While I’ve got no problem enjoying Michelin-starred restaurants, high-end steakhouses and crème de la crème haut cuisine places, every so often I have a hankering for hearty, flavorful brunch that’s made with care and won’t break the bank. Bammy’s, a pan-Caribbean spot in Navy Yard, is celebrating its second year and is well worth a visit for such an aforementioned experience.
Located right on the waterfront across from the Anacostia Riverfront Trail, Bammy’s occupies the old Whaley’s space and is the product of Gerald Addison and Chris Morgan. Nestled in Yards Park, Bammy’s boasts 40-foot ceilings, a wall of tempered glass and a massive freehand mural by Guyanese-American artist Amrisa Niranjan. Basket lights hang from the ceiling over booths and the central bar is open so guests can observe the magic that occurs within.
To round out the ambiance, due to music being such a strong part of Caribbean culture, Bammy’s is investing in some top-quality sound hardware to make way for DJ sets and other live music. The retractable sail, used to shade guests from the setting sun, also doubles as a projector screen and their plan is to have music both inside and outside so no one misses a beat.
Filling the interior of the bar’s upper shelves is a hearty selection of Caribbean spirits, including solid Jamaican pot still rums like Appleton Estate and Smith & Cross. Peeking behind these bottles are rare and unique rums from across this hemisphere — and I wish I could try all of them. They’re even barrel-aging their own Wray & Nephew rum, which definitely warrants a return visit in April when it’s ready.
After taking my seat, I’m promptly served the first of what will be many courses: a banana nut rum cake. I admit I’m typically not a fan of sweets, but this is superlative. The first forkful is modestly-sweet, moist and airy, and the accompanying warm rum sauce is perfect to spoon over each bite.
While I’m savoring this banana nut rum cake, which honestly is captivating me far more than it should, I dip into their signature beverage: the mai tai. One of the pillars of Tiki drink culture, the ubiquitous mai tai was created during World War II by Vic Bergeron of Trader Vic’s fame in Oakland, California. There’s some debate about the exact method and history, but for the most part the mai tai is a blend of rums, orange Curacao, orgeat (almond) syrup and lime juice. It’s a classic drink and anyone can make it by following the recipe.
Bammy’s gets technical, however, and for a distilled spirits nerd such as myself, it’s quite fun — they make their own orgeat using almond milk. They’ve also got sorrel, a hibiscus beverage, on draft. For the mai tai, they use Hamilton, Smith & Cross and a blanc rhum agricole from Martinique called Neisson. It’s mostly booze, but I’m not complaining. Served in a pineapple-shaped glass and topped with fresh leafy mint, it’s a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds.
Also on the menu is the Bamberger, an allspice burger with some of the best tater tots I’ve ever had; jerk chicken with insanely crispy, flavorful skin; Scotch bonnet cabbage; rice and beans; and a light and thin goat curry (as it’s supposed to be), which is very tender and tasty. Just as I’m about to explode from all this food, I’m served a daiquiri — a classic drink made from rum, simple syrup and lime juice.
One of my favorite parts about Bammy’s is I feel like I’m in a neighborhood restaurant. It’s cozy and I feel like a regular my first time there. In some restaurants, you might feel like you’re being watched — and not in a good way. Several restaurants downtown come to mind, but fortunately I didn’t get that feeling at all at Bammy’s.
General manager Austin Young and his staff are quite attentive and knowledgeable. Here I get a much more “lived-in” feeling, in opposition to the sterile, corporate fine dining spots with overpriced small bites masquerading as elite dishes. Here the food is hearty, full portions and the drinks are super boozy.
They’re not seeking to reinvent the wheel when it comes to Caribbean cuisine, either: Straddling the line between fancy dining and dive bar, they’re effectively marrying the best of both worlds and topping it off with good service, a laid-back vibe and a respectable cocktail program. They hit the nail on the head. Bammy’s is well worth a visit and honestly, that banana nut muffin is to die for.
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