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Jun 25, 2009 03:05 AM

Alternative to Cafe St. Ex

Saturday, we'll be seeing a show at the Lincoln Theater (1215 U St) and we're having trouble figuring out a place for dinner beforehand. We've eliminated Ben's Chili Bowl (definitely the most convenient but not what we have in mind) and Creme (the place where we ate before the last show at Lincoln).

We were looking forward to eating at Cafe St. Ex only to learn that the restaurant is going to be having an event that afternoon and early evening. They warned us off dining there since we have a definite curtain time.

Among the following which would folks recommend?
Busboys and Poets
Duke's City
Logan Tavern
Mahogany Restaurant
Merkado Kitchen
Ohs and Ahs
Sala Thai
Station 9
Tabaq Bistro

We're eclectic in our food tastes, although incendiary spiced food has little appeal before a show.


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  1. I think Merkado closed down. Busboys and Poets and Logan circle both have acceptable but not great food. Oohs and Aahs is great but not realy a sit down place.

    What about Eatonville?

    5 Replies
    1. re: jt1

      I'm open to any suggestions. The list I provided is the list on Arena Stage's web site offering deals. Lacking any other source of information, that's what I posted. We don't have to limit ourselves to deals.

      Could you tell me a bit about Eatonville, especially recommended dishes? Thanks!

      1. re: Indy 67

        Reconcile yourself to the fact that whereever you go in the neighborhood, it's going to be packed on a Saturday night. Pilar is excellent, but it can be stifling and loud when the crowds roll in.

        You may want to give Eatonville a try. They opened recently and might not have their act ironed out, but the food has been consistently good. And they're still not quite on the radar yet, so you should be able to get a table.

        1. re: monkeyrotica

          We gave Eatonville a try, and although I'm going to have to go to the gym three times this week just to work off the meal, I'm glad we ate there.

          Walking into the restaurant is visually fun. Huge murals associated with Zora Neale Hurston and her writing dominate the scene. As a fan of Hurston's work, I would have liked to have chatted with someone about the murals. Our waiter identified each mural, but couldn't elaborate. (Since the real Eatonville is the model for the setting of "Their Eyes Were Watching God," I thought the Eatonville mural did double duty representing the symbolism of trees in the novel. It's been a while since I read TEWWG, but I couldn't understand the mural explicitly dedicated to the novel.)

          We arrived quite early since we had an 8:00 curtain. The restaurant filled up quickly and became rather loud. We were somewhat out of the central seating area so the noise wasn't really bothersome. Most folks on the staff were very warm and attentive. One hostess' first question to us was to ask if we had a reservation. When we answered "no," she walked away to seat the folks who had come in ahead of us. Why didn't she just deal with this first couple at the outset? Asking and, then, ignoring us was just weird. Another host bustled over and, in a gracious welcoming manner, seated us immediately.

          At first our waiter didn't realize we were in his station so he socialized with fellow waiters and ignored us for longer-than-appropriate. I finally made eye contact with him, and he came to our table, apologized and remained friendly and attentive the rest of the meal including when the restaurant was super busy. (We left a good tip.)

          Now, for the food.

          We certainly chose enough fried food to give the kitchen an ample test of its frying skills: the re-interpreted hush puppy, fried green tomato, fried chicken and crab cake sandwich. The folks in the kitchen know their way around a fryer. The exteriors were crisp and dry -- not a hint of residual oil -- and the interiors remained moist. My husband declared the fried chicken to be the "fried chicken of [his] dreams." The waiter was very explicit that the kitchen prepares the crabcake with a crispy exterior in order to function as the filling in a sandwich. I didn't need the exterior quite so crispy since I ate crabcake open-faced. Happily, the interior remained moist. I ate the arugula and pickled onions off the other half of the bun, treating it as a salad accompaniment. Frankly, I think it's misguided to team sweet, delicate crab with the strong flavors of arugula and picked onion in sandwich form. KISS.

          Others have already detailed the excellent hush puppy and fried green tomato, so I'll add my kudos to the collard greens (with the fried chicken) and the cajun fries (with the crab sandwich). These aren't spiced with a hot of heat, but they were crisp and delicious. Incidentally, lack of heat is a theme. According to our waiter, the gumbo is seasoned mild "for the masses" along with a side of hot sauce.

