This article first appeared in Eater DC on November 3, 2017
Incoming Bar Elena plays around with comfort foods
A sneak peek at the opening menu for new Atlas District restaurant/arcade Bar Elena reveals that ordering bar snacks and sandwiches there may be more fun than all the video games and Skee-Ball machines sprinkled throughout.
While chef/co-owner Adam Stein has carved out room for plenty of seafood dishes — he plans to offer raw oysters, moules frites, lobster rolls, and roasted skate, among others, when Elena debuts next week — his atypical bar fare is a diner’s playground.
Stein tells Eater that a spaghetti sandwich — yes, that’s happening — reminds him of childhood meals featuring tomatoey pasta and warm dinner rolls.
“I have very vivid memories of slathering cold butter inside those rolls and twirling a big fork full of sauce laden noodles and stuffing ‘em inside that pocket,” Stein says of his ode to carbo-loading. His version, which also happens to double as a vegetarian offering, includes baguettes, noodles, tomato sauce, and grana padano.
Meat eaters can get down with funky chicken wings, as well as a twist on a Canadian favorite. Stein makes his bird General Tso’s style, pairing the sweet-and-spicy chicken with what he calls “Japanese cowboy sauce” — a condiment marrying tangy ranch dressing with savory furikake seasoning.
Poutine gets a similar makeover; except Stein turns to New England for inspiration here rather than Asia. He doctors his melted cheese curd-covered French fries with “clam chowder gravy,” smothering the aforementioned spuds in broth, clams, and bacon.
”I thought, after eating my way through Montreal, that it would be a cool take,” he says.
A chicken sandwich eschews the deep frying favored by many these days. Instead, Stein is marinating chicken thighs, grinding them into sausage in-house, forming them into patties, and then searing them on a flat-top grill until “golden brown and crispy.” The finishing touch: beet-kimchi aioli.
“To a certain extent this is an incubator/test kitchen for The Eleanor,” Stein says.
Bar Elena is replacing recently shuttered restaurant Boundary Road.