Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

SBC Cafe, Herndon


bilrus
 Share

Recommended Posts

I hadn't seen any mention of it on any other threads, but I just had lunch at the SBC Cafe in Herndon, which Tom Sietsema reviewed a few weeks ago in the Post.

I had a very good cuban sandwich - my only disappointment was that it was a little light on the pickles (which I love). It turns out that they ran out while making my sandwich and had to make little slices and spread them thin on the sandwich. But two differnet people came out to apoligize for the nearly misisng pickles. Other than that - good pork and a nice crisp roll.

The blacks beans served with it were OK, but the Roasted Red and Yellow Pepper soup that was mentioned in the review was as good as the review would lead you to believe. The two sides (the bowl is split between the red and yellow halves) had distinct tastes, just as the two peppers have distinct tastes and it was light yet creamy at the same time.

Don't expect much in the way of atmosphere - its a small room with maybe 30 seats, you order at a counter and there are soda coolers in the dining room. They bring the food to you and bus the tables, etc.

Given the atmosphere, I'm not sure it someplace to drive to "the burbs" for for, but it is a nice addition to this area that is so lacking in non-chain places with real, thoughful cooking. I plan to go back and try some entrees soon.

Bill Russell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

SBC is very good but not AS good as Tom Sietsema implied. This is not DC Coast nor Kinkead's. Nor is it an incredible find as he implied. It is on par with the nearby Euro Bistro and a step down from Reston's Market Street Grill. I should also note that last friday night some of the entrees were $18 and 19 while the soup of the day, Cuban bean, was $6. The $3.50 two color pepper soup is delicious-for the money but at $6.00 we ARE talking a serious standard to measure the Cuban bean against. (Great red bell pepper soup once existed at The Frog and The Redneck in Richmond; of course this was $7.00 a bowl two years ago and in Richmond!) Osso buco was OK, no better as several other entrees tasted could be described. My judgment is that the entrees we paid $14 for were well worth it. When the cost was five dollars higher, again, a different standard. Wine had approximately a 50% markup-if that much. A true bargain! SBC has a real future but if the prices continue to creep up I believe the evening lines will not last. The atmosphere is truly nondescript, cramped and really overall, tolerated only by the lower prices. For $19 entrees the Market Street Grill is much more enjoyable as is Herndon's Zefferelli.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is in a different category than a place like the Market Street Grill (and certainly Kinkeads or DC COast), as it is clearly more casual - although I have never really had a meal I liked all that much at market Street aside from their Sunday brunch.

Some of the prices for the entrees (at lunch) did surprise me for a place of that style. That said, my cuban sandwich with black beans was around $8 or 9 and my whole bill was about $13 for a lot of good food.

But I do think that the area is better served by having it there. It fills a similar need to what St. Basil had in Reston (although, again, with not nearly as nice surroundings) - decent food that isn't dumbed down for the neighborhood.

Where / what type of place is Zefferelli?

Edited by bilrus (log)

Bill Russell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, yes, it fills a definite need but at a certain price range. St. Basil exceeded this with entrees creeping into the '20's. High teens and low 20's, $6.50 for soup are directly comparable to Market Street which is dressier and I would say a more understandable environment for the money.

Zefferelli's is fairly good. It's not Tosca (similar price) but it's a good restaurant to have in Herndon and prefereable to chains. For some inexplicable reason I find myself liking Carrabba's however. Chain comfort food heavy on olive oil and lemon butter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

SBC is very good but not AS good as Tom Sietsema implied.

Is Tom going soft on us? With the exception of Farenheit, he seems to have quite liked most every place he has reviewed lately.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It doesn't seem like he really hammers too many places.

My sense of the reviewing business is that they seek out the better places to review, unless there is a really high profile place that "demands" reviewing - then they get it whether they want it or not. Why review a bad place that no one has heard of?

Recently, I didn't really get the felling he liked Olazzo's all that much, either.

Bill Russell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why wasn't he the one who did the review for the Outer Banks restaurant rather than Zibarte? In the past any significant destination restaurant was always done by Richman.

