One of the latest additions to the ever expanding commercial bonanza at 14th and Irving, aka Columbia Heights, is a pub named CommonWealth. It’s owned by the same folks that brought us Hank’s Oyster Bar, so you know from that start that it’s got a lot going for it – especially when one the biggest competitors in the neighborhood is a Ruby Tuesdays.
Now this isn’t just a bar, it’s a gastropub. What the hell is a gastropub, you ask? Basically, it’s a cleaned up take on the British pub with better food. We visited later in the evening and spent a little time at the bar. They have a great selection of U.K. beers on tap and in bottles and cans, as well as a healthy selection of beers from the commonwealth states – Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Get it? I enjoyed a tasty Irish Creme Stout poured out of the can. The bottled imports and cans are a bit on the high side, with most costing more than $8. But, they do offer flights of four beers, which is a good way to mix it up with the beers on draft.
And while it’s billed as a pub, the layout is much more geared toward dining, with plenty of tables inside and out, including a set of large rectangular tables that can be used to seat both large parties as well as a couple of smaller parties (similar to Gritty McDuff’s, one of my favorite bars back home in Maine).
We didn’t get a chance to eat, but the menu looks like it has a lot of potential. Duck sausage, pork belly, and sweetbreads are among the various charcuterie options and a few interesting starters and side dishes like Scotch eggs and Welsh rarebit stand out as well. And with the gastropub approach, you can bet that the old standbys like fish & chips, bangers & mash, and shepherd’s pie will be worth it. In fact, they’ve got four different types of shepherd’s pie on the menu, including a steak & oyster pie.
CommonWealth has also joined the ranks of many area restaurants that are relying more and more on locally grown and harvested food. And as a show of respect and appreciation, the menu includes a list of local farms that CommonWealth uses to keep the kitchen stocked.
All in all, a good first impression and I’ll be back to sample a few more beers and try out some of those tasty looking menu items.
As predicted, I didn’t stay away for long. Last Friday I went back with a few friends to try the food and as I had heard and assumed, it was great. We sampled several of the small dishes – Scotch eggs, pork belly, Welsh rarebit, veggie casserole, and the frog in a puff. The Scotch eggs was by far my favorite dish, hitting the nail on the head with its flavor, concept, and presentation. And who can resist a hard-boiled egg covered in a deep-fried batter of ground pork and bread crumbs? Not to mention the excellent dipping sauces. The spicy chipotlé mayo was my favorite.
The casserole is a must have side dish and the frog in the puff was probably the best high-end version of a pig in a blanket that I’ve ever had. The fact that the “pig” was actually lamb sausage probably helps too. As for the Welsh rarebit, whatever that is, it was my least favorite. But it would make for good late night eats after having one or two too many drinks.CommonWealth 1400 Irving Street, NW Washington, DC 20010 202-265-1400