All words: Stephanie Breijo
All photos: Shauna Alexander
Some of the world’s greatest institutions started underground–punk, dinner clubs, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to name a few–and it’s usually only a matter of time before these movements get discovered, exploited, sooooo mainstream, etc. But something tells us that Cedar, one of the District’s best-kept secrets, will have no trouble keeping its signature cocktails and local ingredients underground, both figuratively and literally.
Step through Cedar’s Penn Quarter rabbit hole and find yourself beneath the district’s bustling streets, in a wonderland where smoke essence, fruit purees and artisan liqueurs mingle in a cocktail glass and smooth jazz covers of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” softly fill the air.
In an effort to balance city life with the great outdoors, Cedar uses the freshest ingredients available from nearby farms, when possible. The Local Honey, a frequent addition to their cocktail concoctions, hails from a co-owner’s brother’s honey farm in Virginia.
The underground hideaway is also home to some of the best bar food we’ve found in the city thus far. Whole Seckle Pears are artfully poached in Riesling, rolled in cornmeal, deep fried, and stuffed with Cambazola cheese and pomegranate molasses; crispy risotto balls finish with a surprisingly citrusy zing (we later learned this was due to the fresh Meyer Lemon throughout). The lemon chicken wings offer a similar zest with distinctive char lines and a smokey flavor all the way to the bone.
With a nod to the great outdoors, this subterranean spot supplements their fare with seasonal ingredients like forest-foraged berries, greens and herbs. The real menu standout is the lobster grilled cheese, which is otherworldy-good. The artful sandwich features large chunks of butter-poached lobster tangled with gooey Camembert and fresh herbs, served with a rich and smokey tomato soup. (Though the house-braised Pork Belly BLT is a close runner-up.)
Hidden beneath the heat and sporting a spread of artful, fresh bites + a cocktail list just perfect for summer (ginger beer, tequila, lime and blackberry, anyone?) we’ve found your new booze hideaway, so underground it’s cool in every way imaginable.