Crisp Kitchen is a great hangout spot with some hot chicken and good, up-front cocktails.
Overall Rating: 3.75
One of my favorite cocktail experiences this year happened at Thai pop-up Alfie’s, which paired inferno-hot Southeast Asian fare with truly superb cocktails. So when I heard Alfie’s chef Alex McCoy also hung his hat at Crisp Kitchen and Bar in Bloomingdale, which serves fried chicken and cocktails, I was all in like a fresh bird in a deep fryer. Accurately described by one of its owners as “not a dive, but not refined,” I found Crisp’s bar a nice neighborhood hang with a cool group-friendly window seat and a comfy patio. Coupla’ other key things about Crisp – first, the Happy Hour deal here is incredible, with all the cocktails at $5 from 5-8 EVERYDAY. So basically, you can get classily drunk for for a sawbuck. That’s rare in DC folks. Dangerous and rare. Secondly, if the internet crashes and the ordering system breaks down–which it did when I was there–you can still count on the crack staff at Crisp to keep the drinks coming with pen and pencil 🙂 Seriously though, good drink service under fire!
Alright, on to the drinks! For those low low prices you’d think you’d get some substandard cocktails, but Crisp’s list was uniformly interesting and mostly enjoyable. Of the five drinks we sampled I thought two were real standouts including one of the better Old Fashioned variants I’ve quaffed in recent months.
First up was a superb standout, the “Not on U Street” with vodka, home-made blackberry syrup, sage, lime juice, and a splash of soda. Ooooo boy this was refreshing with a perfectly measured blackberry cut: not too sweet, not too subtle, just right, with a rich dark fruit hue. The lime offers a nice sprightly citrus tinge to this full-bodied five-fingered drink, while the sage adds a welcome measure of tartness. The perfect drink to spend a summer evening with. Superb. Next was the “Farmer’s Market” with bourbon, simple syrup, lime juice, angostura bitters, and ginger beer. This was decent, with the bourbon smoothed out by the simple. I did not love the angostura and ginger beer in the second half though, sort of an odd “off” herbal taste that didn’t click with the sweeter bourbon lead in. Just ok.
Oh, the drink whose name I’ve said so many times, “Are You My Tinder Date?” with tequila, lime juice, watermelon puree, basil, ginger syrup, and topped with soda. This was average, piping in a heavy tequila sting throughout, but the puree and all the other fun ingredients never really popped. Average. The social media hits keep coming with the “I’m Gonna Yelp About This One” with gin, maraschino liquor, lemon juice, simple syrup, and prosecco. A very energetic and uplifting drink propelled by the light gin and bubbles, this one is dominated by maraschino, which hits heavy midway through the gulp. I didn’t mind it that much, but just know that it’s heavy on the maraschino taste, so you’ll either love it or hate it based on your feelings for that cherry liqueur. Good.
The last drink of the night was my favorite: “Uncle Jesse’s Favorite Old Fashioned” with moonshine, Turbinado sugar, muddled orange, angostura bitters, and brandy cherries. A surprisingly light touch, this had a lovely, genuine orange taste, simmering moonshine burn, and a rich sugar level, all of which combined to create a killer cocktail. So smooth, it’s a pleasure to sip, but you have to be careful: deceptively easy to drink, this has a formidable alcohol content that will put some haze in your vision. But hey, that kind of power is welcome at the end of any night out on the town – thanks to the folks at Crisp, I’ll see you again!