We’ve been hearing about more and more developments staking claim and breaking ground in Ivy City, but are still waiting on this neighborhood to really get on its feet. Luckily, the Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse already offers a destination for visitors to Northeast D.C.
Situated above the market that serves many of your favorite D.C. restaurants, the tavern is a spacious bar and restaurant. Mixed wood furniture, high-definition TVs at the bar, and tanks of live lobster give it a lumberjack-meets-fishwife vibe, which seems appropriate for a place that smokes seafood.
We sat in a sunny corner, next to large garage-style doors that open onto a large rooftop patio with a fire pit and plenty of high-top tables. We all wished the temperature was right for outdoor dining and day drinking.
Technically, Ivy City Smokehouse offers a lunch menu, not brunch, but we had no trouble making the crossover. Our waiter was very super friendly, going all in on his dad jokes, and made several helpful suggestions about the menu. He obliged my request to bring me a mimosa, which I desperately needed. My brunch companions Jacob perused the craft brew list and Caitlin went with a Dark and Stormy. The cocktails were strong, generous, and met all flavor expectations.
We were pleased to see several local breweries on the drink menu, like Atlas, Right Proper, and DC Brau. There is also a section for Ivy City craft cocktails, featuring bevs using spirits from neighboring Cotton + Reed and Green Hat Gin. We can definitely see ourselves posting up on that patio during the summer, with a local cocktail in hand.
Being that we were in seafood heaven, I knew we had to start with a half dozen freshly shucked oysters. We went with the daily special and were surprised by how big they were. With option to add lemon, horseradish, cocktail sauce, and mignonette, we slurped ‘em down. These oysters were the freshest I’ve tasted in D.C., grit and all.
I mandated that everyone try a different seafood dish, but we had no trouble divvying up the entrees. Caitlin opted for a crab cake sandwich, made with all Maryland steamed jumbo lump crabmeat. The sandwich was simple, topped with just tartar sauce and lemon. We had expected the patty to be a bit thicker, but we were ahead of recreational crabbing season, so I suspect diners will get a little more bang for their buck in the summer. That said, the sandwich was simply and delicious.
Jacob ordered the smokehouse platter, which comes with your choice of fish and bagel. Jacob tried the smoke North Carolina rainbow trout and a pumpernickel bagel. A weird combination, maybe, but it tasted great. The fish was excellent; and the bagel as fresh. With chive cream cheese, tomato, red onion, cucumbers, capers, and horseradish, the platter was beautifully presented and fun to build. His only complaint was that his entree did not include a side of the thin, crispy French fries we bought had. He was jealous, so we let him steal a few off our plates.
I knew immediately I wanted the fried shrimp po’boy. The breaded shrimp was crisp and flaky, and with shredded lettuce, tomato, pickle, roasted red peppers, and spicy remoulade. The tangy taste was on point. Unfortunately, it was served on a huge New Orleans-style French roll that made it very difficult to eat. I couldn’t get all the ingredients in one bite, and cutting the sandwich was out of the question. I resigned myself to picking at in parts, but I was still pleased with the flavors.
We were too full to eat any more, but I’m desperate to go back to try the smokehouse pastrami salmon appetizer. The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse will definitely be a great place for a casual night out with friends when the weather warms up. It’s the type of place you could definitely loosen your tie, enjoy fresh seafood, and relax after a long workday.
The Bitches say: A-. The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse is a great spot for a lazy, late brunch on the rooftop patio. You’ll find some of the freshest seafood in D.C., and camaraderie over cocktails from local brewers and distillers.
The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse serves lunch daily (except Mondays) starting at 11 a.m. (202) 529-3300