When I heard about Witness, a "Southern inspired craft cocktail bar" on Capitol Hill, I was intrigued. First of all, what exactly is a "Southern bar?" Is this the type of place where you drink mint juleps and spiked sweet tea? I went to their website and enjoyed reading the creative cocktail names and ingredients. And, then I realized that they had a full brunch and dinner menu, as well. It didn't dawn on me that that would be the case since they call themselves a cocktail bar.
The menu didn't really wow me until I saw shrimp and grits. Let me digress here for a second. I've always thought that grits are not something that I would want to eat. The name sounds so unappetizing. Besides, we were a Cream of Wheat family. And, a grit did not pass my lips until 2013-ish on a visit to New Orleans. I got peer pressured into tasting them and let me tell you something. I feel like a straight up dumb ass for not trying them sooner. Now you can't keep me away from the things! I've even tried my hand at making smoked gouda grits and they were amazing. Thank you, Kitchenista. I don't fancy myself a grit connoisseur, and I certainly don't dare hop into the sweet or savory grit debate. But I'm definitely on team savory. And, Witness actually had two savory grits dishes on the menu, one of which was oxtails and grits. I would have a tough choice ahead of me, since both sounded great.
So, I called up a fellow Texan (ok texted, whatever) and made a date to check out the place. The cocktails were very nice. And, it's my understanding that they make syrups and potions and create seasonal cocktails. I stuck with something simple, a "Soul Tonic" (gin, tonic, homemade aromatic lime cordial). I have no idea what lime cordial is, but it gave a fantastically smooth and citrusy punch to balance out the gin.
We started looking over the food menu and noticed that it was different than what was posted online. And, guess what? No grits! I asked the waitress about this and she said that grits were a seasonal item and that po' boys replace grits in the summer. She smiled and walked away. Sorry that I didn't get the memo that one does not partake of grits in the summertime. I tried to find something on the revised menu that looked inspiring. But, it just wasn't happening. The menu included poutine, an appetizer dish that featured cheese wiz (nope), pork sliders, mussels, and chicken and waffles. Growing up, I never even knew about chicken and waffles until I started hearing pre-internet pop culture references to the beloved, celebrity cult favorite restaurant, Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles in L.A. I don't understand how this dish has become associated with the South. But, many Southerners would agree that this is not a Southern dish. Here's a wikipedia reference to its alleged origins. However, if you spend more then five seconds looking into this, you'll quickly see that there's an intense debate about the dishes origins that's just as heated as the sugar in the grits situation.
At any rate, I noticed that lots of people were ordering it and the waitress confirmed that this is their most popular dish. Feeling defeated, I ordered it even though it's not really my thing. Given the other options, this was going to be the best that I could do. My friend had what can only be described as a weird bean salad. It was sort of like a succotash with pinto and green beans instead of lima beans. It was .... edible. I'll withhold judgment on my dish because, again, not my thing.
Had I gone to Witness just for the cocktails, I would've left happy. But, the food was disappointing, so I left disappointed. Capitol Hill is bursting with new restaurants to explore. Go to Witness for the cocktails and eat somewhere else.