          Definitely a place I'd visit again. I overheard a conversation about music at Sunday brunch. That sounds like a civilized way to spend some time on Sunday. Does anyone have any details about the brunch?

        2. re: Indy 67

          Eatonville is a great choice. The same owners of Busboys & Poets (and much better food IMO) focuses on southern cuisine. I would strongly recommend the hushpuppie filled with shrimp, leeks, and creole sauce--so decadent and delicious. I would also recommend the fried green tomatoes served with goat cheese and arugula.
          I would also recommend Vinoteca for a good wine bar, Marvin for moules frites (the coconut curry is delicious), Etete for Ethiopian, Rice for good Thai, and Posto for Italian. I've liked Tabaq in the past but haven't been in a while.
          Never been a fan of Cork.
          I've only been to Bar Pilar for drinks (and the drinks there are fantastic) and from what I hear, the food is outstanding.
          Enjoy the show!

          1. re: Indy 67

            Are you interested in Ethiopian? If so I would go to Etete. Affordable, delicious, and close by.

            For small plates and wine you can try Cork. They have this great avocado plate that sounds so plain but is really tasty. Plus they are great at helping you choose a glass (or flight) of wine if you describe your personal tastes.

            Marvin is yummy as well. I've been hearing mixed things about Eatonville. Most of my friends have said it was good not great.

        3. The food at Bar Pilar, just up 14th from St. Ex, is wonderful.

          9 Replies
            1. re: dcandohio

              Is this a small plates place? I looked at the menu on the web site. Really appealing. I just couldn't reconcile the prices with the food description unless it's a small plates place. That's not a problem -- just my attempt to clarify the seemingly contradictory info I was seeing.

              1. re: Indy 67

                Small plates. When we went last, we had about 6 small plates, 2 were sublime, 2 were excellent, 1 good and one a miss which I think is a good average for a small plates emporium. I recall some incredible sardines & Jerusalem artichokes. Keep it simple because they buy great produce and other ingredients. Adam was making the drinks back then, so my memories of the evening are a little hazy. Do go early and it is crowded.

                1. re: Indy 67

                  Nobody goes to Bar Pilar for value. They charge $6 for a sliced peach sauteed in a bit of EVOO and sea salt.

                  Still it's tasty, and I'm not putting down the fine execution. I'd consider going back. Plus some people like the 'scene' of a vibrant bar with young twentysomethings drinking and having a good time. It's a tiny spot with nobody more than three steps from the bar. But if you ARE three steps from the bar, you may have to fight your way to it. Not a place to worry about PQR.

                  1. re: Steve

                    You may want to try some other dishes there, because I found the exact opposite to be true. I found the serving sizes and corresponding prices to be *much* more satisfying than other "small plates" I've tried, ie. Cork, Mezze, Lebanese Taverna, Jaleo, Oyamel, etc. I can't remember what we ordered the time I went last winter, but one dish in particular was some sort of stewed meat on mashed potatoes. To die for.

                    1. re: hamster

                      Cork has such stingy small plate portions.

                    2. re: Steve

                      In comparison with a recent meal at Oyamel and past meals at Jaleo, I find Pilar to be much more of a value than either of these others. I use them to copare only as examples of other small plate locals. I would rather pay a touch higher price for really outstanding ingredients presented in a stark & simple fashion which is the hallmark at Pilar.

                      Perceptions of value lie with the diner and can vary from one diner to another.

                      1. re: deangold

                        Agree wholeheartedly. Had dinner there the other night - I had two plates after a few cocktails (I was HUNGRY) and I was quite sated. I think the food portion of the tab worked out to be about 12 or 13 bucks.

                2. I think Marvin should be on your list.

                  1. If you're in the mood for northern Italian, try Al Crostino. Make sure you get a reservation, though, and ask about the prices on the specials, as they tend to be a LOT pricier than the menu items.

                    1. Went to see "Looped" at the Lincoln Theater last week and this was our itinerary:

                      One or two small plates at Bar Pilar with a glass of wine. Mussels, lamb chops, salmon - all good. Walk to theater to enjoy show. After show, walk to The Gibson for inventive drinks on the back patio (no food available). After drinks, walk to Dukem for a late evening plate of kitfo. Dukem stays open until 2 a.m. but they really stop serving food much after about midnight. They still had kitfo at 1:30 am though.