1247 20th Street NW, Washington, DC
When Bread & Brew opened in January 2009, no one was more excited than I. Although there are plenty of restaurants in the Dupont area, B&B is one of only four restaurants in the DC area to be certified by the Green Restaurant Association. B&B boasts environmentally conscious packaging (such as biodegradable corn-based containers), products and decor. According to the restaurant's press release, "All efforts will be made by DC Bread and Brew to supply fresh locally grown all natural (sic) ingredients." If this was all true, then my efforts to eat "clean" - meaning few to no processed foods - were going to be helped immensely by the introduction of B&B.
Well, it appears that B&B has stuck to its goal of offering green dining, and it does serve up some decent food. The house-made soups are pretty amazing, especially the ham and black bean, mushroom brie and the carrot ginger, although I had one bad experience with a chilled avocado jalapeno soup that was just downright disgusting (picture tiny chunks of minced jalapeno suspended in a mildly revolting green cream). My only complaint with the soup is that if you order a bowl of soup for lunch ($6), you don't get any bread to sop it up. I mean, it's called Bread & Brew, isn't it? Where's my free roll? The sandwiches tend to be hit or miss - at first I branched out, but after encountering dried-out roast beef, I've just found my favorites and stuck with them (the grilled veggie and hummus on multigrain, the Béarnaise chicken salad on multigrain, the mozzarella, tomato and basil on ciabatta are all solid choices.)
|1/2 mozzarella, basil + tomato sandwich, cup of black bean + ham soup|
B&B is small. It can squash 20 people inside the main level - the "Bread" of "Bread & Brew," though expect things to get cozy. There's a lower level bar - the "Brew" - that can seat an additional 25. Unfortunately, the basement bar is just that - a bar in a basement. It's like you're sitting in someone's parents' basement drinking beer. It's just ... dingy and sad.
If you're eating in, you order at the register, then take a seat until a server brings out your food. But if you're taking out, you order at the register and then sort of stand, awkwardly, crammed between the scary bathroom and the seated diners who try to eat, converse and ignore you until your order arrives.
For the first year or so, the service sucked. I would return to my office with my lunch, only to discover that they had given me the completely wrong order (once it was roast turkey instead of roast vegetable; the other time, immensely dry roast beef). My order would be taken, and then forgotten, while I huddled awkwardly in a corner, checking my watch. Oh, and I hate giving my name for the order - just give me a stinking number, OK?
So now for my issues with B&B. I find the actual restaurant to be slightly gross. It sometimes smells like mold and bathroom cleaner mixed together, especially when you stand near the kitchen. I get it, it's got a coffee shop vibe ... a dirty coffee shop. If you're taking out, there's no where to wait while they prepare your food. And while a lot of staff seem to be busy running around, it doesn't seem like a lot gets accomplished.
Seriously, B&B, we're happy that you're all "green" and such, but come on now. Maybe in your quest to be green, you've forgotten what it means to serve up food in a decent, welcoming environment. Overhaul your decor, squash the stench, and give your staff a wake-up call.
In the meantime, though, I'll keep ordering the soup!