Busboy

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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  • Birthday 02/23/1959

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    Washington, DC
  1. Esquire had this to say about The Shack in Staunton. And I had this to say, in another forum: A friend and I rolled into Staunton about 7:30 and --perhaps because of the rain -- found an almost deserted restaurant on an almost deserted street -- a real noir night just off a scruffy intersection near the four-lane. From the outside the Shack looks like the sort of spot that would serve grit-centered breakfast specials and dubious fried chicken (undiscovered genius or poisoning risk?) at lunchtime to construction workers, less-Epicurean locals and the guys at a nearby auto body shop. Inside -- well, it doesn't look much different until the details start to come into focus. The distinctive percussion of a restaurant kitchen at work (unlike the staccato clang of a diner's spatula on the griddle); the subdued lighting and the small staff it illuminates; the shoulder-high stripe of old photos of the chef's in-laws that circle the restaurant (its chief decor), depicting a local family that apparently weathered the joys, sorrows and various challenges of pre-digital photography and 70s styles with enough panache to pull a talented chef from the canyons of New York back to the Shenandoah Valley. Service was relaxed, direct and candid ("if you're already into heirloom tomatoes, the salad may not be that special"), and our waiter carried himself with such relaxed authority you felt that he could make anything he needed to happen (not that we had any odd requests) and when he announced that the glass of wine I'd mistakenly ordered would go great with the lamb (the next course), I believed him. Our menu was vastly different from Lori's -- impressive, given what I assume is the challenge of scoring so many ingredients when you're only accepting deliveries large enough for a 29-seat joint -- and offered five apps,four entrees and a pair of desserts. We eventually settled on two variations of the menu: my friend ordered three savory courses for a fin over the $45 standard three-course cost and I went for the four course, $55 menu. The snapper with cherries, fennel and soy sauce lees served as a fresh twist to the now-common raw fish starter. Speaking of the commonplace, we had mussels and eggplant which were rendered somehow uncommon by the Vietnamese coriander (a quick Googling confirms my suspicion this is at best a very distant cousin -- different orders, phylum, etc -- to cilantro/coriander) that seemed to add more complexity than you'd expect -- not just when you took the time to brochette one between the eggplant and a mussel, but also when you just dipped the toasted ciabatta in the broth. I said to Laura that the squid ink fettuccine with pureed parsley would be a bit bland without the uni and she tartly replied that it did have the uni and that perfectly cooked pasta that light was far more rare (particularly in my own kitchen) than I acknowledged and so maybe I should just shut up about that. The entrees were like the kind of stuff that French Grandmas made legendary before mediocre cooks made them cliches: imagine being there at the birth of Boeuf Bourguignon or pot-au-feu. All that patient, painstaking technique and those extraordinary ingredients hidden super-hero-like behind the mask of a simple stew, comprising something that elevates the palate and sticks to the ribs. Anyway, that's what the beef cheeks reminded me of, but I may be getting carried away in penance for disrespecting the pasta. And sticks of butter and heads of roasted garlic are no longer sufficiently OTT for my mashed potatoes: I must have marrow. And throw some chanterelles and gremolata into the mix, while you're at it I was quite keen on the lamb sausage 'n' shank, as well. Sausages that brought a bit of heat to the game, a square of crisp shank sufficiently tender inside you sort of expected it to ooze onto the plate like a ripe Pont l'Eveque whose rind has been pierced and an eggplant puree whose -- now that I think about it -- (relative) austerity sat well with the (relatively) rich meat, plus two buds of okra (that I shoved to the side because I've always hated okra) and pickled cherry tomatoes for fun. Sweet corn pudding with moussed bittersweet choco, cubed nectarine and lime was another understated treat -- a touch off-beat and more memorable for it. When it was over, Laura declared it -- with perhaps a touch of hyperbole -- "the best restaurant you've ever taken me to," which is no small praise, given dinners at Alinea, CityZen and (perhaps more relevant) Rose's Luxury in the last six months. When it was over, we also had a brief chat with Ian, who is struggling to balance the fact that people