The Arsenal at Bluejacket
The Navy Yard neighborhood just got a major jolt of excitement with the opening of Bluejacket by Neighborhood Restaurant Group. The massive microbrewery boasts over 20 beers, with some available on tap and some on cask, and is led by Beer Director Greg Engert and Brewmaster Megan Parisi. The menu uniquely offers full glasses as well as tastes so beer fans everywhere can create their own flights and try the variety of brews Bluejacket has to offer. In addition to the gorgeous open space which includes a bustling bar with TV's for the sports viewing crew, Bluejacket is also home to The Arsenal, a high-end restaurant within the same space with Executive Chef Kyle Bailey of Birch & Barley/Churchkey at the helm. The concept is fresh, and the establishment will aid in the transformation of the somewhat sleepy neighborhood which is currently under construction and will see great growth in the upcoming year. I walked into Bluejacket this past Saturday evening and was amazed at how packed the place was-- it was standing room only at the bar and there were many who had been parked in their chairs for hours watching college football and enjoying beer and bar snacks. It was tough to even get to the front of the bar to order a drink, so I waited just a few minutes until my table was ready at The Arsenal to sit down for dinner. While the restaurant is known for their beer, they also had a great wine list which had many choices offered by the glass in addition to the bottle. The menu is reminiscent of what you see at Churchkey in that it includes "fancy" bar snacks such as crab deviled eggs and beef heart tartare, but they also play to the more fun side including smothered fries and fried pork rinds.
My friend and I immediately settled on the braised pork cheeks, the Tuscan kale Caesar salad, and the sweet potato gnocchi to start the meal. The menu offers a handful of pastas which are moderate in size and can be shared as an appetizer or eaten as a light dinner. I was wild about the pork cheeks which were tender and served over creamy polenta with hen of the woods mushrooms. The sauce on the pork cheeks soaked into the polenta creating great flavors which paired well with the meaty mushrooms. The other dish that really blew us away was the sweet potato gnochhi. My friend Julia isn't even a pasta fan, (how is that possible?), and she raved about how enjoyable this dish was. The gnocchi was served with duck meatballs, greens, and a Taleggio fonduta. The meatballs were seasoned well, and the touch of cream in the dish added just the right amount of decadence. I've been dreaming about it ever since we ate it.
At a place like The Arsenal, you must take dessert seriously when you know Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac is in charge. Tiffany is responsible for all of the desserts at the Neighborhood Restaurant Group restaurants which include Birch & Barley and Churchkey, Buzz Bakery, Tallula, Vermilion, and more. The dessert menu at The Arsenal is straightforward with homemade pies and ice creams, but boy are they all done well. We ordered a slide of the sweet potato pie with a layer of cranberry as well as three scoops of ice cream: mint chip, toasted, marshmallow, and espresso fudge swirl. Each scoop of ice cream was served in a bowl lined with crushed graham cracker. Perfection.
The Arsenal at Bluejacket is currently only serving dinner, but they will expand to lunch and brunch in the upcoming months. The bar is open every day from 4PM-1AM. Bluejacket offers great beer, a sophisticated yet comfortable environment, a restaurant with warm and inventive food, and it makes for a fun destination. Be sure to add it to your list.