Red Derby has the be one of the tastiest and most affordable, most laid back brunch spots in DC, yet you’ve probably never heard of it. I hadn’t heard of it either until The Rival wrote a story about it. The Red Derby is definitely one of DC’s best kept secrets. I’m letting the secret out because it’s too good to keep to myself, especially when there are so many brunch spots that try too hard and charge way too much for their morning fare.
A red hat above the door lets you know you’re at the right place. When you step into a dive bar with few customers and no tables, you’ll wonder if this is really the place I sent you to, but follow the stairs up to the roof-top deck and you will be rewarded. The day I came here for breakfast (I’ll call it that because it’s less pretentious than brunch) was one of the last few warm pre-fall days we had in DC. It was beautiful for dining outside. The roof is simple-made-chic with several shrubberies and has a lovely view of off-the-beaten-path Columbia Heights.
The food menu is very affordable, with meals and sides going for $2-$11. If you’re an alcoholic, you can get your fix of Mimosas, Bloody Marys, Screwdrivers and Harvey Wallbangers for $3 a glass. Water and coffee are self-serve, adding to the grit of The Red Derby.
The meal started out with yummy rolls and butter.
I got the Derby Breakfast Bowl ($9 with bacon or sausage) as my entree and it was AMAZING!! The meal consisted of a pile of tater tots topped with scrambled eggs, cheese, tomatoes and onions. The concept couldn’t be any simpler, but the dish also could not have been any better. I got bacon on mine and my boyfriend topped his with sausage (pictured). The dish was so good! The tots (although probably store-bought judging by the price) were crisped to perfection. The eggs were light and fluffy and made this a breakfast item instead of an insanely hearty snack. The tomatoes were incredibly flavorful, kind of like a mild salsa; I wish there had been more of them on the dish. The cheese nicely pulled everything together. I’m drooling just reminiscing about this meal…
Despite my comment about the drinks, I am neither an alcoholic nor a fan of drinks with brunch, but the insane prices got me. I decided to try a Harvey Wallbanger ($3) because the name was intriguing and I don’t like mimosas (this should illustrate how much I don’t like the taste of alcohol). The recipe for a Harvey Wallbanger calls for vodka, Galliano (“a sweet herbal liqueur”) and orange juice. Why did I think that sounded like a good idea? I did not enjoy the drink at all. Vodka with breakfast? Gross. The OJ was for sure made from concentrate too. I suppose I was striving for the American dream of partying until the sun comes up and arriving to brunch in last night’s dress and having a drink to put off the hangover. No part of that story had anything to do with how I ended up at brunch. I’ll just have to face the fact that I’m not a mimosa girl. Guess that means I have more room in the budget for food.
Despite the cocktail faux pas, I loved The Red Derby. So many places that serve brunch in DC try too hard. The Red Derby doesn’t. They keep it simple and serve amazing food at good prices. Tonic has some competition with those tots… I will definitely be back.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
3710 14th St NW (Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant)
Washington, DC 20010