Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Smoke and Barrel, DC

As soon as I heard that the owners of Asylum had opened a new restaurant and that they'd be offering vegan fare, I had to check it out. Little did I realize that Smoke and Barrel is actually where Asylum used to be while Asylum was moved to the bottom floor of the building. So they both still exist --just on different floors. Interesting.

When I first walked up to the new establishment, I was confronted by the menacing security guy named "Hal" outside. He checked my ID, then allowed me to go in.

It was early on a Saturday so there was still plenty of seating. I found my friend and sat down at a table near the door.  For those who are familiar with Asylum, the layout is still the same, but the decor is drastically different. All of the biker-type stuff has been moved downstairs and replaced with sleek dark wood panels, stools that look like barrels, and artwork depicting scenes from the prohibition era. Asylum, downstairs, had the music blasting, which I found a bit annoying as I was dining upstairs -- a completely different vibe.

We took a look at the drink menu, which boasted 24 international beers on tap, 24 more in a can, and more than 45 brands of bourbon. Wow!  I'm not much of beer or liquor drinker, but I decided to try the Brooklyn Manhattan anyway. I thought it was more of a mixed drink with whiskey, but, in fact, it was Old Overholt Rye whiskey with a drop of sweet Vermouth and Brooklyn Lager. But, most of the drink was beer so I didn't fancy it. I exchanged it for a glass of wine--Jessie's Grove Earth, Zin & Fire zinfandel, which was much better.

We started off by ordering the vegan wings. They typically come with a side of spicy BBQ sauce, but upon inquiry, we found out there were three vegan dipping sauces so we requested to try them all. The seitan wings were really drumsticks that looked and tasted almost identical to the ones served at Java Green. That is a good thing as they were really good, but they weren't really "wings" per se. All of the sauces were good too. There was a spicy BBQ, chipotle aioli made with Vegenaise, and "honey butter" using vegan substitutes. 

My friend and I decided to split two entrees so we could taste them both. We started by trying the BBQ Smoked Tofu sandwich.  The tofu is hand pressed and rubbed with their house barbecue spice rub, cold smoked, then grilled. The crumbled tofu was smoky and rich. I loved that it was served the traditional way on a bun with vegan coleslaw. You are supposed to add your own BBQ spice.  I chose to add the spicy BBQ sauce. Delicious!

We also tried the Sweet Potato & Oat Burger. This freshly made burger has sweet potatoes, oats, and toasted pecans mashed and pressed together to form this amazing patty. It is topped with lettuce, tomato, and red onion. I added the chipotle aioli and spicy BBQ to top it off. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd say I liked this sandwich the best.

I am incredibly appreciative of how clearly all of the vegan items are marked on the menu. Each vegan item is marked with "VV"  and there are tons of vegan options!  By the time we left, it was pretty busy. I'm glad to see that they are already doing so well considering they just opened a month and a half ago.

The service was great, the food was delicious, the prices of the sandwiches at $9 and $12 each were reasonable, and the drink selection is spectacular.  This is a great new option for DC vegans.

Smoke and Barrel
2471 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 319-9353

Smoke and Barrel on Urbanspoon


  1. I had a different experience, but I went when it first opened. I thought $12 for BBQ mashed tofu on a wonder bun served on a large tray without any sides (three dollars for fries) was a lot of money for little food. Plus the presentation looked underwhelming having them bring out a meal that only takes up 1/4 of the metal tray. Understanding that Asylum is usually generous with it's portions. Guess I'm approaching this new restaurant from a hungry vegan's perspective. When I pay more than $10 for a burger I better get something on the side. Also, I prefer my BBQ wet, not dry. That's just a personal preference though. I am glad that they incorporated the vegan wings from the old Asylum menu. The variety of dipping sauces is a nice touch. Maybe next time I'll just order an extra portion of those....

    P.S. At the time of recent opening the bar had no happy hour to speak of, no drink specials what-so-ever!

  2. I would agree that the presentation was underwhelming. I guess I was so filled up on those "wings" that I didn't care for another side, but I definitely see your point.
    A bunch of restaurants don't have happy hour specials - I hope this trend doesn't continue!