When you read his review of SBC carefully he wasn't as complimentary as I first thought. Much of it was value for money. Still, he had a comment on his Wednesday morning chat from about six or seven weeks ago that he had a real find in Herndon. I just don't think of this as being THAT much better than what is already around. Rather, I think he is actually "guilty" of what I've been guilty of in the past: finding a good restaurant and experience when you least expect it then going to excess in praising/raving about it. I should note that I am certain that he was "led" to SBC by a tip or two so I somewhat doubt that his experience was totally unexpected.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is an interesting thread. Joe, originally you said "SBC is very good but not AS good as Tom Sietsema implied. This is not DC Coast nor Kinkead's. Nor is it an incredible find as he implied."

And then later you said "When you read his review of SBC carefully he wasn't as complimentary as I first thought. Much of it was value for money"--does that mean your position has evolved a bit after a re-reading of Sietsema's review?

And though I haven't driven way out West to dine there, that's the sense I thought Sietsema conveyed in his review--here's a small chef-driven restaurant out in the burbs which offers a fair value and some interesting cooking. That you are lucky if you live way out there because you now have another worthy option in your backyard that isn't a chain, isn't ethnic AND it might just be worth a drive anyway if you don't live there. I didn't "sense" from his writing that he was over-praising the place--just praising it, helping to put someone clearly trying to do good work on the map--and if the Washington Post restaurant critics had done a better job of calling attention to the burbs longer ago--I'm going back 15 years--the dining scene outside the downtown core might be a little better today than it is--more restaurateurs and chefs might have been taken more chances to open more little places like this Cafe rather than subtly and not-so-subtly discouraged by lack of attention. There'd be more than the two-tier burb structure we now have: ethnic and cheap eats on the one hand, and over-priced conservative power dining that underwhelms compared to the over-priced conservative power dining downtown on the other. The burbs might be a little less than the chain and franchise hell it is.

One good thing to come out of this thread is that, to me, it always seems more helpful to take food AND wine pricing as a package and not to make value judgements or base expectations on entree pricing alone. A ten dollar glass of an oaky chardonnay tends to devalue even the most reasonably-priced entree in the low teens. It seems you'd agree with this Joe, that there may be more "value" here than you initially considered--because you also say "Wine had approximately a 50% markup-if that much. A true bargain!"

Which might seem to reinforce SBC as a better bargain overall, especially if the wine markups at the other places mentioned by way of comparison--a DC Coast, Kinkeads, Market Street Grill, etc-- would not nearly be so generous?

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For those lurking or new to the site, Sietsema was our guest and sat in for an eGullet Q&A recently.

He gave us some clues as to his approach to his job:

"My goal is to write about two suburban places and two Washington spots every month. I aim for a mix from week to week: a mix of neighborhoods, price ranges and cooking styles. When I can, I like to do double reviews, and updates on established places."

"My hope is that I come across as a good friend who wants you to eat well, someone who can point you in the direction of places that are worth your time and money, and away from those that are not. I think it’s also important for a critic to provide an interesting read; not everyone is going to be going to the restaurant in question, after all."

"My constituency is the diner more than the restaurant operator or chef, but if I can boost the scene with a positive review, I’m certainly all for that. Now and then, I’ll put something in a review to let folks know where I stand, or make a point (why are desserts so bad around here? Why do so many restaurants store their wines improperly?) The Sunday Magazine reaches about a million people, so my audience is pretty mixed. And judging from my calls and letters – I hear from college students, yupsters, retirees, foreign visitors -- it’s a diverse bunch. I keep that in mind when I write: some people are on tight budgets while others think nothing of plunking down $200 for a bottle of wine. Some readers have eaten their way around the world while others might need me to explain what dim sum or tapas are."

