Wild Tomato (people in Cabin John no longer need to starve!)
The far western side of Montgomery County is a sad place for a foodie. We have just a handful of places that are worth your dining dollars. Starting in Palisades (OK, that's across the DC line, but not by much) we have:
- BlackSalt - superb but expensive
- Figs Fine Food - wonderful but more of a lunch place IMO
- Et Voila - never tire of moules frite
- Sur La Place - never tire of moules frite, directly across the street from Et Voila
- A Japanese place I've never been to
- Listrani - neighborhood pizza joint, some like it but I really believe it is just convenience and absence of choices
- Kemble Park Tavern - just closed, meh bar food
Then nothing until Glen Echo and the Inn at Glen Echo - basically an Irish pub. It is good, but I still miss its predecessor, which was fine dining.
Then another wasteland. In the tiny strip center at the circle just above Glen Echo, there is what has to be the world's worst pizza, in a disgusting filthy pizza shop that smells so bad you want to retch. How this place passes health inspections I do not know.
Above that, across the one-lane bridge and past the three-way stop sign for the ramp onto the Clara Barton parkway is a small strip center at the corner of Seven Locks Road. Until recently, it had little to offer. Just a bizarre and non-too-clean sandwich shop/convenience store that had a strange mix of food.
Now some of these places are quite enjoyable, but not exactly the full spectrum of dining options.
So your choices were: drive to Bethesda and encounter the parking wars, stay home and cook (oh the horror!), or starve.
Well, things just improved a bit. Wild Tomato, a new restaurant from the owners of Persimmon, has opened in that small shopping center up in Cabin John. We went last night, arriving about 6:15 and a good thing because they do not take reservations and about 15 minutes later, all tables were full and there was a waiting line of about 16 people. The hostess confirmed that they always fill up by 6:40 and have people waiting - and there really isn't much of a waiting area. Just a small corner near the front door with a few chairs.
The place is quite small - maybe 5 or 6 4-tops and about 8 2-tops. It is casual (jeans are fine) and nicely decorated with bright oil colors (all featuring vegetables) around the walls. Those of us who are females of a certain age - always hot - won't mind the blast of cold air that comes in every time the door opens. The place is too small for a wind break or double-door entry. If you are a person with a functioning thermostat, you may want to stay away from the door in the winter.
Service is friendly but a bit uneven - to be expected at week three after opening. I think part of it had to do with how many people came in at about the same time. It did take quite a while to have our order taken but otherwise pacing wasn't bad. I also had the sense that the kitchen struggles to keep up.
The food. We shared a Greek salad. It was loaded with olives but otherwise was just an ordinary salad. The feta was not chunks, but finely grated, which I didn't mind. The greens were fresh. We also shared the pork loin with fruit compote over polenta. This was a lovely winter dish, perfectly cooked. Three decent sized pieces of pork loin arranged attractively on a long plate covered with a bed of polenta and kale. We really enjoyed it. They showed restraint with the fruit compote so the dish was not too sweet, as might have been the case. We also shared the creme brulee. Eh. Not much flavor.
Overall, we really liked this place and look forward to returning many times. Welcome to the nabe, Wild Tomato!
We were there for lunch last Saturday --burgers and a club sandwich and one dessert. Burgers were very good and cooked to the specified temp, fries crispy and no complaints about the club, either. Dessert was as good as you'd expect from a place related to Persimmon. It wasn't packed, but service was a bit spotty---filling one water glass on the table, but not the others, not checking back about coffee refills. But that's minor---food was great, and we'll be back!
(and this is in the same shopping center as the Bethesda Food Co-op....in case you need a landmark)
And I went back the next weekend with some other friends. The soup of the day was a great white bean/kale. A bowl is huge, and a cup is the size of most usual small-ish bowls. We tried the pizza this week, and it had a thin-ish crust, firm, not floppy. Didn't try any of the meat toppings, but the veggie was fresh and good. The next table had large salads ---i think a greek and a cobb, and both diners went home with half in a doggie bag. Saw the seared tuna go by, and I think I'll give it a try next time.
It was busier this past Saturday lunch. At one point, all tables were filled. Service was more attentive, too.
Just curious. Is this a place I could take my family (wife, 2 daughters 6, 3 and an infant boy) and meet my FIL and his wife for dinner? The step-mom knows her food, but like any good Hound can probably handle a hole-in-the-wall as well as a 12 course dinner.
Our kids are well behaved at restaurants, or we take them outside. But for that size group, for a casual dinner sometime, would it work?
re: Dennis S
Your problem would be potentially having to wait quite a while (in the cramped little space at the front of the restaurant) while waiting for tables to open up. The space is cramped, so I'm not sure how much flexibility they have to move tables around. IIRC, there are 2-tops along the walls and 4-tops (maybe three of them) in the center. And kids - no matter how well behaved - aren't great at waiting. Also, if one of yours decides to be not-as-well-behaved as usual, there is no place to take them BUT outside and right now, it is a bit chilly for that.
Were I you, I'd call ahead. They don't take reservations but would probably want to make arrangements for your group, at least in terms of rearranging tables. And wait for warmer weather, in case you need to do a time-out.
re: Dennis S
Dennis - I just stopped by there while on a run to the post office. All the tables are two-tops. In the center, they have two two-tops pushed together to make seating for four. Along both walls, all tables are two-tops.
So they can configure the table space you need, but the question is still waiting until 3 adjacent two-tops become available which is not necessarily going to happen at all over the course of any evening. So I still advise calling ahead. They are really nice people.