Tuesday, July 1 at 11 AM

Todd is having a contest—he wants you to be the critic! He also chatted today about the Cheap Eats list, Butterfield 9 closing, and more.

Where can you get a three-star experience at one-star prices? Which hot new restaurant merits the scorching hype?

The answer to all these questions and more can be found Tuesdays at 11 a.m. on Kliman Online. From scoping out scruffy holes in the wall to weighing the merits of four-star wanna-bes, from scouring the 'burbs and exurbs to hitting the city's streets, Todd Kliman covers a lot of territory.

To read the chat transcript from June 24, click here.

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W o r d   o f   M o u t h  . . .

… This week I'm launching what I hope will become a regular contest in this space: "You Be the Critic."
   The prize: a gift certificate for dinner for two (value: $150) at Hooked, in Sterling, which we awarded two stars ("worth the trip") in the July issue of the magazine. The chef, Richard Beckel, has stops at Le Bernardin, Citronelle and the Caucus Room on his resume, and Cynthia Hacinli, in her review, praised the restaurant's "effortless charm, intimacy, and attention to detail."
   Here's the contest: In 75 words or less, tell me about a dish you've enjoyed recently at any area restaurant — and why.
   I don't care if it's a four-star restaurant, or a one-star restaurant. Knowledge of food is important, but not primary; remember, this is a writing contest — what matters is your ability to describe an experience so fully that others can almost taste what you yourself tasted. Be funny, be creative, be passionate, be sly, be irreverent.
   Deadline: July 10th, by noon.
   Send your entries to tkliman@washingtonian.com with the subject line "You Be the Critic." And be sure to include your name, address and telephone number.
   The winner (and a few runners-up) will be announced in my chat on Tuesday, July 15. …

   —–

   Beer (hoppy, strong), toys and penny candy have long been the draw of Franklin's Restaurant, Brewery and General Store (5123 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville; 301-927-2740), but chef Mark Heckrotte is turning the restaurant into a destination for fun and often rewarding American cooking, from his excellent oyster stew on last year's winter menu (with its echoes of Oysters Rockefeller) to a current lineup that showcases a muffaletta pizza, a trio of merguez lamb sliders and an Elvis-inspired sandwich that one customer recently described as "life changing" (a PB & J is layered with bacon, battered and coated in potato chips and deep-fried).
  And no chef in the area writes funnier menu notes.
  Stephanie Haven, my assistant, recently talked with the loquacious chef for the first installment of …

T  A  B  L  E    T  A  L  K

 

Name: Marc Heckrotte

Age: 40

Years in the Kitchen: 8

Favorite meal: Oysters on the half shell from Old Ebbitt Grill. "And a really good soft shell crab, fried, with lettuce, tomato and mayo squished between two pieces of white bread  — hell, Wonder Bread at that point — makes me happy."

Nickname: "People call me 'Sherry' because a prep cook I had couldn't pronounce 'chef.'"

Secret seasonings: Mrs. Dash. Big, flaky Kosher salt. Fresh oregano.

Perfect Day
: "Wake up at 9 o'clock in a room overlooking a beach in Tahiti. My kids, Jack and Jamie, have gotten dressed and fed by themselves. My wife and kids and I lounge around at the beach eating and drinking out of coconuts, doing a whole lot of nothing, thousands of miles away from anything."

What inspired you to become a chef?

I used to cook at home and I held off on going to culinary school and doing this professionally for a long time. A friend and I used to host a Christmas party. [The people that came to the party] were constantly pressuring me to go [to culinary school]. I would tell them: "You'll never eat for free from me again!"

I like to create and be a part of the creative process. We really aren't doing anything new as chefs; so we aren't creating in that regards. [Cooking] is a creative outlet.

I was an English major in college, thought I could be a writer, but it was the hardest thing to do in life. When I would sit down, it always took such a long amount of time to get from the beginning to a conclusion, whereas in a kitchen you get the results pretty quickly. I worked in an office but could never see anything being done. [In the kitchen you could], see the immediate results of your labor.

What chef do you look up to as a mentor or inspiration?

