When I checked out their menu, Halfsmoke looked like essentially Chipotle with hotdogs. So basically, a perfect place for my husband’s grandmother. I was really confused about why a Chipotle knockoff would take reservations, and I felt like a total dumbass making said reservations, but when we arrived, Halfsmoke turned out to be so much more than just Chipotle and more than just sausages. They were also…
Trapper Keepers! Yes, Halfsmoke organizes their menu in actual old-school Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers. The unicorns and rainbows were super appropriate too, because it turns out that Halfsmoke exists in some fairy dreamworld where leprechauns deliver housemade bratwursts and cocktails only cost $5.
I don’t want to spend too much time on the drinks. Let’s just say they have craft beer and decent house cocktails and I have literally never paid so little money for a drink in my entire life and happy hour runs until 8 oh my god.
Halfsmoke is really only Chipotle-esque in the sense that you pick a format (rice, salad, sandwich, or flatbread), a sausage, and fixins. They have a few pre-designed recommendations, but nahhh. The four of us (grandma didn’t show up, that ingrate!) each ordered our food in a different format. I ordered a salad with the lamb merguez, broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers, spiced eggplant, and tahini dressing. I hate eggplant and I ordered it as a test, because sometimes it’s really good and sometimes it tastes like eating a shoe. Impress me, Halfsmoke. I dare you.
My husband got a flatbread with mumbo sauce, smothered onions, a halfsmoke, and beer cheese. I don’t even know what to say about this combination of foods except that this man is very lucky to have me to cook for him. Moving on… my father-in-law had a rice bowl with halfsmoke, mustard slaw, crispy onions, and honey mustard sauce. My mother-in-law, true to form, had a large piece of bread that happened to come with bratwurst, bacon, and crispy onions.
I have many good things to say about all of these dishes. First, the sausages were just really good. All of them. Next, the eggplant test worked! This eggplant was tender, spicy, and savory, possibly even the best I’ve ever had. The lamb was the perfect protein for this dish. I wish I could have had crispy onions on mine too because these were delicious from the other dishes I tried around the table. The mustard slaw had a powerful flavor without being too much. The roll that the sandwiches come on was seriously good. I know some sandwich places that could learn a thing or two here. The flatbread was a light, crispy texture that my husband unfortunately destroyed with a mountain of bad decisions. Mumbo sauce is great and classic DC, but don’t hold out hope for making it your pizza sauce. He did finish the flatbread though, so I’m not sure if this reflects well on Halfsmoke or very, VERY poorly on my spouse. Somebody please save this man from himself.
I’ve never seen my mother-in-law more excited about anything than she was about the prospect of homemade funnel cake. And even though Halfsmoke doesn’t exactly advertise alcoholic milkshakes, they are a distinct possibility, what with regular milkshakes and happy hour-priced liquor. So my husband also got a vanilla milkshake with Maker’s Mark, like the real grownup he is.
I have only a few suggestions for improvement. First, more ice cream flavors and a mixologist dedicated to adult milk shakes. Second, I know I joked about leprechauns before, but actual leprechauns or maybe fairy godmothers might be nice. Finally, they need someone in the kitchen to safeguard against the ungodly combination of mumbo sauce and beer cheese, like a kitchen bouncer. And when the kitchen bouncer hears a terrible flavor mixture, he can come over to whoever ordered that and flip the table over or something. Mr. T might be a good candidate for this job. So it sounds like Halfsmoke has some hiring to do. Chop chop!
Price: $20 per person.
Bottom line: You can get a fantastic meal and a great cocktail at Halfsmoke for less than a mass-produced Chipotle burrito, so what are you even doing with your life?