Since their opening this September, Duke’s Grocery has garnered a lot of attention as a destination for big, bad, British sandwiches. And while their famed sandwiches are always going to be there to satisfy your craving to break your New Year’s diet resolution, they have an open invitation to try their East London bruches, or “brekkies,” anytime. Which is an invitation I gladly excepted.
Located in a two-story townhome just down 17th Street from some familiar brunch fares, Duke’s Grocery offers a relief from other blustering brunches. With large portions and reasonable prices, co-owner Daniel Kramer said that they want Duke’s Grocery to be inviting; hitting the right balance between value and quality.
The value definitely comes in the portion sizes and the comfortable environment. While the quality comes through the expertise of co-owner and chef, Alex McCoy, formerly of Rugby Cafe, and the thoughtfulness demonstrated in the sourcing of their ingredients. Many of their British ingredients come from a local Irish importer, which they offer alongside desserts from Acme Pies Co. in Arlington, bread from Lyon Bakery in Southwest DC, and beer from Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria.
And now the food. Duke’s Grocery has styled itself as an East London eatery, incorporating British classics such as bangers (sausage) and rashers (English bacon), with food from the immigrant cultures of the East London neighborhood. Pictured above is the soft scrambled eggs with chives, roasted tomato, toast, arugula salad (with lemon vinaigrette), and the addition of smoked salmon. Below is the “Brunchy Burger,” a representative of those big, bad sandwiches which were mentioned earlier, with charred red onion, edam cheese, sweet chili cause, arugula salad, house-made pickles, and mayonnaise.
The East London style is immediately evident with their array of sauces available on the tables – British HP sauce (a tomato sauce similar to A1), Thai Sriracha chili sauce, and Mexican El Yucateco habanero sauce. Above are the main dishes and side items available on the day I visited, however they are quick to note that their menu changes almost daily, with wines and cocktails updating seasonally, and you had better check their Facebook page before visiting. A quick word to service – remarkable. Even the owners would stop conversation in mid-sentence to help seat customers and refill water glasses, which is something I greatly admire.
When asked how to describe Duke’s Grocery, co-owner Daniel Kramer nearly laughed at the word “brand,” insisting that what they present isn’t trying to be anything different or more than it is. Simple, and delicious. They celebrate the little imperfections that come with their nineteenth century building – the slightly sloping floor, the broken brick face, the egg shell in my soft scramble (I don’t think that was the building’s fault). Kramer says that they know District residents are smart, and they are going to know when they are being sold something that isn’t authentic, which is why in their reasonable pricing, casual environment, and large portions of delicious food is what you can expect from Duke’s Grocery for a long time to come.
Next time I visit, I’m looking forward to trying one of their many cocktails featuring their house-made ginger-chili syrup and some English bacon.