Words By Logan Hollers, Photos By Clarissa Villondo
What the Chinatown area may lack in quality, it tries to make up for in quantity, especially along the ever-illuminated Seventh Street stretch. Fast casual, national chains: the norm. Finding a good meal, however, isn’t impossible.
It’s easy to forget that Bar Deco, situated on the quieter Sixth Street side of the Verizon Center, has only been open a few months. When BYT last checked in for a First Look, the restaurant was hard at work developing a food and beverage program that matched the gorgeous interior and design. Since then, chef Shane Henderson has made the menu his own, showcasing his takes on southern American cuisine.
As the weather begins its (long-awaited) turn for the warmer, Bar Deco is opening up its rooftop bar (ridiculously slammed last night), rolling out some new menu items incorporating spring ingredients and the restaurant’s smoker, planning to build an herb garden on the roof, and adding some new spring-themed cocktails into the rotation. It’s a busy time for the staff.
Bar Deco’s cocktail program is one of the restaurant’s many strengths; the drink list is a solid mix of known classics and house-made originals. We tried three of the new spring cocktails and enjoyed each.
Best of the bunch was a perfectly-balanced mix of vanilla simple syrup, lemon, bitters, and a healthy splash of the restaurant’s Clyde May’s Private Reserve, a unique proprietary blend made especially and only for Bar Deco. This drink plus their rooftop equals a perfect afternoon (or mid-day, whatev – we don’t judge).
Since you’re tossing back some 110 proof whiskey, you’ll probably need some food to soak up that booze. An excellent choice to start is the Crispy Mix, combining fried calamari, rock shrimp, and artichoke hearts. Subbing in rice flour for traditional wheat flour serves two ends: allowing the chef to create that delicious fried food crisp without the usual fried food oil sogginess, and making sure the kitchen is catering to gluten-free guests. Deep-fried caper berries are an excellent counterpoint to the artichokes and seafood, with a briny crunch that helps clear the palate.
A plate of Asian Chicken Salad is unique not for its relatively common combination of greens and chicken breast, but for the judicious use of a zippy dressing that pairs sweet chili vinaigrette with tart ponzu sauce. Toasted almonds, too, add a warm nuttiness that helps elevate the sum beyond the dish’s individual parts.
When you’re ready to move on to something more substantial, sandwiches are a safe bet. Two of our favorites: the 901, chef Henderson’s “riff on a burger” that stacks a caramelized onion bread pudding biscuit, a medium-rare burger patty, Swiss cheese, and a fried egg (knife and fork required); and the Gouda Short Rib, a decadent mass of braised beef shortrib in a bourbon maple glaze, topped with gouda cheese and crispy scallions on an onion roll that really should come with a “nap may be required” disclaimer.
Entrees focus pretty heavily on meats, with the occasional special filtering in based on the chef’s ideas and products each week. We tried the seared lamb steak with home fries and an heirloom tomato reduction. Rosy pink throughout and right at the edge of being gamey (in a good way), this was a great dish, easily sharable amongst two people.
The smoked macaroni and cheese? Well, it was macaroni and cheese. But with some smoke. And with a crunchy crust.
I tried both desserts FOR YOU GUYS. The chocolate thing was really chocolatey and I bet people who like chocolate would love it. I dug the fresh berry bread pudding inside more. The carrot cake was carroty and cakey and I bet people who like carrot cake and cream cheese frostings would love it. Both are enormous.
Bar Deco has a gorgeous rooftop. It has killer cocktails. The kitchen is pumping out some great twists on southern American classics. As we said in our First Look, “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 Fuddruckers sadness.”