I began by searching for delis in Washington, DC. I sometimes get cravings for things I don’t eat very often. Deli foods: more specifically sandwiches [usually something involving corned beef or pastrami], pickled things, and salads [three bean, beet, cabbage]; are a frequent yearning. Perhaps it was the first barrel pickle my father gave me at two, perhaps it was the corned beef on rye my grandfather loved so much.
Spending a good chunk of my formative years in a small industrial city in Connecticut and half of my twenties and part of my thirties in the Detroit area, I knew what I was looking for. I expected a counter with men, their bellies covered with white aprons, who would: slice meat to order, filling plastic containers with pickled herring and potato salad, and hand you a sandwich with a pickle tucked into the white paper wrapper.
And then I walked in to DGS Delicatessen for lunch, and discovered a remake of what I had been envisioning. Instead of white tiled walls and shelves lined with mustard, loaves of bread, and tins of sardines there was an upscale restaurant and bar with nearly as much lunch take out traffic as the deli I envisioned. Instead of grabbing a sandwich to go, I opted to take a seat at the bar and have a salad and a cocktail instead.
As much as I craved the Corned Beef on Rye, if I was going to sit and indulge right after the holidays, I needed to keep it lighter. Plus the beet salad on the lunch menu featured beef tongue and preserved lemon. The shaved fennel and light preserved citrus created a balanced palate that was exactly what I needed. Beautiful presentation, and exceptional flavor: I knew that handling something as mundane as a corned beef sandwich would be no problem. But I will go back to make sure.
I wanted the White Fish salad initially, but that was already sold out by the time I arrived at 12:30. I will surely return for it soon, because anytime a fish salad sells out at half past noon, it’s more than worth it.
As I sat at the bar, the bartender began juicing oranges for one of their signature cocktails. The oranges were smoked and he let me sniff the inside of a juiced orange and I had to order the drink made with it: the Hello Gorgeous. I had never had smoked citrus before, but it made the drink [also on the lunch menu] a citrus butter toffee nod to dessert. DGS smokes, cures, and pickles all of their own meats, fish, vegetables, and fruits.
What kind of place is this? Located at 1317 Connecticut Avenue, NW, one block south of Dupont Circle: is it sandwich shop, a garde manger, a high-end neighborhood restaurant, or a cocktail lounge? I must say: it is a little bit of all of them.
So, I must go back. For all of them. And of course, for my Reuben and pickle.