This edition of Eating Around Town was written by Abbey Becker.
I want to love Beuchert’s Saloon (623 Pennsylvania Avenue SE) again. I used to live near Eastern Market, and I remember walking by the papered-over front window on my twice-daily walk to the Metro and looking for some kind of notice about their opening. Once they did, I think I probably went at least five times before I moved away in July. I was taken with the atmosphere, the service, the cocktails, the food.
After a visit last weekend, though, I have to wonder if something happened, or if they just had a bad night. I’m hoping it’s the latter.
The feel is much the same, I’m happy to report—it still exudes a neighborhood feel and a genuine kind of coziness that’s tough to find in that part of town, or in the city itself, for that matter. Once inside, it’s easy to forget that you’re in the middle of a big city in 2013, rather than inside an early 1900s speakeasy. (It was once a saloon, and later a speakeasy, from 1880 to 1934.) The twin taxidermied bison heads over the hand-built walnut bar define, in my mind, what makes Beuchert’s great: attention to detail with a little bit of quirkiness. The dim lighting, subway tiling on the walls, brass accents, and jazzy soundtrack make for a throwback that’s all respect for the past and no gimmick. One of my favorite parts is that the owners are still working on the floor during service, even though Beuchert’s has been open since March. To me, that’s a mark of true pride and care.
If you’re planning a visit, I’d recommend sitting at the front bar. In my experience, it’s more fun to perch on the wooden barstools and interact with the bartenders. While the tables at the back make dinners with more than one friend easier, it feels a bit lonelier back there, like you’re missing the action. And there’s something to be said for eating and drinking a fancy cocktail at the bar that makes you feel like you’re echoing what happened there so many years ago.
But let’s talk food and drink here. (more…)
This edition of Eating Around Town was written by Abbey Becker. Abbey previously wrote about Table.
I like McDonald’s French fries–they’re thin, crispy, salty, and cheap. But when I dine at a restaurant that serves French food, I do not expect to be served fries that could have been brought over from the nearest golden arches.
Unfortunately, this meant Le Grenier (502 H Street NE) and I were not going to be on good terms.
But let’s talk about the good parts. I got there earlier than my 7:00 dinner reservation on a Tuesday night, so I took a seat at the bar to wait for my friend. Happy hour runs from 5 to 7 every weekday at the bar, and you can get half off wines and cheeses. The bartender was incredibly friendly and helpful; I told him I didn’t know much about white wine, but that I was interested in something that wasn’t sweet. He had me try a Chardonnay, which I didn’t like, then gave me a sample of another that I liked better. When I had questions about some of the cheeses, he knew what each tasted like, how each was made, and which would go best with the glass of wine I chose. Possibly the best part was that the three cheeses (served with sliced green apples, a sliced strawberry, some nuts, and a lightly dressed mixed green salad) and my glass of wine cost $10.
Two women next to me ordered the three-cheese and three-meat plate, and when it arrived with pate as one of the meat selections, one of the diners wrinkled her nose and said she really didn’t like pate. The bartender offered to swap it out for something she’d like better, like prosciutto. That’s service! (more…)
903 N Street, NW
This edition of Eating Around Town was written by Abbey Becker. Abbey previously wrote about Park Tavern.
There’s no doubt that Table (903 N St NW), Frederik de Pue’s restaurant near the Convention Center that opened in January, is beautifully designed. From the Dumpster-concealing plant enclosure to the modern wood and metal indoor decor to each plate that’s delivered to your table, everything has been shown impeccable amounts of attention to detail.
In Table’s case, it’s best not to judge a book by its cover.
My friend and I couldn’t stop talking about the soft lighting, the handwritten menus, the efficient and fluid cooking happening in the open kitchen, the succulents on the front circular table, and the rolled up garage door open to a mild summer night. When it came time to talk about the food, however, we were a lot quieter.
Based on looks alone (and the hype surrounding this place’s opening), Table should be a memorable dining experience. I expected to pine for at least one dish, long after I dined there. My friend and I ended up kind of puzzled at the stumbles we experienced, though.
Our server was friendly, but wasn’t completely knowledgeable. I asked about a beer on their menu, and she couldn’t tell me what kind of beer it was or what it tasted like. Not a total deal breaker, but surprising for the kind of restaurant Table seems to convey it wants to be. Throughout the meal, the service was a bit stilted and unsure–plates were delivered to the wrong diner at the table, questions about the what the server recommended were answered with vague responses that didn’t really address what we asked. Again, nothing that would deter me from eating here again, but not what I expected.
