St. Anselm

Image: Salmon Collar will change your perspective on life.

Last Updated: 7/25/2021

Current Status: St. Anselm is outdoor and indoor seating available.  They are open seven days a week for dinner, plus brunch on the weekend. The website says they do pickup, but there is no online option.

Gift Cards – good at Starr restaurants, including Le Diplomate.

Before Times Review:

Last Visited: August 2019

This site is philosophically opposed to the opening of a new steakhouse in D.C.  It takes something special to make an exception to that categorical, nearly Kantian position.  St. Anslem has one primary reason that we set aside our reservations and make reservations:  Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley.  Like a handful of other chefs who have planted roots in D.C., she has brought energy and interest to the places where she has stopped (Ripple, Roofer’s Union, and her own Smoked and Stacked).  As a culinary theme its owners may have chosen the road most taken, but Meek-Bradley makes it unique enough to make all the difference.

There are steaks on the menu, but there is so much more (a secondary reason we make an exception).  You could eat there several times and not touch the steaks.  You could go pescatarian or even vegetarian and have a complete and interesting meal.  Veggies go beyond the staples – cauliflower with tahini and puffed amaranth, cucumber with whipped feta.  Its first winter, the butternut squash salad with beets was a standout.  The biscuits with soft pimento cheese is the dish people speak of with light in their eyes.  The steaks are good.  The NY Strip came with a rich peppercorn sauce that added flavor, did not overwhelm the meat, and made it sing with the wine pairing.  The lamb and the fish dishes tried so far have also been excellent.  A friend having both the steak and the mackerel in front of her, kept going back to have more of the fish.   The otherwise disposable collar cut of salmon is now essential dining in D.C.  The dishes are also modestly priced for a steakhouse, with all dishes coming in under $50 (except for the big T-bone and Rack of Lamb for two).  Make no mistake, this is hearty fare, but it is interesting and varied.

The wine list is a treasure and runs more than 50 pages.  It dips deep into traditional regions, but has something interesting from nearly everywhere.   On a 2018 visit, it was a Nebbiolo from Mexico.  On a more recent visit, we were steered to a native Portuguese red grape, Baga, that was earthy and sharpness giving way to fruit.  It worked with both the peppercorn sauce and the chocolate tart (not at the same time).  They also decided to go big on Sherry and Madeira under then wine director Erik Segelbaum.  Most importantly the mark-ups are modest. There are great wines under $100 and great bargains among some of the wines over $100.

The staff seem very happy to be there – many of them having escaped more intense fine-dining establishments. A few weeks into opening, the crowd was two-deep at the bar, and it remains bustling a year later.  It is amazing what Uber can do for out-of-the-way places!  The décor is Americana in a distorted Marty McFly way, and the soundtrack is a Pandora version of 1983 rock radio.  The traveling horde of Gen X and Gen Y looking for the next cool thing have found a home.

Other Guidance:  Staff wear jeans and t-shirts.  You can dress more formally than they do, but there is no pressure.  As noted, vegetarians can do well despite the steakhouse theme.  GF also have many options.

Rating: Worth Paying for Cab Fare
Cuisine: New or Old American
Neighborhood: Union Market
Address: 1250 5th St NE, Washington, DC 20002
Reservations: Opentable

Other Critics/Voices:

Washington Post: Tom gave it 3.0 stars.  See also his positive First bite.  On this we agree.

Washingtonian: #24 in 2020; #26 in 2019. Preview

Lori: “This is a luxury meal that isn’t priced sky-high, so you may find yourself over-ordering extra sides and salads. Or is that just me?”

Rick: Also a fan. #1 in his Spring 2019 Top 25 Restaurant list.