>best mussels in dc? probably not but definitely a close 2 or 3.
For a good foodie friend’s surprise birthday party, some buddies and I decided to venture to Brasserie Beck in the Mt. Vernon area. She has been to there before and the party planners heard word from her husband that she enjoys the mussels and beer at this location.
BB’s Top Chef/Owner is Robert Wiedmaier, who is well known to the DC foodie world. It is located at 11th and K and claims to boast the most extensive Belgian beer list in the DC metropolitan area and it features a really great happy hour from 5-7 with half off all drafts. Originally, we planned to dine outside but since we arrived a little after 6, they were all filled up. So we hung out at the bar, yelled out the big “SURPRISE” and had a few more drinks while we waited for our table. Their drafts are all pretty delicious. Bavic is a golden “pils” which is pretty standard but neverthless very tasty. My european buddy decided to order me the Kasteel Rouge which is a Cherry beer. It did have a slightly overpowering dark cherry flavor but that is probably because I am partial to cherry-flavored things to begin with. It was not too sweet and the robust impact of a true beer still remained. The most popular amber draft is “Palm” which is known to have only a “fraction” of the alcohol content of most other Belgian beers but is also good. It appears to be the American version of a Bud or a knocked up version of Blue Moon. A few buddies also had Delirium Tremens which is a pretty well known Belgian import. Its a golden beer with a very fragrant and fruity smell but yet a rich smooth taste.
Onto the food. The biggest drawback for the evening was how long it took us to get seated. We were sitting at the bar for maybe 40 minutes before we got seated after they kept insisting “only a few more minutes”. This would have been a little bit more understandable if when we had eventually got seated we had not walked through what appeared to be a half empty restaurant. Perhaps they were understaffed…
One more thing before I get to the food. Walking through the restaurant, we passed by this large and beautiful open kitchen. Being a foodie and an individual who tries to be a chef in the kitchen, I appreciate an open kitchen at any restaurant. However, this is one spectacular kitchen with plenty of light and a half square shape to it. It is also well decorated with a variety of different color Dutch Ovens on the kitchen shelves which gave it a nice character.
Also, the overall ambience of the restaurant is delightful. Although I love the intimate feel of Dr. Granville Moore’s (the number #1 belgian mussel place in DC), I equally enjoyed the large space with high ceilings and plenty of light from the large full windows. I do wish their bar area was larger as it becomes very crowded too quickly. They also have a great outdoor seating but I wish that they would allow you to reserve it for parties over 5. It had a cool blue theme with its decor but you never felt too “cold”.
Ok, really the food. The three girls at dinner ordered the Mussels of different varieties. The Birthday girl opted for the Roasted Tomato, Basil and Rocca Mussels, another buddy opted for the Garlic and White Wine sauce and I chose the Curry & Apple. They were all tasty, fresh and well-prepared. I would have personally enjoyed a bit of a stronger taste in my mussels as I don’t believe they were cooked long enough in the sauce. The pairing of Curry and Apple worked very well but I wish they would have maybe added a little more curry to give it a needed kick. Awesome hubby of the Birthday girl had the Crispy Skate Wing a la Jacqueline with Garlic Spinach and he enjoyed it. He mentioned that it was good, seasoned well but nothing really to call home about. Another buddy had the Coq A Vin which was surprisingly delicious. We all questioned his choice to order “Roasted Chicken” but under recommendation from our waiter (who also gave said buddy a free beer), he ordered it. He mentioned that it was blackened perfectly but still retained the moisture that one would expect from a well cooked piece of chicken. My true Vegetarian buddy had a Crepe filled with Spinach and Cheese which he said was very good. Clearly, no mussels are complete without Frites and they were served with Mayonnaise trio. These were definitely a standout of the meal as they were cooked and seasoned well, and who doesn’t love a trio of mayonnaise sauces to slather your frites in?
Overall, Brasserie Beck was a very good experience. We had a great time and I would recommend it for large groups because it can get a little loud for the date scene. I still rate Dr. Granville Moore’s as the best mussels in DC but the beer list for both places are definitely comparable. I do believe that Brasserie has the better draft list available. I will eventually do a formal review of Granville Moore’s and Belga Cafe (the other top mussel place in DC). I also unfortunately have to knock their rating down from a possible A- to a B+ because as a pescatarian, I was clearly able to eat the mussels but as a vegetarian, there were limited options available. There was not even a dedicated vegetarian entree on the menu, only a few vegetarian appetizers. With our ever changing food culture, more and more people are turning to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles and it is imperative that restaurants embrace that change and offer menu options for those who do adapt these lifestyles.
Verdict: Would definitely go back again for happy hour and they also have half priced oysters Thurs-Sat.