The space in Union Station occupied by B. Smith's was a presidential reception room, and it is the grandest dining room on the Hill and maybe in the city. The appearance of the room is less formal than when Adirondacks occupied it after the train station was refurbished, but the real difference is in atmosphere–friendly, lively, casual, a good setting for chef James Oakley's upscale Southern cooking.
You can start with any one of a number of dressed-up, down-home favorites. What Oakley calls Florida Gulf Dip, a gratin of crabmeat, artichoke hearts, spinach, and garlic-flavored cream cheese, seems straight out of a Junior League cookbook–one of those dishes people secretly love but seldom admit to making. A bowl of spicy red beans and rice, offered as an appetizer, is delicious–and enough for a meal. The only disappointment has been fried green tomatoes, as tasteless out of season as their ripe, red counterparts.
As hard as it is to resist a dish called Swamp Thing, a mixture of seafood over greens in a mustard-based sauce, there's much else to explore on this menu. Shrimp Lafayette are fresh-tasting and nicely fried, served on a warm black-eyed-pea relish with portobello mushrooms and wilted spinach. Lemon Pepper Catfish, topped with stewed tomatoes and okra, is a treat, as are the macaroni and cheese and spicy greens that accompany it. Cajun Chicken Maque Choux was marred by soggy breading.
Homey desserts include a good peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream and a delicious chocolate Bayou Voodoo cake.
While B. Smith's Union Station location is a plus for the restaurant, the lack of valet parking is not. You can park in the Union Station parking facility, a long walk from the restaurant's door, or take the Metro.