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Apr 13, 2008 05:13 PM

Restaurants where the food is clearly the passion of the kitchen and the waitstaff

I'm looking for restaurants in the DC area where it is clear from the moment you sit down that the chef is passionate about what he/she creates and the waitstaff love sharing that passion. It can be 5 stars or a mom and pop storefront. I'm just interested in eating food that I can tell someone really cared about when they prepared it. Suggestions?

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  1. The first place that comes to mind is Restaurant Eve. From my experience, you could tell a lot of love and passion went into the cooking. The staff was beyond knowledgable and in terms of wine and drinks Todd Thrasher is one of the best in the business and has fun with his job.

    Central also fits this description as does Equinox.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Elyssa

      I agree with Restaurant Eve. The wait staff is incredibly knowledgeable and can give incredibly detailed descriptions about the food, drinks, and even the origin of ingredients. And, I would add to Elyssa's description and say that Todd Thrasher is the best in business in this area.

      1. re: dcfoodie13

        I'll third on Eve. And if you appreciate a well-prepared cocktail, I'd pit Thrasher against any mixologist in NYC or LA.

        On the low-end, KBQ in Bowie. They know their Q.

      2. re: Elyssa

        I have to say, I've only been to Equinox once, but the experience I had there definitely did NOT indicate to me that either the waitstaff or the kitchen cared. Indifferent service, a terrible set of wine pairings, and uninspired food was what I found there.

        My initial thought for this was a little mom-and-pop pan-Caribbean place in Rockville called the Blue Mountain Cafe. Sadly, it closed about a year ago. The owner/chef was SO enthusiastic about his food, and he REALLY wanted to make you like his restaurant. I loved it, but unfortunately I don't think too many other people knew about it. I was so sad when it closed.

        1. re: reiflame

          My husand and I loved Blue Mountain Cafe. They had the best Ropa Viega. We were also very sad to see it go.

      3. It's been awhile since I've been, but I had that feeling at Blacksalt the two times I have gone (and moreso there than Black's for sure or even Addie's).

        If you're ever at Solomon's Island, the CD Cafe definitely fits this bill.

        1. I was at Komi last week and I was quite impressed by the enthusiam of the waitstaff and the sommelier and anybody else who happened to work there about how the food and, on some dishes, how to eat it for the best effect.

          1 Reply
          1. re: BookGuy

            I'll second Komi. Totally fits the original poster's description.

          2. Thank you so much for your suggestions. We will definitely try Restaurant Eve, Blacksalt and Komi and hope to get to CD Cafe when we are down near Solomon's. Maybe we can get to Bowie, too. Boy, I am abit shocked that there aren't many more to choose from. My question was spurred by two great eatng experiences while in Phoenix last month (Tarbell's and Fontinelli's). It made my husband and I realize what we were missing here even with all the restaurant choices in the area.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jej500

              There are plenty of restaurants that fit your bill. Besides the ones already mentioned:

              New Heights
              Corduroy (which will reopen soon yipee!!)
              Circle Bistro

              1. re: dinwiddie

                Yes, I definitely got that vibe from Palena. Very knowledgeable staff. My partner has food allergies and the staff not only knew what dishes she could or couldn't eat, but even suggested changes the chef would easily make to change a forbidden dish into one she could enjoy.

                Komi, of course.

                Don't agree re: Central. I like the place but I've never felt that the staff displayed passion. Competence? Maybe. Passion? No.

                Dino, if you get the right wait person and if Dean himself engages you while you're there.

                And oddly...we were killing time in the little Greek place on Connecticut across from the little strip Mall (the same trip with Alero and Indique) during off hours, and a gentleman came in who clearly had no familiarity with Greek food. The person behind the bar was extremely gracious, offering all sorts of information, advice while clearly displaying a love for the food and the country. It was very endearing. I've never been back there but I wouldn't hesitate to do so based just on that one experience.

            2. Food Matters in the Alexandria Landmark area. A lot of thought goes into the food, and they attempt to stay seasonal. It isn't the fanciest of places, but the passion is certainly there.

              Menus here: