Review for Scarlet Oak: A Neighborhood Bar with Tasty Food and the Best Picklebacks in DC
Scarlet Oak is the perfect neighborhood bar for Navy Yard/Southwest Washington, DC residents looking for friendly faces and reasonable prices for quality food and drinks.
When the co-owners of Southern Hospitality (Anthony Lupo, Peter Lupo and Brian Schram), decided they wanted to open their second restaurant Scarlet Oak, they were initially skeptical of Navy Yard. Since they opened in August 2015, they have found that the neighborhood has "exceeded" their expectations.
Always buzzing Justin's Cafe has long filled the void of friendly bars in the neighborhood, but it's nice to have a lower key place to hang out that's less-Nationals focused. For all of the nearby high-rise dwellers, Scarlet Oak is an oasis with ample space and a massive patio.
Chef Leo Garcia (formerly of Proof and the Red Hen) provides a creative and diverse menu of small plates, nibbles, and entrees. The setting is perfect for dinner with friends, brunch with the girls or just hanging out. Scarlet Oak makes a lovely date night escape and also is the kind of place where you can have a drink alone at the bar without feeling uncomfortable.
The Best Picklebacks in DC
Go to Scarlet Oak just to try the "909 Triple Play". For $9, you get one can of the finest PBR, a shot of Dickel whiskey and a shot of house-made pickle juice. When referring to a "pickleback", I mean the pickle juice followed by the whiskey, but it can also just refer to the juice alone (as it does on the menu here) in the context of being used as a chaser for the whiskey shot. The magic behind this pairing is all in the neutralization that occurs after you drink the pickle juice: "The sweet and sour brine extinguishes the burn of the whiskey", explains Tim Hume in the Wall Street Journal.
What sets Scarlet Oak's pickleback apart from other bars? It's all in the brine. "Chef [Leo Garcia] makes his own pickles and we love incorporating that into our cocktail list," Brian divulged. After trying his first pickleback in New York City five years ago, Brian fell in love. This drink special plays on the theme that Scarlet Oak has "something for everyone," says Brian.
Cocktails: A+ for Price & Presentation
The craft cocktails are just the right amount of fancy for a neighborhood bar. Each drink is named for its spirit making it easy to find what you like if you know your preferences. If you don't, ask one of the bartenders for advice and you won't be led astray. At $10-12, their speciality cocktails are in more affordable range for DC standards.
Wednesday night is 1/2 price wine night. (If they added the Juve & Camps sparkling rose, I would probably move in here.)
On Thursday nights, happy hour lasts all night long. Normally from 3:30pm - 7:00pm on weeknights, this includes: $4 select drafts, $5 select wines by the glass, $6 rail drinks & $5 personal pizzas. For this price, you can get dinner and a beer or wine for $10 or less. The pizza is not their signature dish, but for $5, the toppings are generous and I can't complain.
Bottomless Brunch: YAS.
Brunch on the patio is a fantastic way to spend a sunny Saturday. For $15, you can get bottomless mimosas at brunch. You cannot substitute other brunch drinks (e.g. bellini or bloody mary) for mimosas. However, the bellini is worth it on a non-bottomless day. Skip the Bloody Mary.
Pooch Scoop: Dogs are Allowed Outside of Patio
At the moment, the patio is not officially dog friendly, however, people with dogs in tow may have their dogs leashed up just outside the patio. My dog would be le mis in that situation so I think I'll stick to human-only visits to Scarlet Oak.
My gluten-free friend (GFF) likes that ScarO's rotating beer selection has provided "crafted to remove gluten" options including Glutiny from New Belgium and Omission Lager. They also have Crispin cider on draft. For gluten-free menu options, check with your server as they are extremely receptive to customer needs.
Basil Creme Brûlée
Salmon and Mushroom Risotto
909 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, D.C. 20003