I recently discovered a great casual restaurant in Washington DC that not only has managed to survive the pandemic, but is expanding to new locations. While new to me, Half-Smoke has been in the Shaw neighborhood of DC since 2016. Not only do they have a great selection of meats, but great cocktails and appetizers as well.
I first discovered Half-Smoke during DC’s Black Restaurant Week. However, I could not get a table during that week as its tables were full and there was a long wait. I tried two more times and eventually I was able to get a table. In addition to sit down service, Halfsmoke has a healthy take out service which seems to be quite popular. I have used it a couple of times and I found it very convenient.
Bottomless Happy Hour
On the day I was able to get a seat, I arrived during happy hour. Halfsmoke has a Bottomless Happy Hour special: unlimited drinks AND appetizers for $30. I found this an incredible deal and went for it. The special allowed me to try a lot of their appetizers.
The appetizers that I had were: Mac N Cheese Bites, Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Deviled Eggs, and the Crab Fries. All were good. My favorite was the Brussels Sprouts. Blackened under the grill and served with goat cheese and pistachios and topped with a balsamic glaze, it was fantastic. Another noteworthy item is the Crab Fries. They had a generous amount of crab on top and were doused with Old Bay seasoning. The Mac N Cheese bites are served with a Jalapeno sauce which was milder than I was expecting but still had good flavor. I was a bit disappointed with the Deviled Eggs. The menu said they had “Old Bay Shrimp” in them, so I was expecting something meaty and heavily spiced. The Deviled Eggs did have tiny bits of shrimp in them, easy to overlook, but they were very mildly spiced. On the positive side, the yolks were quite creamy which I very much liked.
Drinks for the happy hour special include both beers on tap and cocktails. I sampled several cocktails: the mule, the twister, and a classic margarita. I enjoyed all of them. The twister stood out. Consisting of Whiskey, Lemon Juice, Burned Rosemary and Simple Syrup it had a unique blend of sweet and sour flavors that was exceptional.
The service was fantastic as well. I have been to happy hours where the drinks are “unlimited” but it takes forever to get even one. Not at Halfsmoke! As soon as I finished a drink, the waiter would promptly ask if I wanted another. Within a couple of minutes, my drink order would arrive. I couldn’t have too many drinks, though. After a couple of them I was buzzing. The food took a little bit longer to arrive, but given the crowd they had the wait was reasonable. Things certainly arrived quick enough that I had no issues getting filled.
The “Bottomless Happy Hour” filled me up with appetizers, so I did not get a main dish during that visit. But I have sampled a couple of their main dishes the times I had ordered take out.
On my first order, I had to try their signature dish: Briggs & Co featuring a Half Smoke sausage. It also has Bacon, Mustard Slaw, Chili, Onion Crisps, and Beer Cheese. It made for a good meal.
The menu also has burger that intrigued me, the Patty Melt Revisited. I had that on my next order. A double meat patty, served with a slice of cheese, Caraway-Onion Jam, shredded lettuce, and Thousand Island dressing, it reminded me of an upscale Whopper. A Whooper more delicious than any I have ever had. It was every bit as good, if not better, than I anticipated.
With the burger, I ordered a side of roasted Cauliflower. Crispy but still firm, it was nicely accompanied by a a tangy garlic sauce. Delicious.
There is one final item on the menu that attracted me to Halfsmoke and that was one of their desserts. They have a funnel cake that I wanted to try. Served with your choice of sauces and ice cream, I went with the Red Velvet sauce and the Brown Sugar ice cream. This turned out to be not a good combination, as everything was all together too sweet. A more neutral paring of ice cream would have been far better. The funnel cake was decent, moist on the inside and browned on the outside, but it was not as crisp as I prefer. As such, it did not quite have the funnel cake texture that you would get at a carnival. I have not yet tried their other desserts, which include banana pudding and an Oreo Sundae.
Halfsmoke has a casual ambience, somewhat akin to that of a sports bar. Like a sports bar, they have TV screens on all the wall, but playing music and videos instead of sports. There is a small amount of ambient noise, but not so loud that you cannot have a conversation. Halfsmoke also has an open kitchen, so you can see the cooks preparing your meal. I found the brick oven especially eye catching.
Overall, I found the food high quality, and the environment casual and comforting. With good drink specials and plenty of food options to choose from, I highly recommend Halfsmoke.