now drive hundreds of miles just to eat at his shack with no guarantee that they'll get a table with the fact that he'd like to make sure the neighbors can still wedge their way into a restaurant so tiny that even one reservation no-show can really fuck the books for the night. Even I sympathized, despite my dislike of no reservations policies -- perhaps because we didn't have to wait (I'm self-centered like that), and perhaps because he seemed like just about the nicest guy I've ever stumbled across in a restaurant kitchen. All told, the damage came to a scant $177 -- though we drank far less wine than we would have in the old days -- and that included the T-shirt I can wear to the farmers market to show how goddam cool I am, and two rolls of Smarties, which are available (along with Mary Janes and couple other small sweets) at the register in lieu of mignardise. Maybe next week I'll do a test whereby at 5PM I head south to Staunton and a friend hops the Metro to Barracks Row (home of Rose's Luxury) at the same time. Be curious to see who eats first -- and who eats best. ETA: We didn't pay a ton of attention to the wine list which struck me as brief, well-chosen and reasonably priced. Also, when I called beforehand to discuss timing strategy, the friendly lady on the phone suggested arriving before 5PM or after 7:30, and said that they'd never turned a table away (though I wouldn't want to push it) and that they now have space to sip wine outside while you wait.
  2. Thanks, everyone, for your kind words and thoughts.
  3. I can see it. Something about making your partner happy and enjoying a meal together that pushies you past the Korean carry-out.
  4. Stephanie passed away thirty days ago tonight, a month and a day before she would would have been 50. For the first time in six weeks I cooked in my kitchen, for the kids and some friends. Progress of sorts. But doing dishes alone...
  5. Depends on my mood, though four times out of five I'd join you at The Passenger. Alas, though, it's a hike from there to 14th Street, hence my reccomendation.
  6. And, while we're on 14th Street, if you're in the mood for a hip cocktail joint, you might want to try The Gibson, a neo-(pseudo-?) speakeasy where tattoed bartenders whip up excellent, original cocktails. Prime time entrance generally demands a reservation, but getting their early or late often works as well. Also, being polite and patient to the guy at the door seems to help. Mitch probably has a more nuanced view of the place, if he cares to weigh in, but I think it's an excellent place to kick off a 14th Street crawl.
  7. Arugula, I Love You.

    My current junk food craving is a "'staven" from Pete's Apizza topped (at home) with fresh arugula that's been doused with blue cheese dressing and piled on. Somehow even more decadent and more healthy at the same time, and the green's spiciness sets off the richness of the cheese and pepperoni. In fact, picked up two organic bunches this weekend for my one-man debate-watching party Wednesday night. reminded me how much more flavor the mature plants have than the "baby" stuff I usually buy.
  8. Avoid Adams-Morgan. I'd head towards the 14th St. Corridor, as it seems to have the best hip/food quotient (H Street and Columbia Heights are probably hipper, but the food is not as good). if you want reservations, Estadio and Pearl Dive are probably out, though both offer pretty good eating. Masa 14 might be a good bet, as might Cork -- especially if you're interested in wine as well as hippitude.
  9. Thanks, all, for a wealth of suggestions. Given that the boy will likely never actually graduate from Temple and that the girl is already talking about transferring there, I suspect that I'll have an opportunity to hit many of these spots, regardless of where we end up this Sunday.
  10. Hope to be heading into Philly after three days of backpacking and will be looking for a decent meal on Sunday night. Pumpkin and Osteria both seem to have tables open, but we may want something a little grungier and heartier (may not -- comments re: these two spots appreciated) but, you know, a little higher-quality than Italian Market tourist traps, Center City yuppie bars or chain restaurants (not that there's anything wrong with them). The fewer large screen TVs, the better, and a modest price is helpful. No seafood, but burgers that do not taste like TGI Friday's and come with exciting sides; old school pizza or Italian fare; maybe even decent tapas (though I find that their crack-like pricing scheme does hurt the budget) are all thoughts, but I am happy to hear others. My brief time in lovely Kensington suggests that it's not a dining destination, but that's where my son the urban pioneer lives and -- all things being equal -- proximity to the neighborhood or the interstate/river are appreciated. Thanks.
