LIA’s (Chevy Chase, MD)

As a celebration after completing our Washington, DC Death March (10 hours walking, 22.9 miles), we decided that a celebratory brunch was in order the next morning. It’s not particularly easy to score brunch reservations for a large party, but one of our Marchers, Jeff, recommended LIA’s in Chevy Chase. Part of the Chef Geoff group of restaurants, LIA’s is one of the places focusing on “Posh American” cuisine: American classic dishes done up with quality ingredients and with interesting twists. But, most importantly, they were easily able to hand a group of 12 with last minute reservations, so we found ourselves traveling up to Chevy Chase for brunch.

Sitting down at the table, they immediately serve up some of their house biscuits: cheddar drop biscuits served up with a trio of toppings: apple butter, pepper jelly, and cream cheese. I’ll have to say, these were actually some very nicely done biscuits: nice flakey and moist interior, crisp exterior, and a rich, buttery flavor. There was one oddity here, which we noted later in the meal as well: we didn’t care that much for the pepper jelly, and that’s the only jelly they’ve got. Despite serving several of their dishes with toast, they don’t really have much of a selection of jellies, jams, and preserves.

The table also opted to share some of LIA’s donuts, where pockets of ricotta dough served up with a limoncello sauce. The donut itself is no slouch, being a very crispy and airy little pockets of dough, more light than greasy. Combined with the tangy limoncello sauce, and these were quite a pleasant appetizer.

I’m generally blessed with having Worthy Kitchen as my local brunch spot, featuring one of the finest bloody marys I’ve ever had, and as a result, it’s made me into more than a little bit of a bloody mary snob. But I’ll have to give credit where credit is due, LIA’s makes a seriously good bloody mary in the Maryland style, with a strong celery note and rimming the glass with Old Bay. The result was spicy, tangy, and refreshing, and I’m glad I ordered it.

I opted for the “Eggs Henry”, which was basically their rendition of a Benedict: two poached eggs, served up on nicely toasted English muffin halves with a better-than-average country-style ham and a softer Hollandaise sauce, I rather enjoyed this as a nicely-executed Benedict: the eggs were perfectly poached, the muffins crispy, and the Hollandaise on the creamy end of the spectrum, but unbroken and quite enjoyable. Add in some nicely done skinny fries and a well-dressed lettuce salad, and this was quite an enjoyable brunch for me.

While I didn’t get it, another popular item at our table was the stuffed French toast. Not your normal “Texas Toast” based French Toast, this instead started with a hefty, braided brioche, stuffed with a thick layer of brie, and served up nicely battered and crisped with a berry compote and maple sausage. A particularly nice rendition of a brunch favorite.

I do feel, however, that I do need to mention my friend Andrew’s order, the Salmon Dip. Nominally a cheese and salmon dip served up with thin wafers of “sardinian flatbread”, this arrived in the table as a most architecturally impressive assembly (see photo). But this was one of those cases of “dip failure”, in that the dipping bread was so light and crispy, it was almost impossible to dip: each attempt would break the dipping bread. Taste-wise, this was a reasonably good dish, but the execution didn’t quite work out.

That said, it didn’t subtract that much from the overall experience. The food was generally pleasant and nicely prepared, the staff friendly and efficient, and the food was a pleasant change from most of the other brunch places. Between that, and their flawless handling of a last-minute large party, and LIA’s will remain a go-to place for Montgomery County outings.

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