Right out of culinary school I was hired by Ris Lacoste at 1789. At first I was a line cook, and worked at the desert, salad, and sauté [stations]. She was a great sous chef and my mentor. … Ris is one of the nice people and she gets the job done. You shut the heck up when she raises her voice, and she trusts [you] to do [your] job. She made really good food and could handle large numbers of people. … Some things I got straight out of the kitchen, but, from her, I got the right attitude.

Since you've become a chef, how has your experience with dining-out at other restaurants changed?

I was a waiter before I was a chef and have been in this business since I was 16 years old, so all my dining out experiences have been as a knowing employee. I had more money when I was a waiter so I could go out more often!

Now, I'm a bit pickier and an honest food snob. I like food that's good for what it's good for. If it's not, then the experience is aggravating. I get more upset about service than about food and tend to order simpler. And I get on seasoning all the time.
 
Which dish on your menu are you proudest of?

Our menu changes every six weeks, but on the current menu, I'm most proud of the lamb sliders. Little merguez sausage patties, we grill 'em and top 'em with a tzaziki sauce. They're fun and they fit in with the restaurant perfectly. … I think that part of what Franklin's is about, is that it has to be fun for the customer. … I try to keep flavors clean and plates simple; things should be somewhere between technical and regional. Three to four bold flavors on a plate is plenty. Entrées should be classical, nothing new under the sun, and as true to the original as they can be.

The menu at Franklin's has evolved a lot since you came on, more funky and creative. The lamb sliders, the muffaletta pizza, and now — the Elvis-inspired PB & J sandwich — a PB & J with bacon, dipped in batter, rolled in potato chips and deep fried. Where are you heading with these changes?

It used to be only a three panel menu and a few "specials" items that were smoked and then there were sandwiches and pizzas. Now we have "six week specials" and a lot of regular customers. … As far as the Elvis inspired sandwich, it was Elvis' birthday, so we were thinking about his favorite meal, which is a PBJ with smashed bananas, deep fried. So we started making PBJ sandwiches and throwing them in the deep fryer. First, we did it as a joke and then every one in the kitchen liked it, so we decided to keep it on.

I don't know where the restaurant will go eventually. Sometimes I want it to be a French bistro. But I'm very glad we are what we are. I like to think of us as a very American bistro or brasserie without a wall bar. It's a casual family loud place, with microbrew beer, no white tablecloth or starched waiters and the only restaurant/brewery/toy store in the area.  

The food's become a lot more consistent, too.

In defense of anyone that works at a restaurant anywhere [keeping consistency] is the hardest thing to do. You can be horrible and consistent. To be good and consistent is incredibly difficult. You can write all the recipes and explain them till your head turns purple, but it boils down to a person being able to do it. People are tired, have love problems, have sick children and are sick and come in. If you asked any chef what the hardest thing to accomplish is to be consistently accomplished.

To fix [the problems], we systematically looked at the problem areas and put the right people in the right places. But it's practically the same staff as when I started. There are now recipes that are very prep heavy, and we make sure everyone is following the recipes. But, I'm very big about making changes and tasting. Everyone must be open to criticism. … We still make mistakes, could be better here and there, but we work pretty hard to make it the same.

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alexandria, va
Just a comment on last week's chat– the person complaining about their bad experience at Ray's….The whole reason the waiter presents a bottle of wine is for the customer to accept or refuse it. Once the customer accepts it- unless it is corked/offf/bad… it's yours! You bought it. Why should the restaurant take a loss??? if you simply 'dont like it'- It's amazing to me how much people expect from restaurants…. People need to realize it is also a business- a business to hopefully make a buck!

I agree. 

And I wish I'd made the same point, myself, though maybe not as harshly.

I'm not sure that most diners, though, know that they are in a position at that point to refuse a bottle. I could be wrong. 

But I think that most diners, when it comes to wine at a restaurant, assume an almost subservient position with what they're being presented. They grant the power to the sommelier, the server, the restaurant.

That's one of the problems, so often, with wine in restaurants.

