I like mini-burgers better than burgers. Two or three bites of well crafted and cooked burgers are the perfect size for me. They communicate the flavors the kitchen combined and measure their skill in execution. It is all I need. I take the same approach to Restaurant Reviews – sure critics of great skill can write beautifully for 1000s of words about a worthy restaurant – however, I would rather read four or five succinct reviews in the same space.
As I started this blog with a commitment to providing the more than occasional expert and unvarnished restaurant opinions, this is the first installment of my formal mini-reviews. I have written very briefly about some of these places in the past, however reviews have a shelf life which had expired and I have expanded more than in the past. Each Mini-Review provides specific recommendations on the best way to enjoy the meals and an estimate of the cost. Every other week I will write a new installment of Mini Reviews and they will all have a theme – this weeks theme: Favorites
Favorite for a first date that won’t think I am a pretentious ass for going someplace nice on a first date – Mendocino Grille – Chef Barry Koslow might just be the most talented chef in DC that is not a bold face name. It is high quality and inventive Modern American food with a solid nod to classical techniques but presented in a contemporary yet unpretentious manner. Order anything from the sea as this is a particularly good area for the kitchen. If it comes from pork, it is also very likely to make you happy. The wine list is not to be ignored – there are no other restaurants at this level of dining that offer a better wine program both by the glass and bottle. With few exceptions, the prices are exceedingly fair, and the wines abundantly interesting. Best Advice: 2 apps, split an app, two entrées, cheese plate, bottle or two of wine; not cheap but worth the $200+ it will cost you.
Favorite for a first date that need be dissuaded of the belief that I am a pretentious ass and therefore must be taken someplace with really good food but with more of an edge and not terribly pricey – Granville Moore’s – if you haven’t taken a trip to the Atlas District to sample the best Moules and Frites in DC, stop what you’re doing. Seriously, stop. Right now. In addition to excelling at the Belgian staples, the meats (great burger, steak and cheese, hanger steak, and daily specials) kick ass too. They do not accept reservations; and get busy by 7pm during prime time. Go early in the week – the Monday HH with $10 Moules is especially wallet friendly. Bonus – charming but small patio in the back. Granville’s has experienced some consistency issues (service-wise) in the last couple of months but they are still on this list by virtue of the fact that the food is so damn good. By the by, this place can qualify as a great cheap date if you avoid the temptation to sample too many all of the craft ales. Best Advice: Start with a bowl of Moules and a small Frite, split an Entrée, hang out and drink $75+ depending on the beer.
Favorite for good cheap date in a box – Negril & Quarry House – Negril specializes in very tasty and mostly authentic Jamaican food. The décor is more of a carry-out, but they have a number of tables. Jerk chicken, Goat Roti, and the Ox Tail are their best dishes but be sure to get some of the densely light (I know impossible but true) Coco Bread. Negril doesn’t have a liquor license so that is when you walk around the corner to the Quarry House. QH has been around for so long and changed so little that it provides great comfort for anyone with an appreciation for old fashioned neighborhood bars. One thing that has changed – for which I am very grateful – is the serious upgrade to the beer list. In a addition to the standard dive bar offerings, the are craft beers from Rouge, Young’s, and other highly regarded breweries. Added information bonus: it is excactly 13 steps down from the sidewalk to the bar. Negril: $25; QH: depends on your crowd but beers range from $3 to $8.
Favorite for a second date or a really good steak – the bar at Capitol Grille – it is not often that I will recommend a chain restaurant for anything except using the bathroom during a parade, however, CapGrille does such a solid job with so much that they have been on my favorites for more years than I will admit. Sunday – Wednesday the bar is most pleasant as it is largely free of many of the lobbyists, the excessively privileged, and the shallow as hair-root women who love them. I hope you like to share as many of the portions can get Flintstonian. Easy Instructions (sharing everything): Start with the smoked salmon, have the Kobe Carpaccio if it is available, always get the best Calamari in town (if you like the spice,) finish with the Kansas City Strip (not on the menu but they will make it for you if you ask and it is available,) desserts are optional for all but the most obsessive sweet freaks. $150 or so depending on the wine.
Favorite after a craptacular day and I need a culinary hug – Cashion’s Eat Place – I have written about Cashion’s too many times but there is a extremely strong reason. This is a dining room that is comfortably elegant, a kitchen that is carefully and deliberately ambitious, and has service that is always gracious. The late night menu (Friday & Saturday after midnight) is the best eating you can do anywhere in DC at that hour. This place also works swimmingly well for a first restaurant date. One of the highest compliments I can give this place is in noting some of the culinary royalty with whom I have frequently dined at the bar – my modesty and protecting that of others prevents me from naming names but if I did…. I will caution that like many restaurants the appetizers are often more interesting than the entrées. My recommendation: 5 apps (2, share, 2), shared dessert, and a bottle of wine – $125 (especially cheap for a four course meal with wine.)