Washington DC

First Look: Crazy Aunt Helen’s Is Capitol Hill's New Go-To Neighborhood Spot

The eclectic restaurant features all-day comfort food and decor from Miss Pixie’s vintage shop.

Vegan crab cake
Crazy Aunt Helen’s vegan crab cake | Photo by Abdul Rahman Majeedi
Crazy Aunt Helen’s vegan crab cake | Photo by Abdul Rahman Majeedi

Crazy Aunt Helen’s debut brings together longtime local restaurant industry folks, a beloved area antique shop, and homestyle food for a neighborhood spot that’s sure to rise to the top of your list.

The restaurant opened this week on Capitol Hill and marks Shayne Mason’s first project as a restaurant owner, although he has worked at many area restaurants and bars, including as the marketing director at Hank’s Oyster Bar and a server at Nina May and Mr. Henry’s. The comfortable, eclectic menu comes from a kitchen helmed by chef Mykie Moll, and local legend Pixie Windsor, owner of the funky Miss Pixie’s vintage furnishing store on 14th Street, designed the space.

Moll, a DC native, brings experience from local spots like Pom Pom, Doi Moi, and Mintwood Place, to the kitchen at Crazy Aunt Helen’s. Moll said he wants the dining experience to feel like you’re “eating at your grandmother’s house, where love and care are put into every dish,” and it's evident in the slate of comforting dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Pancakes
Crazy Aunt Helen’s Pancakes | Photo by Abdul Rahman Majeedi

On the breakfast menu, expect dishes like Bega’s Brisket, a version of his grandmother’s traditional Jewish style brisket with horseradish aioli and mashed potatoes, as well as egg and cheese sandwich versions and smoked salmon topped with goat labneh and sumac served on an everything bagel. Sweet dishes like apple fritters, donuts, and stacks of fluffy pancakes round out the morning offerings.

Later in the day, thoughtful comfort food like house-cured corned beef Reubens make up most of the menu, and there’s an entire section of plant-based dishes covering vegan- and vegetarian-friendly versions of risotto and shepherd's pie. Moll’s dishes also reflect seasonal ingredients and iconic DC dishes, so you’ll see things like boiled peanuts with mambo sauce on the menu, as well.

Crazy Aunt Helen’s spread
Crazy Aunt Helen’s spread | Photo by Abdul Rahman Majeedi

The beverage program showcases locally made spirits, beer, and other beverages and was developed by Jo-Jo Valenzuela, the chef and owner of The Game Sports Pub and Tiki on 18th. Valenzuela was tasked with gussying up classic cocktails with items that could be “found in an old lady’s candy dish,” which led to the creation of drinks such as the Aunt Helen’s Lemon Drop, which pairs Civic Vodka with honey, lemon juice, and a citric sugar rim, and the Kiss My Sassafras with Macchu Pisco, Don Ciccio Cerasum Aperitivo, Embitterment sassafras Bitters, orange peel, and mint.

Many of the spirits behind the bar are made nearby and the beer list was curated by Right Proper Brewing Company’s Thor Cheston and features many local breweries. Mead from Maryland’s Charm City Meadworks and DC’s ANXO cider are also available, as well as a selection of wines and non-alcoholic drinks.

Crazy Aunt Helen’s interior
Crazy Aunt Helen’s interior | Photo by Abdul Rahman Majeedi

Upon entering the two-story space on Barracks Row, you’ll see a bright magenta staircase that is oh-so Miss Pixie’s and vintage, maximalist decor, plus mix-and-match plates and coffee served in novelty mugs with sayings like “best aunt ever” and “good morning beautiful.” The restaurant seats 76 on the first floor, including 26 at the bar, and Mason plans to host theme nights on a second floor space called the Peacock Room, showcasing local performers with music, comedy, and more.

The restaurant is currently open Wednesday through Monday from 7 am to 9 pm serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch on the weekends. Reservations can be made via website.

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Aparna Krishnamoorthy is a freelance food and travel writer based in Washington DC. You can generally find her obsessing over the next meal or planning the next getaway. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for more dining and wanderlust adventures.
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