Joe-- wrt reviewing significant destination restaurants, I'm not sure how I feel about that--but frankly I'd rather he cover the changing scene here and not waste a week filling up a Magazine column by reviewing some destination restaurant elsewhere off of his turf that most of us will never ever go to. I'd rather he return more often to the "destination" restaurants here to see if they are mailing it in, become over-priced or if service has slipped. Other cities aren't his beat. I think I would like reading his review of a non-local restaurant if he could spin it in such a way as to be very relevant for our dining scene here. And since food and dining is so very local I just can't see too much merit in a one-shot review of any restaurant like this. So in that case I guess it didn't even register with me that he didn't review that Carolina place. His "Postcards" however are much better for us long term--that gets him out and about, are on his dime and his time, keeps him more current of what's going on in many more food cities--and undoubtedly helps him place what is going on here in DC in better context--perhaps in a better context than any other critic in any other city is capable of doing on their own beat. What I also might like to know instead is how Tom feels we (DC) stack up against Chicago or Boston or....and wouldn't mind a Magazine column one week devoted to a kind of researched, nuanced "state of the dining address in DC." Not a "Dining Guide" of his "favorites" but something more introspective. That would be better than wasting a week whether he liked some out of the way place on the North Carolina shore or whether Eve did.

He said this about his postcards:

"I pick cities based on a number of things: places that are seasonal (San Juan in winter), places that intrigue me (I just returned from Rome, where I had never been), places that readers have asked about (Vancouver) -- it depends. The neat thing is, Washingtonians travel a LOT and are interested in a variety of destinations, wherever they might be."

Re-reading these quotes it seems more valid than ever that Sietsema is 1) doing the job he sets out to do very well--and 2) the job the paper feels he should be doing. That just leaves do 3) how we readers feel he is doing? In that respect, I'd ask how many obvious, higher end or new places has he NOT reviewed that he should have? Is there anything that he got completely wrong--something that should have been panned but wasn't? He also throws some surprises in there as far as choice--and he does so pretty timely. He certainly has accurately nailed every single new or worthy place in my "burb" neighborhood--Courthouse--Minhs, Singh Thai, Boulevard Woodgrill come to mind. While the "usual suspects" were still talking predictably about the usual suspects--like how great a Four Sisters in Eden Center was (and at one time it was the best Vietnamese our area had to offer)--Tom basically said these two new places, Minhs and Singh Thai--just might be doing the most flavorful, most interesting Viet or Thai cooking in the whole area. And it turns out they were then and still are! And he rightly praised Boulevard Woodgrill as the postive addition to the neighborhood and the value it is.

I believe I only caught him once or twice not reviewing a significant place as soon as those kitchens merited a review--and that was Elysium and Le Relais. But even that timing is subjective. Is there a new "moderately-priced" restaurant he should have reviewed sooner than he did? I don't think so--he was all over Matchbox and seems all over Ella's and will undoubtedly be all over Dish. And such is the nature of a good critic to be damned if he does and damned if he doesn't--simultaneously.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We ate at SBC Cafe Saturday. We enjoyed it very much. The place is very eclectic not upscale, not fine dining, maybe bohemian. It is a very casual cafe so if you are looking for a place for a 50 year aniversary maybe not. We had to wait to get in for about 30 minutes which I really didn't want to do. Someone walked out and said the food was worth the wait so we did wait.

We actually met another couple in line that we decided to join them at a bigger table. The hostess (maybe owner) laughed and said it happens all the time.

I had the avacado soup with shrimp salsa and a curry crusted rack of lamb (this was the $19 dollar entree mention by Joe) I thought it was excellent and different. It was cooked meduim rare as ordered. The flavors were right up my alley bold and balanced. The price was also very good, I counted seven bones for $18.95. We had a bottle of 1999 Jordan Cabernet for $56.00. I usually see this in the $90.00 range. One person had the veal shank. They said it was good. Not adventurous enough for me. I agree six bucks for a bowl of bean soup in this cafe is high but I only paid $4.75 for the avocado soup. My wife had two apps for her meal. First tuna tatare (6.95), very fresh and presented well on a design of wasabi aioli with shredded nori and homemade candied ginger. Second course was a seafood Tamale (8.95), it was big enough for an entree. It was quite different than anything I have seen. It was like an open face corn tamale in the husk with a sauce over it that contained ancho chilies, scallops, crab and shrimp, very good. The other woman had a lemon grass trout cooked in bananna leaves served with head on shrimp and lemon rice. She liked it but said it was a little spicy. We split a dessert of mango kulfi (Indian Ice cream) w/ a mango, white chocolate, and habernero coulis. All homemade and a great finish. Like I said this is not fine dining. The specials seem creative and very well done but the menu is a cafe menu.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"One of the best meals I had in recent memory was in Herndon, by the way, but you’ll have to wait til Father’s Day to read about it."