I loved ordering from a handwritten menu–it made me feel like I’d stumbled upon a place where each diner is special. I think this was particularly reinforced because I’d read about how long it took to write them (and the drinks menu is pages long with lots of descriptions).
That care extends to the presentation of the food, but not its taste. Dishes were beautifully plated, but flavors fell flat. The tuna tartare was light and sliced impeccably thin, but its dressing was forgettable and didn’t offer enough punch. The pork belly special had a chewier texture that I didn’t like. The lamb porterhouse was a generous enough portion: two small “steaks” on the bone with potatoes was plenty of food. At $34 for the dish, and the gamey lamb that ended up not yielding much meat, I wouldn’t say it was worth it. The hot chocolate mousse was good enough, though I wish it would have had a deeper chocolate flavor. I liked that it actually arrived hot. I wish I could have ordered a whole bowlful of the accompanying strawberry gelato that tasted incredibly fresh and rich. The strawberry financier that came with it was dense and dry, and I think we left some of it on the plate.
If you’re looking for a date spot that’s quiet and romantic, I’d recommend Table. The food isn’t bad at all, just not as good as I thought it should be, especially because of the price.
202 M Street, SE
This edition of Eating Around Town was written by Abbey Becker. Abbey previously wrote about Little Serow. She lives near Eastern Market.
If you hang out on Capitol Hill, you’ve probably eaten (or drank) at one of the restaurants Xavier Cervera used to own—Boxcar Tavern, Hawk ‘N’ Dove, Pacifico, etc. Before selling his empire to a Boston equity firm a couple of months ago, he started work on Park Tavern (202 M Street SE), a more upscale option for Nationals game goers and residents of the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.
Even though he’s no longer an owner, Park Tavern still maintains the hallmarks of a Cervera restaurant—mediocrity.
Before some of you get upset, I’m sure his restaurants have their place. I’ve heard Pacifico makes a good margarita, and Molly Malone’s and Lola’s are perfectly acceptable bars on Barracks Row.
But living in a city, and with so many quality options that are easily accessible, it’s hard to make a winning case for Park Tavern, at least.
If you’re going to a Nationals game and you don’t want to face the throngs at Gordon Biersch, Justin’s Café, or The Bullpen, then Park Tavern is probably a good choice. They have what sounds like a creative cocktail menu and they offer a fair number of wine and beer selections. They’re a few blocks away from the main action by the park, so it’s likely quieter around gametime. They have a large outdoor patio where the skating rink is located in the winter that either looks out onto the play fountain or the new park, and it’s a pleasant place for a drink on a warm evening.
But if you’re looking for a great dining experience, or even a meal that’s better than something you could likely make at home, Park Tavern should not be at the top of your list.
I went with an old friend and her boyfriend, so we ordered a couple of dishes. I was feeling like a burger, and if you can make a good burger, I’m inclined to come back.
Unfortunately, their burger isn’t very good. I asked for it medium rare. I never mind if it comes out medium, but when it comes out well done, it’s a disappointment, which was the case here. It was surprisingly juicy, but it was otherwise unremarkable. I kept eating the fries, but I think it was because I was hungry. These were clearly frozen beforehand, which doesn’t ultimately doom a fry. But they were underseasoned and not real crispy.
The pastrami sandwich and blue cheese and pear pizza were received pretty much the same way—I’ll eat some of it, but I won’t order it again, and I’ll probably eat something else when I get home.
Overall, Park Tavern is a fine place for a beer and a snack before or after the game. I would absolutely go back for happy hour to sit on the patio. I’ll make my burger at home afterward, though.
This edition of Eating Around Town was written by Abbey Becker. Abbey previously wrote about El Chucho. She lives near Eastern Market.
Little Serow (1511 17th St NW) is a sliver of a place, but its size doesn’t match its reputation. The basement restaurant seats 28 at a time, and if you want to sit on one of their bar stools, you have to get in line before the 5:30 opening time each night to put your name down.
As someone who gets off at work at 5:30 in Bethesda, making it here in time proved a challenge the first time. I got there at exactly 5:30 on a Friday (so I left work a little early…) and stood behind probably 15 people. While I was looking for a table for four, I figured, hey, 15 people in front of me? We’ll at least get a late reservation. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case–they couldn’t give us a table that night, though they might have been able to seat us at the bar around 10 or 10:30. I was not willing to wait five hours for a full meal that may or may not have happened.
