|Photo by Emily Clack|
By: Mike Pfeifer
Teddy and The Bully Bar, Alan Popovsky’s second presidential-themed restaurant in the nation’s capital, showed off its goods to the media last Wednesday and allowed us food critics and bloggers to enter the arena, although we left happy and content rather than marred by dust and sweat and blood (to borrow a quote from the restaurant’s namesake).
The restaurant, tucked away off of 19th St. next to Mai Thai in Golden Triangle, welcomes guests with gigantic floor-to-ceiling windows and an interior that blends intimacy and functionality to project the feeling that it’s capable of both entertaining while at the same time serving a much needed purpose. An impressive assortment of art and sculpture is featured in the restaurant (some for sale!), each piece trying to capture and represent a different facet of the 26th president’s persona. There is the Monocle Chandelier, the identity of which requires a keen eye to locate, that hangs just inside the front door.
The walls of the main dining room are full of taxidermy to honor Roosevelt’s passion for hunting, although none are your traditional fury beasts but rather take on a unique artistic approach of their own. Perhaps most striking are the real Aspen trees that border the private dining room on one end. “Speak softly, and carry a big stick” is how Roosevelt defined his foreign-policy approach, and ownership did not want their restaurant to be without a nod to this outlook. The restaurant does a good job of making his presence felt throughout without having the feel of a presidential library.
The food and drinks certainly carry their own big stick and do not speak softly. Loudest and most powerful are the seafood fritters, beer-battered and made with oyster, scallop, and crab meat. The fritters themselves provide a novel taste worth coming back for but when combined with the green curry tarragon sauce the end result is nothing short of presidential.
|By Emily Clack|
Equally as remarkable are the onion rings with spicy BBQ sauce. The rings are made with shallots instead of the traditional red onion and therefore resemble a fried calamari dish more than anything. They are dipped in buttermilk before being crispy fried and amazingly do not have a greasy feel to them whatsoever. The spicy BBQ sauce finds a balance between having a kick and remaining conscious of the low spice thresholds that exist out there, much to this food blogger’s relief. The overall taste of the combination is satisfying and has a burnt flavor to it, and the modest size of the onion rings allows you to have no qualms with eating a majority of the appetizer. Diners beware—the BBQ sauce will stain if not treated right away. This blogger learned that the hard way and had to spend virtually the entire event with a noticeably sized spill on his shirt that screamed, “I have an eating problem.”
Both of these items will be featured on the happy hour menu and should be taken advantage of accordingly. The happy hour offerings, indeed the entire drink menu, have much to entice those looking to wind down a long day at the office.
|Photo by Emily Clack|
Successful mixologist John Hogan pays homage to the Prohibitionist-era cocktails by providing a mix of both classic and modern cocktails on the menu. Of particular note is the Strawberry Shrub Julep, a Woodford bourbon mixed with Gorman farm strawberry shrub and mint and served in a Moscow Mule jar (chilly!).
|By Emily Clack|
Also featured is the Sheeny’s Rickey, his version of the native Washington drink, which includes Green Hat gin and Woodford bourbon reduction and is topped with sweet lime foam. Hogan plans to enter the drink into the DC Craft Bartenders Rickey Competition, which occurs throughout the month of July, and his creation stands a good chance. Both drinks provide some serious taste and are indicative of a cocktail menu that will be as bold as the president for whom the restaurant is named after. While it wasn’t provided Wednesday, the appropriately named Ruff Rider Daiquiri, aged for 26 days (not a coincidence) in charred new American oak should tilt some heads back.
|Watermelon Panna Cotta|
Teddy and The Bully Bar is a fun restaurant that will delight and satisfy any who make the decision to venture there for a drink or a meal. It’s visually engaging and substantively appetizing and satisfying. The service staff is friendly and prepared to tell you anything about the food that you’re eating, the drinks that you’re drinking, or the president whose personality you’re temporarily adopting. One final unique feature of the restaurant is its own in-house bakery that will be making its own bread, biscuits (akin to its sister restaurant Lincoln), and cookies daily.