This is from the transcript of the May 21st Chat which is available online at www.washingtonpost.com, then click entertainment, then restaurants, then Tom Sietsema's chat, then May 21st, scroll down about 1/4 of the way.

This is a direct quote from that chat. It is what formed my expectations when I first went to SBC. What I found (I had the lemongrass trout, also. It was not THAT flavorful nor exceptional-an average, at best, $19 entree.) did not even come close to what Sietsema wrote. In fact it was this quote that caused me to wonder which restaurant he was talking about. I live in Reston and there is NOTHING here that is even capable of providing a meal that would be the "best in recent memory." Certainly not the SBC Cafe. Perhaps Maestro but that's not Herndon.

When I went back and read his review he had toned it down quite a bit from what seemed to be the direction his earlier comment was going in. This is what I referred to when I said that he was not as complimentary of it as I had first thought. It is also why I added that I, too, have been guilty of what I called the same over reaction.

The SBC Cafe is a good suburban cafe that delivers for the money. My criticism is my expectation based on the quote above. AND, with prices creeping into the high teens there is a different standard that I am going to apply especially with the ambience that is available there. I noted the wine prices were extraordinarily reasonable and a real plus. Still, SBC is no better than EuroBisto or the Blue Iguana in Fair Lakes, not that different really. To see $6.00 soup and $19.00 entrees only a couple of weeks after a very positive review (and the earlier comment) gives me pause to wonder what direction this restaurant is going in. If it sticks at 14, 15 or 16 it is a real value and a weekly or bi weekly stop for me. At the higher level there's a lot of competition. Some of it, I prefer more.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As an addendum I do believe that Sietsema is doing an excellent job. I really like his reviews and tend to agree with most of his opinions. I am glad that the Post chose him. His writing confirms their choice. I do believe that he needs to be more selective about some of the restaurants he visits. as well as tempering an occasional rave such as the original one about SBC above. I also like Eve Zibarte's writing a lot, too. But my comment about the Outer Banks restaurant stands: a truly exceptional restaurant in an area that Washingtonians frequent should be reviewed by the primary critic. The Outer Banks is no different from Ocean City or Rehoboth-there are literally hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians going there. When a restaurant is reputed to be THAT good it has earned the attention. You would expect him to be the one who visits The Inn at Little Washington as well as Four and Twenty Blackbirds and other first rate out of town destinations. I believe that if I was the chef or the owner I would actually be disappointed that someone other than him wrote about me. I did not give a restaurant reviewed by Mark and Gail Barnett the same level of importance that I did when Phyllis Richman reviewed it. For me (and I think many others) the choice of the critic was a value judgment in and of itself. How would you have felt if Zatinya's Post review appeared on Friday rather than in the Sunday magazine? And, circuitously, this brings us back to SBC and his review: I just don't feel that it's good enough nor important enough to warrant the Sunday magazine. Friday, yes, but not Sunday. But that's my opinion.

I disagree about his postcards. I would prefer that he focus on D. C. area restaurants (and rare exceptions like The Inn at Easton or the Sanderling Inn). But that is my opinion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Personally, I like the postcards despite the fact that they are not directly helpful to me. I'm not necessarily going to be in most of the cities he visits soon enough for his reviews to still be meaningful, if at all. However, I like the fact that when he talks about what is going on locally he has a national and in some cases international frame of reference to work with.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We will have to disagree. I believe it to be a fined. The trout also was only $15.00. This place isn't for you. Some people don't understand it, I love market street atmophere but the food never comes through. Plus totally different syle. Eurobistro- the food is solid but nothing new, Blue Iguana be real bad food period. Stick to carrabas and your name dropping chefs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks. Wanted John not Johm can't find my glasses.

