Save your fave!
It's one thing to lose a favorite restaurant to "circumstances beyond control" - lost a lease, loss of key personnel, etc. It's another to go in visit after visit and see the place nearly empty, and to have that uneasy feeling of "How long can they last with this little business?" One has the feeling that if only people would try the place, taste the food, or whatever, the business would come, but yet that first step seems to be the hardest.
Having lost two faves recently (Ras Doobie's and Cafe Amore) due at least in part to insufficient customer traffic, I'd like to ask local 'hounds to post recs for their faves that give one that sad "This is wonderful, why aren't there more people here?" feeling. Maybe if we 'hounds spread the word more vigorously for some of these "deserve to make it" kinds of places, we can keep at least some of them going for all to enjoy.
Trust me, to see your under-appreciated fave go under is not a good feeling, so let's do what we can to prevent it.
Ok, here is my effort at saving a fave.
We went to Trattoria Alberto last night at 7:30. There was a two-top and a single guy at another table, and that was it. After those two tables left, we literally had the entire place to ourselves.
The waiters, as always, were magnificent. Knowledgeable, courteous, recommending wines, entrees, and so full of personality. Their accents and suits ooooooze "old country" vibes, and they were just a joy. Valentino would crack random jokes and had us rolling.
The piano player started asking us for requests, and even did some funky vocalizing--i.e., sounding like a coronet when playing It's A Wonderful World. We felt like we were in a dreamland, this little cocoon of beautiful, happy, tasty things where we could enjoy each other's company, the amazing foods, and the warmth of the staff.
And the food----don't get me started about the food. They had gnocchi on their specials (as a second course) last night and they were hands down the best gnocchi I have had. And believe you me: I have had gnocchi in at least 10 places in Rome and Lugano; and just about every place in Little Italy. Whoever made them just incorporated the potato and flour, they were the lightest, most amazing pillows I have ever had the pleasure to consume. (I joked I'd be ordering another order for dessert.)
Their veal chop was probably 4" thick. My dining companion tore through it (and the dog's getting the bones today, lucky dog). I had the duck breast with balsamic and honey glaze. Oh. Mah. Gad.
You get a basket full of italian bread with a "dipping" sauce, which is light olive oil with about 10 chopped cloves of garlic. The garlic has been infusing the oil for a time so that it's lost some of it's bite, but not all of it. Sooo delish.
Their tiramisu was heaven. And I generally don't like tiramisu. Even their ladyfingers were home-made. It was the lightest, most amazing tiramisu I've tried. And I've tried tiramisu in Italy!
I remember reading the City Paper review years ago that going to Alberto was expensive, but it was cheaper than a plane ticket to Italy. Really, when I go there, I do feel like I'm back in Italia again. It's so lovely inside, the service is impeccable--yet without being stuffy--and the vibe so welcoming and European. It truly exemplifies the definition of the word "Trattoria." They treat you like family and the service is very, very warm without being overly intrusive.
And the food.....ach, the food!
So please, go to Alberto's. I don't want to lose this gem. It's a splurge, but we never regret what we spend there. (Last night it was $230 for two apps, two entrees, two veg sides, a liter of mineral water, two desserts, two espresso coffees, and one and one-half carafes of wine.)
Since I just recently moved to Federal Hill, Ras Doobie's was on the top of my "must try" list based solely on my respect for your posting and your obvious love of the place. I am disappointed and somewhat guilty over the fact that I will never get the chance to do so.
What is obvious to me is that I can't afford to wait when a place is getting really good reports, especially if it's the kind of little mom and pop place I love so well.
Here's hoping that Mr. Doobie reopens soon in a new location.
I'm trying to find out what's up with Doobie. I just hope he stays in the area, and doesn't head back to Jamaica. If I hear anything about whether he's going to work for somebody else, I'll post immediately.
In the mean time, does anybody know if the little carry-out Jamaican place just north of 33rd on the east side of Greenmount is still there? If so, that's (typing name phonetically) Soul-gee, and his stuff is also quite good. I may be remembering wrong, but I think that Doobie is from a rural area in the west end of Jamaica, and Soul-gee (again, I'm likely mangling the name) is from an urban area on the east side of Jamaica, so there's a certain stylistic difference, but each of them is quitre good in their respective styles. I only ate there once or twice, but everything I tried was good.
Different than Doobie's, not better or worse, and definitely worth trying, provided you live close enough to do carry-out, or if you don't mind chowing down in your car as I did.
Anyone who can cook like that, I do believe we will hear from. But the business is just so fragile. When something really good comes along that we can champion, then Ken is right, we need to make some noise. That's what bandwagons are for.
At least I don't think he'll go corporate!
I think this area has become over saturated with places to eat, and in many different forms.
Thus, the old "Mon and Pops" become only local stalwarts, but the locals tend to want the newest and latest, and there seems to be plenty of that going around. I only hope that places like Conn Ave, and Bethesda, Rockville and Fairfax and falls Church Va etc. can hold onto some of the eclectic mix of "family and privately owned eat spots that make going out to dine a memorable experience. I think in Tysons Corner you can still hear an Opera singer at Da Domenicos while dining on their specialty Veal Chop. I hope they can compete with the new growth out there! Watch out soon we'll all be eating at the Macaroni Grill or Olive Garden, Not Me!
I miss Red Sage already... I can't think of any other of my faves that aren't very busy. I guess Willow is pretty busy now that is has been open for a little while now. It is right around the corner from my house, and I am always suprised sometimes when I go and it seems kind of quiet, but I think that has kind of changed now.
Unfortunately it's too late for many of my favorites...it's been a tough year. I just read that Noah's on the Side in Ellicott City has closed. They truly had some of the best sandwiches anywhere, and were terrific in their use of country ham. A was also a Cafe Amore fan, and miss them. The last few times that I was at Oriental Manor for dinner, and La Sirinita (Glen Burnie), they were both nearly empty. In the past this wasn't the case, so I'm not sure if it's my timing, or if their business has really dropped. But I'd hate to lose both of these as well.