Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Green Zone (Washington, DC)

The Green Zone Bar
2226 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
Thu 01/25/2024, 08:00p-10:30p

The Green Zone Exterior

You might recall that during my last trip to DC, I enjoyed a great Mideast cuisine meal at Michael Rafidi's Albi. Now the cocktails there were also quite delicious, and it turns out they were originally the creation of Chris Francke, so I decided to pay his cocktail bar The Green Zone (المنطقة الخضراء) a visit on my latest outing to the District.

About the Bartender: Chris Hassaan Francke is a Washington area native of Iraqi-German descent, and graduated from Johns Hopkins with a bachelor's in international relations (c/o '07) as well as a master's in international economics and Middle East studies (c/o '10), and it was during grad school where he really fell in love with bartending. Following completion of his degree, he worked as an economic analyst for the Arab region, and was actually employed by the World Bank starting in November 2011.

In May 2014, while still at the World Bank, he launched The Green Zone (named after the International Zone of Baghdad) as a pan-Middle Eastern-inspired nomadic cocktail experience, following some months running the project out of his apartment. After four years of popping up at various locations around DC (Francke left his post at the World Bank in June 2017), the permanent version of The Green Zone officially opened on July 26th, 2018, and has generally been well-received since then.

The Green Zone Interior - Upstairs
The Green Zone resides in a two-story building in Adams Morgan that was previously home to Rendezvous Lounge/MiG Bar. Upstairs is louder and rowdier...

The Green Zone Interior - Downstairs
...While the downstairs is more relaxed, more intimate, and is where I sat.

The Green Zone - Bar View
Pictured above is the view from my seat the bar.

Click here for the menu, which lists a pretty large array of Middle Eastern-leaning cocktails as well as a nice selection of non-alcoholic beverages, not to mention beers, wines, and an impressive spirits list (with a particular focus on rum). In terms of food, think casual, theme-appropriate Arabic fare.

بعض الأشياء المفضلة A Few of my Favorite Things
بعض الأشياء المفضلة A Few of my Favorite Things [$17.00] | Arabs’ Favorites, That is. Ramallah Arak, Compass Box Artist Blend Scotch, Lemon, Honey, Nostalgia. Middle East AF
I was able to sample six cocktails, and my first really highlighted the licorice-y zing of anise, set against citrus and the heft of the whisky, with drink's honeyed backbone working to soften everything.

كبة حلب Kubbat Halab
كبة حلب Kubbat Halab [$10.00] | Oddly-Named Iraqi Kibbeh with Halal Beef in a Crunchy Rice Shell (2 per order)
I believe that this was my first time having kubba halab, which is a damn shame, because the fritters were super tasty. They were delectably spiced, with a real warmth, and I was a big fan of the footballs' thin, crisp, toasty exteriors, too.

لبنانية نمرة ١ Lebanese No. 1
لبنانية نمرة ١ Lebanese No. 1 [$17.00] | The Legend, Uniquely Delicious - Maison Rouge Cognac VSOP, Apricot, Lemon, Exotic Stuff
My second cocktail showed off loads of pungent citrus, supported by elements of stone fruit, but the big surprise was how well the cognac integrated.

سندويچ گص العراقي Iraqi Guss Sandwich
سندويچ گص العراقي Iraqi Guss Sandwich [$15.00] | Iraq’s Answer to Shawarma - Marinated, Roasted, Juicy Halal Beef and Lamb Slices with Tomatoes in Homemade Sammoun Bread with Pickles on the Side (Limited!)
Cuts of smoky, well-seared meat conveyed a bevy of wonderfully warm spices, which made a whole bunch of sense with the brightness from the tomatoes, raw onions, and two types of pickles. It was a rather gratifying combination, though I will say that the samoon was a bit tougher than I was hoping for.

!أنيك ترامپ وخرا عليه FUCK TRUMP! Punch
!أنيك ترامپ وخرا عليه FUCK TRUMP! Punch [$17.00] | May He Disappear from History and Never Return! Furious Arab-Mexican Resistance Fusion - Rum, Ilegal Mezcal, Vimto, Lemon
Given my penchant for punch, this cocktail certainly beckoned to me. It was all about rich, dark fruits and sweet spices, and interestingly enough, had a creeping "yogurty" character along with a marked bitterness, while the finish was distinctly rum-driven.

