Bad Saint’s humble rise to fame has been the Cinderella story that’s captivated the city. What started as a pop-up that drew snaking lines back in 2014 at the Dolcezza Factory near Union Market has gone national, nay international, thanks to Bon Appetit naming the pocket Filipino eatery the second best restaurant in America.
But enough talk of accolades, the proof is in the pancit. Tangy, funky, boring-averse hits from Chef Tom Cunanan have included kinilaw (mackerel served ceviche-style with red grapefruit and coconut), ukoy (a fried nest of shellfish and veggies), ginisang ampalaya (bitter melon with farm egg and preserved black beans), and ginisang tulya (littleneck clams, Chinese sausage, and coconut milk).
Owners Nick Pimentel and Genevieve Villamora took a cuisine that wasn’t quite on the map and made people fiend for it. They accomplished this by not only delivering on the food front, but also by providing warm hospitality in a shoebox setting where diners can watch the chefs work their woks.
The food-friendly cocktails ($13) at Bad Saint from Sean MacPherson and Gavin Pierce of Room 11 whisk you away on a vacation you didn’t know you needed with tropical ingredients like Bittermans Tepache (pineapple liqueur), coconut liqueur, and Banane du Brèsil. There’s also a small selection of cider and Filipino beers like Red Horse Extra Strong Brew. Not into booze? Sip a green mango bay leaf soda.
All the hype, combined with a culture of diners eager to try new cuisines, has birthed long lines that wrap along the block in Columbia Heights, but hey, that’s what adult coloring books and thermoses full of vermouth are for.