It has been a long time since I’ve done any sort of restaurant review, rave or scathe, or even posted any foodie photos. This, I can tell you with absolute certainty, is not for a lack of eating out at restaurants. In the week that Hannah and Ben were in town I ate at no less than five of my favorite restaurants (and I gained about a pound per restaurant. I’m not kidding.) . But these were some of my favorite restaurants in town, places I’ve been to before. Delicious nonetheless, but not worth recapping here. So I have been on the hunt for some new places to try out, a new repertoire of favorites to escort my tourists around to.
If you live in DC (or VA in my case), you don’t need to be convinced of the benefits of brunch. Delicious breakfast food and booze? Yes. Please and thank you. Which is why, when I texted my dear friend Nicole on Saturday afternoon saying I needed a cocktail, without hesitation we booked a brunch date for the next morning. I told her I wanted something a little more dive bar-esque, “more Tunnicliffs than Masa 14, if you know what I mean”. She knew exactly what I meant.
She directed us up to Eastern Market to the newly opened Boxcar Tavern. AKA my favorite new place for casual brunch in DC.
It is everything I want in a bar. Or in a restaurant for that matter. The small, narrow restaurant is dark yet inviting, with rich wooden booths and a long bar that practically spans the length of the restaurant. The large Finn Mac Cool’s vintage bar sign near the front of the restaurant has prompted several reviewers to label it an Irish bar, but for me that often comes along with images of futbol hooligans and beer guzzling shenanigans, all of which are not included in the Boxcar atmosphere. The many vintage bar signs give it an antique feel, but not in that clichéd TGIFridays-old-bicycle-on-the-wall sort of way.
The food was fantastic, and far surpassed the neighboring Tunnicliffs. I ordered the traditional breakfast combo plate (pancakes, eggs, home fries, bacon, and sausage) and I happily devoured every bite. Not kidding. I ate all of it. Shamelessly. It was a few levels beyond your traditional greasy breakfast platter without being overly sophisticated. I mean, for gods sake it’s pancakes and eggs, people! Don’t ruin it with your fancy shit. My one criticism would be about their bloddy mary. If you’re a frequent reader, or if you know me at all, you know I am picky about my bloody marys. I like them well seasoned, very spicy, and full of pickled vegetable toppings. Boxcar’s homemade mix had good flavor, but didn’t knock me off my seat for the $6 I paid. Next time I'll opt for the impossible-to-screw-up mimosa.
Glancing over the rest of their menu, seems to be comprised of your standard pub fare with a twist (i.e. a quesadilla with duck confit, pulled pork, and gruyere. Wild Boar Stew. And a croquet-monsier with béchamel sauce. Yum.). And an accompanying beer and wine menu with a good mix of local favorites (Flying Dog, Heavy Seas) and trendy go-to selections (Allagash, Fat Tire). Without a further thought I can say that I will be back for dinner. You put duck and pulled pork on anything and you’ve sold me. Follow that up with an cold Allagash White and I’m yours for the evening.
According to the Post and my lovely brunch companion, Boxcar is owned by Xavier Cervera, a very busy Capitol Hill restaurateur who also owns Senart’s Oyster and Chop House, the Chesapeake Room, and the soon to reopened Hawk and Dove. (Senart’s and the Chesapeake Room both come highly recommended although I haven't actually been there yet.) When the Hawk and Dove was bought out and subsequently closed for renovations, I was really skeptical of any new owner who would have the balls to change such a DC institution. But if Cervera turns it into anything like Boxcar, I will happily become a Hawk and Dove regular.
The Boxcar Tavern is not a closely guarded secret, nor will it stay “hidden” on the DC brunch map for long. With it’s Eastern Market location (literally right next door to Tunnicliffs and across the way from the farmers market), reasonable prices, and delicious food, I have a feeling that the next time I head over, the wait for a table will be much, much longer.