Last week, CommonWealth held a free cocktail reception for local media and food bloggers to introduce their new small plates, dinner and dessert items with a patio roast. Thankfully, as it was really too hot to enjoy it on the patio, they seated us inside.
I used to live down the street from CommonWealth and would often stop in after work for a drink and bar snack before heading home. It’s a very warm place, often busy, but it’s always felt more like a restaurant than a neighborhood watering hole. Their new “snacks” menu items may change that. They’ve added more televisions around the dining room, though there are still some tables where one won’t have to watch them, and their small plates seem to encourage people to come in for a lighter meal and linger. A move that can help maintain a good revolving crowd, but can backfire if a place becomes too popular. As CommonWealth is nicely established, I think this will bring in new diners without alienating their regulars.
Even though it seems trite to go to a restaurant with so many choices and order the burger, their new Lamb Burger with Salsa Verde is definitely a favorite. The fresh bright notes of the salsa blend amazingly well with the well-cooked, slightly spicy lamb. They served them up as sliders for the tasting dinner, but it’s normally served as a regular burger. However, our table did suggest they add the sliders to the bar menu as they’d be a big hit. Other highlights were the Lemon Fried Olives, Garlic Shrimp w/Thai Chilies, and Baby Beet Salad w/Green Beans in Mustard Vinaigrette.
The staff and owner Sandy Lewis were very knowledgeable about the food and drinks. And as is the growing trend, Lewis was able to tell us their farms and sources for the dishes. Chef Jamie Leeds–most recognizable from Hank’s Oyster Bar–was also on hand to answer questions, though you’re more likely to see her through the view of the kitchen available from some of the dining room tables.
I no longer live close enough to make CommonWealth the break in my commute, but when I get a bit misty-eyed for Columbia Heights, I could definitely metro up for a lamb burger and a french margarita. These new small plates seem to shift them a bit from gastropub to pub, but for many of us that’s a fine thing indeed!