Cheap Eats 2011: Bar Pilar

This Hemingway-inspired den has always taken food as seriously as cocktails. But with chef Justin Bittner at the stoves, the simple small plates–coins of grilled zucchini with olive oil, salt, and pepper; radishes with butter–have made the brick-walled dining room one of the most satisfying in its casual-hangout class.

Bittner dabbles in the trendy offal and charcuterie worlds–fried pigs’ ears, a house-made lamb hot dog–but his strength is more familiar comfort food. Meatballs are a blend of lamb, pork, and veal under a blanket of tomato sauce and a shower of pecorino. Chicken gets brined for 24 hours and fried in peanut oil. On the side? Coleslaw and potato salad.

Also good: Recent standouts on the changing menu have been roasted mushrooms with braised leeks; crispy potatoes with malt aïoli; honey-glazed carrots with shallots and thyme; strawberry-rhubarb crumb pie with vanilla ice cream; buttermilk pie with lemon sorbet.

Open Monday through Friday for dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.