Breakfast at Blue Duck Tavern: A Washingtonian way to start the day
To some, hotel restaurants carry a certain stigma; there is danger that the uninformed may lump together the sumptuous new breakfast menu at Blue Duck Tavern with the Free Continental Breakfast at Motel 6. The modern American bistro (with the sensibilities of an elegant country kitchen), may be housed within the West End Park Hyatt, but truly, it has long since shed the label of “just a hotel restaurant.” To those already familiar withBlue Duck’s stellar reputation (multiple appearances on Washingtonian’s Best Restaurants list, RAMMY nominations and an anniversary visit from Mr. and Mrs. Obama), the quality of the new menu, which instantly catapults itself to a position as one of DC’s top breakfast/brunch offerings,comes as no surprise.
Good coffee is an obvious starting point for breakfast, and at a restaurant of Blue Duck’s caliber, it seems like a given. The kitchen’s brew of choice — Nicaraguan grown Santa Lucia Estate — is particularly notable for being one of the smoothest varieties around. There is no good reason not to order a whole pot for the table ($5). Non-coffee drinkers can enjoy several freshly squeezed, practically fluorescent colored juices: pomegranate orange, pineapple mint and watermelon among them. The juices ($5) are an unexpected highlight; the mere glow radiating from the glasses has the potential to perk up the entire table, whether or not they even take a sip.
If there is ever an occasion to order an appetizer for breakfast, this is it. Pastries, danishes and muffins perch enticingly on the long wooden tables near the entrance. (A trio is $10.) Fresh oatmeal and muesli are available as well ($10 each), but both seem to exist only for those who have made the mistake of arriving without an appetite. Grits ($5) are a heartier option. Smothered in a slightly fruity smoked Gouda (as opposed to the standard American or cheddar), they somehow remain fluffy enough to pass for a starter, rather than the main event.
While the grits are a must-order, the entrees ($15 each) are Executive Chef Sebastien Archambault’s time to truly shine. And since his stated mission is to bring “authentic flavors of the South to the country’s most powerful city,” traditional Southern dishes are a great place to start. Fried Chicken Livers pair well with Gouda and a “Sweet Rella Relish” that cuts the livery taste. Short Rib Hash, one of the heaviest dishes on the menu, is also one of the best — a vibrant stew with the unexpected taste and fragrance of rosemary. Archambault also earns high marks for his take on Fried Chicken and Waffles; two pieces of thickly crusted golden chicken perfectly complement a pair of pillow-soft waffles.
This is a breakfast that may require both the appetite and the budget usually reserved for dinner. That being said, for the amount of food and the level of quality in each entree, $15 per main plate (in fact, no dish exceeds $15 in price) is something of a steal. Sitting reading the newspaper, over a cup of hot coffee and a full plate of flakey biscuits, while occasionally glancing up to check out a cook pouring the batter for the pancakes, you may be inclined to wonder just how much your day could really improve from here.