Overlooking the city from an upstairs vantage point in Adams Morgan, Roofers Union lays claim to a notably scenic and vibrant location in the D.C. area. Sporting a modern, almost minimalist interior design, the restaurant is adorned with wooden floorboards, iron table sets, warm lights hanging from the ceiling, and glass paneling all across the street-facing wall.
However, beyond the appealing restaurant design and location, Roofers Union doesn’t appear to have much more to bring to the table — no pun intended. In a word, between service and food quality, the whole experience tends to veer toward mediocrity.
It’s hard to feel like customers are getting the most bang for their buck when the waiters seem fairly apathetic to the restaurant and its food, or when the meals brought to your table lack substance, interesting flavor or texture dynamics. While I like dipping sauce or a pinch of salt as much as the next person, dousing seemingly bland foods with the same spice or sauces until they are swimming in the plates upon which they are served is not ideal.
Granted, American food is challenging because it tends to demand more attention in the seasoning department. But for a restaurant that has been bold enough to adopt American food as its specialty, Roofers Union struggles to match its ambition with an equally confident and successful menu.
Venturing over right before sunset to take advantage of one of the best views in the area, we began with the artichoke dip, with pretzel chips ($10) and the chicken wings, marinated in a Sriracha honey glaze ($8).
However, these selections served as a rather disappointing kickoff. The artichoke dip was a bit too heavy and surprisingly bland, leaning desperately on the top layer of cheese for flavor support. While the pretzel chips were a nice addition to this starter plate, they were also underwhelming, and seemed like they were intended more for functionality than taste or flavor appeal. These chips were nothing more than vessels for eating the dip, and were borderline, if not completely, stale. In the end, the dish fell apart because none of its components could stand on their own. The Sriracha chicken wings, on the other hand, had a lot more kick, but were completely drenched in the Sriracha-honey sauce, which was far too overpowering for the wings.
For the entrees, we tested out the grilled flatbread, topped with an eggplant ragu, tomato, pickled red onions, braised lamb, mint, charred scallion and fresh goat cheese ($15). Needless to say, the combination was bizarre. All of the contrasting flavors clashed with each other unfavorably and the whole dish seemed desperate. Perhaps this concoction was a little too adventurous, and would be better served with fewer ingredients, or as two separate flatbreads. We also tried out the hunter sausage, made with beef and pork, Dijon mustard, sauerkraut and served on a pretzel roll with hand cut fries. This dish was by far the best plate out of all the menu items we ordered, significantly less overwhelming but still not necessarily a winner.
The ambiance of Roofers Union is very laid-back and easygoing, and features live music on the weekends and wine night every Wednesday at 5 p.m. with half-priced bottles. Without a doubt, the view overlooking the brightly colored buildings lining 18th Street from the second floor was hard to beat, adding to the expansive, open space boasted by this restaurant and bar. However, the wait staff was overly nonchalant and dismissive at times, which contributed to the laid-back vibes, but also made for poor service.
Their brunch, on the other hand, offered every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., suggested promise, with classics like eggs benedict and more fun, adventurous options like doughnut holes.
With a California native who has trained with Top Chef finalists and other award-winning, internationally renowned chefs, the restaurant has just what it needs to take off and maximize its potential. It is nearly there, but requires more attention in the seasoning department and a better execution of the flavor dynamics.
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