Saturday, March 01, 2008
My very first experience with Brickskeller was a brief, albeit poor encounter with the bar and restaurant. We were wandering Dupont Circle and happened to run into a friend who knew the area better than us and pointed us in the direction of the establishment. It was a bit of a walk but on his recommendation we headed over. When you first walk through the door you're greeted by a hybrid staircase/hallway/waiting area. The area was full of people our age who seemed a bit agitated at how long they had been there. I went to inquire about the waiting time with the man at the door with the clipboard. Apparently they have fairly strict regulations about how many people they let in the bar at once. Not because it was particularly packed inside or that they want to keep up a status as a VIP place, they just seem to prefer it that way from what I could tell.
I stood in front of the doorman, looking straight at him for about a minute before he even acknowledged me while he was talking with a co-worker. When I began to ask about what sort of waiting time we were looking at, he suddenly interrupted me and started saying something else to his co-worker. I was taken aback by the rudeness enough that I just turned around and told the rest of my party (to their chagrin) that we were leaving (even though we didn't have a great idea of where we were headed to after that).
Fast forward a couple of weeks later and a larger group of friends who were quite keen on the Brickskeller made a reservation for all of us there. With little other choice, we went to give it another chance.
The Brickskeller's obvious appeal when you get there is the gigantic list of beers. I do like trying interesting new beers, but there gets a point when you can have too much choice. Reading the menu was like combing through the index of a college textbook. With small font (hopefully at least the trees appreciated that), no line-spacing, many similarly-named beers and at least 8 chock-full pages, choosing was not quite the pleasurable experience I would have hoped. What really made the menu obscene however, was the complete lack of descriptions. I mean seriously, how many of the people who come there actually know the difference between that many beers by name alone? Sure one knows the general difference between hefeweizens, india pale ales and stouts, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Eventually with the help of a friend who had spent a year in Germany, we ordered. For the most part, the beers were very good quality. There was only one beer that someone outright disliked and the broad range allowed some people to get sweeter ciders and others to get dark double stouts.
The food there was disappointing. I ordered a medium-rare burger that not only arrived medium-to-well-done, but sat on top of what looked like a Wonderbread bun! I'm no hamburger bun connoisseur, but it was pretty pathetic how cheap and tasteless of a bun it came on. No matter how fresh they are, those types of buns always taste a bit stale. It was the sort of bun you'd receive at a school event where they were giving out free burgers. Certainly not what I expected from a $9 burger--just signs a really cheap chef or owner from what I could tell.
The service was what I guess I should have expected based on my first experience at the place. To be fair, the waiter seemed like a genuinely nice guy who was knowledgeable about the beers, but over the course of the night he: spilled our beers (at one point onto someone's clothing), forgot a beer, messed up the check (which is a big hassle when you have a large group) and it always took a very long time to get an order in when someone wanted another drink. At some point you have to blame the owners though--I could not understand why they had hardly any staff on a busy Friday night.
So Brickskeller is great purely in terms of the number of beers they offer, but overall seems like a poorly managed establishment. If you're targeting the beer enthusiast, is it that hard to think you might want to describe the beers you're selling?