  11. And even a local can learn something from a semi-local like Weinoo. I think per night spent in the city limits Mitch definitely gets out more than I do, so I often look to him. Speaking of which....in today's Post. Sushi Taro in Dupont supposedly sets the standard but I haven't been since they upgraded and don't know if you can still pop in for a little eel or if you have to get the omokase. Worth looking into. Kaz Sushi Bistro is beloved. I like Sushi Ko in North Georgetowm/Glover Park. Bit of a hike to get to without a cab but not really far out of the way and worth it. Vies with Taro for "best" honors and serves impeccable fish. Also, oddly, has an excellent Burgundy list. And just out of the blue, if you feel like getting way off the beaten track and just knocking around an interesting neighborhood -- this would be good if you and your wife want to do a little bar-hopping at places only locals go -- catch the Green Line up to the Petworth stop and grab a bite at possibly the finest wood-fired pizza/El Salvadoran place in the world, Moroni and Brothers. Then wander back down 11th or 14th street catching Domku (aquavit) Meridian Pint or Room 11 or Wonderland and then maybe over to the hipster-dive Red Derby for a can of beer on their excellent roof. A lot of people who don't live here would feel more comfortable setting out on such a journey before sunset, but it's been ages since anyone I know has been mugged.
  12. This is our 4th or 5th trip to DC. In the past we have dined at Old Ebbitt's Grill - OK food but enjoyed the atmosphere, Legal's Seafood - good food decent price, McCormick & Schmidt's - thought it was over priced with so so food, Rosa Mexicano - Over priced poor food, Capitol City Brewery - Great burgers good price. Ruth's Chris Steakhouse - Good Steak but overpriced. These are are restruants we have visited in the past. We will probably go back to Legal's, Old Ebbitt's Grill but would like a couple of other suggestions for dinner and lunch. Pretty much like any type food but prefer seafood, steak, and other ideas. We can travel by cab but prefer to stay in the DC area. Also good places to grab a lunch without breaking the budget. Help is appreciated. Dude, what were you thinking? You come to a decent food city and you eat at loathsome chains. Good thing you found eGullet because you were living your life wrong. We'll help you start living in a space not dominated by lowest-common-denominator stuff. You seem to like seafood (where are you coming from? This is non-trivial information, and not just regarding seafood. No point recommending Japanese if you're from LA). I join with Alex in nominating BlackSalt as the best seafood in town, though not as convenient to you as Johnny's. Please do not report back that you've been to Legal's or McCormick's or I will have you excelled to the suburbs. Bibiana is great. And, if you like Italian and want to lunch large with lobbyists, Fiola is getting mixed reviews (including from me), but it, too, has a lunch special -- $28, I think -- and well worth it if you want a proper European lunch (followed by a light Ethiopian dinner later on). Get the Zuppa Anglais for dessert. If you're in Dupont (Phillips Collection, Embassy Row, Textile Museum, etc) Bistro Du Coin is a classic neighborhood bar except that it's a French Bistro. Not memorable in the least except that almost everyone who goes there has a very good time. Chefs hang out their after service Saturday night. Get the onglet/frites or the mussels. And, the real reason I got on is to agree with Alex (though, props to Weinoo, a brief journey to Estadio the other night was quite rewarding. Go early or late), this time about La Chaumiere. Truly a vanishing breed of gracious, traditional French dining, with aging Georgetown Gentry in attendance but no pretense at all. How many places in the world can you get pike quenelles these days? If you're inclined, it could anchor a wonderful date night, combined with a stroll through Georgetown mansions or the illuminated waterfront. Or a lunch after a jaunt up to Dumbarton Oaksfor a little pre-Columbian art or to tour what should have been Gatsby's garden. Dress nice and order a decent wine. Just far enough from the Foggy Bottom Metro to walk off your buzz. Go on a week day/night to avoid Georgetown crowds. And, speaking of Foggy Bottom, Marcel's. Full, blow-out meal in the dining room or pick and choose at the bar (with the jazz pianist). Another date night candidate, a little more upscale but the bar is blue-jean friendly. Top 10 food, top three service.
