Photos By Nicholas Karlin, Words By Brandon Wetherbee
Best for: Large groups, Penn Quarter workers, breakfast dates with potential
The Smith is very large. So large it seems like you’ll get bad service. It’s also in Penn Quarter, not exactly a neighborhood full of long time residents. It’s got a few things working against it when you think of a diner style breakfast.
The Smith is very large. You’ll be able to get a seat without a wait on a weekday. The service is outstanding, no different than their dinner service. Just like their dinner menu, it succeeds on delivering something for the pickiest breakfast eater.
When we visited The Smith in February during their first few weeks, we wrote: The restaurant is attempting to provide something for everyone. It mostly succeeds.
The Smith’s breakfast* is no different than their dinner menu. They present well executed, slightly updated takes on classics. They have something for everyone and though that’s usually bad, it’s good here.
To most coffee drinkers, the most important aspect of traditional breakfast in a restaurant is coffee service. Does it come often and without prompt? Is the coffee relatively hot? Am I getting any guff from consuming too much caffeine? The Smith’s staff is excellent. We’ve pointed this out before. So have others. Their breakfast staff is just as good. Attentive but not pushy. They’re there with coffee without having to look around. The complimentary cheddar herb biscuits served with the coffee make this better than any diner coffee.
When it comes to breakfast food, you tent to want eggs, sweet or healthy. So we tried the eggs, the sweet and the healthy.
The Sicilian Baked Eggs are ideal for sharing. Use a fork or the provided bread to break the yolks consume the tomatoes and artichokes below. It’s the kind of dish you wouldn’t mind enjoying for dinner.
The healthy person will order the granola and yogurt parfait. It’s fine but definitely the least interesting item on the menu. It’s yogurt.
The sweet tooth in our group really enjoyed the vanilla bean french toast. Part was crunchy, part was soft, it’s served with enough banana pieces to make you think you’re eating something healthy. You’re not.
The basic breakfast, eggs any style served with home fries, apple smoked bacon and greens, has no flaws. The home fries are particularly great but not vegetarian friendly. If you’re going to order any extra sides, the jalapeno cheddar grits are extremely easy to share and the best best food item to enjoy with The Smith’s house made hot sauce.
Because it’s 2017 we tried one of the most popular items on the menu: Avocado Toast. The hearty organic whole wheat bread, local greens, red pepper flakes, lemon, avocado and poached egg cost as much as a mortgage. No, that’s not true. It’s an decently priced menu item that’s also good for sharing and also good to order because then you get to remember that avocado toast isn’t what’s keeping Millennials broke. It’s more likely mom and dad and grandma and grandpa are giving loans to dudes that want to pretend they earned anything. In other words, order the avocado toast!
We didn’t think we’d like The Smith. It’s the first D.C. outpost of a very small NYC restaurant chain. It serves American food. It’s not trying to be exclusive or cutting edge or hip. It’s doing the basics right. And unlike most restaurants that serve breakfast, you can easily get a seat without paying much more than you would at The Diner.
*We went for breakfast, not brunch. The brunch menu is much more extensive. We want to go back to try the Breakfast Pot Pie. The Breakfast Pot Pie should be on the breakfast because breakfast is in the name. The Breakfast Pot Pie is not in the breakfast menu.