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Where to Get It: Valor Brewpub, 723 8th St. SE; (202) 547-8459; valorbrewpub.com
What It Is: Homey pasta bolstered by aged Italian cheese and neon-colored florets. The kitchen coats hollow noodles in a velvety brown butter sauce that clings to them and to the bright purple and yellow cauliflower clusters. The hey-check-me-out cousin to cabbage isn’t there by accident.
The Story: Valor Chef Ryan Hackney says he designed the dish as an ode to his grandfather, a World War II veteran who kept a young Hackney well fed around Christmas with plates of broccoli drenched in melted cheddar cheese. Hackney dresses up his take on the Midwestern staple with seasonal cauliflower—a nod to the Purple Heart his grand- father received from Uncle Sam—shaved Grana Padano, chopped basil, and the tubular pasta. An extra creamy sauce binds everything together, while a smattering of edible flowers adds color.
Why Even Meat Eaters Will Like It: Hackney has plenty of fun with bar food here, sending out regionally inspired seafood chowders, Cuban sandwiches doctored with rotisserie chicken, and fried rice spiked with zesty half-smokes. It’s fitting, then, that vegetarians aren’t stuck with a slapdash meal of sides.
The first bite delivers on the staff’s promise that cheddar-broccoli soup will immediately come to mind. Roasting grants the cauliflower a crisp crust while the brown butter adds nuttiness. Ribbons of basil inject garden freshness. Hackney says the pasta, which has been served at the new Barracks Row brewpub since day one, is an instant hit.
“The bucatini is one of our top sellers right now because it is just delicious, hearty, and a gorgeous fall dish,” he says.