Earlier this week we were finally able to get into Chinatown/Gallery Place for a date night at Penn Commons after missing out on the opportunity to attend their grand opening late last month. We had dined at their sister restaurant, District Commons, a couple months earlier so we were anticipating a good meal.
Penn Commons is located on 6th and H Street, just around the corner from several of the Verizon Center entrances. I’m not going to lie, we had high expectations for Penn Commons before dining there on Monday. We expected good food, a nice setting, and a solid staff; getting all of these can occasionally present a challenge, especially for a restaurant that’s been open less than a month. Not only did they meet these expectations, they far exceeded them.
Having to compete with several other restaurants in the one of the most active DC dining scenes, Penn Commons has positioned themselves for a successful future. Unlike many restaurants where you feel like there are conflicting ideas, they’ve been able to figure out exactly what they want to be and have mastered it. The interior rustic wood, the leather furniture, the red, white and blue pillows – Penn Commons offers up a trendy feel for the traditional American tavern. There’s a perfect split between lounge areas and a long wrap around wooden bar, equipped with TVs to watch the big game. Again, everything you’d expect from a comfortable tavern plus an incredible dining experience.
Just like their sister, Penn Commons has kept the clipboard menus and the unforgettable pretzel bread. If you do nothing else in your life, order the pretzel bread.
After diving into the most delectable bread you’ll ever have, you’re going to want to begin with the daily “Pick Three”, which is a selection of 3 dips and spreads to go along with thinly sliced grilled country bread. We selected the steak tartare with siracha aioli, char roasted eggplant with pesto and toasted pine nuts, and fresh ricotta cheese, olive oil, mint, red chili pepper. The presentation of the platter is perfectly suited to the vibe of the restaurant, but we can’t stop there. The dips were out of this world. I recall Al scraping the inside of the eggplant jar with the corner of a crostini just to grab the last morsel. Not her finest moment, but I couldn’t blame her – it was delicious.
When it comes to drinks you really can’t go wrong. They offer up a great wine list, but an even better beer list. With 40 beers on tap, it’s going to be hard to find something not worth trying out. We both had a cocktail in mind when we got there, so Al went with the Jersey Hurricane and I ordered the Pony Express which was recommended by our server. Both were expertly crafted and exactly what we wanted.
When it came to entrees, we both wanted to take advantage of the burgers on the menu which are exclusive to this location. We ordered the Haight-Ashbury (crispy falafel patty) and the Big Daddy Burger which comes with nice thick bacon. The burgers are served on mini cutting boards, and accompanied with a metal cylinder of hand-cut fries.
Though dessert seemed a little excessive after finishing ever bite of our meal, the server had no trouble selling the Boston Creme Pie, which we both highly recommend. Al has never been a huge fan of dessert, but that night she made an exception.
Even though Penn Commons only opened 3 weeks ago they’re running on all cylinders. The service was incredible and our server Malaku was one of the best we’ve ever had. Everyone there was completely on top of all the restaurant had to offer, and had a higher level of excitement for their location than most other people we’ve come across. Hats off to everyone who works there, we definitely hope this turns into one of the hangouts in the area.
To be honest- we loved Penn Commons and can’t wait to go back. It might be for a full meal again or maybe just for drinks and appetizers. Either way there is plenty to satisfy us at this great new spot! Please go, and let us know what you think!