Image: Saffron Moules Frites
Last Updated: 6/5/2020
Current Status: The Sovereign has combined forces with other elements of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group to create a single outlet for take-out and delivery drawing from many of the restaurants and most importantly making Bluejacket beer available. You can also dip into Churchkey’s collection.
Gift Cards – redeemable at all NRG restaurants.
Before Times Review:
Last Visit: February 2020
The Sovereign is part of a local restaurant conglomerate that includes places like Birch & Barley/Churchkey and Bluejacket, which is to say beer is important here. The focus is on Belgian-style brews. The food is also Belgian from a menu constructed by a very talented chef, Peter Smith. If either quality beer or quality food appeals to you, then we recommend you pay them a visit.
Let’s start with the beer. The draft list is several dozen deep, organized into broad categories with detailed descriptors under each beer. If you are a beer nerd, you will find treasures. If you are a mere beer drinker, you can explore with confidence. There is also a longer bottle list. The list was crafted under the guidance of Beer Director for the group, Greg Engert. One of the great developments in D.C. is the growth of a beer culture. Led by the Pizzeria Paradiso and its progeny (e.g.,Thor Cheston at Right Proper), Engert, and the microbreweries (DC Brau, Atlas, 3 Stars, etc…), they have carved out something special. At The Sovereign, it may leave a sour taste in your mouth — on purpose.
The food includes mussels and frites, as you would expect. The mussels are big, the flatbeads are thin and crispy. The mains include elements that work well with the beer – rabbit in kriek, pork chop (a tad over-cooked) matched with mustard and sauerkraut, skate with orange-cider crème, and duck confit with Pernod-braised fennel. Chef Smith made his mark with New American at the since-shuttered PS7s, and carried over some of its touch to the more stout Belgian recipes. (Note: last visit the menu no longer named Smith as the Executive Chef, but the menu remains the one he created).
The restaurant is found down an alleyway a half-block north of M, off of Wisconsin. The space is constructed out of Champions, a long-time Georgetown bar that shuttered with the rest of the St. Elmo’s Fire legacies. Cute lanterns now light the way for Men in Motion who now have flecks of gray. Inside it is dark wood and dim lighting. The dining room and one bar is a few steps down from the entrance. Upstairs is a second more casual bar area with big communal tables and a long bar against one wall. Downstairs tends to be a slightly more mature crowd, but neither spot would be confused with a college bar. Service is generally good, though there are hiccups from time to time. One thing they do well is navigate the beer list.
The Sovereign fits a niche. It’s a stout, sudsy spot that may not work every night, but when you are in the mood it works quite well.
Rating: Worth Taking a Walk
Address: 1206 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007 (down the alley)
Reservations: Resy; Opentable
Washington Post: Tim Carman’s generally positive take.
Washingtonian: Preview from 2016