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Wall full of whiskey

Jack Rose Dining Saloon complements its bounteous liquor offerings with great food

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Jack Rose (Blade photo by Michael Key)

A few weeks ago Taste of Pride had its monthly “featured special” event at Jack Rose Dining Saloon (2007 18th Street, N.W.). Since I’d never been there, I jumped at the opportunity to try it and with 10 percent of the sales from the evening going to Capital Pride, it was a great time to do so.

D.C. natives Bill Thomas, Stephen King and Michael Hartzer created Jack Rose Dining Saloon. The restaurant is made up of three distinctive spaces. The first floor contains an expansive marble-topped bar along the wall and an elegantly appointed dining room. The second floor has a private dining lounge and a casual open-air terrace that has a separate menu of items from a barbecue pit. We had reservations to eat in the first floor Dining Saloon.

Once seated, our waitress greeted us, presented us with the whiskey bible, then the drink and food menus. She asked if we had any questions. My friend and I gazed at each other, panic in our eyes, and asked if she could come back. The bible is the size of a wine list at an upscale restaurant. We were going to tackle it at some point during the night, but we decided to put it off for the moment. We quickly decided on mixed drinks. I chose the Jack Rose, which is Laird’s banded apple brandy, grenadine and lime. It was a refreshing and delicious way to start the meal. For an appetizer we chose the Braised Local Pork Belly with salted radish, herb puree and spiced broth. When it arrived, you could smell the herbs in the puree. As we ate it, we discovered that the pork melted in your mouth. There was just a touch of heat in the puree.

Once we had finished our appetizer we let our eyes wander around the full dining saloon. Pride volunteers and supporters filled the dining room with boisterous conversation and positive energy. Beyond the diners was a truly breathtaking room. We tried to imagine this space as a former boxing gym, but with three walls covered with the close to 1,400 selections from the whiskey bible, it seemed impossible. The bottles reached toward the ceiling and bartenders needed to use the equivalent of a library ladder to reach the top shelf. The room itself was outfitted with dark mahogany chairs, wooden tables and warm leather booths. As you admire the bottles, your eyes are drawn up to the beautiful pressed-tin ceiling. Overall, the dining saloon had a bright, warm and airy feel.

Our meals arrived and I dove right into my rack of lamb with jalapeno, rutabaga, okra and mint relish with a pomegranate and port reduction. My dining partner ripped into his pork chop special, wrapped in sausage and puff pastry. We exchanged a few bites of each other’s dishes and were pleased with what we tasted. The jalapeno and pomegranate combination that attracted me to the lamb complemented the juicy tender deep pink meat perfectly. The pork chop dinner was complex, but the flavors melded together quite well.

The time had arrived. As we finished our meals it was not only time for dessert but also to select one of the bottles from the surrounding walls. I had never had scotch before, which I sheepishly admitted this to the waitress. I was greeted with a broad smile and she readily suggested two options. We decided to try each of them; a 1-ounce pour was $6. The Balvenie Doublewood was light but full of flavor; the Auchentoshan triple wood was full bodied and the stronger flavor seemed more well rounded and purposeful. Both scotches stood alone as a great way to end the meal. However, we opted to pair them with dessert. The vanilla potted crème brulee was a cane sugar brulee with blackberry compote. The bread pudding was paired with Clementine sorbet. Both desserts were delicious.

Jack Rose Dining Saloon offers a variety of options for diners. You can opt for a drink, enjoy some snacks from the barbecue on the porch, or enjoy a full meal in the dining saloon. Jack Rose served up an excellent evening and provided us with a great new experience.

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