Judging Restaurants/Bars – Cafe Saint-Ex


Photo by flickr user Kevin H.

A couple days ago I got word of new happy hour at Saint-Ex [1847 14th Street, NW.] From a press release:

The restaurant is offering $2.00 off all draft beers and $1.00 off all rail cocktails, as well as rotating food specials, including half-price house-cut French fries and Old Bay-puffed pork rinds, as well as $15.00 moules frites.

Café Saint-Ex’s new Happy Hour runs from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM on Tuesday through Friday downstairs in Gate 54, where the city’s hippest DJs are spinning a variety of music – such as house, new age, old-school hip hop and rock – each and every weekday night.

The Happy Hour also occurs from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM, Monday through Friday, at the upstairs bar.

It occurred to me that we’ve never done a proper judging of Saint-Ex. Back in the day this used to be THE spot among many of my friends. What’s the word nowadays? What do you think of the bar downstairs, Gate 54? The food upstairs? You can see their menus here. Any must order items?

31 Comment

  • I used to really enjoy St. Ex. Last two times I was there it was abysmal. One time we went and the kitchen was closed for renovation and they had a scaled down menu. Ok, I could live with that. They still had some sandwiches, but unfortunately they were very subpar. We went back about 6 months ago to give it one more chance and sat out on the patio which was great. However, they gave us some runaround that we couldn’t sit down until the 3rd member of our party showed up, but there was no space at the bar (patio was totally empty). Luckily the friend showed up right away and we were seated. Unfortunately, even with the kitchen renovation, the food was so awful that I was sure I was going to get sick. Sadly, St Ex is now permanently off my list of places to eat.

  • New management is terrible and quite amateur….a few years ago Saint-Ex was one of the best spots on 14th Street…wonder what happened to all the old guys

    • Ahh…. new management. That explains a lot. I used to really like this place, especially the patio. My last two visits (earlier this year) were incredibly disappointing. My partner and I swore we’d never go back. Looks like others are having the same kind of experiences.

  • Gate 54? First off, what does that even mean? That place is darker than my English basement and smells like there is a rotting corpse in the corner. I feel violated every time I decide go there and that is after my friends and I are too drunk to make any smart decisions. And they are advertising some of the worst DJs in the city.

  • The staff is always arrogant, rude, and act as though their customer is an inconvenience. Not a fan.

    Its a shame too, their sweet potato fries are great.

    • +1. Always want to like this place, but they’re always super self-righteous.

    • I’ve also had consistently snotty service there.

      Plus, the food has always been sub-par. Wish my friends would quit arranging get-togethers there. Recently I’ve started pushing back, just because I have never left Saint Ex saying “I’m glad we went there!”

  • I like the idea of Saint-Ex – it has a great neighborhoody feel. But unfortunately the food does seem to get worse and worse. The last few times I’ve been everything was way too salty. I think I’ve given up

  • I took my parents there a couple months ago and thought the food was very good. I plan to go back!

  • I go there only 1-2 times a year, always for brunch. Never have had a bad experience (last of which was in August).

  • the upstairs bar is horribly designed. that big barrier makes it impossible to move around.

  • Saint Ex was my favorite spot back in 2004. Then it got overrun by fratty youth. I haven’t been back in at least 5 years.

  • halfsmoke

    I’d like to dedicate this message of this video to all bartenders at Saint Ex:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RX_pZTlERaI

  • halfsmoke

    Bartenders: Please hang up and pour drinks. Thanks.

  • Old Bay puffed pork rinds? Is this good?

  • We’ve been for brunch twice, most recently last weekend. No complaints about the food or the waitstaff. Maybe it’s a difference between day shift and night shift?

  • Last time I was there, you could still smoke downstairs. Been a while!

  • Lots of hate. St. Ex is fine for what it is, a crowded bar with a lot of young people at night. It really does have a really stupid layout, with the divider upstairs. Brunch is good.