This should be fun. John W. vs. Johm W

Firefly Restaurant

Washington, DC

Not the body of a man from earth, not the face of the one you love

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Again, very interesting Joe, but I fear you're missing some of the forest for the trees on this. Your personal assessment of meals taken in at these restaurant are yours alone and unchallenged by me. But I feel you may have 1) read too much into a purposefully vague comment he made out of context--that was your mistake since no one can have an idea what "recent memory" means to him, 2) you might have felt a little challenged on your home turf since obviously you live/dine there a lot and 3) you continue to value this throwaway comment higher and out of all importance to the actual review--which is the thoughtful condensation and evaluation of several meals not one. You'd agree he has as much right to one amazing meal as you have to your meal with the lemongrass trout. It may have been he had this amazing meal which fired on all cylinders after enduring three weeks of crap elsewhere--pedestrian food by pretentious or name chefs or crummy and not so good cheap eats all of which was mandated by his job. And critics eat A LOT of crap.

But it is the review--and only the review--which has to trump all, it still seems to me he's tempered himself nicely, professionally, in that review--which again is what counts to most of us. He conveys to me that he balanced the initial excited flush with cold dispassionate extended reality as any good critic has to do. And as I pointed out--which you didn't address--you do seem to support Tom's overarching position of quality to value, and especially when you add food + wine pricing together. Doesn't extremely advantageous wine pricing render a few bucks of entree pricing moot? I'm at a disadvantage not having eaten there yet, but it still seems to indicate Tom nailed this--and as I've intimated, he seems to nail virtually all of his reviews if my actual dining record is any indication. (He overvalues a few, undervalues a few, but in the grand scheme those are quibbles and VERY subjective. And no one around town is talking about him holding any grudges, revealing any pettiness in his reviews or failing to appreciate someone doing good work appropriately. Except, of course, for those Bethesda chefs who wish Tom would give them a little more due.) Back to SBC--Joe--now you've introduced two new points of comparison--Blue Iguana and EuroBistro--which I guess have even lower price points and more advantageous wine-pricing than all the other restaurants introduced by way of comparison--that must not hold up well to comparison value-wise when wine is added.

It could also be that you--and the few others on this thread that have eaten there and seem to me to support the accuracy of Sietsema's review--are not that far apart. You fear price creep of a few bucks on the entrees, and don't taste much difference between SBC and a bunch of other local suspects and John W found some of his meal unadventurous but then went on to describe some very interesting dishes (to me) that make me wonder whether you're right about the cooking at SBC--that make me wonder whether you've accurately conveyed these other restaurants--how can so many burb joints have the same level of menu interest apparent at SBC? (That this entire region does not support adventurous food notwithstanding of course.) If there are all these places doing such bold, balanced, interesting stuff out there I really have to get out there more--because it would be a better scene than my neighborhood scene! And of course none of that really matters since this will remain a small crowded neighborhood cafe offering interesting well-prepared food at a very amenable food + wine price point to most of the reasonably affluent residents and families out there. It will be crowded, there will still be lines and a few bucks won't make any difference because there are so many people out there and the drive elsewhere is still a hassle.

And I remain eager to go out there and wait in line, which says something.

