Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Restaurant: Lunch at Silo (Washington, D.C.)

Silo Burger with Coleslaw and Fries
April 2014 Update: Silo has made a few changes. There is a new chef, and the menu is more American bistro without the French and Swiss influences. Silo's hours have also changed, with the restaurant serving weekday lunch only on Friday.

D.C.'s Penn Quarter and Chinatown are bustling neighborhoods full of an expanding lineup of interesting lunch options catering to both the office workers and tourists that fill sidewalks at midday. It can be fun, but for a quieter lunchtime outing I find myself headed instead to Mount Vernon Triangle, the up-and-coming neighborhood of expanding restaurant options just north of Chinatown.

Silo is a great addition to the area. It's a beautiful, open space of exposed brick, patches of plaster, concrete floor and exposed air ducts with dark wooden furniture. Floor-to-ceiling windows on the street side and skylights in the back keep natural light filtering throughout the whole restaurant, preventing it from feeling cavern-like. If you like restaurant design that's simple and minimal, this is a nice example.
Silo's cool minimal-industrial interior; photo courtesy of BadWolf DC, a blog about D.C. news, restaurants, events and more.

The minimalism extends to the lunch menu. It's a short selection of starters, salads and sandwiches, but one that shows some good thought as well. Finding something I'm in the mood for has never been a problem at Silo, and I've enjoyed everything I've sampled, although, as I'll point out there are little tweaks I think would make some of the dishes even stronger.

Vegan Carrot-Butternut Squash Curry Soup
Kohlrabi Soup with Bacon
Soup has been a definite strength. The Kohlrabi soup, which is a menu staple, is a wonderful blend of sweet and earthy flavors given richness with fennel oil and gruyère cheese. Kohlrabi is one of those vegetables that gets more ink than grocery store space, so it was nice to finally try it. The component of this soup that doesn't quite work is the bacon strip, included whole, which makes it impossible to eat with a soup spoon (cut up into lardons, it would be perfect). I also enjoyed a daily special vegan soup of carrot, butternut squash and curry, so thick it almost crossed the line from soup to puree. This soup was also a nice blend of sweet and spicy, topped with fresh oregano and croutons.

Mâche Salad with Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Hazelnuts and Quail Egg
Salads show interesting combinations and a welcome restraint with the dressing. To accompany the kohlrabi soup, I enjoyed a mâche garden salad. Its combination of mushrooms, hazelnuts and goat cheese really hit the spot. I find mâche a little hard to deal with at home (it grows in clumps, so it requires a little more prep than your average salad green), so I appreciate getting it at restaurants. The salad comes with a side of quail egg, which is a nice touch, although I don't think the "cheese nest" they sit in is needed. Another salad of spinach, arugula and sprouts with shaved apple, roasted beets and grapefruits was another winning combination of fresh flavors.

Spinach-Arugula Salad with Apples, Beets and Grapefruit
Last but not least is the burger. It caught my eye on the menu the first time I visited, but owner Reza Akhavan told me it wasn't available yet, as they were still looking for just the right ground beef to perfect the sandwich. During my second visit to Silo, the burger was finally ready, so of course I had to have it. And I wasn't disappointed. This is a pretty serious burger. If you get it with all the options, which I did, it's a delicious tower of excess, featuring gruyére and cheddar cheeses, roasted tomato, caramelized onion, bacon and pickles. The meat itself was also quite good, although my order of "medium-rare" came out cooked a bit past that. The hand-cut fries and cole slaw that accompany the burger were good too.

Silo is closed on Monday but open for lunch the rest of the week and does a brunch on weekends, as well as dinner nightly from Tuesday through Sunday. I haven't been to Silo for dinner,  and Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema's First Bite wasn't particularly positive. But expectations for lunch can be different than for dinner, and I wouldn't hesitate to return to Silo, especially if they change the menu soon for spring. Chef George Vetsch, formerly of C.F. Folks, had been working the kitchen when Silo opened but departed recently, leaving sous chef Calvin Di Giovanni at the helm. With the Swiss Vetsch out, it will be interesting to see if Silo retains its "modern American cuisine with a Swiss/French twist" or changes course a bit.

Silo, 919 5th Street NW (between I and K Streets), Washington, D.C. (Mount Vernon Triangle). (202) 290-2233. Reservations: City Eats

Silo on Urbanspoon


  1. What a nice, thoughtful review. I love how you describe the burger ("a delicious tower of excess"). My goodness, that sounds right up my alley!

    1. I think you'd love their burger. Several of my coworkers had lunch here today and they really enjoyed it too.