Experience the best of the Chesapeake region at this iconic DC eatery.
Growing up in Maryland, I experienced the beauty of summer bounty that the Chesapeake region provides. From sweet corn and cantaloupe, to blue crab and juicy tomatoes – summer is by far the best season for cooking. Chef Adam Howard is bringing all of these seasonal ingredients together for an incredible experience at Blue Duck Tavern.
Revel in the wonder of chilled sweet corn soup with jumbo lump crab; taste the true flavor of a ripe tomato in his tomato salad; and finally get your hands on some authentic fried okra done the right way – no slime!
Beyond keeping things regional and seasonal, Chef Howard is using international cooking staples in an innovative way to create vegetarian versions of meat-heavy Southern classics. No stranger to southern fare, Howard is a native of Pell City, Alabama. He learned southern cooking from his grandmother. “My grandparents lived on a big lake and they had a big farm, and all the kinds of classic stuff you picture,” he says. “They made all their stuff fresh and picked all their own vegetables.”
As more consumers move to plant-based diets, Howard’s intention is to create dishes using palatable ingredients which achieve the same flavor profile as their meat counterparts. Keeping the depth and texture in the Braised Collard Greens with white soy and shiro-dashi potlicker, he uses umami rich ingredients such as Misho Yusen Vinegar, white soy and shiro dashi to mimic the ham hock flavor found in traditional collard greens. In the Baby Gem Salad with walnut, Parmesan, radishes, green strawberry and sourdough, Howard uses dulse seaweed as a replacement for savory bacon. For the Vegetable Pot Pie with heirloom spring vegetables and herb salad, he uses a savory vegetable nage made with dry mushrooms, Absinthe, and roasted aromatic vegetables as a base in the place of a chicken broth creating a creamy essence to the popular southern meal.
Howard is an extremely thoughtful chef with mind blowing skills, who realizes the importance of locality and seasonality, while also leaning into current trends of plant based diets without sacrificing flavor.
Check out some of my current favorite dishes on the summer menu below.
Definitely start with the chilled crab-corn chowder. Sweet and supple corn soup is adorned with lime crema, puffed sorghum and brown butter.
The green garlic cavatelli with charred corn succotash, and smoked pecorino is toothsome and sour. Highlighting the growing popularity of green garlic, this dish is completely addicting. I recommend ordering one all to yourself.
Another local trend that I am not mad about at all is the take on Nashville hot chicken, but with soft shell crabs. Chef Howard combines his version with herby mayo, fermented collards, white bread and tomato. Fantastic.
The dark horse menu item is the boudin rouge with beans, pickled egg and salsa verde. Blood sausage (boudin) ain’t scary ya’ll – eat it! I kept finding myself going back for another spoonful of this comfort dish.
Are hand salads still a thing? If so, Chef Howard nailed it with his baby gem lettuce and watermelon salad topped with charred avocado dressing, Parmesan and pistachios. Crunchy and refreshing, it’s a solid choice. Yes, you can eat the flowers.
Do NOT skip over the okra and pig ears. Forget what you know about slimy okra, this okra is tender and the pig ears are crispy crunchy with the option of garlicky green goddess dressing for dipping. I am completely obsessed.
Sustainable you say? You betcha. Chef Howard’s team is utilizing parts of animals that would typically go by the wayside. Because of it, I hope these duck wings with Alabama white sauce, and celery heart carrot salad becomes the hottest new restaurant trend. Why? 1. Duck wings are bigger. 2. Duck wings are crispier. 3. ALABAMA WHITE SAUCE. You’re welcome.
The corn semifreddo dessert with pickled cherries and a cherry pit sunflower seed tuile is easily best dessert of the season. Corn desserts should be featured as much as possible in the summer if you ask me. And as soon as I tasted this wizardry, I went home and pickled the remaining cherries in my fridge. Worth it. It combines memories of ice cream on the boardwalk in Ocean City, MD with pit stops at local farm stands along the Eastern Shore on the way home. What’s better than that?
So get yourself into Blue Duck before the season is over, you’ll be happy you did.
1201 24th St NW,
Washington, DC 20037
Mon-Sun. 6:30am – 10:30am
Sat & Sun. 11:00am – 2:30pm
Mon-Fri. 11:30am – 2:30pm
Sun-Thu. 5:30pm – 10:30pm
Fri & Sat. 5:30pm – 11:00pm
Reservations are strongly encouraged.