When you’re licking up the foamy traces of your Nutella Latte from Pound The Hill and your stomach starts to rumble, fear not: there’s some pretty tasty “real food” within reach. The year and a half year-old Eastern Market coffee shop-cum-wine bar has launched a full service restaurant that aims to expand their snack and lunch-y fare, taking their cuisine to a new level.
We had the pleasure of spending a recent summer evening—before the clouds broke and it poured—on the lovely garden patio at Pound The Hill for a taste of what’s in store on their new Summer Bistro menu, which debuts TODAY, Friday the 13th.
Owner Karl Johnson and the team at Pound have spent the last several months transitioning the cozy neighborhood coffee shop that’s become famous around town for their signature aforementioned Nutella Latte, into a full-service restaurant and bar at night. Finally—a place where I can park myself and my laptop during day, and then stay for dinner and drinks without settling on (another) scone for dinner. Even if it wasn’t pouring outside by the time we were finishing up our meal, I would have wanted to stick around for another round(s) to enjoy the warm atmosphere in the space that combines couches, desktops, and dining tables.
Fusion is in—in the coffee shop/bistro combo, and in what these folks are serving up. Under the creative control of Chef Jonathan Taub, the Summer menu is designed around seasonal and international influences. The standout dish was a crispy duck confit, served with hazelnut butter and dotted with Valhrona chocolate shavings atop a bed of arugula. The savory/sweet flavors of the crispy duck and hazelnut were unexpected and even unusual, but complex and memorably delicious.
Taub also does a whimsical take on barbequed sweetbreads prepared like traditional fried chicken—bathed in buttermilk, battered and fried—served with a homemade BBQ sauce that’s pretty formidable on it’s own. In the veggie arena, a heirloom tomato ceviche impressed, with acid-cured sharp flavors and a refreshing, summery sweetness.
A spoonful of chilled blueberry stew that tasted like eating defrosting berries straight from the freezer, served with cornbread and a dollop of boursin cheese, fell flat in a strange no-mans-land somewhere between being an appetizer and a dessert. As did an overwhelmingly salty snow crab preparation that was otherwise delightfully paired with a summer melon salad. But hey, they’re still working out the kinks and the menu changes frequently based on Chef Taub’s experimentations, so that’s all part of the fun.
Not to be overlooked is the serious wine and beer program that Pound’s launched alongside their elevated dinner service. There’s a nice selection of hand-picked craft beers and boutique, small-production wines. Clearly passionate about their bevs, Johnson and team are striving to offer most of wine list by the glass; their goal is to be an accessible neighborhood wine bar with reasonable prices for tasting and discovering new sips. (Read: leave your wine pretension and douchbaggery at the door) The great news? All by-the-glass wines are priced between 8 and 12 bucks.
We tasted a slew of small production wines from California, France, Argentina and South Africa, but if you’re looking for a suggestion, I’d point out the 2010 Haut-Marin Cuvee Marine, which is a zippy Columbard/Ugni Blanc Blend from Gascony that packs a punch with huge grapefruit flavor but has clean, tart finish with no trace of cloyingly sweet whites.
As with any hybrid concept, there are sure to be challenges in pulling off the coffee-shop-by-day and fine-neighborhood-dining-by-night model that Pound The Hill is going after, but we’re excited to see where they continue to go and what other yumminess is in store.
Pound the Hill is located at 621 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Pound’s Bistro hours are Sunday through Tuesday, from 5pm to 10 pm, and Friday & Saturday from 5 pm to 11 pm (though the bar stays open one extra hour until12 pm).