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Purple Patch co-owner Patrice Cleary didn’t set out to be a part of any hot new Filipino food trend by featuring the cuisine on the menu of her new Mount Pleasant eatery, which opened yesterday. She didn’t think about having one of the first Filipino restaurants in D.C. either. Cleary, who’s half Filipino and half Irish, just wanted to serve some of the food she grew up with and loves and hoped the neighborhood would like it, too.
In fact, only half the menu at Purple Patch is devoted to Filipino food. The other half is made up primarily of American comfort food dishes favored by her Australian husband and co-owner, Drew Cleary, a former strength and conditioning coach for the Wizards. This is the first solo venture for the Clearys, but Patrice Cleary was formerly a part-owner in Tonic, which resided where Purple Patch is now at 3155 Mount Pleasant St. NW. The couple have transformed the place into a brighter dining room with white-washed walls that will soon feature planters with herbs.
Among the highlights of Filipino half of the menu are Mama Alice’s lumpia (similar to egg rolls) that are actually made by Cleary’s mother in Corpus Christi, Texas. Every week, her mom, a former caterer, prepares about 1,000 pieces of lumpia then ships them overnight to the restaurant, where they’re fried. Cleary’s mother did the same thing for Tonic when it was still in business.
The Clearys have hired chef Jason Smith, who cooked for their wedding and has worked at a number of local restaurants, to execute the rest of the menu. Patrice Cleary has taught Jason her family’s recipes, including those for chicken adobo (braised thigh and drum sticks in a soy and vinegar sauce), pancit bihon (a popular noodle dish with vegetables and a choice of pork belly, chicken, or bok choy), and pork sinigang (braised pork belly in a lemon broth with vegetables).
The non-Filipino half of the menu includes a burger, sliders with kimchi, a barbecue pork sandwich, and steak frites. There’s also a 14 ounce ribeye steak with bordelaise sauce that comes with kugeli, a cake with potato, onion, and bacon that comes from Drew Cleary’s Lithuanian roots. (See the full menu below.)
Former Beau Thai bar manager Braden Eddy is overseeing the drink menu. Cocktails are made with fresh squeezed juices and infused liquors, including one with fire-roasted jalapeño tequila and grapefruit juice.
As for the name? Purple Patch comes from a English expression that describes a run of success or good luck. When they first met, Drew Cleary would always say “I’m in a purple patch” when they were together. “It has nothing to do with the color,” Patrice Cleary says. “It has everything to do with a feeling of ‘I’m with my family and we’re in a great place.'”
Purple Patch, 3155 Mount Pleasant St. NW; (202) 299-0022; purplepatchdc.com
Photo by Jeffrey Morris