  13. The French Connection. The scene where they cut between the bad guys eating a grotesquely opulent old school French lunch, while Popeye Doyle stands across the street freezing his ass off, eating bad pizza and drinking cold coffee from a Styrofoam cup. This link has some background on the actual restaurant and, at the bottom, the sceneitself. Aside from the food, it's a brilliant 2:26 portrait of the two-faced bitch that was Manhattan in the 1970s.
  14. I think you should just plan on traveling for decent food. I work literally next door to Union Station and it's not exactly restaurant paradise. There are three good, if expensive, restaurants in the Greater Union Station Metropolitan Area: Johnny's Half Shell, which is a fine fish joint that I recommend highly, and which has a pretty fun taqueria attached if you are around for breakfast or lunch; Bistro Bis, which is way more expensive than a real bistro but has better food than a real bistro; and Charlie Palmer's Steak House, which is a steak house. Do not eat any place actually in Union Station unless forced to. If you are young and adventurous, or just adventurous, the H Street corridor (Google "Atlas District")offers good drinking on the other side of Union Station -- walking distance if you like to walk and don't find frightening urban streetscapes frightening. The Atlas Room is quickly earning a fine reputation, though my plans to get there have been foiled several times. Granville Moore's offers quality moules-frites in a setting that looks like a recently-shelled Belgian farmhouse from a black-and-white World War II movie. At prime times every place on H street is crowded with earnest hipster wannabes who actually work for the Senate or a left-leaning nonprofit. The extremely hip -- expensive shoes hip, not nose ring hip -- Penn Quarter neighborhood is maybe a six block walk the other direction from H Street. Rasika has brilliant Indian, but it is hard to get a table at (call now); Poste can be impressive and offers lovely courtyard dining, and Jaleo is something of a no-brainer -- high quality tapas at all times. If you're there on a weekend, the brunch at Cafe Atlantico can be fun, especially if you like cocktails early or want to be walking distance from the National Gallery. And, yet a third Jose Andres restaurant -- Oyamel -- has killer chiliquiles and related Mexican-type stuff, plus more premium tequila than you should probably drink. And, they have a Thursday Farmer's market in Penn Quarter, if you just want to bring some peaches back to the room. With respect to Kayb, I would drink in the Old Ebbitt in a heartbeat, but wouldn't eat there unless it was 11PM and I wanted a burger and a decent martini. Or, if I was in the mood for their half-priced raw bar happy hour, 3-6 and 11-1 M-F. I mean, that's where we had brunch after my kids' confirmations, but it's not a dining destination. Also, you should go to at least one Ethiopian restaurant. The well-regarded Ethiopic is on the aforementioned H Street Corridor, but I hate it. The well-regarded Etete, in Little Ethiopia (9th St, NW, Metro accessible, U Street)is the safe bet, but it's boring. I recommend Zenebech Injera, which is not nearly as grungy-looking as it used to be, and now sells beer openly, rather than making you drink out of a Styrofoam cup. If you like raw meat, the gored-gored will rock your world. Beyond that, all Alex's question's apply. PS: The bar at CityZen has a $50 3-course menu that can be pretty killer. The Restaurant at CityZen has a $125 menu that can be pretty killer, too.
  15. ABC, WD-50 or Del Posto

    I enjoy dressing up. Mostly wondering if I need to hunt down a tie for my son.