Neighborhood777 G St.East Village619-446-0002I'm really all talk and no action when I say I could successfully be a vegetarian; I'm more or less positive that bacon would be my immediate undoing. I love bacon for the magic it brings to food. It turns Brussels sprouts crave-worthy, makes salads less boring, gives hearty depth to seafood and completes my breakfast plate. And, I know many vegetarians and pescatarians whose defenses weaken at bacon's smoky-sweet smell, as evidenced by all the fake bacon-flavored food products on the market. I'm so crazy about the stuff that a thoughtful friend gave me a scarf shaped like a strip of bacon, though, unfortunately, it's not bacon-scented. There is, however, a snazzy bacon tuxedo that is (no joke—Google it).
A little further down my can't-live-without list is the hamburger. Humble, yes. But done well, it's incomparable as far as satisfying foods go.
This summer, I've been averaging a burger a week, and it's been slowly climbing up the favored-foods ladder. I have a standing lunch date with a good friend, and for many weeks in a row, we've been going to Neighborhood. We meet at the restaurant ostensibly because its G Street location is sort of halfway between our offices, but the main reason is that we both cannot get enough of its truly great hamburgers. One of us may also enjoy partaking in an excellent craft brew before she goes back to work, but I'm not sayin' who.
Neighborhood resembles a Downtown slickster guy's pad, with a predominance of dark wood, chrome, leather and glass, but it's saved from seeming too cold and hard by some fun, decorative touches—like a fantastic tile mosaic of the Downtown skyline and a painting of a guy I'm assuming is Freud enjoying a burger and another of Jesus eating a sandwich. The easygoing, relaxed service keeps it friendly, too.
Some people come to Neighborhood just to sit at the bar and work their way through the almost 30 taps of craft beers, many of them from local breweries, and the bartenders will let you taste anything you're curious about. If I'm there at lunch, I'll have an Allagash White (OK, yes, I'm the one that has a daytime beer—as if there were any doubt), but for post-work drinks, I go for something stronger, like the Curieux, which is aged to deliciousness in bourbon barrels. Neighborhood also has a two-for-one deal before 7 p.m. Monday through Friday on different local beers.
We usually order Neighborhood's signature burger, made with good meat, a topping of melted Gruyere cheese, a sweet confit of onions and bacon and leaves of spicy arugula. Sometimes we'll split a burger and share something else, but mostly we're greedy and attempt to finish a whole one ourselves, which is no small feat considering its giant size. A big fuss has been made over the fact that Neighborhood doesn't offer ketchup or other condiments, but these burgers aren't bland, plain patties between dry buns; they come with lots of extras that provide plenty of flavor. And if I'm going to pay gourmet-burger prices, in the double digits, I don't want a sandwich that I have to doctor up to make it taste good.
Though my favorite is the Neighborhood burger, I like the Mushroom-Marsala Burger, with swiss cheese and sauteed mushrooms in a fortified wine sauce, too. If you're looking for something rich, the 777 Burger comes topped with spinach, cooked-down tomatoes and Bernaise sauce (a little too heavy, even for me. All burgers come on a toasted, airy Ciabatta-like roll with a brown bag of homemade, paprika-dusted potato chips.
I'm normally so intent on getting my burger fix that my I can't be swayed to try anything else, though I've ventured astray a few times, to mixed results. The ramen noodle soup, served in an impressive lidded bowl, came filled with udon noodles instead. That might not matter to everyone, but I am serious about my noodles. Ricotta gnudi, or naked dumplings of ravioli filling without their pasta overcoats, are glazed in a too-sweet Leprechaun-green syrupy sauce. But for lunch or a lighter dinner, the salads are perfect—filling and fresh. I like the Cobb, topped with a rainbow of proteins, from eggs to cheese and my beloved bacon. The spinach salad, with fried nuggets of creamy goat cheese and sliced strawberries, gets the sweet-savory thing right. And the sweet potato fries, sprinkled with blue cheese bits, stay remarkably super-crisp and tasty all the way to the bottom of the plate.