Dr. Granville Moore’s, a Belgian restaurant on H Street Northeast, is a perfect match for this difficult-to-define neighborhood: Boarded-up storefronts next to alive-and-well restaurants, expensive suits sharing the sidewalks with the down-and-out - it’s a literal and figurative intersection of the old and the new.
Just like its setting, Dr. Granville Moore’s is a mishmash of the then and now. It is in a typical old, narrow, two-story Capitol Hill row house that once was the office of Dr. Granville Moore, a neighborhood doctor. (One wall sports a plaque commemorating his service to the community; he reportedly treated the poor for free.)
The interior is partly rehabilitated - exposed brick is interspersed with patches of plaster - and tables and chairs are old and mismatched (and a tad unstable in our case) creating an almost World-War-II-in-Europe movie-set feel. Beer choices are listed on blackboards, and glasses tend toward the stocky, near-unbreakable kind.
Of the three - all popular - Belgian restaurants in town (including Belga and Brasserie Beck) Granville is by far the most laid-back. It’s quirky but not in the least pretentious.
The large menu has one page of food items; the rest consists of various libations, primarily Belgian beers - there are more than 60 of them - in all shapes, sizes, colors, strengths and flavors. If you need assistance selecting a brew, the waiters and bartenders can help. They can talk intelligently about any and all offerings. They clearly have done their homework.
As has executive chef Teddy Folkman (formerly of the Reef and Vermillion) who serves up a short but delicious menu of Belgian favorites, including mussels and hand-cut, twice-fried pommes frites.
But not so fast.
We didn’t get to our food for a quite a while because with fame - Granville’s Mr. Folkman recently won a Bobby Flay Throwdown competition on the Food Network - comes crowds. And the restaurant doesn’t take reservations.
We started at the upstairs bar (there’s one bar per floor) with a Chimay White at $9 and a Stella Artois at $4 - yes, quite the price range. So, things were off to a good start.
Though the palate was pleased with refreshing cold beer bubbles, the tummy was not. After 20 minutes, we were seated and quickly ordered the antipasto plate (requires no cooking, just plating) of buffalo mozzarella, cured meats, tasty roasted tomatoes, olives and crostini, which arrived pronto.
The rest? It took another 45 minutes to receive our bison burger and two bowls of mussels.
It’s worth the wait, though, because Mr. Folkman’s food is all that. The Prince Edward Island mussels are perfectly steamed, and the broths are divine.
The moules fromage blue - with which Mr. Folkman beat Mr. Flay - successfully combines the mussels with blue cheese, bacon, shallots, spinach, white wine and lemon. Somehow, the pungent blue cheese doesn’t negate the mild seafood but rather complements it. Wish, though, that the portion of broth were a little more generous.
While flavor, atmosphere and even service are king (the delay was a kitchen issue; our waiter was attentive despite a very busy floor) presentation is not. The prepared-to-order, nicely flavored bison burger, served on a perfect brioche bun, arrives a la any bar dish - slapped on a plate with French fries on the side.
But these are not just any fried potato strips. They are hand-cut and twice fried. Tasty, but unfortunately for us, we got the last of the batch: too greasy on the outside and a tad dry on the inside.
Desserts? There’s one: brownies covered in bourbon caramel sauce.
But then again, desserts are no one’s reason to come to Granville. It is the unique atmosphere, splendid mussels (120 pounds prepared a day) and great selection of beer that draw the masses to what for many constitutes the outer reaches of their geographic comfort zone.
RESTAURANT: Dr. Granville Moore’s, 1238 H St. NE; 202/399-2546
HOURS: 5 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday
PRICES: $7 to $13, starters; $13 to $18, main course; $4, desserts
CREDIT CARDS: All major credit cards
RESERVATIONS: First-come, first-served
PARKING: Limited street parking
METRO: Union Station on the Red Line is the closest Metro stop, about 15 minutes on foot.