The next time, I went on a Wednesday evening, and I sent my boyfriend on ahead of me to get in line before 5:30–he gets out of work much earlier. We tried for a table for two and ended up with a 7:15 reservation, which gave us time for a drink or two around the corner.
If you’re looking for cocktails or beer, you may want to drink them before you sit down for dinner. Little Serow doesn’t serve cocktails, and they offer 5-ounce pours of their beers from bottles at $5 each. Don’t get me wrong–a six-course meal for $45 is a great deal, especially when the food is as good as it is here, but that much for a small pour of beer is, to me, a little ridiculous. I wish they’d at least made it a deal to buy the bottle instead, but each large-format version of the pours was $24. Wine ranges from $10-$12 per glass, which isn’t outrageous, but when you’re a young, semi-poor diner and you’re already paying $45 for dinner before tax and tip, you start to consider using your credit card instead of your debit card.
That being said, we had a really excellent dining experience. Let me reiterate that it is an experience here, not just dinner. The service is like nothing I’ve experienced in DC–there were a few waitresses circulating throughout the restaurant, and we interacted with all of them. Each one served us at least one dish, refilled our water, or gave us more sticky rice or cucumbers. Each one offered a friendly suggestion of how she liked to eat that dish or mentioned that this dish was her favorite. They made us feel welcomed and not at all like we were guests–we could have been at a friend of a friend’s house for the first time.
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3313 11th Street, NW
This edition of Eating Around Town was written by Abbey Becker. Abbey previously wrote about Cashion’s Eat Place. She lives near Eastern Market.
If you’re looking for authentic Mexican food, El Chucho (3313 11th Street NW) is not the place for you. But you’d likely know that anyway if you’ve heard anything about the Columbia Heights hangout.
When I went on a humid Monday night that was threatening rain, the upstairs patio was empty. The downstairs, however, was packed and boisterous at 8pm. (The fact that it was hora feliz–happy hour–all night certainly didn’t hurt.) If you’re looking to catch up with a friend and have a quiet meal, I’d recommend going somewhere else.
As I watched metal trays of tacos being delivered to diners around me at the bar and high-top tables, it was clear that much of what El Chucho is about is the show it puts on. Kitschy elements were sometimes understated: the frozen margarita machine behind the bar circulating not drink mix margarita syrups and ice, but house-made lime and strawberry habanero flavors, and the ceramic dolls on a top shelf by the bar, were fun touches that you might not notice if you weren’t looking. Other times, the design slapped you in the face–instead of a ladder to reach the top shelves of liquor behind the bar, bartenders had to climb knotted ropes reminiscent of elementary school gym class to hoist themselves up to grab a bottle. While this seems fun to diners, I can’t imagine that the bartenders particularly enjoy doing this all the time.
I like that El Chucho isn’t trying to be authentic or run-of-the-mill, though. The restaurant understands that real Mexican food can be found likely a few steps away in Columbia Heights, so it doesn’t try to compete. All of the staff wear plaid, and you’d be more likely to hear their soundtrack in a U Street or Columbia Heights bar than at El Rinconcito II a few blocks away.
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3155 Mt Pleasant Street, NW
Today’s Drinking Around Town was written by dcreba. She lives – and often eats – in Logan Circle. Previously, she wrote about the newly renovated Art & Soul .
If you can find the Last Exit on your first try, you’re already ahead of the game. Although there is street level signage for the bar outside, the subterranean space is accessed via a side door within the parent bar, Tonic. The subtle signage and “you have to work to find me” vibe whispers speakeasy, but without a hint of pretension or exclusivity. Rather, once you find your way in, the narrow space is intimate and inviting, a bar within a bar.
Last Exit is busy celebrating its second anniversary this spring, and has re-released a list of infusions and classic craft and barrel aged cocktails. Clare Shipley, beverage manager at Last Exit, explains that all infusions are house made. Most are aged for 6-8 weeks, allowing the flavors to gently meld together. The cocktail menu designed by recently departed head bartender Anthony Rivera is composed of stalwarts and old favorites such as the Harrison, a rosemary and black peppercorn vodka creation. Mixed with tonic and served with a garnish of green grapes, it is a wildly successful combination of savory and sweet with a clean bite and smooth finish.
