Food

January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

No. 57: Cashion’s Eat Place

Washington is said to have more cafes than any city but Paris. But it doesn’t have a cafe society, and the pace of life means that lots of people don’t linger at the table longer than they have to. Therein lies the value of this charmingly appointed Adams Morgan cafe, which even in cold weather offers excellent people-watching on colorful Columbia Road and honors the need to sit and sip and savor.

The last quality might be an homage to the bistros of Paris or to the molasses slowness of Mississippi, the home state of chef/owner Ann Cashion. Given these cultural and culinary touchstones, it’s not surprising that little has changed through the years. The menu remains a beacon of constancy. There are fabulous potatoes Anna, good roast chicken, excellent filé gumbo, and delicate crispy soft-shells in season—all dishes marked by the honesty of their ingredients.

That fidelity to honesty doesn’t lift the kitchen above reproach; generally speaking, the more elements there are on the plate—as in a squab with foie gras, cabbage, and demiglace, or a roasted halibut with fennel, tomatoes, fava beans, and wild mushrooms—the greater the likelihood that something’s going to get muddled. And some of the holdovers feel tired. The heirloom shredded pork, given a Southwest-style treatment complete with warm tortillas, can’t compare to what you’d find in a good taqueria—and ought to make way for something new on the menu. It’s not likely to happen soon—nor is Cashion likely to hire a pastry chef to pump new life into the dessert menu.

The restaurant may lack a little of the spark and surprise of its youth, but for diners with a taste for simple pleasures and who like to linger, there are plenty of compensations.

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