    There’s a guy named brad who bartends (or used to at least) that I met at black cat once and he was cool as hell. Have chatted with other people who work there and they all seem nice, so I’m not really sure what the POP comment brigade is referring to.

    Assuming if you walk in at 10:30PM on a friday and expect white-glove personal service that won’t happen, so maybe that’s the issue. It’s just a bar.

  • I love St. Ex! Perfect place to work remotely during the day. Quiet, nice bartenders, great sweet potato fries and free wifi.

    That said, I avoid it on evenings Friday & Saturday. But such is life on 14th Street!

  • Since the renovation, we’ve been a few times, sat on the patio and had decent service and food.

  • When we moved to CH in the dark ages before target and Room 11 and coupe and etc. St. Ex was the one nice, non-chain, reasonably priced place that we could walk to. Food was great, service was lovely. Bart Seaver was young and talented. Then we got options, had kids, and stopped going for a while. But always remembered it fondly. Then a couple months ago, there we were, middle aged parents on a date night downstairs at gate 54, drinking manhattans and eating mussels and frites at 10pm. And we remembered why we love Cafe Saint Ex. Food was great, service was friendly, and we were not even the oldest people in the place. I recommend it.

  • As a the main owner of Saint-Ex I value your feedback and strive to do better. My kitchen staff is some of the best in the city. They are truly the most amazing people in the hospitality industry. As for the “attitude” issue… that has to change. I apologize and with all of the options available on 14th Street… no reasonable server should give “attitude”. I will pursue this. I LOVE Satint-Ex with all of my heart and I LOVE my neighborhood of 20009! One of the benefits of a local restaurant is the feedback means something. I appreciate your comments and will make changes. Gate 54 is going to go through a change (bigger bar… new HVAC… ). As our neighborhood changes, we try to grow with it. Our seating policy will change this spring as (again) this was not such a crucial issue a few years ago. THANK YOU! Saint-Ex strives to be the best neighborhood restaurant in our city. Our 10 year anniversary is coming in March. Cheers! – Mike Benson

  • I F’ing HATE the management of this place. We live within a block of St. Ex and used to eat there 2-3 times a week. I always found it annoying that the hostess would insist you PROMISE to order dinner to sit outside, but whatever. Or that every day she would act like she’d never seen us, despite the fact that we were probably their most regular customers. ONe night we were walking our dog past and decided to have dinner; my partner took the dog home while I got us a table (there were literally ZERO people sitting down). The hostess said she couldn’t seat us until the whole party was there, so I pointed to my bf, who was physically entering our house a half block away, and said, that’s him, he’s dropping off our dog. She refused. SO I said, OK, table for one, and she refused to seat me. So I asked to talk to a manager and epxlained politely, not becaues I wanted a seat (my bf had arrived by then) but to let him know. He told me that he was sorry, but he felt I was wrong. I asked him if it was worth losign a regular customer for him to not be so inflexible and he said YES. That was 2 years ago and I laugh my ass off now that there are 3 places within a block that have burgers about 10 times better. We never, ever go there for any reason. And I totalled up my expenses there on my AMEX for that year — they were $3400. F You St. Ex and F You, Worst Manager in the WOrld. (Also, I emailed the manager and owner and never received a reply).

    • I’m stunned to read these comments. I live halfway down the block from St Ex and in the many times I have been there I have never once encountered any attitude. Not once. To the contrary, the servers have all been friendly and kind to the letter. I have no idea where these comments are coming from. Mike Benson, it’s good to know you appreciate feedback, but please take the feedback you receive here with a grain of salt.

      • servers are fine IMO (i’m exlcuding the douchey hostesses), but mgmt, including mike benson is shiteous. I also emailed them with a complaintish comment and got no reply

  • I live a block away, and my wife and 2-year-old son come here frequently. We’re usually in the early crowd (around 6:30), and we have received consistently good service both inside and on the patio. The people have been lovely, and, in my book, it’s a great place for the neighborhood. I always get the burger…and no complaints at all about the food!

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