You know the story. Beer geek meets foodie. They fall in love. They can never go out anywhere because most of the truly great beer joints fail to deliver on the eats while most of the fun food spots are pouring little more than Chimay and that local beer that you have all the time.
Washington D.C.’s Birch and Barley was created to bridge that gap and, after a visit last summer that resulted in perhaps the best brunch I’ve ever had, I’m of the opinion that it succeeds better than most. If you’re going to D.C. please go there.
I had the opportunity to interview executive chef Kyle Bailey for the latest edition of Food Loves Beer magazine. Here’s what he had to say on the challenge of changing expectations for what a “beer bar” can be:
That was our number one challenge. We opened Birch and Barley and Churchkey the same day. The day we opened there was a line down the block and I was extremely frightened. People wanted this place open for a long time. Churchkey was always going to be about a good time, but B&B was yet to be defined. Everybody expected us to serve, I hate saying it, gastro-pub food. For the first month we sold nothing but burgers and I was afraid. I thought “this is the end of my career.” I spent a decade in the best restaurants in New York just killing myself to learn how to cook. And then all I was cooking was burgers. But after the first month, the foodies started coming in. One of the things I wanted to do was to bridge that gap between foodies and beer geeks. Why not? Beer is a cooked product. You have to cook it to make beer and you have to cook food. Why can’t you have an awesome meal, paired with awesome beer? It was a big challenge and there’s some places that try to do what we do but the food isn’t there.