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1819 Columbia Road, NW
This edition of Eating Around Town was written by Abbey Becker. Abbey previously wrote about Boundary Stone. She lives near Eastern Market.
Since its opening in 1995, Cashion’s Eat Place (1819 Columbia Rd NW) has always done its best to cook with local ingredients, and it cooks them well. But for a restaurant that’s been around as long as Cashion’s, it’s understandable that though their menu is priced right around other mid-priced to upscale restaurants (depending on your interpretation) in the District, it’s often overlooked by diners. The proprietors themselves admit that their clientele tends to be on the older side, and that younger generations tend to bypass them for restaurants that are new to the city.
Cashion’s held a small preview dinner earlier this week to showcase the additions to their menu and the updated decor, and I was lucky enough to be included as a contributor to PoPville.
Let me say up front that while I am always up for a free meal, I’m wary of someone trying to “sell” me on how innovative the food is, how underrated they are, etc. But everything I ate was flavorful, balanced, and clearly made with care, and it’s obvious that the owners truly love what they do.
Chef John Manolatos has been at Cashion’s since the first day it opened. He had no culinary training aside from working in a deli making sandwiches, but the kitchen took him on and taught him the skills that eventually made him sous-chef. Because of the mentorship he received, he had made it a point to hire kitchen staff not based on experience or professional training, but on the enthusiasm they bring.
Justin Abad, the longtime general manager turned owner who also chooses the wine list, has worked at Cashion’s for the majority of his career. He’s an excellent host–personable, knowledgeable, and eager to please–but it’s clearly genuine. You can tell there’s nowhere he’d rather be.
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116 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
This edition of Eating Around Town was written by Abbey Becker. Abbey previously wrote about Stachowski’s Market and she lives near Eastern Market.
Boundary Stone Public House (116 Rhode Island Avenue NW) is everything I imagine a neighborhood bar should be. Living on Capitol Hill, we’ve got Tune Inn, but then you’re mostly relegated to ordering a burger or something fried. Tunicliff’s fills the “local bar” slot perfectly–I’ve seen people of all ages, cops, and firefighters there at all hours of the day–but the food isn’t anything to write home about.
If you’re going on a weekend night, good luck getting a spot to sit. It’s great that it’s doing so well, but if you plan to eat, be ready to hover (at a distance, of course) and slip into a seat just as the last person gets up. Those that aren’t inclined to wait long may want to try brunch on the weekend or a weekday dinner. Even if you can’t sit right away, you can sip a beer or whiskey near the bar until something frees up.
Speaking of drinking, you can do it well at Boundary Stone. The whiskey, bourbon, rye, and scotch lists seem pretty extensive. (I’m a gin drinker, so I’m just making an assumption based on what others have told me.) There are always a couple of local beers on tap, and there’s a good selection of cans. If you’re there for weekend brunch, they’ve got $12 bottomless Bloody Marys or mimosas, and when I went last weekend, the bartender was quick about refilling an empty glass.
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415 New Jersey Ave., NW
Today’s Eating Around Town was written by dcreba. She lives – and often eats – in Logan Circle. Previously, she wrote about Mama Chuy and Dulcinea.
Art Smith is done with his winter hibernation and finished with his spring cleaning.
Welcoming the public back to Art & Soul this past Tuesday after closing for month long renovations, chef / owner Smith proudly showed off his updated dining room and menus.
Gone are the sterile white booths along the back walls. The dated brick red colors in the foyer and drab browns of the past are nowhere to be found. Instead, fresh air has been breathed into the spacious and airy dining rooms. Textured walls – the back of the restaurant is newly speckled with waves of multicolored beans – add interest to the interior. Sleek, deep brown herringbone wood floors replace dated carpeting. The carefully curated urban market aesthetic of the restaurant spills into the spacious bar area: the bartenders wear pastel plaid bow ties and waxy canvas aprons. The long bar entices visitors to linger over an updated cocktail menu and shareable bar snacks.
Together with Executive Chef Wes Morton, Smith has centered the updated menus around locally sourced ingredients from family owned and operated artisans and growers and has selected small batch distillers and breweries to provide the spirits and beers featured behind his bar. The chefs still celebrate honest Southern cooking, but old classics have been revived with fresh new accompaniments and playful bar snacks – cajun boudin balls and fried pickled green tomatoes – complement the craft cocktails.
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