Considering dinner there Sunday evening after a show, particularly becuase the bar's open all day and we'll have an hour or so to kill before the restaurant opens.
I've read several posts about it and it sounds solid, and the neighborhood ambiance is appealling. They'll be four of us. We're not looking for fancy, just good quality reasonably priced food.
But I'm wondering about the dining room. Is it just an extenstion of the bar or separate, and is it quiet enough to have a liesurely dinner and be able to hear one another? And I know they have great beer, but do they have a decent wine selection?
Would a la Lucia be a better choice?
Rustico has a new executive chef, Frank Morales. He has been doing a significant amount of tweaking to the menu, so I'll be looking forward to your review.
The restaurant area is separate from the bar and lounge. The noise level is medium to slightly high (once you see the decor, you'll see there's very little sounds absorption), but not to the point that it would interfere with conversation.
First, there really is no "neighborhood ambience" around Rustico. Apart from a very few on-street spaces, you must park behind the buildings with the dumpsters and walk around to the restaurant. All that's there is Rustico and Buzz, the pretentious pseudo-bakery across the street, and a couple of other shops that close early. There is really no neighborhood in the Old Town sense -- it's an industrial area that is being developed. (To be fair, a la Lucia is in a developing commercial/residential area as well, a decent walk north from the heart of old town.)
The food has been good lately, and the beer, as others have mentioned, is outstanding. The wine selection is pedestrian. In addition to the bar and its seating area, there are (4?) seats at a counter overlooking the kitchen, which are our favorites. As you enter the front door, the bar area is to your right, and the main dining area to your left, so, yes, it is separate.
Just got back from a meal there; surprisingly bad. Though the place wasn't full, the service was absent and mostly handled by a backup who made clear that she was just that. The tuna mosaic was bland and the dried beef was repetitious. The sides of spinach and grits were good, thanks to the amount of butter and cheese. I really wanted it to be good, but it was a disappointment.
Have to respond here even though your dinner has past. I went to Rustico two weeks ago for lunch on the weekend. I was excited because the menu has changed and it's a neighborhood place. I ordered the halibut special and was unimpressed with the food and especially unimpressed with the service. Had I actually had something to do that day I would have been angry my entire lunch took nearly two hours.
I have had a few of the appetizers and the pizza is good but I would stick with those options if you do decide to go there. You certainly cannot go wrong with the beer selection. That is clearly their specialty. The wine is unimpressive.
For future trips to Alexandria, I would try A La Lucia (service can be a bit surly but I enjoy the food), the Majestic has reopened and there are a number of Thai/Asian restaurants along King Street where you'll find great, inexpensive food and lots of smiles.
And for the poster who claims it is not a neighborhood, go two blocks away from the new development and you'll find some old homes with lots of charm.
Rustico has little space between bar and dining area. It is a great place if you like noisy crowded places, beer and pizza, and have plenty of time. For a liesurely dinner with conversation with friends, try somewhere else.
As someone who goes to the theater a lot, post-theater dining is always an issue in in this area.
i am not sure if they had the trios back in may yet, i've been going to rustico since it opened and have always had mixed reactions to the food. the oyster croquette is awesome, and the pork bellies with grits, as well as the grilled cheese. you can mix and match all of the trio options, or order only one or two.
i tried the new-ish guinness cupcake for dessert--wow! whoever the pastry chef is (maybe the new fella from buzz--i think they use the same one there and at vermillion in old town too) gets a lot of love.
i'm not too into beer, but rustico's one of the only places i've been that will serve a belgian sunrise (my fave). i loathe the parking, decor and service, though.
Stumbled across Rustico while shopping at the Russian grocer around the corner. Best beer selection this side of Brickskeller (probably better as it seems they actually have what's on their beer menu). Pizzas looked solid, but I'm definitely going to try the trios. Always looking for a new place to try pork bellies and braises.
Kudos for also carrying $2 PBRs, Millers, and Schlitz.
I have to agree with most here about the service- not sure what the problem is there- Service at the bar is great and the bartenders are very knowledgable about the beers, but the waitstaff has no sense of urgency- we sat at a table outside and waited 30 min before we had a beer put down in front of us! It wasnt THAT busy...
The food has been up and down for me as well- but the pizza is awesome (this coming from a NYer with a real bad case of pizza snobbery) the white pizza is especially good-as are the French fries and any soup and salad that I've had there...
The mac and cheese and the Pork Shoulder Ragout were not great at all-
I second the white pizza and fries (cooked properly). The burger is also large, tasty, cooked to order.
Agree about the pork shoulder "ragout." I was expecting a moist braised dish and basically got pulled pork bbq minus any flavor. Very dry, tough as well.
I asked what the special of the day is. The waitress said cod with a coconut vanilla sauce(?!). I laughed and asked if I could have it served in a daiquiri glass with a little umbrella.
You really can't go wrong with the bar food or the beers.
Their fries are addictive, I assume they soak them in malt vinegar before they cook them from what they tasted like?
I also loved their duck empanada appetizer that was really good.
Pizza was decent, not bad, but for that style I like Matchbox better. I want to try the guiness cupcake didn't have room last time.
But I liked the ambiance, we had a big group in the bar section and didn't have service problems, but again were in the bar. And for a beer place I was really happy with their wine selection by the glass. I got something I really liked for what I considered really reasonable DC prices, forget what it was now though.
I went to Rustico the other day on a Saturday night, and I too, received pretty lousy service. We had an 8:30 reservation for 10 people, everyone showed up by 8:30 and we were given a pager to wait for a table. At the bar, we waited for 45 minutes when a host/server noted they were clearing two tables that could be pushed together. Fifteen minutes later, a different host/server came by saying they only had two booths which could fit five people each and if we waited another 20-30 minutes they might be able to fit a table together. This would end up being an hour and a half after our reservation! My thinking is, if a restaurant is going to take reservations for a large party, they should be able to accomodate the party or just not take the reservation in the first place.
The first time I went to Rustico they ran out of pizza dough, this time someone ordered pizza and they had run out of peppers. Pizza was good, and of course, the beer was great, but don't try going with a big group.