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Evening Star Café


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There is a lot I like about the Evening Star Café. The atmosphere is casual. The food, generally delicious and a good value. I can always count on an interesting glass of wine or two—Evening Star and Planet Wine are part of the same family of owners.

When my friend Emily suggested meeting there this week, I thought “great.” I have fond memories of ES beyond the general food experience; when I first moved to DC, a Del Ray-dwelling friend would invite me to join her and her many friends for food and drink at the restaurant, as well as its two barrooms, the Majestic Lounge to the rear of the dining room and the No. 9 Lounge upstairs. Evening Star is the reason I first learned to navigate the initially-terrifying—and still sort of scary—Rock Creek Parkway.

I arrived, first and early. Punctuality is my curse. After picking up a bottle of wine for later at Planet Wine next door, I entered Evening Star. Reminded of the restaurant’s policy against seating incomplete parties, I retreated to the Majestic Lounge. Even at 6:30, the bar was crowded with young socializers enjoying specialty beers and wines by the class, not to mention lots and lots of cigarettes. A three year old, running wild around the small room while squealing loudly, was the topper (and I really like kids - honest). I paid for my glass of rosé ($5.50, I think, for a pour advertised as 5 oz) and headed back up front.

My friend still hadn’t arrived, however with my glass of wine in one hand, bottle in the other and ten empty tables (yes, I counted), the host would make an exception to the seating policy, right? Nope. So there I stood, in the way sometimes, but a big help others when I juggled my possessions to help staff bussing the outdoor tables, their arms full of glasses and plates. How awkward.

The host said to me “there’s a reason for the policy…” his voice trailing off, as I looked at him, “but I don’t know what it is.” Not his fault, I suppose. He has a job he’d like to keep.

I would be ever so pleased to see a common sense override function installed, but I won’t hold my breath. Does it make sense to keep tables free on a Friday night or some other prime dining time? Sure. On a Tuesday at 6:30 with all of those empty tables? No. It wasn’t long of a wait, but no matter; when my friend finally arrived, I was steamed. Sipping my wine, redolent of summer strawberries and served nicely chilled, helped. Catching up with a good friend helped more.

Oh, the food? That’s right. This is a food web site. I’m getting to that.

The food at ES was very good and just the value I remembered. The prix fixe ($28) doesn’t offer much flexibility, however it is a somewhat budget-friendly option for three courses. My friend opted for that, choosing the pistachio-crusted mahi-mahi with artichoke hearts, spinach, capers, tomatoes and a saffron citrus broth to go with a pear and stilton salad with (not on, as the menu states) flat bread.

My own dishes were chicken and apple sausage on cheddar scallion mashed potatoes with a shallot demi-glace ($7) followed by grilled pork chop with chipotle black beans, avocado salad, pico de gallo, and fried tortillas ($17). I enjoyed both, particular the starter. Chicken sausage really seems to polarize people; this one, to me, is a clear vote for chicken sausage being a good thing. Full of rich flavor, it doesn’t taste particularly chicken-y, nor is it too full of apple sweetness.

The double-cut pork chop was also delicious, if not quite as tender as I would have liked. It wasn’t overcooked (I went with the suggested medium) so that wasn’t the problem. The avocado “salad” was actually guacamole and the beans were a little odd in that they were black, but had the texture of refried beans; still, I liked the spiciness.

In retrospect, I could have done without our dessert, a brownie a la mode, but my friend loved it. Served with a choice of ice cream flavors (last night’s were “Jack Daniels/chocolate or vanilla; we chose the latter), there was also an unannounced appearance by some marshmallow topping which, to me, was the highlight of this dish. I found the brownie to be somewhat dry and its walnuts life-threatening in their size. Seriously! They were HUGE.

Service is one area where the Evening Star could stand to gain some polish. Our server last night, while both nice and relatively eager to please, was guilty of “we” syndrome. She would say “well ladies, are WE ready to order?” and “do WE need more time to decide?” Excessive chumminess? There are worse things, I realize. Our food delivery was herky-jerky with prompt-arriving appetizers, but very slow entrée arrivals. Whatever. Fortunately I was with a friend with whom there is plenty of great conversation.

The bottom line is that I like this place, and will certainly return, but I’ll have to do something about my stupid internal clock that just won’t let me be late. There’s no freakin’ way I’m waiting in that doorway – or in that smoky bar – again.

Evening Star Cafe

www.eveningstarcafe.net

2000 Mount Vernon Avenue

Alexandria, VA 22301

Telephone (703) 549-5051

No reservations.

