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An Early Look at Meridian Restaurant (With Menus)
African-inspired artwork and other touches cozy up Meridian, set in a space that used to be a nightclub.
Comments () | Published February 4, 2008
During its first weekend of service, Meridian Restaurant, on the ground floor of the brand new Lofts at Brightwood in upper Northwest DC served more than 200 people. Over-sized pendant lamps aglow in the floor-to-ceiling windows make the place so hard to miss that owner Rodney English calls the windows the billboard for the restaurant.

English, anticipating an influx of young professionals because of the residential lofts, aims to offer an affordable, upscale alternative to the Caribbean takeout joints that line Georgia Avenue. The cuisine—a fusion of Southern, Caribbean, Creole, and Lowcountry comfort food—largely reflects the ethnic makeup of the neighborhood. He set up the restaurant in a former nightclub with lots of space and added cozy touches like African-inspired artwork and elbow-to-elbow seating.

Michael Robertson, a former sous chef at Zola in DC’s Penn Quarter, is at the helm in the kitchen. The Jamaican chef’s menu is filled with homey staples done with bold Caribbean and Creole spices. A jumbo lump crab cake is served with a creole remoulade; crawfish is tucked into crisp ravioli. Caribbean-based African salt prawns are paired with grits, bourbon cream, and a cheddar biscuit. A pork chop gets an overnight marinating in a flowery hibiscus reduction, then is drizzled with cinnamon-rum sauce. As in many Southern restaurants, the family is an integral part of the equation. The base of the daily-changing gumbo recipe comes from English’s in-laws, while an entrée of snapper marinated in Red Stripe beer and a dessert of plantain turnovers are Robertson family recipes.

At the curved bar you’ll find a separate menu of small plates and creative cocktails. The plump 8-ounce Caribbean burger, served with sweet potato fries, packs a spicy punch with a tamarind ketchup. Chicken wings come with a trio of fiery dipping sauces, and fried plantains are dressed up with an herbed sour cream and a grilled-pineapple salsa.

When English advertised the job openings in the Washington Post Express, he received more than 400 applications; he estimates that at least half came from Brightwood residents. He said the community has supported him since he started work on the building last summer. English says one server who lives nearby told him, “I never thought I’d be working at a restaurant like this around the corner from my house.”

Meridian Restaurant, 5832 Georgia Ave. NW; 202-722-8882; meridianrestaurant.com. Open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 6 to 10 PM (bar menu available from 5 PM); Friday and Saturday, 6 to 11 (bar menu available at 5). Closed Sundays and Mondays. Saturday and Sunday brunch is scheduled to start at the end of February.


Meridian Dinner Menu

Starters
Featured Gumbo $10
Daily Soup Special $5
“Pepper” Shrimp Cocktail $9
    Roasted tomato and scotch-bonnet sauce
Liver and Onion Saute &8
    Cheddar-pepper biscuit
Jumbo Lump Crab Cake $12
    Warm mushroom salad and creole remoulade
“Stamp and Go” Cod Fritters $7
    Creole remoulade and spiced tomato chutney

Salads

Meridian House Salad $6
    Mixed baby greens with red onion, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, toasted cashews, roasted-pineapple vinaigrette
Baby Spinach Salad $7
    Applewood-smoked bacon, candied pepper carrots, chili pecans, “red eye” vinaigrette
Cajun Caesar Salad $7
    Seasoned croutons, pepper-jack cheese, cajun-spiced Caesar dressings

Entrees

Seared Jumbo African Salt Prawns $21
    Andouille sausage, tasso, cheesy grits, bourbon-cream, and cheddar biscuit
Red-Stripe-Braised Red Snapper Escoveitch $19
    Sauteed peppers and onions, aromatic fumet
Pan-Seared Striped Bass $25
    Crawfish ravioli, seared turnip greens, spicy blood-orange creme, and parsley coulis
Pan-Roasted Free Range Chicken Breast $15
    Rice and peas, eggplant-spinach-tomato bake, Jamaican Blue-Mountain-coffee glaze
Grilled Ribeye $25
    Sweet potato fries and chipotle-chocolate demi
Grilled Hibiscus-Marinated Pork Rib Chop $18
    Saute of rainbow Swiss chard, wild mushrooms and haricot verts, cinnamon-rum sauce
Daily Vegetarian Special $15

Desserts, all $6
Sweet Plantain Turnovers
    Fresh fruit sauces
Apricot-Currant Bread Pudding
    Vanilla ice cream
Strawberry Shortcake
    Caramel-pecan biscuit, chantilly creme
Spiced Apple Tart
    Cinnamon ice cream, caramel-rum sauce
 

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Posted at 07:29 AM/ET, 02/04/2008 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Blogs