1523 22nd St NW
Washington, DC 20037
Date of Visit: Sunday, June 8, 2008
Time: Dinner - 6:30 PM
Number of Diners: 1
Food Quality: 4
Family owned and operated since October 7, 1957, The Brickskeller is legendary in the DC area for its selection of over 1000 bottled beers. Google "Brickskeller Reviews" and you will find dozens of famous, infamous, and unknown critics hailing its praises. And Washington D.C. is legendary for its bountiful traffic, byzantine layout, and scarce parking - especially in the DuPont Circle area. For these reasons I chose Sunday evening to make my visit. True to my expectations traffic was relatively light and I was able to find free, legal on-street parking within a block and half - no mean feat in this embassy-rich area of the District! The downside of my timing is that the place was not busy, and the more comfortable upstairs bar/lounge area (pictured at left) was closed - and so was access to their dozen plus interesting beers on tap. So I found myself taking refuge from the 100-degree plus heat in the cellar area - dingy, sooty, and decorated with rare beer bottles, cans, and advertisements from 100 years ago. It was cooler than outside, but still quite warm. I was seated somewhere in the rabbit warren promptly if not courteously, and there were a few photocopies of the menu booklet on the table propped between ketchup and mustard. There are a number of interesting things listed in the menu, though mostly "bar food." And truth be told, nobody comes here for the food - they all come for the beer. Check out the impressive BEER LIST. Or click on the photo at right to see two of the ten pages of beers listed with current prices.
What I had with menu descriptions...
The Pentagon CheeseBoard 7.25
Five big cheeses! ~ havarti with dill, smoked gouda, brie, cheddar and pepperjack served with loaf of oven warmed french bread
Garden Greens House Salad 4.25
Choice of Ceasar, Ranch, Blue Cheese, Russian, Oil & Vinegar Dressings
The "Down Home" Burger 7.95
One half pound of lean ground beef smothered in fried onions seasoned with our own special blend of herbs and spices. With fries.
Check out the full menu with THIS LINK.
This being my second visit to the place, I can verify that it is absolutely true that folks come for the beer and not the food. My server was barely dressed - appropriate for the heat, and had a number of pretty severe-looking tattoos on her neck and upper arms. Later I noticed some birthmarks or burn marks on the underside of her lower arms, so the tats were a good diversionary tactic for her. Though she did not introduce herself, she was friendly enough - considering I was a solo diner. The salad was a halfhearted mound of greens with two plastic tubs of commercial blue cheese dressing. Good for digestion, but no pleasure to eat. The cheese board was a pleasant surprise - all five cheeses were quite good, as was the fresh loaf of warm, soft, white bread - though hardly French. My burger, ordered well done, was dry as a bone. I had tried the buffalo burger on a previous visit with the same result. Again I made do with generous servings of mustard from the squirt bottle on the table.
The thing that salvaged the experience was the beer. On my previous visit I had sampled several unusual Belgian beers on tap, but not available this night. I found a Weihenstephan dark Hefeweizen in the German section of the beer list for $7.50 and ordered it. My waitress (whose name I learned from the check) poured it expertly into the proper glass, inverting the bottle with no thought for overcarbonation, stopping with a quarter left and swirling to pick up the yeast, then topping off the glass. The bottle proclaimed in German "älteste Brauerei der Welt" - the Oldest Brewery in the World. I can see why they have lasted so long - the beer was outstanding. When I was ready for my second beer, the waitress suggested an alternate dark Hefe from Schneider. It was not nearly as good and cost $9.45, but I was happy to have tried it. All in all the experience was a mixed bag. I shall probably not return unless with a few friends, and we'll be dining elsewhere first!
The Brickskeller - RECOMMENDED only for beer
Eat somewhere else and call ahead to see if the upstairs is open!
Lows: Dry burgers, unexciting food, closed upstairs
Bon Appétit! - W. Ego