For those of you that know me, this one will come as no surprise (like zero). If I’m out with friends and anywhere remotely near my go-to 14th Street, it’s a pretty safe assumption that you’ll eventually find me on the Pearl Dive patio. How safe of an assumption? Let’s just say when I walk up to the bar, the bartenders knowingly smirk and ask, “The usual?” What can I say? I’m a creature of habit, and, while I love discovering and trying out new places in the city, a part of me likes to stick to what I know works. And Pearl Dive works. Whether you’re there for dinner in the dining room, oysters at the bar, or drinks on the patio, this place just nails it. Every time.
It started on a random Saturday night last fall. I was out with my friend Michelle, and we randomly ventured over to Pearl Dive to meet up with some hockey friends of hers. I was skeptical because I knew the bar area was relatively small, and I had never really thought of it as a nighttime drinks destination. I couldn’t have been more wrong. While it was pretty packed, the vibe and crowd there were so fun – we easily found a spot to post up near our friends, and the close quarters were actually super amenable to making new ones. It was such a fun night that we decided to repeat it the next weekend, this time when my dad was in town for Thanksgiving.
Dino (my dad – the man, the myth, the legend) loves a good oyster shooter, so after tapas and wine at Barcelona (also a fave), a bunch of us walked over to Pearl Dive for after-dinner drinks. Dino immediately befriended the bartenders (obviously) and ordered a round of oyster shooters and drinks. My friend Courtney quickly decided on one of Pearl Dive’s signature cocktails called the C’est Si Bon – a pinky concoction made of Tito’s vodka, lemon, lime and house cassis, and served in a mason jar – and strongly urged that I try one too. “C’est si bon” in French translates to “it’s so good,” and, well, it IS SO GOOD. It’s reminiscent of pink lemonade, but better, and it goes down entirely too easily (consider that your warning. Seriously.). And, thus, my new “usual” was born (thanks, Court).
Even Dino was a Pearl Dive fan, so much so that we went back a couple nights later at his request, this time for dinner. After chatting with his new bartender besties from earlier in the week (typical) and ordering drinks (a C’est Si Bon for me, clearly), we snagged a booth in the dining room with no wait. We’re huge oyster fans, so we pretty much ended up picking an assortment and making a meal of them. After all, Dino’s motto is “Can’t decide? Get them all.” And we kinda did. Our awesome server recommended a few types of raw oysters for us to try, and we added on the Tchoupitoulas and Rockefeller hot oyster plates as well. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these were some of the best oysters I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some oysters. They were so fresh and each type had its own unique flavor and texture. Plus they serve them with a few different sauces and actual saltine crackers (because, while I love oysters, they’re also just a vehicle for a cracker). And the hot plate oysters – uh-mazing. The Tchoupitoulas (oysters confit with blue crab, tasso ham, and roasted corn) were bursting with so much flavor, and the Oysters Rockefeller (broiled oysters with spinach, bacon and aioli) were better than any other version of that classic that I’ve had in the past. The freshness of the ingredients really made all the difference; we were beyond impressed. We also ordered the Addie’s Mussels, primarily because the table next to us ordered them and they just smelled so good (they tasted even better). Yes, shellfish overload (and food overload in general). But it was a holiday weekend, so calories didn’t count, right? Don’t answer that.
After frequenting Pearl Dive for drinks throughout winter, I finally experienced their brunch with my friend Brittney one Sunday this spring. We split some of the amazing oysters, and then ordered salads and a side of fries. I’m picky about fries (I mean, let’s be real, I’ll eat any fries that are in front of me, but I have a thing for good seasoning and unique flavoring), and these were fantastic. I was trying to keep it healthy with my Baby Kale Salad (which was delicious, btw), but I just couldn’t stop eating the fries. The server was, once again, great – attentive while also letting us take our time and chat for a couple hours.
I’ve gone back countless times since those first visits, and I’ve never been disappointed. It’s become the closest thing to a “Cheers” for me in DC – it’s comfortable, it’s sure-fire, and, well, the bartenders are awesome, fun and know my drink order. Pearl Dive also has a really great happy hour, and they even do an amazing Monday Oyster Mania special where oysters are half price and all hot oyster appetizers only $6! Yet another reason I love this place. Seriously, just stick me on that patio with some sunshine, oysters and a C’est Si Bon, and this girl is a happy camper.
I know Pearl Dive is nothing new and has been a staple in DC for a few years, but – new or not – it’s nonetheless one of my top P2P Picks. This place has proved it has staying power, and that’s something to be celebrated in a city quickly becoming a foodie destination with new restaurant concepts popping up all around it. If you’ve never been, are new in town, or are just planning to visit, definitely put Pearl Dive on your list. If you’re a fellow DC-er and it’s just been a while, consider this a reminder of how great it is and stop back by soon, whether it’s for dinner or just drinks. Now that I’ve got Politics to Pastries up and running, I guess it’s sort of necessary that I head there ASAP to finally sample their wide array of dessert options, right? As if I needed another reason to go. I mean, twist my arm – just don’t spill my C’est Si Bon in the process.
Patio photo courtesy of SouthernLiving.com