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Nevin Martell | Photo: Greg Powers | April 2, 2013
A shuttered speakeasy goes farm-to-table.
A pair of bison heads gaze out from behind the gray marble bar running down the left side of Beuchert’s Saloon. That’s Mike on the left and Ike on the right. The surrounding decor at this newly opened Capitol Hill eatery and bar is equally turn-of-the-century. Wooden stools clack when pulled back on the oaken floorboards; acid-stained mirrors reflect hazy images; and pounded tin stands in for wallpaper in the front room. Custom-designed light fixtures in the style of the Progressive era cast a warm sepia tone.
The saloon’s history stretches back to the late 1800s, when prominent local businessman John Ignatius Beuchert opened the doors. During the Prohibition era, the space was converted into a gramophone shop fronting for a speakeasy. After the 21st Amendment was passed, it became a bar-restaurant again, until its closure in 1935.
Now Beuchert’s Saloon has been revived and reimagined by three partners—Brendan McMahon, Nathan Berger and August Paro. The latter is a former Hollywood set builder with credits on Dr. Dre videos and TV dramas, so he oversaw the design and decoration.
“We wanted it to have a little sex appeal,” says Paro. “There are no televisions here because that’s not what this place is. We wanted people to feel like they had stepped into a time machine.”
Acqua Al 2 vet Berger hand-selected the tight wine list and worked with McMahon on the craft cocktails, housemade sodas and beer options. For his part, McMahon handled the general contracting and offered up his family’s East Oaks Organics Farm in Poolesville, Md. The eggs, chicken, herbs and most of the produce come from the 170-acre farmstead. “It’s not a novelty so that we can say, ‘Hey, we grew that,’” says Paro. “We just can’t beat the quality with ingredients from anywhere else.”
To enjoy some farm-to-table fare from Beauchert’s chef—and PS 7’s alum—Andrew Markert, order the golden roasted free-range Cornish cross hen served atop a leafy mound of bacon buttered Brussels sprouts with a dash of mom-style gravy. Or browse the Markert’s Market section of the menu for veggiecentric small plates showcasing whatever came in fresh that day. “Cooking this way makes you think on your feet,” admits the chef.
This ethos will manifest itself further on the restaurant’s back patio, where four elevated garden beds will hold herbs. Cherry, pear and fig trees will complete the tableau, adding fresh fruit accents to dishes and drinks during warmer months.
Desserts are less about locavorism and more about sheer whimsy. “It’s not elaborate cakes,” said Markert. “It’s pies, popsicles, candy bars and Twinkies.” His interpretation of the Hostess classic evokes a bananas Foster. Caramelized banana rounds dot the plate; the cake sports a rum frosting, with sprinkled cinnamon and a flaming shot of Bacardi 151 to create a miniature fireworks display. It’s partly a throwback to another era and partly a forward-thinking reinvention—just like Beuchert’s Saloon itself.