بورگ جبن Cheese Boureg
بورگ جبن Cheese Boureg [$9.00] | AKA Sigara Böreği or Rkakat Jibne. Crispy Fillo Rolls Filled with Cheese and Parsley (2 per order)
The börek featured delightfully salty, cheesy interiors juxtaposed against toasty, crispy outsides.

سازعراق Saz'iraq
سازعراق Saz'iraq [$17.00] | The Green Zone Classic. Catoctin Rye, Dates, Arabian and Peychaud’s Bitters
This riff on the classic Sazerac was undoubtedly the booziest cocktail of the night. I found it aggressively citrusy on the nose, but on the palate, the drink went in an unquestionably thick, rich direction, with dark fruits all over the place, complemented by loads of caramel and an offsetting bitterness. Nice!

Arabic Bread
حمص بطحينة Hummus bi Tahina
حمص بطحينة Hummus bi Tahina [$10.00 + $6.00] | The Classic - Super Smooth + Mediterranean Pine Nuts Toasted in Clarified Butter
I felt the need to give the hommus a go, and it did not disappoint. The crux here really was the use of those pine nuts, which imparted this wonderfully nutty warmth to the dip that I reveled in. An apt match to that floppy flatbread.

قلوبنا الشائكة والصبورة Our Prickly Patient Hearts
قلوبنا الشائكة والصبورة Our Prickly Patient Hearts [$17.00] | “Prickly” for the Fruit Named “Hearts” by the Aztecs, plus “Patient” for the Palestinians Waiting to Return. Prickly Pear, Reposado Tequila, Cinnamon, Citrus, and Bubbles
I do appreciate the bubbly stuff, hence this next cocktail, which effectively combined the sweetness of prickly pear with the unmistakable spiciness of cinnamon, the agave lending a palpable heft to the drink.

مناقيش على الصاج Saj Mana'ish – Combo with Kishk/Awarma
مناقيش على الصاج Saj Mana'ish – Combo with Kishk/Awarma [$14.00]
I was curious about the manakish, and it turned out to be the more uncommon folded preparation. The key here was interplay between the heady, sweetly-spiced, almost nutty lamb and the relatively milder flavors of the kashk, with everything tempered by the flatbread.

سياه ترك Turc Noir
سياه ترك Turc Noir [$17.00] | The Very First GZ Cocktail - Turkish Coffee in a Glass - Just Don’t Call it an Espresso Martini! Bosnian Brandy, Lyon Coffee Rum Liqueur, Turkish Coffee, Köpük (Foam)
My final cocktail was certainly on the dessert-y side, and did a great job melding elements of smoke, coffee, citrus, dark fruit, and savory spice into a cohesive, easy-going package.

قره كوى گللى اوغلى فستقلى باقلاوه Karaköy Güllüoğlu Pistachio Baklava
قره كوى گللى اوغلى فستقلى باقلاوه Karaköy Güllüoğlu Pistachio Baklava [$8.00] | Direct from Istanbul - the best there is!
I ended with the baklava, which was indeed the best I've had thanks to its spot-on marriage of flaky filo with the pastry's soft, nutty, honeyed interior. Yum.

I'd been wanting to try The Green Zone for a while now, and I'm happy that I finally made it out here. In fact, I'm pretty sure that these were the best Mideast-inspired cocktails I've had, and I was a fan of the food as well. This is yet another spot that came highly recommended to me by a number of industry folk here in DC, and again, I can definitely see why.


Blogger CW said...

Fuck Bush I or II seems much more fitting for an Iraqi place, but ok lol

Sunday, April 07, 2024 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Indeed, though I imagine that much of The Green Zone's younger customer base might not have enough of an understanding of the Gulf War/Iraq War to appreciate such nuance.

And interestingly, after doing a bit of research, I discovered that the drink was actually a variation of a "Fuck ISIS! Punch" from 2014, when the bar was still running as a pop-up. It was subsequently renamed in Trump's honor ahead of the 2016 election.

Monday, April 08, 2024 2:54:00 AM  

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