food: the people’s brunch

Poached eggs and country ham on toast

Move over Tonic, I may be a CommonWealth breakfast/brunch boy now. After going for the first time this past Thanksgiving, I knew I wanted to try more of their stuff. Kyle suggested we hit it for brunch and I was in.

It isn’t that I don’t like Tonic, but they’ve recently made a lot of changes in the upstairs dining room, attempting to go more upscale which doesn’t really fit the feel of Mount Pleasant Street. The room used to feel warm and casual, deep orange tones, vintage advertisements for tonics hanging on the walls. Now they’ve painted the walls black and when you walk past it kinda looks like a bachelor pad ready-made for a make-out artist. Additionally the menu’s changed, removing some old favorites while raising the prices. I admit that I haven’t been back for brunch since the redecorating, but the last time I was there it wasn’t good. Food sub-par, service slow and inattentive, tables seated after me getting served before me and my biggest pet peeve: being ignored to the point of feeling like you’re unable to leave because you can’t even get the server over to refill your coffee or water, let alone bring you the check.

I won’t say CommonWealth is perfect, but the staff is friendly and attentive, the food is delicious and for most American eaters, probably items or methods they haven’t encountered before. I had no idea what shirred eggs were, but a quick google lookup (thank you free wifi) told me that maybe they weren’t for me, but I did get the poached eggs on toast with country ham and Kyle had the house smoked tofu shepherd’s pie. I also got a popover with maple syrup just to round it out with a little sweetness. They’ve done a very good job at fitting a lot of seating into the space, but the tables do suffer from Tiny Table Syndrome combined with the fact that they provide each table with a lazy susan containing condiments, so you’re losing a lot of real estate before you’ve sat down. Like most places, they aren’t trained to remove used plates at the same time as bringing new ones, so there’s the juggling act when your food arrives whether you’re done with the previous bread/appetizer course or not. It didn’t appear that they offered any drink specials or bottomless mimosas, but the coffee was strong and delicious and our cups were always kept full.

I’m trying to be a bit better about my portions on the weekend mornings, but for a solo or small group brunch from time to time, CommonWealth has definitely moved to the top of the list. Plus it’s right off the Columbia Heights metro, so very easy to get to. Sorry Tonic, I mean we’re cool and all, but you’ve changed man… you’ve changed.

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7 Responses

  1. Shaw Girl says:

    I went to Common Wealth for a soft opening tasting and loved it. Thanks for the tip on their great brunch!

    latest entry: This Is My Last Meal Wish…

  2. Kyle says:

    Commonwealth is not a vegetarian restaurant, but the vegetarian dishes I’ve had there are good. We will definitely go back as there are other dishes to try. Besides, compared to Tonic and even to The Heights, Commonwealth is just so much more comfortable. 🙂

    latest entry: bleedin’

  3. LiLu says:

    I know what I’m doing Sunday when I get back into town! Thanks for the rec, dear…

    latest entry: Have Yourself A Merry Little… HEART ATTACK

  4. Dan says:

    I agree with you on the good food at Commonwealth, but disagree with your beef about changes at Tonic. Prices have increased only a small amount, and the food has gotten MUCH better. And the pub downstairs is the same as ever.

  5. brian says:

    @Dan: I don’t deny that the price increases were minor, but still noticeable, and my beef was mainly with the decline of brunch service. One of my biggest gripes was the fact that they increased the prices on items and removed “comes with” items without re-printing the menus for a few weeks. Three times, they had to adjust my bill for brunch because I was charged higher prices than were marked on the menu. Each time the server apologized, and I e-mailed them to ask that they at least provide proper/updated menus.

    I do stand by my opinion of the upstairs dining room, however, which was my favorite for brunch and dinner. The change in decor has completely changed the mood and I will selfishly admit that I don’t like change–when it’s stuff that I don’t want changed! 😉 I still enjoy the pub downstairs for an after work happy hour burger and tots… and Cash Cab, I find that I can no longer watch that show unless I’m at Tonic. I’m sure they had their reasons for the change, but as a long-time customer, the result just doesn’t appeal to me.

  6. Michael says:

    After reading this review, I am going to have to try Commonwealth sometime. Perhaps a future brunch is in order?

    latest entry: Donate to No on Prop 8

  7. Lolypup says:

    Other than the ham that looks divine!

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