Situated in Logan Circle, Churchkey’s downstairs sister restaurant shines with flavorful, complex food.
By Katie Test
It would be difficult being related to ChurchKey, I would imagine, in the Kim and Klohe Kardashian kind of way: your big sister was famous first, but when you actually do get noticed, people realize you’re not so shabby yourself. That’s how I feel about Birch & Barley – a restaurant that was out-shined by the opening of DC’s new favorite beer bar, Churchkey, directly upstairs.
Birch & Barley is an 80-seat, “beer forward” restaurant headed by Executive Chef Kyle Bailey located in Logan Circle, a short walk from the McPherson Square Metro station. Chef Bailey moved to DC from New York, where he most recently served as the executive chef of Allen & Delancey, a Michelin-star restaurant on the lower East Side of Manhattan. Not in it alone, Bailey is joined by pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac, who also came to Birch & Barley from Allen & Delancey.
The menu at Birch & Barley is a bit fussy – dishes are complicated, but oftentimes flavorful and creative. I loved the Char Tartar with Yuzu, ginger, basil and sesame chips; but my favorite appetizer was the Charred Octopus with pickled eggplant, the acid from the pickling brightens and balances a pitch-perfect plate. Chef Bailey does game well, with sophistication – the Tagliatelle Pasta with Braised Rabbit is outstanding, and the duck breast has the right balance of fat with flavor. Desserts are out-of-the box, no stale panna cotta or typical cheesecake. A little milkshake, with straw, arrives at the table paired with a peanut butter and chocolate tart with malted milk sorbet. Heaven is close.
But my favorite part of Birch & Barley wasn’t just the food, it was the fact that Beer Director Greg Engert creates brilliant pairings. The tasting menu at Birch & Barley comes in at an affordable $55, and I fully recommend you spring the extra $16 for the beer pairings as well. If six courses is too much, ask for a beer pairing with your meal anyways.
While Birch & Barley may be outstanding on it’s own, it is still related to ChurchKey in the end, a fact that only makes it better.