Photos By Clarissa Villondo, Words By Tam Sackman
It’s almost impossible to miss Bar Deco coming up 6th Street in Chinatown. The four-floor superbar/restaurant is marked by an Art Deco mural that spans the entirety of the Bulletin Building, a former printing press currently housing Noe Landini’s latest endeavor.
Entering on the first floor, you’re immediately hit by the smell of Bar Deco’s giant smoker, used for everything from their half-smoked chicken to the anchovies on top of their Caesar salad.
Going up to the second floor dining room, you start to get the full effect of 1. Just how big this building is and 2. The Art-Deco accents that are present throughout all four floors. The bigger tables are long dark wooden booths, lit by Parisian gas lamps at night and a few giant windows against an unfinished-in-a-cool-not-dirty-way wall. There’s some gold trimming and some peacock wallpaper. It’s tasteful.
This continues up to the third floor, where a mile-long bar extends into oblivion and the seats wrap around so that everyone on earth can sit at this bar at once without accidentally rubbing elbows with anyone.
We tried the All-American, AKA a drink made for Ron Swanson, bacon-infused bourbon with maple syrup and a bacon strip garnish. It tasted like men. But my personal favorite was a gin fizz that borderlined on a mojito, with mint that tasted like pure candy.
Food-wise, the smoker was really the star– smoking the anchovies and wood-grilling the romaine in the Caesar salad made the dish. The salad was smoky in a way that I never thought salad could be.
We sampled the fried chicken on cheddar biscuits, which was delicious without being greasy, although the drizzled honey wasn’t quite enough to cool out the kick from the jalapeño compote. A better chicken choice is the hickory-smoked chicken, which is reminiscent of a dish from a classic barbecue joint, though made more upscale when paired with pearl potatoes and snap peas.
Strangely enough, the standout dish for me was not a dish I usually go for– a sausage sandwich on a crusty roll topped with roasted red peppers and onions. I’m not wild about sausage and peppers but I honestly thought this was the best thing we sampled all evening (and trust me, we sampled plenty, thanks to Noe and his generous staff). It was dry, but not in the wrong way. You got the sense that it was just as dry as it was supposed to be, and it was the perfect amount of smoky balanced with a savory sweetness from the peppers and onions mixed. It needed no condiment which, as someone who is extremely pro-condiments, I don’t say lightly.
There was still one floor to go- a rooftop bar with high-top chairs, string lighting and what will soon be a fire-escape garden. The views aren’t much, but they don’t need to be.
Though there are TVs in strategic spots around the building broadcasting whatever games are going on, make no mistake- this is no sports bar. This is a classy, but casual joint, the perfect place to pre or post-game for whatever is going on at the Verizon Center without feeling that Fuddrucker’s sadness.
And just because the finishing touches at Bar Deco are almost done, this doesn’t mean the end is in sight for Noe Landini, he’s already got plans for a half wholesale bakery half artisan bistro in Alexandria opening next year.