An Early Look at Beuchert’s Saloon

A Capitol Hill neighborhood institution gets reincarnated.

You'll find versions of classic cocktails like the Amaretto “sourer” in the saloon, rumored to have served as a speakeasy run by John Beuchert during Prohibition. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Speakeasies? So 2010-by-way-of-1920. The next big thing? Saloons. To that end, welcome
Beuchert’s Saloon, the revival of an Eastern Market original that first opened on
Capitol Hill more than 130 years ago. Business partners
Brendan McMahon,
August Paro, and
Nathan Berger, along with former PS 7’s chef
Andrew Markert, are bringing back the bar and restaurant that John Beuchert and his son, Theodore,
ran from 1880 to 1934. The self-appointed “Beuchert’s boys”—who all grew up inside
the Beltway—hope to restore the friendly neighborhood institution. Here are five things
to look for.

Farm-to-Table Dining (Literally)

Look in the restaurant’s front bay window and you’ll see jars of pickled beets, carrots,
and beans from East Oaks Organics Farm, run by the McMahon family in nearby Poolesville,
Maryland. The kitchen takes a “local when possible,” approach, and with the farm’s
176 acres and access to top area producers, the possibilities are many. Charcuterie
boards are laden with sopressata,
saucisson sec, and bresaola—all cured at East Oaks—while the Markert’s Market section of the menu
features the farm’s seasonal vegetables in small-plates preparations such as Brussels
sprouts with almond gremolata or Swiss chard in saffron cream. The sharing-averse
can tuck into entrées like East Oaks roast chicken with homestyle gravy or a Roseda
Farms burger, and there are some hearty options among the “snacks,” including braised
oxtail tagliatelle with chanterelles and hazelnuts and roasted bone marrow scattered
with pickled pistachios.

Transporting Decor

Restaurants attempting to capture a certain era can wind up looking Disney-esque,
but that’s not the case at Beuchert’s, which is housed in the same space as the saloon
founded by John Ignatius Beuchert in 1880. The original brick walls and door frame
stand in place; Paro, a former movie set designer, created the rest of the turn-of-the-century
feel. You’ll find touches like creaky oak floorboards cut from East Oaks Farm trees
and hand-blown glass chandeliers from the 1920s and others fashioned from the building’s
original window weights. The exposed kitchen is mainly modern, though Markert’s charcuterie
is sliced on a refurbished 1918 Berkel Slicer. Watching over the bar are photos of
the original caretakers, which remaining generations of the Beuchert family gave to
the crew along with other memorabilia.

A Chef’s Bar

Diners looking for tables can head past the long front bar to the 25-seat dining room,
but you won’t find the chef there. Markert runs his equivalent of the chef’s table
directly opposite the open kitchen that’s part of the front bar. Parties of two to
six can reserve 48 hours in advance for the Thursday through Saturday seatings, and
dine on a five- or seven-course tasting menu. You can check out a sample online, though
the chef says he’s more about working with the guests and what’s in season than any
set concept. If you’d like a decked-out menu with lobster and foie gras—or something
simpler—just ask.

Bison-Side Boozing

Though the saloon recalls the Capitol Hill of old rather than the Wild West, upon
entry you’ll find a nod to the frontier in the form of two massive Montana bison heads
mounted above the bar. Belly up to the 24-seat bar under the watchful gaze of Mike
and Ike for a large-format Allagash Curieux or an old-school cocktail that harkens
back to the Prohibition days when John Beuchert was rumored to have run a speakeasy
out of the back room. You’ll find modern approaches to the classics, such as gin mixed
with house-made tonic or an aged Bobby Burns.

Al Fresco Eats

Pending final inspections, the restaurant hopes to open in early February. Still,
it’ll be a tad chilly to sprawl out on the restaurant’s backyard patio. Look for al
fresco dining come spring for brunch and lunch, with both services starting after
the restaurant gets up to speed.

Beuchert’s Saloon. 623 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 202-733-1384. Open Sunday through Thursday
5:30 PM to 2 AM, Friday and Saturday 5:30 PM to 3 AM.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.