From the couple that fed us wonderfully creative Latin-inspired dishes at PushStart Kitchen, this restaurant is their brick and mortar labor of love. With a name like Better Half, I thought it would be the perfect anniversary destination, however, those plans were derailed earlier this summer, so this was somewhat of a makeup dinner.
On our first visit to Better Half we were seated at a table in the back, beneath the playful mural. This time I was intent on sitting at the bar. Rather than facing shelves of liquor, the view from this bar is of the kitchen, where guests can watch and interact with chef and owner Zach Meloy while he and his sous chefs are preparing their meal.
Speaking of liquor, until recently, the restaurant didn’t have a liquor license. Guests were invited to bring their own alcoholic refreshments. Now they serve a small selection of craft beers and wine, along with a daily specialty cocktail, which was unfortunately sold out when we arrived. In lieu of champagne, I tried a glass of sparkling Argentinian chardonnay and LC uncharacteristically ordered a beer.
We decided on the black-eyed pea falafel for our first course. Served with ham hock, red onion caramel, and sorghum mayo, we enjoyed the flavors of these Southern ingredients transformed into this homey dish. Unfortunately, I found the exterior of the fritters hard to cut through.
Chef Meloy has a knack for reinventing ingredients, rendering each one unrecognizable…until you taste it. He plays with texture and shape, like the pureed black beans, and compressed pineapple that accompanied my crispy pork shoulder entree. The meat was prepared in two ways, a tender braised hunk and fried pieces formed into a crispy cube, served with charred onions, and feta.
The pork was fantastic, yet overshadowed by the spectacular griddled chicken dish that LC ordered. Flavored with bacon, the succulent chicken was served with white cheddar grits formed into squares, and pickled peaches, all atop a sweet fig puree. Amazing.
For dessert, Zach recommended the warm fried blueberry pie, with lavender ice cream, pomegranate jelly, and garnished with milk crumb for crunch…comfort food with a Southern accent.
At the end of a meal at PushStart Kitchen, the Meloys always served coconut candies that Cristina had made. They continue that sweet tradition of hospitality at Better Half.
349 14th Street NW 404-695-4547