Logan Circle is full of trendy, fun, gastropub-chic restaurants opened by chefs with a fresh take on cuisine. One of them is Drafting Table, which combines the pretense- and gimmick-free culinary concept of restauranteur Aaron Gordon with the talent of chef Ciji Wagner (ex pastry chef at Red Velvet Cupcakery) and adds a touch of aesthetic inspiration from Gordon’s designer friend Andrew Christenberry. The restaurant is adorned with refurbished furniture and decorative materials taken from warehouses in Baltimore. On the walls are floor plans of many famous historical sites in DC and in the corner stands a 6 ft. wooden compass, all in line with the blueprint-sketching, drafting space theme behind the place. The name is a clever double-entendre that nods at the restaurant’s local craft beer list, many of which are offered on tap.
The menu is a little bit all over the place as Gordon wanted it to be – gimmickless, but also a bit directionless as a result. Some contemporary twists on American bistro classics – you got your wings, fries and fried pickles, – but with some smoked cod, green curry chicken and duck ragout pappardelle thrown in as well. What I did have I enjoyed thoroughly, though I wanted for a bit of cohesion in the list of offerings.
To start, I had a thing that has become all-too popular at gastropubs recently, the Bacon Wrapped Dates. While I don’t think it was the most creative item to start a menu off with, I did think Drafting Table’s version is pretty close to flawless. The bacon remains surprisingly crispy, crackling when bitten into and exuding a salty, smokey, delicious pig flavor which dances beautifully with the mature, ripened flavors of the sweet dates within. The textural contrast between the two is great – crunchy, hot bacon and warm, mushy date – much better than when the bacon becomes rubbery from the moisture of the fruit, as it often does with this dish. I liked the flavor of the blue cheese dipping sauce served with the dates because the pungent, funky acidity complemented both of the other ingredients nicely and pulled the bite into a savory direction. However, I think the cheese sauce was a bit on the watery side and could’ve been a bit thicker to properly coat the bacon. It might have also been nice to stick the goat cheese into the date but this might have made the bacon less crispy, so maybe not… Usually I would’ve also preferred there to be an almond or something crunchy stuffed into the date but the bacon was crispy enough and got the job done on its own perfectly well.
I also got the restaurants signature sandwich, the “Duck Pancake” Grilled Cheese, with two thin slices of sourdough, some gooey provolone, plenty of bright green scallion and chunks of tender duck meat packed in. The sandwich came with a nutty, salty hoisin sauce that, when combined with the duck and scallion, gave the sandwich a slightly Asian spin. The duck meat was nice, only slightly chewy but in the way that is characteristic of the bird anyway. The flavors of the duck spread through each bite, combining with the zingy freshness of the scallion and the very mild provolone which was mostly there to bind things together and provide a juicy, moist texture to contrast the crispy grilled bread. I enjoyed sauce-less bites of the sandwich, as the duck had quite enough flavor on its own to keep things interesting. The duck-less crusts, however, were salvaged by dipping them into the sauce which added a ton of flavor as well as a much-needed moisture to these bites. Not too greasy at all and very satisfying (a half was quite enough for me!)
Next time you happen to find yourself at Drafting Table, go for their pride and joy duck creation and match it with a DC Brau IPA. Yum!