REVIEW - Hazel for Brunch
One of the (more) annoying things about the rapid gentrification in DC's Shaw neighborhood is that even "Shaw-adjacent" areas are getting "trendy" names dreamed up by luxury condo developers. For example. the area just south of U Street has now somehow become "North Shaw", with an ever growing and frankly exhausting list of hipster brand names being added to the ground floor of various residential developments - Warby Parker, Steven Alan, I'm looking at you here. I have nothing against brands like these but it's hard not to feel that approving yet another Bonobos store comes at the expense of a smaller, DC-based small business.
Luckily right in the middle of this rapidly changing area is the relatively new restaurant Hazel. Chef Rob Rubba opened the restaurant in June and quickly generated a buzz for instant-classic dishes like his zucchini bread (apparently a family recipe from his grandmother), "KFC" crispy wings inspired by Bonchon - as well as house made chili sauce. There is nothing formulaic or artificial about this food, despite what the broader neighborhood around it looks like.
I came here a few weeks ago for dinner with a small group of friends and at night, I couldn't see very much of the space except for its cozy banquettes in dark wood, dim lighting and impressively (if not slightly pricey) inventive menu. In the day time though, the space transforms into a sunny, welcoming space with funky decor and inviting vibe. Walking in, you are greeted by a huge patio with bright green astro turf, replete with designer mural and lounge chairs. It's the sort of space you want to hang out on for hours during the summer - if you can snag a table.
When we sat down, I was even more excited to discover that Hazel's brunch menu is offered "dim-sum" style - there's about a dozen different dishes and you check off what you want on the paper menu, similar to the stamp cards at traditional dim-sum restaurants. Definitely gimmicky but the paper actually comes in handy as the servers check off each dish as it arrives - and the dishes did start arriving very quickly, in an absolute flurry.
Since there were only two of us, we couldn't get everything on the menu (you can actually do this for a neat $99), but here are some of the highlights after the jump.
One woman's journey to eat all the food. Or at least, most of it.
Other sites and blogs (foodie and not) that I reference and enjoy on a regular basis.