When it comes to unique dining for the foodie crowd, 8th Street is well on its way to becoming the next 14th Street. 14th may have the pig, Masa, El Centro, Pearl Dive and Barcelona, but check out the competition! 8th has Cava, Ambar, Medium Rare and Belga Café. Somehow, Ted’s Bulletin knew these neighborhoods were about to explode and scored a spot on both streets.
According to the Washington Post, DC is one of the fastest gentrifying cities in the country, second only to Portland. The Barracks Row restaurant scene is keeping up with the changing times.
Recently we checked out Belga at 8th and E Southeast. Belga features cuisine commonly found on the streets of Brussels, but also elevates those Belgian flavors, creating more exotic dishes that would be setting trends if the restaurant was located back in the mother land that Chef and Owner Bart Vandaele calls home.
Belga periodically hosts a beer dinner that starts with a “welcome beer” then pairs a draft or bottle from their extensive list with each course of a four course dinner. At our visit, we took part in the Cheese and Chimay Beer Dinner. The night kicked off with the Chimay brand rep for the US, also a native Belgian, explaining what exactly a Trappist beer is while we sipped on our 8% alcohol by volume Cinq Cents.
When asked how he got into the beer business, Bo Bo, the brand rep, said, “Well, I knew a monk.”
And he knows his Chimay history too! Turns out, Belgian monks still brew all of their own beer within the walls of their monetary, using their own wells, their local hometown grain, and to show a healthy partnership with the Americans, our hops. They donate 90% of the proceeds to charity. My initial thought was, “Alright. The more I drink the more money that goes to charity. You’re welcome for my donation.”
Course one was a light Cheese and Celery Salad of ‘A La Premiere cheese with green, white and young celery, paired with Chimay Doree, a hoppier version of the original. Course two was a Spring- themed appetizer of young asparagus tips, spring peas, garlic shoots and spring onions covered in aged Chimay and paired with Premiere, the same amber beer that was part of our cheese in the first course.
The main course was called the Le Steak Hache au Fromage Chimay. This, I assume, translates to “fabulous Kobe-beef-esque burger wrapped around cheese and served with Chimay cheese-covered fries.” The beer served with this course, the Grand Reserve, 9% alcohol, came in a giant bottle that opened like Champagne, was aged three years and tasted more like a fine wine than a beer to me.
Finally, we ended on a sweet and smoky note with Affinee Bleu Cheesecake, topped with aged port and accompanied by Belgian coffee and Chimay. Think Irish coffee Belgian-style.
For $59 per person, Belga beer dinners include four courses, five beer pairings and a history lesson. And the regular menu boasts Flemmish stew, several distinct types of mussel pots and an extensive list brunch entrees. Yep, I think restaurants like Belga on 8th Street are doing their part to keep those 14th Street Kingpin restaurants on their toes.