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Located in a residential area of DC, this “Italian-influenced American Restaurant” is serving up some pretty impressive pasta dishes.

The Red Hen

Upon entering the restaurant, I fell in love with the space which has a warm barnyard-feel to it. Think high ceilings, lots of wood elements and an open kitchen. The décor perfectly matches the type of food coming out of its kitchen.

The bar and open kitchen

The Red Hen (@RedHenDC) is the brainchild of Michael O’Malley (GM), Sebastian Zutant (sommelier) and Michael Friedman (chef) who each have experience at restaurants in the DC area. Chef Friedman has created a large menu consisting of mouth-watering starters (including charred beef tongue and grilled octopus), pastas/grains, large plates (which consist of several seafood and meat options) and sides.

The interior

We started off with the Smoked Ricotta Crostini – with balsamic brown butter & truffle honey ($6). A generous layer of smoked ricotta , which had a cream cheese-like consistency, was spread over two slices of crostini. While the smokiness was a touch overwhelming, I found that the sweetness from the drizzle of honey helped.

Smoked Ricotta Crostini

Since we’re all big fan of cheese, we also ordered the Burrata – with ‘Broccolini Marinati’, pickled red chiles & vin cotto ($15). I tell ya, nothing beats fresh burrata. The broccolini mixture underneath was a wonderful complement to the cheese and I loved the bit of kick from the pickled red chiles.


The Red Hen has a section in their menu dedicated to their pastas which are all made in-house. The first pasta dish that caught our eye was the Black Paccheri – with calamari, ceci beans, spinach, pickled chile & breadcrumbs ($17). I loved the flavour and texture combinations – a little chewiness from the squid, the pasta which was cooked to a perfect al dente and some crunch from the breadcrumbs. After one bite, we all nodded in agreement that this was a real winner.

Black Paccheri

If there’s one signature dish at the Red Hen, it’s gotta be the Mezze Rigatoni – with fennel sausage ragu & pecorino romano ($16). While the menu changes with the seasons, this is always a mainstay. While not as unique as the black paccheri, this was a damn good bowl of pasta.

Mezze Rigatoni

Simply presented, it consisted of chunks of pork sausage, al dente rigatoni and finished with a sprinkling of cheese. Not being the biggest fan of fennel, I was happy that the fennel flavour in the ragu was quite subtle. Despite being quite full, I couldn’t stop scooping more spoonfuls onto my plate. That’s how you know it’s good.

From the “Large Plates” section of the menu, we ordered the Caramelized Scallops – with fregola, English peas, pancetta & Littleneck clams ($24). The scallops themselves were solid but didn’t wow me. What really stood out was the fregola which accompanied the scallops. With the freshness of the peas and saltiness of the pancetta, this was the perfect accompaniment. I just wished the Littleneck clams weren’t chopped into such teeny tiny little pieces. I would’ve forgotten they were even in the dish if it wasn’t written on the menu.

Caramelized Scallops

We also ordered a side of Crispy Artichokes – with dill & anchovy aioli ($8). Fried artichokes make such a great bar snack – I see them on menus everywhere these days and I can never resist ordering them. The Red Hen’s version hit the spot, particularly when dipped into that tasty dill/anchovy aioli.

Crispy Artichokes

Our evening wasn’t off to the greatest start – after being seated, nobody acknowledged us for a good 10-15 minutes. Thankfully the service improved exponentially throughout our meal. And most importantly, the food was good enough to make me (almost) forget about it!

At a glance:
• An “Italian-influenced American restaurant” located in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of DC
• Brought to us by Michael O’Malley (GM), Sebastian Zutant (sommelier) and Michael Friedman (chef)
• Casual space with a warm and inviting barnyard feel
• Excellent pasta dishes
• Must-orders: Black Paccheri and Mezze Rigatoni
• Open everyday for dinner

Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4 stars
• Service: 3 stars
• Atmosphere: 4 stars

The Red Hen on Urbanspoon

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