunch/Lunch Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.