I’ve been brunching quite a bit lately. “You live in NW, of course you do brunch,” one might say. After all, every list of worthwhile brunch locations in the city seems heavily concentrated withinthe Dupont-AdMo corridor. The lines are out the door at most of the places in my neighborhood on any given Saturday or Sunday. However, being a devotee of my own homecooked pancakes (of the blueberry, banana, or chocolate chip variety), I don’t partake all too often.
Last weekend, a friend and I were downtown and decided to grab a bite to eat on the Hill before meeting up with others. At first I wasn’t sure where to go since my usual standby, Bread and Chocolate, closed a few months ago. We had both heard good things about Belga Cafe, on 8th St. south of Eastern Market, so we decided to give that a try. Although the wait for a table was out the door despite the “wintry mix” falling outside, there was ample seating available at the bar. Far from the cramped bar seating of, say, Tryst, this was actually quite a nice arrangement. My friend ordered an egg dish with a side of fruit and I went with apple cinnamon waffles (sorry, both dishes had fancy Belgian names, but we’re keeping things simple here). We were intrigued byfancy drink offerings like sage or lavender champagne, which looked great as people around us were sipping them, but we kept in nonalcoholic that morning so I can’t report on that. The food, however, was fabulous. My waffles were the perfect varietyof crisp, not soggy, doneness. There were tiny cinnamon chips baked into them, which added an interesting texture, and the apple topping was simply delicious. Probably my favorite waffle offering in a very long time (though I keep meaning to try the Chai waffles at Open City — maybe Tryst has them too?). My companion’s eggs were equally as good. The atmosphere was warm and, although busy, not hectic. The service was fabulous. The one critique I would give is that the fruit bowl my companion ordered was absurdly small for the price point charged. All in all, a great little find and the perfect place to start an afternoon of wandering Eastern Market.
Today, I stayed a bit closer to home and went to LeftBank with another friend. My only impression of LeftBank heretofore was as a night spot with chic lighting and interesting (if slightly overpriced) drinks. The minimalist design doesn’t scream comfy and inviting, but it was practically deserted while lines at Tryst, the Diner, etc., were out the door as per usual, so we decided to give it a try. My companion broke with the brunch theme and ordered a burger while I got the blueberry pancakes. I’m always disappointed when I order them because, although I am certainly not a great cook by any definition, I can make a mean blueberry pancake. For once, my expectations were surpassed. The pancakes were loaded with blueberries, done to perfection, and not overly sweet. As good as they were, the coconut black tea I ordered was the real star of the meal. It was incredibly delicious and steeped with loose leaves rather than a bag. Be forewarned, I’m totally ordering it next time someone drags me to happy hour there.