All photos: Stephanie Breijo
Steph and I arrived at Boundary Road hungry – but what else is new—just as the brunch rush was dying down on a recent Sunday afternoon. We met briefly with Boundary’s operations manager Erin Lingle, and Chef Brad Walker, who checked the menu for a few things that would look good to photograph, before dashing off to the kitchen to prepare it.
In the time-honored tradition of brunching, we start with drinks. Due to this job, I wind up going for brunch several times a month—first world problems—but Boundary Road managed to genuinely surprise me with its morning drink selection. There’s a no-frills bloody on the menu, for the purists, but for our visit Boundary chose to feature a trio of drinks, only one of which was even in the same drink family as a mimosa. That drink, the My Vespa’s In The Shop, was a bright and bubbly mix of Aperol, vodka, blood orange and sparkling wine. It’s a variant on a range of vespa-related cocktails that the restaurant has been tinkering with (viz. I’m Thinking About Getting a Vespa).
There was also the less-playful but similarly fruity Stawberry Pisco Sour, which is a mix of pisco, strawberry liquor, and lime juice topped with an egg white froth— which makes it totally breakfast appropriate. And finally there was the House Punch, the ingredients of which I couldn’t nail down beyond “someone else made it this morning.” This statement should really be of concern only to food bloggers and girls at frat parties. Regular diners can safely place their trust in Boundary Road, since the drink, whatever it was, was delicious.
Even if I did know the ingredients, you’d almost certainly wind up with an entirely different drink on your visit, as the house punch recipe changes from day to day. Many of the drink recipies do, in fact, and so does most of the food menu. Boundary Road chooses mostly local food based on what’s seasonal and available. They also attempt to use all the good parts of what they buy*, so on any given day the menu will include variations on a theme of whatever fresh meats and produce are in the kitchen. Delicious, delicious variations.
We’ve only just had time to sample the drinks when Chef Walker arrives with the first few breakfast dishes. They’re quite photogenic, with lots of vibrant colors, and Steph starts snapping away with pictures before they’re devoured. In the meantime, Chef Walker and Erin join us at the table to talk about the restaurant.
We try some Pork & Eggs, two eggs any style with whatever sausage or bacon is on the menu. Today it’s classic Italian sausage–made from scratch in the kitchen–and it’s savory, juicy, and has just the right amount of spice. The farm-fresh eggs have yolks which are a mildly iridescent orange that look like nothing you will ever find in a Whole Foods, and taste exactly as fresh as they look.
The Sunday Quiche is—at least this time—made with roasted corn, sweet red peppers and leek. It is absolutely loaded with these ingredients, and the meaty texture of the dish alone separates it from your standard, single-consistency quiche. The flavor comes through just as well, and it’s a nice blend of sweet and savory on top of a light and crispy crust.
The star of the show was the Gentleman Will Take a Chance. It is one of the few menu items that is almost always available, but its composition changes from meal to meal, as its name suggests (taken from an old joke/diner lingo referring to a hash dish). Ours came with fresh sprouts and dazzlingly purple breakfast potatoes, onions, peppers and pork confit. We had to invite Erin to try some of it as well, and it’s worth noting that she put in an order for a plate of her own once our meal was wrapping up. If I could only come back for one dish I had tasted, it would be the hash. That said, I spied a fat-Elvis Peanut Butter & Banana Monte Cristo that I will have to come back and order myself.
That morning, Chef Walker joins us in comfortable looking pants that just might be pajama bottoms. He is sipping the house punch from a 12-ounce plastic tupperwear, and his hair is a bit dishevelled. The impression is, apart from the high caliber of the food, of a friend who has woken up to cook breakfast for some friends who may have partied a bit too hard last night. The restaurant has lots of natural light pouring in, exposed brick form the original structure (which used to be a barber shop named Hair Force One). It’s only a few blocks from Union Station, and a bit separated from the bars that are a twenty minute longer trek down H St. NE.
The main point is that Boundary is meant to be a neighborhood restaurant, serving a comfortable ambiance along with comfort food. This is where it stands out from the other restaurants and bars on H Street, where you can happily spend a night collecting wrist bands like passport stamps: Japan, Germany, Ireland, Philadelphia, New Orleans and back. But Boundary Road also separates itself from the trendy foodie culture that dominates the DC Restaurant scene. This comes not from a lack of pedigree (Chef Walker has local faves Proof, Eat Place and Fiola on his resumé), and despite the sleek touches a new DC restaurant seems required to have (exposed filament light bulbs, a visit by the Obamas). Simply, Boundary Road aims to create a neighborhood hangout, and succeeds.
*much like you were told in grade school how Native Americans used every part of the buffalo and which I would be too depressed to check on Wikipedia’s list of common misconceptions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_misconceptions