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.

Johnny's Half Shell & Taqueria Nacional


tcpanda
 Share

Recommended Posts

Ate at Johnny's Half Shell for the first time last night, with rbh and 4 others. Atmosphere-wise, it's a good place to go with friends -- it's not what we felt was a romantic-date restaurant.

Two people got the soft shell crab, which they pronounced "really good... but also really small". To illustrate, they polished off an entire bread basket, got started on a second, AND were the only ones who needed to get dessert because they were still hungry.

My husband and I both got the crabcakes -- we got two cakes that came with coleslaw and french fries. Although the crabcakes were on the small size, they were meaty and had only enough breading to hold it together. However, there's not too much flavoring. That's probably because you're expected to use the remoulade-like tartar sauce that's provided on the side, but I found it too overpowering. I love the taste of crab, so I was fine eating them sans sauce. The big disappointment was the shards of crab cartilage, which I think shouldn't be present in a $24 crabcake. The fries had a great flavor -- think thinner versions of Matchbox fries (they had that true potato flavor complemented by a judicious dusting of sea salt.) And the coleslaw was quite enjoyable, which was a pleasant surprise because I hate over-mayonnaised coleslaw and am always afraid that's what I'll get. (I really like KFC's coleslaw, but that's probably a whole other posting.) Happily, I couldn't have identified the mayo in last night's slaw, even if you'd paid me. If you're the type that does like creamy slaw, you'd have to pretend Johnny's is a "cabbage salad" in order to not be disappointed.

I did manage to snare some of rbh's trout, but he'll have to post what he thought of it.

Overall, it was good, but not really worth the money. I kept thinking of what I could get at Ray's the Steaks for the same price....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Holy crap, I didn't know someone else besides me was allowed to talk dispargingly about Johnny's!

I would not be too thrilled if there was shell or cartilage in my crabcake for 24 bucks. I went to Johnny's once and had a horrible meal. apparently you have to specify that you don't want your crabcakes deep fried because thats what I got and they were terrible!

I just ate at Old Ebbitt Grill Last night and had their crab cakes and they were just awesome. In fact they are probably the best ones I've had in the city. They also have a crabcake sandwich which is only 14 bucks which is a bargain for the taste

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hello, tcpanda.

I'd have to agree with everything you wrote. It's a common complaint about Johnny's that the portions are small for the money. The crabcakes are about the size of a large sea scallops (sorry to hear yours had cartilage in them; I've always found them to be excellent).

Still, I love the place. I often go to sit at the bar and enjoy an appetizer (usually oysters, raw or fried) and an entree (grilled rockfish has become a habit, though I prefer the winter version with it's woodsy mushroom sauce over the milder summer one now on the menu). Their fried oysters are the only ones I've found that can rival the ones my mother, a southern Maryland native, used to make for me (never over-cooked, lightly breaded). And they always have some very nice wines by the glass (hope they still have the clean-tasting, French Sauvignon Blanc I enjoyed on several pervious visits).

I must also mention that Tim, the bartender in the evening, is the most entertaining and erudite mixologist I've met in this city of late (he's the one with the hair that looks like he just got out of bed).

Definitely not a place for diners with big appetites. But I find it relaxing to pull up a bar stool and enjoy some lite, well-prepared seafood.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's an exception to that small portion rule at Johnny's-- the po boys. Gigantic, especially if you get a whole. 2 people could share the calamari and split the oyster po boy and leave filled and happy for about $10 each.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I must say, I have had two really poor experiences at Johnny's Half Shell. No value is being kind. Mini crab cakes that were tasty but... BBQ shrimp that I have heard people goo goo over were like a high school culinary class prepared them. I do not consider myself having a hearty appetite but I think they sometimes are panning off fluff for substance. I don't get the rave reviews they get or maybe it's just me... The Po Boys are amazing but a po boy does not a restaurant make.

Edited by sdelgato (log)

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

—George W. Bush in Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Holy crap, I didn't know someone else besides me was allowed to talk dispargingly about Johnny's!

hmm... looks like permission's been granted to several of us!

Since we were in a seafood mood, we almost went to Pesce down the street, but we'd heard such good things about Johnny's... what's the word on Pesce?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The word on Pesce has been very favorable:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=34613&hl=pesce

Wanted to check it out one Friday evening recently, but was concerned by their no reservations policy on a busy weekend night and opted for Firefly instead. Perhaps we should have risked a wait at Pesce? Anyone have experience with walking in there on a weekend night?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ate at Johnny's Half Shell for the first time last night, with rbh and 4 others. Atmosphere-wise, it's a good place to go with friends -- it's not what we felt was a romantic-date restaurant.

Two people got the soft shell crab, which they pronounced "really good... but also really small". To illustrate, they polished off an entire bread basket, got started on a second, AND were the only ones who needed to get dessert because they were still hungry.

