Words By Logan Hollers, Photos By Franz Mahr
Sustained excellence is difficult to pull off. This is especially true in the service industry, where a.) new bars and restaurants are popping up constantly, and b.) over 60% of places fail within three years of opening. The long-termers, the stalwarts, are few and far between, and deserve to be applauded for consistently providing high-quality food and booze.
All the more reason to celebrate the 6th(!) Anniversary of Room 11, a Columbia Heights mainstay (and a long-time BYT favorite). BYT was lucky enough to score an invite to the anniversary party, where we joined the throng of well-wishers on hand to celebrate Room 11’s sixth birthday (and eat and drink all the things, natch).
In addition to the outstanding food and cocktails offered on its everyday menu, Room 11 busted out a special anniversary menu that brought back some classics from the spot’s early days.
A summery Rum Punch kicked the party off right, with cane rum, velvet falernum, lime, and allspice combining to make a light, refreshing cocktail, strong on the citrus and way too easy to drink.
Even better was the Strawberry, Peach, Jalapeño, and St. Germain Sangria. Sounds a little too busy, right? Nope. Crisp and effervescent, the strawberry and jalapeno were a great, great match, balancing sweetness and the slightest hint of heat.
Looking for something a little more ballsy? Toss back a Burnt Sugar Old Fashioned, Room 11’s twist on the classic drink. The dark cocktail had a great whiskey backbone with faint flavors of licorice and anise. Definitely a sipper.
Room 11’s kitchen was also pumping out some celebratory plates, including a bracingly fresh cucumber gazpacho and chorizo and lamb kofta kebabs. The former, cool and sweet; the latter, aggressively spiced with a great char, and simply excellent when eaten with the accompanying Bibb lettuce and pickled onions and jalapenos.
Lest we forget that this *was* a celebration, the kitchen kept sending out plate after plate of their signature local, modern American cuisine. The softshell crab with charred leek hoe cakes was sweet and briny; bacon jus and dandelion greens added some balancing bitterness. Pan roasted scallops, plump and enormous, had a gorgeous sear, with caramelized peaches accentuating the scallops’ sweetness and crispy bacon bits adding salt and crunch.
Caramelized potato gnocchi is a great choice for those looking to load up on carbs. The best part of the dish? Perfectly cooked shelling peas and garbanzo beans. (Though the sautéed oregano and basil sure didn’t hurt.)
A honey goat cheesecake rode the line between sweet and savory with a peach melba compote and graham cracker crumble. I don’t like desserts. I liked this. A lot.
But the pork chop. Jesus, that pork chop. The only note I have on this plate says, “WOW.” Grilled to a perfect medium-rare (seriously, restaurants, stop overcooking pork already!) and set on top of Tongue of Fire beans (that’s a real thing), red calaloo (also a real thing), sautéed squash, and pickled onions, this was easily one of the best restaurant dishes I’ve tried this year. Seriously, just an impeccable plate of food.
That pork chop is a great example of why Room 11 has such strong staying power. They’ve beaten the odds and remained a rock in the competitive Columbia Heights neighborhood because they know what they do best – they focus on delivering outstanding food and drink every day (but especially on anniversaries!) and they’ve built up a dedicated following thanks both to their food and drink and their exemplary service. New establishments, take note: this is how you run a bar and restaurant.
Congrats to Room 11 on six great years – if the crowd and smiles on hand last night were any indication, they should enjoy many more to come.