A basket of bread used to be an expected element at many restaurants. Then the Great Recession came along, and the complimentary carbs disappeared as a cost-saving measure. Slowly, but surely, they have returned.
Thankfully, chefs are no longer satisfied with offering boring baguettes accompanied by rock-hard butter. Since it’s usually the first bite a guest will take, bread services are being used to make a statement about the restaurant and the experience that’s about to unfold.
Here are seven blue-ribbon bread services around D.C. to make all of your carboholic dreams come true.
Holla for this challah! Chef Jarrad Silver grew up baking the puffy, fluffy bread with his grandmother, so he naturally thought of it when conceiving the restaurant’s bread service. Arriving in a small cast iron dish, the golden crusted rolls are slathered with chicken schmaltz to add a savory richness. As if that’s not indulgent enough, there’s malt butter on the side.
Inspired by chef Yuan Tang’s childhood in Hong Kong, the restaurant serves guests pineapple buns with a side of house-made cultured butter. Slightly sweet with a golden veneer that crackles when you bite into it, they don’t contain any tropical fruit. The deceptive name comes from the look of their textured tops.
These popovers are the stuff of legend. Their puffy tops let loose a whoosh of steam when ripped open, the crackly golden crust revealing the soft eggy dough inside. Eat them slathered with butter or, better yet, smear them with the house-made pâté.
Baked to order, the balloon-like laffa bread arrives plump with hot air. The thin-walled pitas sprinkled with coriander seeds and salt are the perfect complement to chef Robert Curtis’ optional dips, including muhammara, garlicky zhug, whipped tahini, and Calabrian chili amped ‘nduja.
As if the complimentary trio of duck fat fries and dipping sauces wasn’t enough, guests are also treated to these decadent rolls lavished with truffle butter. There is no shame in asking your server if you could take home an extra set at the end of your meal.
In a 900-foot square bakery located near the restaurant, the baking crew starts work every day 3:30 in the morning. They turn out an impressive array of breads, including the memorable options that pack the complimentary baskets: wheat sourdough, baguette, and cranberry walnut boule.
Remember Kraft Handi-Snacks? The after-school favorite included rectangular Ritz crackers, a cheddar-ish cheese product, and a red plastic spreader. The Voltaggio brothers recall the childish joy of those snacks with their Old Bay spiced breadsticks with pimento cheese. They’re complemented by miniature croissants packed with tomato sauce, which are intended to evoke West Virginia pepperoni rolls.