I've always found DC restaurants to be a lot like their transient population - always a little bit in a hurry, a little bit like the congressional staffer at 5 p.m., and like the politicians and their aides that infest it, they talk a big game with little substance. You shuffle with your head down, slowly talking into your phone and you end up eating what's in front of you.
It's pretty much the same every place you go. My last trip to DC was 2 1/2 months ago for my brother's wedding. There's a lot to like (but not love) at some places, and in other places, not so much. DC has a burgeoning young population - but again, if you ask me, they don't have really good taste. (With the obvious exceptions of my brother and my sister-in-law, who are great hosts, and even better people to put up with my constant complaining and pretentious way of analyzing food.)
Anywho, it doesn't take much to impress someone who is a starry-eyed aide for a congressperson - they're already impressed by the egomaniacal rantings of political sociopaths.
Anyway, this was a quick trip, and we hit two restaurants during our time. We hit a third in Fado, which I don't consider a restaurant as much as a chain bar, in the style of Baker Street or Cheers. If you've eaten at one Fado, you've eaten at them all. I assume readers of this blog like food or drink, and will have been to one in their lifetime. My experience at Fado is: Dark, chainy, and Smithwick's. That experience has been had a million times by a million people around the country.
Friday night, we went to a place called Matchbox. People seem to like this place, and I guess for DC fare, it stands out amongst the places that don't have to try so hard. One gripe I have is the cover of the menu is made out of wood. Carved into it, the Matchbox logo.
I guess when I see stuff like that, I expect a more business casual atmosphere, which this place (in the middle of Eastern Market, yuppie central) did not have. It kind of seemed like it wanted to go that way, but just can't quite pull itself up like an Italian restaurant that, as its owner, is trying to escape its immigrant past.
Beer: My server seemed to think "I don't know" was a good option when I asked her to recommend a beer on tap. Alright. Either way, she (eventually) suggested Allagash White, an unfiltered witbeer. Allagash is a Maine brewery, and we don't get a lot of that in Denver. I liked it, kind of pale, kind of fruity, very spicy for a wit. Good head, good lace. Not strong, very drinkable and actually went really well for the meal I ordered.
Everything about this place screams "For God's sake, don't order a steak! Please, order the sliders! THEY'VE GOT ONION STRAWS!"
So the clientele, the menu, the server - I really wanted their sliders to be bad so I could write a bad review all thew way around. But I'm sad to report - they were actually very good. It could do with less onion straws, but they were cooked exactly how I ordered them, the buns were lightly buttered underneath the hood, and the gorgonzola on top was just enough.
Damn you, Matchbox. Your sliders got me. Now I have to suggest you.
(Aside: Eastern Market has a wide assortment of restaurants. I've been to 3 now, and my favorite is still Las Placitas, owned and operated by Salvadorians. Any place that bills its weekly flea market as having vendors "from 5 continents" might be a little bit pretentious. I mean, obviously they have people coming from Africa EVERY WEEK to sell their wares to DC residents. That's not that far to go to sell a few prints or handwoven caps.)
On the day I left, we had brunch at a place called Hawk and Dove on Capitol Hill.
Now this is my speed - divey, but not quite dangerous. I had a sausage and cheddar cheese omelet. Aside from being an 8-egg omelet as opposed to the more standard 3-egg, their coffee was decent, their homefries greasy enough. But I didn't like the Bloody Mary (WAY too much pepper) and that's a dealbreaker for me.
Allegedly, Hawk and Dove's food is not its strong point, and I have to agree. Seems like it might be an okay place to drink. I've been to worse places here in Denver.
Starting to look like I'm going to be coming to DC a bit more in the next year or two. I better start finding better places to eat, or this town is going to get real old, real fast.