This Red Hen DC Restaurant Review is a 2018 update to our prior review from 2 years ago. It was our favorite meal in DC on that visit, so we decided to revisit it to see if it was as good as we remembered. It remains a Bib Gourmand restaurant in the 2019 Michelin Guide, with Bib Gourmand awarded to restaurants with “simple yet skillful cooking for under EUR 40 (~$46). Also keep in mind that this restaurant is NOT affiliated with The Red Hen in Lexington, VA, which, earlier this year, asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave. The Red Hen in DC serves people of all political persuasions 🙂
The Red Hen Washington, DC Location
The Red Hen is located at 1822 1st Street, NW, in Washington, DC's Bloomingdale district. Years ago when I was in grad school at Georgetown this was a rather dodgy neighborhood, but it's now one of the more popular places downtown to live, at least for younger singles and childless couples.
The closest Metro Station is Shaw-Howard University, about a 13-15 minute walk away, and we felt safe enough walking between the station and restaurant as 2 adults and a tween.
The Scene and Reservations
The Red Hen is a very popular local haunt, so if at all possible, reserve online at the restaurant's Web site. When we reserved for the 3 of us, only 9:30pm tables for 3 were available, but fortunately, we were able to change the reservation the morning of our reservation to an earlier time, after the restaurant texted us to reconfirm our reservation.
Note that the restaurant keeps about half of its tables for walk-ins, so if you can't secure a reservation for your preferred date, I recommend coming early, ~5:30-6pm, or dining late. The restaurant also serves a full menu at the bar, which was busy throughout our visit.
Most of the other diners appeared to be in their late 20s-30s, and we were the only family. It's not a fancy place, however, so I wouldn't hesitate to bring hungry, well-behaved kids.
The Red Hen Menu and Food
Interestingly, many of the items from our past visit (also in fall) were still on the menu–no doubt a testament to their popularity among regulars. These ranged from the whipped ricotta crostini with truffle honey and smoked trout rillettes to the mezze rigatoni and crispy brussels sprouts.
Here's the Fall 2018 menu:
There's also a large wine list (or you can bring your own for a $20 per bottle corkage fee, as long as it's not on the wine list), and several selections of wines by the glass:
We started off with the whipped ricotta crostini with truffle honey and brown butter. As simple as it sounds, it was delicious, so much so that I might have to get some truffle honey to start making it at home.
The smoked trout rillettes with mascarpone was also very good, and the small side salad of pickled fennel and watermelon radishes was a welcome fresh and piquant foil to the creamy and smoky dip.
Perhaps my favorite dish of the evening and of our entire DC trip were the Crispy Brussels Sprouts. I have yet to find a restaurant that can beat the Brussels Sprouts served at The Red Hen, so if you're also a brussels sprouts fan, this is a must-order dish.
My husband ordered the Ricotta Cavatelli with spicy lamb sausage, broccoli, braised chickpeas, parmigano and breadcrumbs. I liked but didn't love it, and it was my least favorite of the three pastas.
On our server's recommendation, I tried the Semolina Radiatore with kabocha squash puree, roasted butternut squash, mustard greens and pumpkin seeds. I often gravitate towards dishes with kabocha squash, and this was an excellent one, with the sweetness from the kabocha and butternut nicely complemented by the al dente pasta, bright notes from the mustard greens, and crunch from the pumpkin seeds.
A local favorite and ours as well was my son's Mezzi Rigatoni, with fennel sausage ragu, tomato and pecorino Romano cheese. This is Italian comfort food at its best–nothing fancy, just bold, hearty flavors. It was especially satisfying on the chilly, rainy evening we were there.
The dessert menu had several appealing options:
We were in the mood for something with fruit, so we settled on the roasted apple streusel tart. The tart was fine, but not a stand out. If anything, the brown butter-pecan gelato that accompanied it overshadowed the tart.
Previously only my son and I visited The Red Hen, so this was my husband's first visit. He loved it, and both of us wish this was our neighborhood restaurant back in NYC. Our favorite dishes were the Whipped Ricotta Crostini, Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Mezzi Rigatoni, and Radiatore with Kabocha and Butternut Squash. Perhaps the other desserts apart from the apple tart are better or I'm too hard a dessert critic, but I'd suggest filling up on savory items and not saving room for dessert.
If you've been to The Red Hen recently, what were your favorite dishes?
Become a TravelSort Client and Book 5-Star Hotels with Virtuoso or Four Seasons Preferred Partner Benefits