Late Nights and Bar Bites – Expanded hours and menu specials boost bar tabs

It’s midnight on a Friday in Washington, D.C., and luckily, Bar Pilar is open. Located on the white hot 14th Street corridor, the two-story local favorite has earned a reputation as one of the best places in the city to grab a late-night bite.

Since last summer, patrons have been able to order from the full menu from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. at both the downstairs and upstairs bars, as well as the dining room. (Before this move, guests could only order from a limited menu.) These expanded and constantly rotating offerings include everything from shareable small plates, such as roasted potatoes with malt aioli and beef empanadas, to entrées such as lard-fried buttermilk chicken. There’s a dual purpose behind the move: One, increase Bar Pilar’s overall dining receipts. Two, increase each check during an under-monetized daypart by enticing tipplers to become diners.

All across the country, full-service bars and restaurants are rolling out dining options for the midnight crowd. According to Technomic’s 2012 “Dinner and Late-Night Consumer Trend Report,” operators are developing “craveable” food options that might include smaller portions, shareable dishes, or mix ‘n’ match selections. All these tactics appeal to the Millennial customer base that congregates over food and drinks.

New York City’s A.G. Kitchen has fired up a late night “Five & Dime” menu that entices late-night, weekend traffic passing through the neighborhood, including concert-goers from nearby Beacon Theatre or the summertime show series in Central Park.

A selection of American and Latin comfort foods from executive chef Alex Garcia are priced either $5 or $10. Crab cake sliders, a Cubano sandwich, guacamole, and guava barbecue ribs are smaller portions or discounted versions of existing menu items. “It’s our greatest hits,” explains partner Spencer Rothschild. “It’s not the time of day to sit down and have a full meal, but you want something that’s tasty and flavorful.”

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Photo courtesy of A.G. Kitchen.

 

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Unpredictable Presentations

Plates are passé and bowls, boring.

That’s why chefs and mixologists are turning to unorthodox vessels that are as memorable and stunning as the foods they contain. Here are a few standout serving pieces now appearing at tables near you.

Branzino in a Cigar Box

Elisir chef-owner Enzo Fargione puts a personal spin on his dishware. Since he likes to unwind after a long day in the kitchen by smoking a stogie, Fargione decided to playfully reuse his cigar boxes as serving vessels for smoked branzino carpaccio ($17). Finely filleted fish sauced with a lemon-lime-orange dressing, roasted garlic chips, microgreens and a scattering of seasonal mushrooms are placed in the box, along with a few smoldering applewood chips. When the box is opened at the table minutes later, a puff of smoke emerges.

“It always surprises guests, even if they’ve had it before,” says Fargione. “It adds a sense of glamour to the meal.” Not only does the dish possess the slightly sweet, hazy flavor of the embers, but the smoke itself ends up picking up hints of citrus and fungi.

Elisir, 427 11th St. NW; 202-546-0088.

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