415 New Jersey Ave., NW
Today’s Eating Around Town was written by dcreba. She lives – and often eats – in Logan Circle. Previously, she wrote about Mama Chuy and Dulcinea.
Art Smith is done with his winter hibernation and finished with his spring cleaning.
Welcoming the public back to Art & Soul this past Tuesday after closing for month long renovations, chef / owner Smith proudly showed off his updated dining room and menus.
Gone are the sterile white booths along the back walls. The dated brick red colors in the foyer and drab browns of the past are nowhere to be found. Instead, fresh air has been breathed into the spacious and airy dining rooms. Textured walls – the back of the restaurant is newly speckled with waves of multicolored beans – add interest to the interior. Sleek, deep brown herringbone wood floors replace dated carpeting. The carefully curated urban market aesthetic of the restaurant spills into the spacious bar area: the bartenders wear pastel plaid bow ties and waxy canvas aprons. The long bar entices visitors to linger over an updated cocktail menu and shareable bar snacks.
Together with Executive Chef Wes Morton, Smith has centered the updated menus around locally sourced ingredients from family owned and operated artisans and growers and has selected small batch distillers and breweries to provide the spirits and beers featured behind his bar. The chefs still celebrate honest Southern cooking, but old classics have been revived with fresh new accompaniments and playful bar snacks – cajun boudin balls and fried pickled green tomatoes – complement the craft cocktails.
Continues after the jump.
On Tuesday night, the spacious dining rooms were awash with industry folk, family and friends, and guests sneaking a peek at the newly renovated digs while enjoying the Artisanal Fair, a showcase for Art & Soul’s vendors and suppliers. Guests grazed on bite size menu offerings; servers had barely left the kitchen before fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and pulled pork biscuits were quickly snapped up.
Fans of Smith’s infamous Fried Free Range Chicken for Two can exhale: the mainstay is still featured for dinner. The Shrimp & Grits, once offered as a first course, is now featured as a main dish. On the lunch menu, the classic beef burger gets a burst of flavor with punchy pimento cheese and crispy onions. A power hour weekday lunch offers a quick 3 course meal for $25; the brunch menu invites lingering over share plates or decadent savory waffles.
While not notably contemporary or cutting edge, the modernization and updates of the old space and menu are refreshing. And if the food displayed at Tuesday’s event is any indication, Smith & Morton can look forward to pleasing palates and welcoming repeat customers in the weeks to come.
Art & Soul [415 New Jersey Ave., NW] opens for breakfast and dinner seven days a week, serves lunch Monday through Friday, and has a full brunch menu available on Saturdays and Sundays. See all their menus here.