I love discovering new places with my friends. Last weekend, I met with some of my nearest and dearest (including Annie and Ross, who are enthusiastic eating adventure companions, and the famed Calypso) at Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights to celebrate the birthday of one of my favorite Washingtonians, my good friend Dan. Only open for about 2 months, Meridian Pint was "founded on the premise of environmental sustainability," with a focus on American craft beers. The establishment's commitment to the environment seems to be more than just lip service, as its energy source comes from wind mill farms in the way of green energy credits. Meridian Pint also offers vegan food and drink options.
The interior is interesting, with an industrial theme - exposed pipe, brick walls, heavy wood, tables inlaid with blueprints, and cogs and gears everywhere. The website explains that much of the equipment, furniture, construction materials and design elements have been recycled or reclaimed. I spent a little time with Calypso in the basement level bar, which sports a couple of pool tables, a wide open space, two booths at which patrons can pour their own beers, and a very casual atmosphere, before heading upstairs to meet with my friends for dinner in the dining area (below). The dining area is lit mostly by natural light streaming through the big panel windows; this meant that as it got later, the dining area got dimmer and dimmer until it became almost too dark to see down to the end of the table to where the birthday boy was seated.
It took some time for our group of 10 to get settled and order, so we started out with an order of fries with rarebit sauce (cheese, beer, and mustard) for the table. The fries were fine, nothing special, but the sauce was really tasty - the slight bitterness from the beer paired well with the tanginess of the mustard and the oh-so-yummy cheesiness.
In fact, the sauce was so good that we used it to dip our order of onion rings (below). Annie and I thought that they were some of the best rings we'd ever had, thick-cut, meaty with a perfect golden and crispy exterior. Ross thought there was a little too much batter, but still liked them. We loved them with the rarebit sauce, but they were served with a horseradish aioli, which was also great.
Annie and Ross opted for the cauliflower curry soup special, served warm (below). While Ross was a little unsettled by the temperature, they both appreciated the subtleness of the curry and really enjoyed it. Ross, who is a fairly particular eater, was impressed at our friendly and knowledgable server's efforts to accommodate his requests (no cilantro or yogurt on top), and she made sure to ask whether he was allergic to these ingredients. In fact, we were all pretty impressed with the way she deftly managed our big group.
I got an order of deviled eggs (below), which were okay, but lacked the textural contrast and bite that I've loved with more creative versions of this classic.
Ross got the pulled beef short rib sandwich (below), which he liked but didn't think was amazingly great - the meat could have been more tender, which is what I generally expect from a pulled meat dish.
I also opted for the short ribs, albeit in entree form. The meat was braised in porter, and served with macaroni and cheese and wilted spinach (below). The beer braise brought out a nice, rich and deep flavor in the meat, although I agreed with Ross that it was not as tender as I would have liked. The sides, however, had little to recommend them - both were in dire need of seasoning.
Annie got the double-cut brined pork chop with a rhubarb hard-cider sauce, served with roasted sweet potatoes and braised kale (below). The server warned us that it was a big portion, but we were not prepared for the MONSTER cut that soon arrived. If you're a hungry bug, this is the dish for you. The pork was very nice, having benefitted greatly from the brining, juicy and well-seasoned. The sweet potato wedges were okay, but the kale suffered the same defect as my sides - bland and a little bitter.
I think Meridian Pint has what it takes to be a neighborhood fixture for years to come - the food needs some work (mostly seasoning-wise), but they've got time, and I really like the fun atmosphere, great service, and sense of social responsibility that the newbie brings to the table. And any place that puts up with our merry band of miscreants is fine by me.