My husband and I both got the crabcakes -- we got two cakes that came with coleslaw and french fries. Although the crabcakes were on the small size, they were meaty and had only enough breading to hold it together. However, there's not too much flavoring. That's probably because you're expected to use the remoulade-like tartar sauce that's provided on the side, but I found it too overpowering. I love the taste of crab, so I was fine eating them sans sauce. The big disappointment was the shards of crab cartilage, which I think shouldn't be present in a $24 crabcake. The fries had a great flavor -- think thinner versions of Matchbox fries (they had that true potato flavor complemented by a judicious dusting of sea salt.) And the coleslaw was quite enjoyable, which was a pleasant surprise because I hate over-mayonnaised coleslaw and am always afraid that's what I'll get. (I really like KFC's coleslaw, but that's probably a whole other posting.) Happily, I couldn't have identified the mayo in last night's slaw, even if you'd paid me. If you're the type that does like creamy slaw, you'd have to pretend Johnny's is a "cabbage salad" in order to not be disappointed.

I did manage to snare some of rbh's trout, but he'll have to post what he thought of it.

Overall, it was good, but not really worth the money. I kept thinking of what I could get at Ray's the Steaks for the same price....

I was quite pleased with dinner. the trout was very tasty. lightly fried, not too greasy. and the string beans were nice and crispy with it. tcpanda neglected to mention the appetizers - the fried oysters were very good. the shrimp and grits was not as impressive - not bad, but not good enough that i'd order it again.

i liked the crab cakes - but they are a bit pricey (but then again so are crabs as a whole). i miss annapolis when you could wander and get a decent crabcake sandwich for lunch. in DC, it's like hunting for a 4-leaf clover in a bed of poison ivy. i'll have to try old ebbitt's......

i should have known we were in trouble, when both soft shell crab folks before we went in said they were really hungry.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...

We went to Johnny's last week and had the wood-grilled rockfish with mushroom sauce and sauteed spinach, which was delicious. Also worth trying is the winter squash salad with, (I think) apple cider dressing. Small, tender cubes of (I think) butternut squash on greens, served with several mushroom crostini. Great dish for fall. (though I suppose I should have copied the description from the menu to ensure accuracy - sorry!)

I like the casual atmosphere at Johnny's. To me, it has a New England fish house vibe. Please do not ask me to back this statement up with actual facts or examples. It's just the feeling I get when I go there. (Perhaps I'm just pining for New England.)

And if you haven't had the oyster po' boy yet, get thee to Johnny's. A rainy Saturday in, say, November might be a good time for it. At the bar. With a beer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

So, anyway, I spent part of my day working diligently to make sure that Johnny's had a supply of one of the main ingredients for their fine sandwiches-Poboy loaves from Leidenheimer's in New Orleans.

Due to complications related to labor and shipping, Leidenheimer's is no longer able to ship bread out of New Orleans-this meant that Johnny's, rather than serving some kind of inferior product, would have to take them off of the menu unless a solution could be found and found quickly.

Ann and Johnny's solution was to contact some of their New Orleans friends in the Southern Foodways Alliance and ask them if they could organize a bread lift. They could, and they did, and they will. It's what we do. For as long as it takes. The bread is picked up on Mondays and Thursdays and shipped overnight to DC (the cost for this, really, is more than it would cost one of us to fly up with bread as carry on and checked luggage-it's crazy expensive-but that's how they work. Just the best-nothing else) where it will be served for the next several days. This is the same bread that is used in New Orleans and just as fresh and perfect. In fact, it's so fresh that I got some photos of it coming out of the cooling tunnels and being packed by Mike, the head bread dude. The place is in an old building just off St Charles Ave and looks like a mess on the outside, but is a wonder of modern efficiency on the inside. I was there for about an hour and had the opportunity to talk to a number of folks working there and all of them were really nice and really knowledgable about what they do for a living and the importance of it to our food culture.

A river of bread-poboys, muffeletta loaves, and french bread-all three lines pass by that sharp eyed lady and she heaves the misformed ones into that giant pile, which will end up as breadcrumbs-regular or Italian.

gallery_10237_2663_32335.jpg

gallery_10237_2663_807626.jpg

Mike the Head Bread Guy packs the loaves for shipment to Johnny's. They all thought that this was pretty interesting, in that the had never had anyone come in and buy cases of bread for shipment to a far away destination like DC. Most of the time, they just put it together and it gets shipped from the loading dock, but that's not happening in Post K New Orleans.

gallery_10237_2663_988920.jpg

gallery_10237_2663_542320.jpg

This lady was a fountain of information about how the whole operation works. Leidenheimer's is operating 24 hours a day, with a very short staff, just to satisfy the needs of the bread lovers on the Gulf Coast. Hopefully, soon, they can again begin shipping across the country.

gallery_10237_2663_183018.jpg

So, what you should do is go eat a delicious poboy and do your part for the restoration effort.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brooks, I want you to know that -- if it truly would be cheaper to fly to NO and back with the bread as checked luggage -- I'm sure I can round of several volunteers for the occasional Berlin Airlift operation. :laugh:

As nice as it is to see that we won't be getting inferior po' boys in DC, it's better to see pictures of people in New Orleans able to earn a paycheck at a functioning buisness.

