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Allegory’s Debut Food Menu Balances Caviar on Pringles

The high-meets-lowbrow lineup also includes Hidden Valley Ranch popcorn and marble potato confit

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A “cavi-back” pairs caviar on a single Pringle with Ketel One vodka ($12) at Allegory.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Now that Eaton DC’s year-old hotel bar Allegory has its sea legs, the windowless drinking den curiously tucked behind the lobby’s library wall is ready to unleash a playful new lineup that marries the upscale with the everyday.

The week-old menu at Allegory (1201 K Street NW) debuts a “combos” drinking section dubbed “Pappy & Pils” that pairs DC Brau Pilsner with varying reserves of the elite Pappy Van Winkle bourbon ($37 for a 12-year up to $107 for a 23-year).

For the new “Cavi Back” — a riff on a pickle-back shot — chilled Ketel One Vodka arrives in a crystal shot glass alongside a 1/12-ounce dollop of smoked salmon caviar, with a single salty Pringle as the delivery system.

“It’s making this available to people like me who would never pay for caviar service,” says bartender/manager Deke Dunne, reporting a group of early 20-somethings opted for a round of the $12 order before last call this week.

A fancier version ($60) comes with familiar accoutrements of shallots and egg whites alongside an ounce of Tsar Nicoulai Caviar’s golden osetra variety farmed out of San Francisco and two ounces of smoked trout roe. A plunked-down can of Pringles reappear as scooping vessels.

“I’m not even a huge vodka fan but I think this is just delicious, with the saltiness of the Pringle to finish it off,” says Columbia Room alum Alexandra Bookless, who’s behind the drinks at Allegory that are stirred almost nightly (closed Sundays) by vet mixologists and close friends Paul Gonzalez, Jackson Crowder, and Dunne.

For cocktails, an early new hit inside the small literary-inspired bar is the “They Can’t Kill Us All,” which gets a vibrant purple hue from the Filipino yam ube alongside “clarified milk” punch — a tasty but technically challenging ingredient to make. The color’s wow factor will be upped by lit coasters en route to Allegory. The bar also ups aesthetics by branding “Allegory” lettering and patterns onto each ice cube via a brass stamp.

“They Can’t Kill Us All” (Santa Teresa 1796 Rum, Evan Williams Bonded Bourbon, banana, yuzu, ube, clarified kefir).
Frederique Stephanie/Eaton

Another new concoction (below), “It Will All Make Sense When We Grow Up,” unites Cooper & Kings Apple Brandy, Peach Tea Cordial, High Wire Southern Amaro, lemon, and mint. Brandy and tea elements will help the summery drink translate through the fall.

“I describe it to guests as the Mojito grew up and went to business school,” says Crowder.

A long swizzle stick agitates the crushed ice, resulting in a super-chilled elixir.
Frederique Stephanie/Eaton

While cocktail names are profound odes to pieces of literature (The Blind Owl is a delicate glass of Barr Hill gin, turmeric-infused blanc vermouth, saffron, Don Ciccio & Figli Ambrosia, and orange bitters), “at the same time we wanted to keep things light and fun,” says Gonzalez. That mantra also goes for its inaugural food menu.

The simplest snack of the bunch is a riff on consumerism: $3 glasses of Hidden Valley Ranch-doused popcorn, replacing uppity white truffle popcorn that was formerly Allegory’s only food option.

A more thought-out order is marble potato confit — a bowl packed with emulsified nduja sausage, smoked labneh, pickles, and lemon verbena plucked from the hotel’s rooftop — marking one of the first uses of its garden.

There is a link between the two wildly different orders, however: “Popcorn makes you thirsty and potatoes fill you up,” says Gonzalez.

Allegory’s bar team had a say in what would pair best with its cocktails, but the dishes are being executed by chef Tim Ma and his team from the acclaimed American Son restaurant across the lobby.

A diced heirloom tomato salad, topped with burrata pearls, sherry caviar, and smoked sea salt, makes the most of the current season. Cheese boards are served alongside a peach and green tomato preserve.

Charcuterie boards are stocked with bresaola, prosciutto, duck pate, and cheese boards show love for French and Italian flavors.
Frederique Stephanie/Eaton
The inspiration behind chef Tim Ma’s potato confit came from a potato-and-Tattoo hot sauce dish made by Boston chef Tracy Chang during this year’s ChefsFeed Indie Week food festival.
Frederique Stephanie/Eaton
A bowl of shaved beef tenderloin, alongside anchovy aioli, shallot, chive, chili oil, cured egg yolk, sherry, and pickled veggies, can be scooped with broken pieces of a house za’atar cracker.
Frederique Stephanie/Eaton

Allegory’s food service follows the hours of American Son (until 10 p.m. during the week and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday). After that, there’s just that Hidden Valley Ranch popcorn available through last call.

“The goal is to get sued because the moment you get sued is the moment you’ve made it,” laughs Ma. He’s, of course, remembering the 2015 cease-and-desist letter he got from a large hotel group for almost naming his Shaw restaurant the same as one of theirs.

Despite having no signage above its door or outside the hotel, Allegory has gained a wildly eclectic following in its first year of business downtown: “We have starving artists to K Street suits to Midwestern farm folk visiting the nation’s capital to local cocktail heads and bartenders,” says Dunne.

There’s a little of a casino effect inside, with no windows, clocks, or idea of whether it’s raining until wet guests plop down inside the dim drinking lair that’s splashed with eccentric Alice In Wonderland-themed murals.

“It’s easy to come in for a drink and three hours later, you’re still here,” says Crowder.

To drum up more exposure as Allegory enters year two, signage will arrive above its library door. And acoustic sets will start playing early evenings on Saturdays in the lobby outside. The first, scheduled in a few weeks, will pair Bossa nova acts with a trio of Brazilian-themed drinks from Allegory.