I do remain happy Tom's not writing about a NC restaurant--any NC restaurant--on Magazine time. I wish a few others would weigh in because I see us diametrically opposed on this Joe--you want to expand his sphere of responsibility and I want to reign in the level of expectaion geographically. On this we probably will always disagree. But I bet I'm in the 985,000 of his readership who will always value local attention higher--where more of us are more likely to dine--than however many thousands go to the beach for a few weeks in the Summer and might care if Tom had a few recommendations. Another way to look at it is this--if Tom has to reach to NC for a Magazine column our food scene must not be as good, as dynamic as some seem to think it is, right? By that logic should we also expect Tom to cover the New York restaurant scene much more than he does--since exponentially many more DC residents go to NYC much more frequently? I'd much prefer he just say hey, Carolina is off my lead critic Magazine beat, maybe I'll do a Postcard, and spend that quality Magazine time, space and dollar re-assessing the price and culinary relevence of, oh, I don't know, say the Inn at Little Washington--or any other "destination" restaurant closer to home. Surely you'd agree with that, right?

And remember when the Times--the "national" paper of record covers DC restaurants--it's a writer like a Marion Burros and not either of their critics. Not saying that's the way it should be, but would you ever expect a Grimes to keep his readers abreast of the dining goings on in the Catskills?

Sure the patterns and choices a critic makes in terms of the restaurants reviewed is a valid concern--on one level--and open to our assessment. But--good writing and getting it right will always be more important. On this surely we don't disagree. Your bringing up Zaytinya is very illustrative as well: Sietsema could only give Zaytinya the treatment it deserved because it was the most serious new restaurant project debuting since Maestro which had a highly regarded chef in Jose, the most signifcant local designers, a smoking hot concept and experienced management with a long track record of doing things right in the community. So here's this stylish restaurant in a hot downtown area which is going to get serious national media attention and it is value-priced to boot. He knew he'd look foolish if he didn't weight it accordingly--and give it its due in the Sunday Magazine. And if he didn't his editors surely did. That's not the same thing as saying he had to give it a glowing review. He certainly did not have to--like any critic he could have given Zaytinya the Grimes/ADNY treatment (the initial harsh review--expectations not met--followed by the mea culpa retreat a year later) or could have said the quality and value didn't match the design, etc. But what he couldn't have done is avoid something so serious, so obviously within his beat, without hurting his career.

You really think "most" readers of the Post care about this restaurant in North Carolina? That the Inn @ LW is considered a Washington DC restaurant is enough of a stretch for me. Beach advice in some of these DelMarVa destinations seem so clearly to be stretching Sietsema's priorities. That's so more an Eve Z, a Travel or Style beat or the beat of that new (great) hot Sunday Post section, no? I love Eve's writing as well, though Eve seems to beat to a different drum and different priorities probably by editorial and political design. Remember it was Eve who first wrote about Jay Comfort when he cooked in Fredericksburg. Did you find fault with Tom NOT writing about Jay? Would you fault the Post if they ran some "where does so-and-so DC chef dine when he's in "at the beach" piece? as their way to cover that scene--those readers who go to the beach--instead of stretching Tom to cover that as well? Once you start to go down this road it's hard to stop extending one's priorities. Do you also think "most" readers of the Post expect Tom to cover Baltimore? I don't, couldn't care less about Baltimore but I may not be representative of the Post readership. (On this I think I am, though.) That's another wasted week anytime he does B-more. (Kind of like the Post writing about the Orioles, but that is for Sportstalk radio.) And if I were the chef of some restaurant in North Carolina I wouldn't, couldn't ever sanely expect the lead critic of the Post to write about me, let alone review me and weight my work as high a priority as with DC chefs and restaurateurs.

But back to SBC--to feel a Sunday review of SBC isn't warranted--which is a strong critique--you'd have to at least point to a track record of overlooked gems or significant new restaurants he's missed--you'd have to point to good work being done elsewhere not on his radar--a radar which includes his chats and the Wednesday Food section paragraphs. And you haven't done that.

