In Appreciation of Purple Patch

A Thoroughly Pleasant Mt. Pleasant Moment

The exterior of Ellē, which used to be Heller’s Bakery. Photos by Hannah Berman.

This weekend marked the first officially nice Saturday of the year. To celebrate, I ventured up 16th St to Mt. Pleasant to check out the farmers market (which I had heard a lot about, but doesn’t really rival DuPont’s, FWIW). Mt. Pleasant is only 15 minutes away from my apartment, but I never spend any time there because it requires scaling Meridian Hill; still, the weather beckoned, so I put on my hiking boots (knee high, brown leather) and got to walking.

After absentmindedly wandering around the market for a few minutes with no real luck, I decided to get some brunch all by my lonesome at Purple Patch, an American Filipino restaurant that positively exudes loveliness.

Outdoor seating at Purple Patch. Photo by Hannah Berman.

Because of COVID, Purple Patch has transitioned their indoor facility to a pantry and constructed a full-time outdoor streetery, with lovely purple hangings and a certain breezy elegance. They take their COVID protocols seriously: even after Mayor Bowser relaxed masking restrictions starting midnight on Tuesday, this restaurant is still fully contact tracing their outdoor diners. After confusedly giving my waiter my phone number, I ordered a sandwich and a side and leaned back to enjoy the soundtrack, which of course included Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.” (Maybe a little bit too on the nose?)

The spicy chicken breakfast sandwich consisted of a fried egg and some tomato, lettuce, and red onion, all laid daintily atop an absolutely massive piece of fried chicken. The chicken was just spicy enough to open my sinuses, and so finger-lickingly well-seasoned that I didn’t even stop to blow my nose until after the last bite. Then I moved on to my “side,” which was a whole meal in its own right: ube cinnamon toast. Purple Patch serves a lot of dishes containing ube, a purple yam, which means most of their food comes out of the kitchen a satisfying shade of lilac. The ube cinnamon toast was no exception; this crunchy, sweet toast is a deep purple, and also one of the most delicious dishes I’ve eaten in DC.

Ube cinnamon toast and spicy chicken breakfast sandwich at Purple Patch. Photos by Hannah Berman.

It was far too much food for one little gal, but so good that I couldn’t stop myself from polishing both dishes off. The only negative part of my experience at Purple Patch was when a large DC friend group got seated behind me and immediately began loudly spoiling the ending of Love is Blind — but that’s a risk inherent to leaving the house these days, so I don’t fault the restaurant for it.

Purple Patch was a wonderful surprise, but it’s not all Mt. Pleasant has to offer. Even though this neighborhood’s action is limited to a single street, there’s still a ton to see. Here are some other things in the area which I would recommend, in no particular order:

  • Grab some coffee to go at Ellē. Ellē sits at the top of Mt. Pleasant, in the building that formerly housed Heller’s Bakery, and offers up a nice array of typical cafe goods. It’s got great ambiance and even greater merch.
  • Check out the farmer’s market. The market isn’t large, and like I said, it’s not DuPont. However, it’s got character, and a couple vendors — including a homemade falafel seller — routinely have lines around the block.
  • Pick up a bottle or two at Nido Wine. In the building adjoining Purple Patch, this boutique Mediterranean wine store sells both spirits and sandwiches to go. The staff is super friendly and willing to dole out advice without pretension, which I appreciated as a relative wine novice.
Mt. Pleasant farmers market. Photo by Hannah Berman.
  • Browse the stacks at Bold Fork Books. This small bookstore specializes in cookbooks and food writing. It’s beautifully organized both by culture and by dietary preferences, and there’s an entire counter devoted to underground, overpriced food magazines that I’ve never seen in stock at any other bookseller. I had to truly restrain myself from picking up a copy of apartamento’s new salad cookbook. Seriously — awesome selection.
  • Check out the Spain Arts & Culture exhibit. This building used to be the Spanish embassy, then a residence for the ambassador, but now it’s just being used as office space and hosts a beautiful gallery on the bottom floor. Their current exhibit features a series of comics reckoning with different periods of Spanish history and assimilation.
  • See a creepy indie film at Suns Cinema. This tiny movie theater can probably seat max 15 people at a time, and only plays the most eclectic movies possible — I saw a movie called The Black Cat from 1934 about a couple honeymooning in Hungary that finds themselves in the home of a psychopath, featuring necrophilia and an offscreen skinning scene. You can also grab a drink at the almost-haunted bar downstairs. It will always have a special place in my heart.
Suns Cinema and Bold Fork Books in Mt. Pleasant. Photos by Hannah Berman.

As you might be able to tell from this roundup, my simple farmers market trip soon ballooned into a full afternoon of exploration. Mt. Pleasant is adorable, and I’m upset with myself for not having braved the hill sooner — if you have the opportunity, devote an afternoon of your own to this sweet piece of DC.

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