Blue Ridge Pays Homage to Our Region’s Ancient Mountain Range. A First Look

The greatly anticipated new Glover Park neighborhood gem, Blue Ridge (2340 Wisconsin Ave) opened it doors on Monday, June 1, 2009. It’s so new, it still smells like paint. The table tops are still tacky from the fresh coat of lacquer. The smells bring fond memories of my father’s workbench. Everything, however is not new. Just beyond the front doors, sits the remarkable century-old Pennsylvanian carved oak bar that seats 14, and overhead, a restored shabby white tin ceiling. The cocktail menu offers thematic Prohibition era cocktails as well as classic cocktails such as the light and refreshing “French 75”. There are also special Blue Ridge “punches” and an impressive wine list.

Inside the main dining room, traditional Amish quilts adorn the neutral walls (see photo below). Restaurant owners Eli Hengst and Jared Rager chose a soft neutral palette which was inspired by an early 20th century Shaker farmhouse from the Blue Ridge, from which the restaurant earned its name. The dark wooden wainscoting, which is often found in traditional early American homes, instantly adds character, style, and a sense of history to the large open dining room which seats 75 people. The window seats made of reclaimed church pews have an open view of the dining room, while the others have a view of the bustling neighborhood street. Above along the ceiling is the original indigo lighting remaining from the former space, Busara, a Thai restaurant (see photo on left). Other lighting design includes a series of pendant lights with exposed-filament bulbs. The ladder-back chairs correspond and fit well with the American theme; however, the seat bottoms are very rough and aren’t very kind to bare legs. A thin chair cushion would be a perfect solution.

On the upper level, there is a 24-seat private dining room, a smaller bar that seats just 8, and a 24-seat lounge with doors that open onto a spacious deck that overlooks the outdoor dining area and Oriental style zen garden (see photo on left). The smoker nestled behind the garden greens bring wafts of smoky BBQ smells fueling diners appetites. The garden is fairly large and would be an excellent get-a-way for a semi-private event.

The menu is also inspired by the area’s ancient mountain range. Blue Ridge Executive Chef, Barton Seaver, former Chef at Hook, known for his commitment to sustainable food practices, has incorporated seasonal and locally sourced ingredients from the Mid-Atlantic region on the current menu. The “snacks” offered, such as the root vegetable chips with charred onion dip are thin, crispy, deliciously golden – so simple yet addicting. You truly can’t eat one – or five. The bacon roasted almonds are smoky tasting, the deviled eggs are deliciously pungent with fresh mustard and horseradish, the sweet potato fritters with honey mustard sauce are little bites of heaven with their crunchy texture outside yet soft and sweet inside. Even the popcorn is delicious – salty and sweet like kettle corn lite. The Broiled Oysters appetizer includes 5 oysters for only $11 – and are served still in their shell with spinach, bacon bechamel, and Pernod which is kind of sweet tasting liqueur. I usually don’t eat oysters, yet I found these to be delicious. The crispy “grit cake” despite its unappetizing name was quite good and I don’t even like grits. The charcuterie plate is a very simple platter of house-made artisinal meats such as, BBQ ham, prosciutto, house-made bacon, and smoked ham “cracklins” – small pieces of pork fat, deep fried til they crispy and golden.  The cheese plate is an excellent selection of artisan cheeses, such as hook’s blue, thomasville tomme, chevre, cocoa cardona, and Camembert. The hook’s blue was my favorite – strong, flavorful, with a crumbly texture. The grilled fish of the day just so happened to be one of my favorites, the Artic Char. It was cooked perfectly and deliciously on a bed of fresh sauteed zucchini and onions in a light buttery sauce with salty crispy onions on top (see photo on right). The char was a fairly large portion yet just $17. Brian Cook, Wine Director has wonderful wine pairings from local wineries such as Chatham Vineyards.

For dessert, the homemade Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie is a twist to an old American traditional favorite. In addition, Blue Ridge offers cream soda or root beer floats.

For additional information or reservations please call (202) 333-4004 or visit www.blueridgerestaurant.comBlue Ridge is located at 2340 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20007

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One Response

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