I promise to do my part to support the effort in the near future.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aha! I saw Johnny's in a guide book yesterday and I'm always leery of those. We've got dinner covered, but I'm on my own for lunch. Sounds like I can't go wrong with the po'boy, is there any place in DC with good crab cakes?

Also, what's good for lunch near usual tourist sites, museums, etc.?

"Last week Uncle Vinnie came over from Sicily and we took him to the Olive Garden. The next day the family car exploded."

--Nick DePaolo

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kinda off-topic, but if you're down on the Mall (Smithsonian museums, National Gallery of Art, etc.), recall the advice about the museum for Native American art. The architecture, use of interior space in galleries, exhibitions, etc. in new museum itself are all pretty dreadful (though the educational resources available for the public are wonderful; check out the view from a dazzling bank of computers). However, it is the ONE place with really good food....according to critics and reports from others who have checked it out.

If you take the Red line to Gallery Place (look for exit sign that directs you to galleries and museums), there are a number of good choices, too. Jaleo is there. So is Zaytina.

OT: This restaurant is a couple of blocks away from the Phillips Collection at Dupont Circle. For something cheap and very good, Moby Dick, House of Kabobs, might be perfect for you

:smile:. It's just south of Dupont Circle, around the corner from Olsson's Bookstore.

P.S. Good crab cakes were to be had at 1789, but the chef has left and the restaurant is not conveniently located in Georgetown at the edge of campus with tourists (vs. travelers) shopping nearby.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aha! I saw Johnny's in a guide book yesterday and I'm always leery of those. We've got dinner covered, but I'm on my own for lunch. Sounds like I can't go wrong with the po'boy, is there any place in DC with good crab cakes?

Also, what's good for lunch near usual tourist sites, museums, etc.?

I'd ring Johnney's or Hanks Oyster Bar-- separated from one another by a mere three blocks -- for crabcakes. Not sure if Hank's does lunch, though. The Palm does a decent corporate crab cake and a fine martini, as long as you're on vacation. You can just sit at the bar. And I believe that the Old Ebbitt Grill, across the street from Treasury, puts out a decent cake, as well.

Jaleo is great and near the mall; walking distance. I continue to be befuddled by Zatyina's reputation -- fine food but far from extraordinary IMHO.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Well, I'm sure that the actual residents of the Hill won't find the location as convenient as they'd like, but my good friends who work on the Senate Side will be glad to hear that Johnny's Half Shell is moving into the La Colline space on North Capitol Street. Not particularly accurate story here.

This is good news for the Hill, where a decent meal at a decent price remains ridiculously hard to find -- despite some recent improvements in the rstaurant picture there -- and for the dynamic duo of Johnny Fulchino and Ann Cashion, who will be mongering a lot more fish at this new joint, apparently five times the size of the old one.

No word yet on opening date.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 months later...

Johnny's throws open its doors tonight, welcoming the first "r" month since April with a mess o' oysters ("yankee oysters" as someone called them, but oysters nonetheless) and raising money for the ongoing restoration of Willie Mae's Scotch House.

This is great news for the Hill, which was a wasteland not long ago, and great news for Ann Cashion who has contributed much to the DC scene over many years and has always been a big part of the community, as well.

I will report on the surroundings tonight, I hope one of the Hill types who frequent the board will report back soon on the food.

Event info:

400 North Capitol Street NW

6-9 PM

More information: 703-683-7500

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a nice chat with Ann the other night, and she's very excited about this bigger version of Johnny's. Tonight's special event is very near and dear to her, as she's been a big fan of the SFA for a number of years. Something tells me that this place will be incredibly busy for years to come. Go support a great cause tonight and pick up a ticket for the event. And then tell Brooks to shuck you a dozen in 3 minutes or less!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Congratulations to Ann Cashion for getting this space. The event was well attended by the usual K Street types and some normal people ( :wink: ), and it was very nice to meet Brooks. There were mini burgers, shrimp & grits, fried oysters, and chicken wings being passed, plus a table of cheese and the oysters. Everything I tried tasted good. I look forward to checking out the menu, and dining at the bar once they are ready to open.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It all kind of depends on how it goes this weekend and early next week during mock service, but it's likely the doors will open for good on Monday after next. Breakfast will commence sometime in about a month.

It was great meeting so many folks that I only knew online. And, though I have famously made fun of tiny little East Coast Oysters, I am now all about the Raspberry points. They're really good.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Any reports???

Brooks told me he shucked 3 sacks of Raspberry Points and that the turnout was great.

Just for the record, I was assisted by my new apprentice, John Currence (aka Johnny Snack). It's going to take him a while, but I believe that he will eventually be able to operate an oyster knife without close supervision.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

They're open for lunch and dinner starting now-right now-(though not for dinner tomorrow night-so, well, let's say just generally open for lunch and dinner). I'm happy for them. Go eat there. It's a nice place with good food run by really nice folks.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...