On a freezing cold Friday night (Mother Nature has been PMSing hardcore these past few months in DC), I met up with my old coworker, Johanna, and her roommate, Cate, at Compass Rose for dinner and drinks. Located right off of 14th street on T, this tiny spot opened in April 2014 with an international street food- inspired menu. At first, I was hesitant about a place that was going to attempt numerous types of cuisine, and wanted to roll my eyes at yet another small plates restaurant, but the reviews have been consistently positive and people seemed to only have good things to say about it. I went for the first time about six months to get cocktails on a Friday night and ended up loving the chill, homey vibe of the tiny bar on the first floor. The space is cozy and informal, and I really appreciate a bar with good lighting. The lighting here is dim, but not too dark where I have no idea what I am about to put into my mouth (try to avoid doing that whenever possible).
Cate, Johanna and I planned to meet around 8pm on this Friday night. The restaurant does not take reservations so I assumed there would be a slight wait, however I was shocked when Johanna texted me to tell me they had arrived a few minutes earlier and put our names down for the 2.5 hour wait. Two and a half hours?? When I heard that, I immediately disliked all the people who head out to 14th street on a weekend night, even though I am fully aware I am one of those people. I guess I just dislike everyone who stands in my way of eating as soon as possible. Two and and a half hours seemed like an eternity on this cold night so before heading out, I made sure to make myself a snack.
Luckily by the time I got there, Johanna and Cate managed to grab some seats at the bar. We snagged a third seat and I quickly order a whiskey drink from the quirky bartenders. I love bourbon so I went with the “Tea Time in Trafalgar Square,” which had Old Overholt, bitters, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white. The cocktail was light, refreshing and strong (I sipped on this drink for two hours and still felt sufficiently buzzed by the time we left). Johanna updated on me on her most recent tinder adventures, which included a guy who wanted to get a dog with her after three weeks and Cate talked about her hilarious misadventures such as the time she went home with a guy who had leopard print sheets. Nothing brings girls together quite like sharing ridiculous stories about the opposite sex.
We decided that we would just order food and eat at the bar since we had plenty of space and the bar stools are incredibly comfortable. We of course had to to get the khachapuri, a dish from Georgia, that people always seem to reference when Compass Rose comes up. When this arrived, we understood why. The khachapuri is a must order. It is basically hot flat bread with a pocket filled in the center with butter, a sunny egg and white cheese. This tasted so satisfying and decadent despite the simple ingredients. The next time I come here, I want one all to myself (even though one was plenty to share with two other girls). It is a good thing to note that the kitchen serves this dish on its late night menu, and it would probably be an amazing drunk dish after a few drinks.
Because we don’t want scurvy, we decided to get one vegetable dish as well: the roasted brussels sprouts with prosciutto. This was buttery and overall a solid choice. We also got the “Mixed Grill” meat plate which came with grilled grass-fed beef and roasted quail along with grilled vegetables. This also came with a side, and based on the bartender’s recommendation, we went with the slaw. The meat plate was good, and I liked it but did not love it. The plate included a large amount of roasted garlic cloves, which I wanted to shove into my mouth but since we wanted to bar hop around afterward I thought maybe that would be wiser to skip the garlic just this once. The vegetables were good. The meat was also very decent, but I can’t say it was outstanding or particularly memorable. I think the next time I will go with a more intricate or involved dish.
We were the perfect amount of full after these three dishes: satisfied enough to keep drinking but not too full where your eyes start getting heavy and you’re fantasizing about under your duvet as someone is trying to make conversation with you. However, we realized that these barstools are so wonderfully comfortable and our buzz was subtle enough that if we did not keep it moving we would probably lose our motivation to make it a late night. After dinner, we went across the street to Policy and I was instantly reminded of why I haven’t been to Policy in four years. As I paid for our round, I turned to Cate and asked, “… I should close out right?” Both Johanna and Cate looked at me and responded, “Absolutely.” We finished these drinks off fairly quickly (easy to do when the place smells like a potent combination of soy sauce, ketchup and bad cologne) and headed around the corner to 2birds which is becoming my new favorite go-to spot on 14th. The drinks are great here, you don’t see as many drunk kids trying to start a dance party (go across the street to Masa if you need that in your life), and if it is crowded, it manages to clear out fairly quickly. I got a Manhattan which tasted perfect. The khachapuri had provided a great base for alcohol but after my one drink here, I started to really feel the buzz. It had been a great night with an old and a new friend and I was ready for bed.
I would like to return to Compass Rose on Saturday nights for their house party which just started in February. Obviously I will fill my stomach with some cheesy butter bread beforehand because who wants to dance on an empty stomach?