Although her new all-day cafe in Capitol Hill sells Swiss potato cakes and bratwurst sandwiches for breakfast, chef Brittany Anderson says she designed the majority of the menu at Leni to make sure visitors to the Roost food hall in Capitol Hill could add some roughage to their diets.
Anderson, who has attracted national attention for her hearty German and Alpine-style cooking at Metzger and Brenner Pass in Richmond, Virginia, served her first D.C. customers this week at Leni, which officially opens Friday, November 13. While she was preparing to open the food hall stall, Anderson realized she had an opportunity to distinguish herself from vendors selling New-York style pizza, tacos, nachos, burgers, and poutine by lightening up Leni’s menu with salads full of quinoa and rye berries, small plates built around winter produce, and bowls of braised beet and cabbage borscht.
One meat-free dish she’s excited to serve is a plate roasted half of honeynut squash laid over cashew yogurt and topped with a chili crisp full of pumpkin seeds. A plate of charred broccoli rabe gets covered in Hungarian pepper sauce and a quinoa crunch.
Starting at 8 a.m. every day, people can order bowls of muesli with an option of dairy or almond yogurt mixed with carrot jam and grated apples. The bratwurst breakfast sandwich comes on a challah roll with a fried egg, mustard, Muenster cheese, and sauerkraut. There’s a speck sandwich slathered with aioli that’s thickened with roasted garlic and toasted rye bread crumbs. The borscht is full of bacon, so it makes sense for breakfast and dinner.
Four different salads are available on morning and evening menus, including a paprikash Caesar full of baby kale, roasted chicken, carrots, fried onions, and an aioli that blends in roasted red peppers with Calabrian chiles, roasted garlic, and anchovies.
Leni sells the requisite avocado toast, but customers can choose whether they want it on a slice of sourdough or a rosti, a shredded potato cake that’s griddled in clarified butter.
“I think most people are used to really big ones,” Anderson says. “These are small like a personal pan pizza. They’re tall, they’re a little thick.”
Along with the avocado — with smoked paprika aioli, Aleppo pepper, and quinoa crunch — there are three other “rostis or toastis” customers can order for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. A cured arctic char toast approximates lox and schmear with the addition of cucumber, a lemon dill vinaigrette, and a caraway quark that Anderson compares to a German ricotta.
“I forget that a lot of these ingredients are things that I’m super used to,” she says, “but a lot of other people aren’t, so I’ve had to do a lot of explaining.”
Leni’s space at the Roost includes a retail section full of snacks like sauerkraut slaw and pickled eggs. Two flavors of juice, a beet-based option and a turmeric coconut ginger, are available to start.
Vendors at the Roost send out food to customers who order using QR codes at indoor-outdoor beer hall Shelter. To welcome Leni, Shelter brought in a beer that Richmond brewer the Veil originally produced for Anderson’s Brenner Pass. The Grand Cru is a farmhouse-inspired ale that underwent a mixed-yeast fermentation and spent time in French oak wine barrels.
Leni opens from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.