The same visionary who brought us Lincoln Restaurant (1110 Vermont Ave., N.W.) is back with another. Teddy and the Bully Bar (1200 19th Street, N.W.) doesn’t quite scream Roosevelt to the degree that its predecessor conjures Honest Abe, but it’s still a fun concept with rich offerings served in the oh-so-D.C.-style of small — and I do mean small — plates.
Owner Alan Popovsky, a political science major in college, unveiled Teddy last month in the former site of Sam and Harry’s Steakhouse, which boasts 230 seats, an in-house bakery and quirky contributions from about 50 local artists. Designer Maggie O’Neill makes clever use of the theme with the “rock wall,” created from small Mount Rushmore replicas.
Roosevelt was an avid hunter and outdoorsman, so it’s no surprise that Executive Chef Michael Hartzer has incorporated wild game into the menu. Mixologist John Hogan has developed a distinctive cocktail program to complement the cuisine through the use of homemade tonics, syrups and bitters. And there’s even a gay member of the management staff, Justin Gulledge, assistant general manager.
His favorite thing about his new position is making sure every guest is content, as well as seeing his regulars who come in multiple times per week and enjoy a great meal. Gulledge was a server at Lincoln before taking this promotion. He says his experience on the floor helped prepare him for management, but the need to multitask and help out all his servers at the same time is his biggest challenge.
He adjusted with help from General Manager Romeo Santos III. Gulledge is a huge fan of the rich food served at Teddy and the Bully Bar; his favorites include the fried fish sandwich with spicy mayo and peppers on the lunch menu and the mac and cheese with three cheeses. He says everyone needs to try the peaches-and-goat cheese salad. With this in mind, I gathered a group to give it a try.
It turned out to be my usual dining gaggle plus one of my groomsman who happened to be visiting. We entered Teddy and the Bully Bar after a long day in the sun. We needed something to cool us down and the waiter recommended The Safari Sangria with Veev Acai (a spirit), Vinho Verde (a Portuguese wine), sage, apple, grapefruit and sweet lime foam. From the moment we took a sip of this glorious concoction we trusted our waiter wholeheartedly and not once did he steer us wrong.
We enjoyed the spectacular basket of fresh made breads accompanied by butters and jams, the delectable Havana croquettes with a green pepper sauce that I was tempted to lick off the plate, and the wonderful oyster bay fritters that were beer battered and had the perfect amount of heat from the chili peppers. The grilled romaine salad and the peaches and goat cheese were also favorites at the table; Gulledge was definitely correct with his recommendation of this dish.
The golden potato puree and the Teddy Macaroni and Cheese were also enjoyable, although the portion was so small we needed to order seconds so the entire table could have a spoonful of each. The small plates here — as with Lincoln — are quite small, so plan accordingly. Even if your waiter tells you they’re suitable to share, you may want to order a couple extras to satiate your hunger. Nothing spoils a tasty meal like the urge to order a pizza when you get home.
The fried chicken, which Chef Hartzer says was Roosevelt’s favorite dish, had a crispy coating and the chicken was tender and juicy.
One standout dish rose above the rest — the crab and avocado with charred corn. The layered dish with fresh cool avocado and rich sweet crab was perfectly balanced, flavorful and refreshing, an excellent summer dish. Be sure to try it if you go.
Popovsky has brought another great concept restaurant to the District and with the help of Hartzer and Hogan, there’s a food and beverage menu full of tantalizing treats. The waitstaff, led by Santos and Gulledge, is customer focused and doesn’t disappoint.