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  • Reservations Recommended

    Restaurant Review ~ Char Bar / 2142 L St., NW

    Not Just BBQ. Although the name does suggest that this Washington Circle / West End neighborhood eatery is a barbecue joint, that does not tell the tale of the kitchen’s cuisine, nor even about the type of food served here.

    According to the restaurant’s website, Char Bar is a totally kosher establishment (“Char Bar is under the supervision of the VAAD of Greater Washington”).

    Further, the small kitchen does a tremendous job. Besides using glatt kosher meats, the cooks hand-prepare just about everything, including grinding in-house the meats for the burgers.

    So, no, Char Bar is not a BBQ destination, but you will find an interesting and appealing menu tht sets out an array of internationally inspired dishes, vegetable tempura, onion rings with chipotle mayo, pulled brisket tacos (that’s what I will order next time!!), Texas toast with BBQ brisket on thick toast (maybe that will be my choice next visit instead), to penne pomodoro — an eclectic menu, to say the least.

    But at a first visit, why not sample the house’s traditional hummus, a mainstay of Israeli cuisine. The hummus scoop is immense, certainly enough for two or three people, and accompanied by thick cucumber slices and triangular wedges of toasted pita. Certainly, a solo diner scooping the whole portion up would eliminate eating any other items on the menu.

    So if you are eating solo, eat judiciously, saving the appetite for what comes next. Entrée salads, such as the Shemtov salad with marinated steak or grilled salmon comes with avocado and tomatoes with a house vinaigrette—this is a main meal, for sure. But you can check out the burgers served on an egg bun with hand-cut fries, and of these, the lamb burger with its own maple-cured lamb bacon stands out from the rest. (Actually, that will be my choice next visit — or maybe I will order all three and eat until I pass out.)

    But the truly hungry should check out the deli specialties and the entrée choices. Among the former are listed what most think of as typical kosher deli food: braised brisket in what they call “DC’s Finest Brisket” sandwich; corned beef and first-cut pastrami in “The New Yorker”; and “The Georgetowner,” grilled pastrami and smoked turkey with chipotle mayo on thickly sliced bread — a great pick, and besides, it comes with a heap of the freshly made, thick-cut, rosemary-seasoned potato chips.

    Beyond sandwiches comes the assorted prime rib offerings, the half rotisserie chicken, the tacos, and the chicken-and-steak fajita, a somewhere unexpected offering in a non-Tex Mex restaurant

    The unexpected ending to the meal comes with the dessert selections: only two, lava cake or cookies. Maybe on other days the kitchen churns out New York-style cheesecakes or other sweets, but as it is, what they offered on the Sunday I was there is ample enough to satisfy most appetites. And, with its welcoming and friendly staff, definitely worth  return visits!

    Char Bar / Sun.-Thu. 11am-9pm; Fri. lunch only to 2:30pm; closd Saturdays. (202) 785-4314.

     

     

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    Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.