Thursday, May 31, 2007

Moules au Frites, oh boy!

Granville Moore's, under construction in DC, May 2007Overheard on the street: another Belgian-style brasserie is set to open soon in Washington, D.C.

So I stopped by yesterday at Granville Moore's Frittes, Ales, & Moules - near the intersection of 12th and H Streets NE - to see for myself.

General Manager Chris Surrusco was hard at work refinishing his back bar.

Chris, who designed the cask system at Rustico in Alexandria (and where until recently he was also the beer manager), says Granville Moore's will be, what he feels, a true Belgian brasserie should be: an intimate, unpretentious place with Belgian beer ascendant and inexpensive food.

Chris want you to think of Granville Moore's as a smaller, cozier, less expensive, and much closer-to home, Monks Café (a Belgian bistro in Philly). Ambitious indeed, but Chris and owner Joe Englert (Temperance Hall, Lucky Bar, Big Hunt, etc.) could be the ones to pull it off.

When open, it will join the more restaurant-like Belga Café and Brasserie Beck - which itself just opened - as the three principal Belgian-themed brasseries of Washington, D.C. proper.

[ UPDATE: other Belgian cafés in the greater D.C. area]

The place currently looks likes a partially rehabbed row house but a lot of work has already been completed, and several contractors were on-site when I was there. Inspections begin later this week, and Chris expects a mid to late June opening. Decor-wise, the ceilings will retain their joists and beams exposed, the walls, their brick and plaster remnants exposed. There is a small back patio.

There will be two bars, one downstairs - the dining area, with a 4-tap draft system - and one upstairs with bottles only, but an extensive collection nonetheless. Stella Artois will be one of the 4 beers on tap, and, at least at first, De Koninck on the second tap. The other two taps will constantly rotate, thus ensuring an eclectic mix of Belgian beers.

Belgian-style beers from US craft breweries are NOT currently on the agenda.

Chris' kitchen will offer simple, well-prepared brasserie fare: steamed mussels (moules) available 5 ways, fries (frites), and a few grilled sandwiches. I was pleased to see that he is double-frying the frites after the traditional manner. First at a slighter lower temperature to thoroughly cook the fries without burning them, and then a second shorter dip in a higher-temperature fryer for a finishing crisping. The seafood and other ingredients will be sourced locally, organically, and for sustainability.

Chris seemed especially proud that there would be no television sets. He said Granville Moore's will be "a hangout for locals, for Belgian beer geeks, for bike couriers, for hippies, for Capitol Hill types, for anyone in search of a true brasserie experience." He has plans for live jump-swing piano in the upstairs bar.

He'll have no no cask beer, but, Chris an avowed hop-head, said he will offer a few hoppy craft bottled beers.

Granville Moore's is located right next door to the the hip H Street Martini Lounge, itself part of a revitalization of the H Street NE corridor, which some now refer to as the Atlas District. But Granville Moore's can count as its further-down-the-street neighbors several long-time and successful H Street establishments.

I lived nearby, nearly fifteen years ago. So yesterday was a nostalgic trip for me, visiting the old neighborhood.

For public transportation from Union Station, take the D8 Metrobus east/Washington to 1238 H Street NE.

So who was Granville Moore? A physician, he had long operated a pro bono and low-fee health clinic at that address. Older residents of D.C.'s Trinidad neighborhood still remember him well.

More photos of the pub during construction.

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