To say that anticipation has been high for the opening of Bluejacket, the newest D.C. brewery and restaurant from Neighborhood Restaurant Group, would be the understatement of the year.
The Arsenal, which NRG revealed this week as the name of the restaurant and bar within the brewery, will open next Tuesday, the culmination of several years of planning.
The project has been under construction for more than a year, but it's been kicking around in the minds of NRG beer director Greg Engert and founder Michael Babin since shortly after Engert joined the company in 2006. For more than a year, Engert and brewmaster Megan Parisi have been teasing Washington's beer lovers with signature collaboration beers brewed in other breweries.
The team at Bluejacket has been brewing in a building at The Yards in Southeast D.C. for months, which allowed it to roll out 12 of the brand's own beers at a preview event Wednesday night. As we've covered before, the brewery has the capacity to brew a ridiculous number of beers; the brewing facility has 19 fermentation vessels and can thus be working on 19 different beers at once.
In giving the brewery's restaurant its own name, The Arsenal, NRG also seems to be telling customers not to only consider the food as ancillary to the beer. Chef Kyle Bailey said before the preview that he likes the name because it suggests something strong — as in the beer and the food will be strong at The Arsenal.
Bailey's menu is one of upscale beer hall food: there are chicken wings, but there are also fried pig tails in a buffalo-esque sauce. There are ribs, but there is also beef heart tartare. The "juicy lucy" burger is a staple, but the entrees also feature a rotisserie half chicken and a seared whole fish.
Babin is happy to see Bluejacket, which has been in the works for so long, come to fruition, he said Wednesday.
"I'm exhausted but I'm excited," he said. "This is a special project for us and I couldn't be more thrilled. I think this will be great for D.C., but nationally, I think people are really going to be taking note of Bluejacket.
Babin may be tired, but he won't have too much down time, with more restaurant openings coming from NRG in the coming weeks. The company expects to open Iron Gate restaurant in Dupont Circle in the next couple of weeks, which should be followed by another location of Red Apron Butchery in Penn Quarter shortly after.
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