You disagree about the Postcards but I don't see you offering valid reasons why--again, these postcard trips are on his time and his dime--they're not a part of his Magazine/Food section beat at all. Those two restaurants you mentioned would be on his regular beat radar if you had your way--Tom would be writing about these country inns because he should--they're in our area and many DC area residents go there--just like you feel that's why he should be writing the review of this NC restaurant. The reason why his Postcard effort is valuable and stands to make him a better critic (which you also don't address) is that critics have to learn and to broaden their horizons as well, and they aren't going to learn much at these country inn destinations. I've had my fill at the Blackbird/Ashby Inn types and, well, they're quaint and ok for where they are but over-praised in the grand scheme of things, don't you think? I have an open mind toward ones you consider exceptions and may one day be in a position to try them. But I also have no problem with Eve handling the Inn beat--she has the track record with me of identifying Jay Comfort and if she feels there is someone doing his level of cooking way out there--I think most readers will listen and go. Is it reasonable to expect Tom way out in those sticks as well? Odds are much more likely there isn't any chef duplicating what Jay did at Bistro 309. Odds are, too, if there were, someone would be talking about it online who has enough credibility to prompt local critics to get out there themselves.

Tom's postcards have much more potential to help him put our local scene, our local chefs, our local pricing and value here into a fuller context. It would be like him--or any diner on the high end--going to an El Bulli or a Trio or a Gagnaire and then being better able to frame what is going on at Maestro or what Jose Andres is now doing at the Cafe Atlantico bar from first hand experience, rather than reports or guesswork.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steve, I thank you for taking the time to respond in such detail and also respectfully-unlike a comment above from John W. telling me "to stick to Carrabba's and my name dropping chefs." Unfortunately, I don't have the time to go into this now but you've brought up about a half dozen topics that I'll really enjoy pursuing with you and others on this board. I think they're really interesting, perhaps germaine, certainly deserving of lengthy debate especially if accommodated by a glass of wine next to the computer!

But one thing, I think one really important thing, jumped out at me from your post: Four and Twenty Blackbirds. This is a serious restaurant that if it were on K Street would challenge for one of D. C.'s best. No, not quite on the creative imaginative level of, say, Citronelle or Maestro or Roberto but certainly-at least for me-equal to Kinkead's or 2941 today. (Yes, I'm making several value judgments in saying this. I might even feel that it is superior to both TODAY.) I don't know if you've been but if not, please consider the "trip." It is excellent and worth the 90 mile drive. Plus, Rucker Farms is only a couple of miles away!

Thanks again. Please give me a bit of time. But I look forward to being able to talk on here again.

Joe Heflin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steve, I thank you for taking the time to respond in such detail and also respectfully-unlike a comment above from John W. telling me "to stick to Carrabba's and my name dropping chefs.

Notice there are Johm W and John W. I stay away from any negative posts. It gets difficult sometimes, but I do.

Steve brought up a great number of good points. I feel very comfortable having Tom as our critic of note. I feel he takes chances and is commited to furthering the reputation of DC as a dining town (or at least as far as the chefs take us). He reviewed a couple of bars (Topaz and Rouge) last year.

Agreed on the NC comments as well. I was kind of shocked to see even Eve do it.

I really enjoy the one-two punch so to speak of Eve and Tom. The more coverage the better.

As much as Jose has done in this city, do you think there ever was a chance it would be "relegated" to the Friday section? Tapas/Mezze or not, anything you guys do deserves a very high level of recognition.

Firefly Restaurant

Washington, DC

Not the body of a man from earth, not the face of the one you love

Link to comment
Share on other sites

See Joe's 2941 Review on Chowhound below.

You would go after sunset but not worthy of second visit. It is good it's not good. Picturesque not picturesque. Very good with good prices but not worthy of a second visit .Back and forth. Same with SBC not all that good but possibly a weekly or biweekly stop. What? With all the other local places on par or better may not have to leave the neighborhood.

http://www.chowhound.com/midatlantic/board...ages/18979.html

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Joe

You are entitled to your opinion. I haven't been there yet. A place you say you would go to weekly or biweekly in your own backyard wouldn't thatbe considered a find? You had not visited the place before the review yet after the review, even though you seem not to care for the place, you would frequent it two to four times a month if the pricing stay in the same range. If Tom found a place like that in my neighborhood I would consider it a great find