(except for holidays including New Year’s, Mother’s Day and other dates on which we all know better than to go out for meals)

All credit cards.

No seating of incomplete parties in case you didn’t catch that.

Edited by Busboy (log)
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Thanks for your review, JennyUptown. I enjoyed reading it. (I've never been to Evening Star - I'm guilty of nearly always staying in DC when I go out to eat.)

Do you happen to remember the particulars about the glass of wine you had? It sounded good from your description, especially with summer almost here. :cool:

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Just wanted to say I also appreciate this review. Always looking for something near the Cheesetique and the Del Ray Dreamery. Actually, had a friend in town last weekend and I wanted to introduce him to both places. We were reading the eG review and Evening Star was mentioned. I was disappointed to find there really wasn't a thread about it here. Problem solved! :wink:

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I've always been a fan of the Evening Star. a local restaurant that I think produces very good food without the pretention if you will. Great spot, I'll have to make it back there soon.

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I've lived in Alexandria for nearly 20-years and have never stepped foot in the Evening Star.  I hear it is infested with democrats.

That would pretty much be the whole of DelRay.

I hear that it's so liberal that they don't even look down on Unitarians.

Tax attorneys on the other hand......

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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I've lived in Alexandria for nearly 20-years and have never stepped foot in the Evening Star.  I hear it is infested with democrats.

Speaking of, I ate there a few years ago, and sitting at the table next to me was Governor Mark Warner, who had only been in office for about three weeks.

"My cat's breath smells like cat food."

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I've lived in Alexandria for nearly 20-years and have never stepped foot in the Evening Star.  I hear it is infested with democrats.

Speaking of, I ate there a few years ago, and sitting at the table next to me was Governor Mark Warner, who had only been in office for about three weeks.

His campaign HQ was about 4 blocks away.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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Hubby and I ate there probably in March. We too had purchased wine at Planet Wine. When that was mentioned, we were given the impression that we would be seated earlier than some others. But we were told there would be about an hour to hour and a half wait. We were seated in a little over an hour, so am not quite sure if the wine purchase is a perk or not.

Ditto on the wine - it's really good!

Burgundy makes you think silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them ---

Brillat-Savarin

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It's interesting that you say that because the friend who introduced me to the place, a regular customer, is a vegetarian. She found that their offerings suited her nicely, and if not, the chef was willing to accommodate her by making other dishes meat-free (e.g., the pasta with tomato, mushroom and scallions minus the crawfish).

Also, the entree menu features a portobello sandwich presently.

Why oh why is Evening Star so completely vegetarian-unfriendly? Would a single entree be too much to ask?

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Grf. I used to love the Evening Star, then it seemed to get a little... inconsistent.

Oversalted sauces here, cold plates there, steamed zucchini spiced with cardamom there... My last few trips to the Evening Star, however, were consistently bad though, and the last was bad enough so that it was The Last (after stopping in every couple months regularly for 5 years). I'm afraid I can't even back up my impressions with examples it's been so long (six months? 8?). I remember only undercooked (really nearly raw) green beans, a sauce I thought was just Not a Good Idea, and a server so unpleasant he had us looking for the manager, only to find the manager was the guy lounging on the bar next to us chatting up a waitress. I live only a block or two from the place, and regularly shop at The Daily Planet, but if I want good food, Del Ray has so many great, friendly choices within walking distance (Taqueria Poblano, Fireflies, Bomabay Curry Company) that I'd be a fool to go back.

A jumped-up pantry boy who never knew his place.

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I enjoy Evening Star very much. The fact that is is close to DCA and I work with one of the owners helps. I love the fact that I can pick my wine at Planet and have it served next door. But I enjoy their appetizers above all else. The quail stuffed with Chevre is my favorite thing on the menu. (I am supposing it is still on their as I haven't been in months! But there desserts are awful! (Sorry Christy) They need a new pastry chef or rather they need a pastry chef! If you go, skip dessert and just go accross the street and order ice cream!

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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It's good to know they're willing to accomodate...too bad the menu doesn't communicate that.

I guess the sandwich you're referring to is the crab cake portobello sandwich? I guess they can remove the crab cake, which leaves you with a $19 mushroom sandwich...

It's interesting that you say that because the friend who introduced me to the place, a regular customer, is a vegetarian.  She found that their offerings suited her nicely, and if not, the chef was willing to accommodate her by making other dishes meat-free (e.g., the pasta with tomato, mushroom and scallions minus the crawfish).

Also, the entree menu features a portobello sandwich presently.

Why oh why is Evening Star so completely vegetarian-unfriendly? Would a single entree be too much to ask?

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