NICK BIGGS FOR THE HOYA The restaurant Tonic serves up a solid brunch for a great price in a historic venue. The much-lauded tater tots are worth a try.
NICK BIGGS FOR THE HOYA
The restaurant Tonic serves up a solid brunch for a great price in a historic venue. The much-lauded tater tots are worth a try.

Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy
2036 G St. NW
★★★★☆
$$

When one of my high school friends happened to be in Washington, D.C. last Sunday, a few of us who go to Georgetown decided to catch up over a sit-down brunch. We settled on a restaurant in Foggy Bottom called Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy because the menu looked good, reviews were positive and the food was not very expensive.

Tonic’s historic setting was also an attraction. The original pharmacy was opened by Lucien Quigley in 1891, who had graduated from The George Washington University with a degree in pharmacy science. Quigley’s was a typical old-school pharmacy and soda fountain that served the community by filling the prescriptions of local residents and serving as a social-gathering spot for GWU students. Tonic Restaurant took over the building in 2007 but retained much of the decor of a traditional pharmacy. From the outside still bearing a “Quigley’s Pharmacy” sign, to the dark-wood and brick interior and old-fashioned menus,  it all feels very vintage.

It is worth noting that Tonic’s brunch is not a buffet, so it differs from the typical all-you-can-eat champagne Sunday brunch experience. That said, the a la carte portion sizes are easily large enough to fill anyone up. The menu also features several side options and typical “Brunchtails,” such as bloody marys and mimosas.

We arrived a bit early for our 11:30 a.m. reservation but were greeted warmly and seated immediately at one of the few open tables in the upstairs area. Our server was very friendly and pleasant, although seemingly a bit inexperienced, as he struggled to remember our order and dropped our credit cards, which led to a slight payment mix-up at the end. It took a while for our food to reach the table as the kitchen was apparently much busier than usual due to a private event. That said, my friends and I enjoyed the extra time to see each other, and I want to emphasize the affability of the staff in the rest of their service and in apologizing for that delay.

I ordered a coffee, which included bottomless free refills. It was a typical cup of drip coffee, but very smooth and not at all bitter, so I enjoyed three cups of it. My older friend decided to try the bacon bloody ($8.50), which is a bloody mary garnished with two pieces of bacon. She said the bacon was the best part, thick and crispy and infused with the drink’s tomato flavor. She did complain that the cocktail itself was too peppery and didn’t finish all of it.
To eat, I ordered the biscuits & gravy dish ($12). The dish comes with eggs of any style, so I opted for sunny side up. The oozy eggs mixed with thick sausage gravy and doughy biscuits to create a nice and messy mixture of breakfast tastes. I enjoyed the different flavors of thick, soft biscuits, savory gravy and eggs. I managed to eat my entire dish, but I was very full after. I was very satisfied with the taste, size and value.

I made sure to choose tater tots as my side, as I had read rave reviews about them online and my friend’s parents had said that tater tots at Tonic are the best they had ever had. I was actually disappointed, as I honestly thought they tasted the same as any frozen ones I could make at home. However, my friends all agreed that they were incredible, so I would recommend diners to choose the famous tater tots as a side option so that they may decide for themselves whether or not the hype is justified.

Another notable item that one of my friends ordered was the foboyo parfait ($10). Unlike a typical parfait that is served in a cup, this dish was delivered as a large plate of granola with a smaller bowl of yogurt and a few berries on top in the middle. The presentation was very impressive, both for the clean arrangement of yogurt in the middle of a round plate of granola, and because the dish was by far the most granola I have ever seen in one helping of parfait.

She described the granola as being sweet, crunchy and quite good, although it apparently “did not taste homemade.” Enjoying her side of tater tots, she finished at most half of the dish, so the size was excessive.

Tonic was a very enjoyable place to have Sunday brunch. The setting, service and good prices were slightly more memorable than the food, although we still had good things to say about that as well. Foggy Bottom is a little bit of a trek for Georgetown students, but Tonic is definitely more casual — and probably friendlier — than any equivalent establishments in Georgetown.

While you won’t gorge yourself at a buffet, the menu items provide filling breakfast and lunch dishes that offer better size and quality than a quick diner breakfast and better prices than a fancy Sunday brunch. With a range from French toast to bagels and lox to blackened salmon Caesar, as well as the cocktail options, the menu offers something for everyone. As a bonus, it all comes at a very reasonable price, which is always nice to find in the city.

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