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It IS because of his comment during the Post's Chat ("one of the best meals I had in recent memory") that I was critical. It is not THAT good. This comment overshadowed his actual review which I did not fully read until after having dinner which was an overall disappointment. If I had not focused on the "one of the best meals" comment I would have viewed SBC differently. If two of the specials were not what I would consider expensive for this type of atmosphere I would have also felt differently. For $3.50 the bicolor pepper soup was very good, in fact exceptionately good for the price (but NOT great-i.e. Jimmy Sneed's is great); $6.00 for black bean soup is a whole different matter as is a $19.00 entree. The trout was OK but nothing more. A chicken Caesar salad was no big deal, certainly not in league with most of the salads at Sweetwater Tavern. The osso buco was similarly OK, perhaps very good for the price. This is NOT a great restaurant. It is a good restaurant with some creativity and originality that is welcome in its original price range. With several early stretches in price it enters a level that it has competition on. If the price stays down I would go back fairly often. If it goes up I won't. There are alternatives for $19 entrees and $6 bowls of soup that I prefer.

Still, having said all this, there is NOTHING on their menu that would even come close to living up to the comment "one of the best meals in recent memory" made by the lead critic of the Washington Post. This is why I suggested that he, as I, overreacted. It is good but again, the SBC Cafe is not THAT good. Regardless of price. I would assume that "recent memory" for him would have included a NUMBER of meals better than this. If not then I believe this is a really negative comment on the restaurant scene in the greater D. C. area. He focused on bbq'd shrimp in his review and mentioned K-Paul's (similar to but less butter or words something to that effect). I've had AND MADE K-Paul's bbq shrimp. I had a bite at SBC. There is simply no comparison. When I reread his review he did not actually say that SBC's were as good nor even nearly as good. When I first read the review I thought he had. Well, they're not nearly as good. But their price makes them an attractive consideration since it's half of K-Paul's. So, again, this is a very good restaurant in its price range. But, pricing aside, this is really just not THAT big of a deal. I'm sorry but I just don't think this place is great nor any better for what Herndon already had such as EuroBistro or Zefferelli's which both are good restaurants and priced fairly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joe, I have doubts about your credibility in this case. You keep bringing new stuff up. You didn't have the shrimp or your critique would have said it wasn't as good because no head on shrimp (like Paul Prudholme). Would the soup be delicious at 3.75or $3.95, how about $4.25. Good is good but is it worth it. Did you eat the bean soup or just look at the price. Reviewing a chicken caesar, Come On. Could it be you decided before you entered the space? I wonder if you could ever appreciate this place. Cabrerra, Sweet Water how about Outback (you are a serious Chowhound). You don't think $18.95 is cheap for rack of lamb (everything on the set menu was under $15.00). Your age and experience might be showing. Sounds like you have a real problem with the place yet you might go weekly. One day SBC, one day Euro, one day Blue Iguana, one day Zefferellis, one day Cabrerras, forget 2941 not worth second visit (per your review) how about El Manantail? Now your Veal Shanl was OK for the price. This was $17.00 Saturday night. In first review $17 was to much. Do you know the pricing at Zefferellis? Try high 20's to 30's for veal. I personally know Nino the GM at Zef's and he loves SBC. He told me he goes once or twice a week between shifts. SBC is not supposed to be a great restaurant. Could it be you can't enjoy it like Tom did because you went in already looking to hate it (like 2941 biggest disappointment of the year according to you) Could you sit back and enjoy the food and wine in a casual relaxed eclectic atmosphere like this? Why not order the tartare or the tamale? Why order the Chicken caesar? I also wonder about the trout. On Chowhound you raved about head on shrimp and where to buy. Well, did you notice the trout was served with head on shrimp? They must have lowered the price on Saturday. The lady who joined us for dinner was only charged $15.00 (nice size whole trout with four large head on shrimp, only problem is I like trout served head on). Some of the best meals in my memory included the whole picture and how we enjoyed it. Tom didn't say it was the best food. Thats it, I'm done with this thread time to move on!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...