Skip Brunch at Béarnaise and Go for Dinner
Bunch is popular with residents of the DMV and has become a real money maker for area restaurants. Most new high-end eateries – even those that only open for dinner during the week – are offering weekend brunch.
Béarnaise, chef Spike Mendelsohn’s French restaurant at 315 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, added weekend brunch service about two months ago, almost a year after first opening. Brunch is served from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
We stopped by last month to check out Béarnaise’s brunch. There are no wildcards. This isn’t a wildly experimental or memorable meal. If you go, don’t believe the flyers on the hostess stand: it is NOT bottomless brunch. Only the $15 mimosas or Bloody Marys are bottomless. Also,, the prices are high for the serving size. And, if you look at the brunch menu online, there are two. I’m not sure why, but the second has higher prices on it, so I assume they’ve either raised prices since our visit or are planning on it and haven’t removed the old menu from the website.
We were seated beside a table with a screaming child and service wasn’t very quick. I even flagged down the hostess once to ask a question of the menu since our waiter was MIA.
My guest and I started with fresh-squeezed juices – one orange and one grapefruit – for $5 each. (The second online menu lists the price at $6). It was definitely fresh squeezed, but served in a small rocks glass with no refills. We also ordered the fresh bakery basket for $8 ($10 on the second menu). While the five mini-croissants and fresh-baked breads from BakeHouse Bakery were delicious, they were tiny – only two bites each. There was one plus was that Chef Spike dressend in a T-shirt and jeans delivered them himself to welcome us, after just rolling in shortly after noon.
The menu is pretty standard and include L’Américan Breakfast with two eggs, ample glazed French ham, Applewood bacon, grilled country bread (toast) and frites (French fries) for $14; a French ham and brie omelette or a seasonsal vegetable omelette with a petite salad ($12); a croissant sandwich with scrambled eggs, gruyere cheese and bacon with a petite salad ($10 old menu/$12 new menu); steak and eggs with an 8-ounce flat iron steak, two eggs, béarnaise sauce and frites ($24); the Montreal special with a sesame seed bagel, Norwegian smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onion and tomato ($10/$12); mussels dijon & frites with bacon, cream whole grain mustard broth, a farm fresh egg and fried onion straws ($20); and the brasserie burger and frites with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, truffle aioli and an egg ($15). House specialties include the chef’s hangover cure, a crispy pig’s feet hash with pig’s feet, bacon, leeks and potatoes served with an egg and béarnaise sauce ($14/$16). There are also three bennies served with a petite salad priced at $14 each: the French bennie with French ham, eggs, hollandaise sauce on a croissant; the Norwegian salmn benning with smoked salmon, eggs and hollandaise sauce on a bagel; or the spinach and eggs bennie with sautéed spinach, eggs and hollandaise sauce served on a croissant.
I chose the crème brulee French toast ($12), which was one brick-sized slice of brioche with maple crème anglaise and blueberry compote. My friend ordered the croquet madame ($14), French ham and gruyere cheese between two slices of toast covered in behámel sauce topped with a runny egg. Both were tasty, but average.
Brunch cocktails and coffee libations are priced at $10 each, the Royale Treatment – a carafe of sparkling wine with your choice of French liqueur is $35, and Spike’s Spicy Bloody Mary with pepper-infused vodka, Sriracha and Old Bay rum is $10.
While the food was all tasty, we were a bit disappointed with the value and the brunch selection at Béarnaise. We’ll stick with the restaurant’s prix fixe steak frites for dinner, which comes with soup or salad, an 8-ounce flat iron steak maison with béarnaise sauce and unlimited frites for $28. It is a much better value and a meal to remember, unlike brunch, which doesn’t stand out among the many restaurants in the DMV offering a bigger selection at a better value.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.