Sommeliers, the best ones, talk of a give-and-take at the table. That's nice. But it doesn't work unless the sommelier has a really great, enthusiastic personality and the ability and willingness to demystify things for the diner — and how many have you seen who really can lay claim to all that?

 

DC
I just came back from a trip to Cambodia and fell in love with the cuisine. Do you know of any Cambodian Restaurants in the area?

I wish.

There was one a while back. But as far as I know, it's no longer around.

Really, the best I can tell you to do is to hit Kampuchea Noodle Bar, in Manhattan. It's fun, funky, ramped-up food, made with great affection and a laudable willingness to stay true to the cuisine's roots — even if you would never see mini-pork sandwiches in Cambodia. In other words, a Cambodian-style Momofuku.

Elitist Snob?

Todd,

First, I want to tell you how much I love your Cheap Eats and your eagerness to review little places that most others would ignore.

But can you recommend any Gourmet take outs in NOVA? Perhaps places that are caterers but run retail as well. I know of one in Annapolis–Palette Pleasers (I have no financial interest in it) but have been unable to find any in this area.

Thanks very much and stay as cool as you are.

Thanks!

I can't think of any off the top of my head, BUT we are just about to begin work on a big piece for an upcoming issue of the magazine that will look at take-outs, meal replacements, cook-for-the-week centers, etc.

If any of you have recommendations, I'd love to hear them … 

Crystal City, VA
Good morning Todd, If I had $100 to spend on one fun (once yearly) experience, would you recommend Best of Washington Party or Bastille Day at the French Embassy?

Well … I'd be a terrible, terrible employee if I said otherwise, but still, I think the Best of Washington party is going to be a helluva good time. 

Here are just a few of the restaurants who will be participating: Citronelle, CityZen, Charlie Palmer Steak, Farrah Olivia, Equinox, Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar, the Oval Room, Kinkead's, Poste, Proof, PS 7's, The Source, Vermilion, and Rasika.

That's not enough 1/3 of the list.

And that partial list above doesn't even take into account the sweets, or the libations.

It's at the National Building Museum (401 F St. NW), July 8th, from 7-10 p.m.

Producer's note: You can purchase tickets online here.

Adams Morgan, DC

I just moved to Adams Morgan and all the neighborhood people are recommending Pasta Mia.

I have this thing about waiting in line for my food so please tell me this will be worth it. Also, my boyfriend seems to think it's housemade and I recall you saying that 95% of places don't actually make their own pasta. Does Pasta Mia? If not, where can you actually get it?

I like Pasta Mia as an experience.

The pastas aren't homemade, but the sauces are. Portions are huge, you wait in line forever, it's cramped quarters, the service isn't particularly solicitous, but I'll tell you what: It's a fun time, for all that. Very much a cult sort of thing. And you may find yourself bonding with the people waiting in line with you, or bonding with the folks at the adjoining table. (They can probably hear you anyway). If you go in with too high expectations, you'll be disappointed, but that's not to say it's not worthwhile.

If you want homemade pasta, and don't want to spend a lot, you can try Da Marco in Silver Spring. Not everything is homemade. Some are — maybe five out of about a dozen or more. But the restaurant marks them on the menu, so you know. Just know that "fresh homemade" means made that morning, while homemade means made in advance, then (likely) frozen.

Arlington, Virginia

Todd,

Michael from Ray's: The Steaks here. This is in response to the chatter from last week who felt as though he received prejudicial treatment due to his prominently displayed lapel pin.

I just want to say, to him, and to all members of the community, that we at Ray's The Steaks gladly, proudly and openly welcome, respect and serve all of the brethren of The Nation of Islam in our house.

So far does our commitment go in welcoming the brethren into our house that, as many have surely noted, and much to the chagrin of many, we have rejected serving pork and pork products in our house out of respect for the brethren. All of here are fully committed to showing the greatest of hospitality, respect and welcome, in the service of all, to those who dare live their life in the greatest of sacrifice to their beliefs and who demonstrate their dedication to the Nation of Islam by proudly bearing the badge of their faith on their lapels as decreed by the Most Revered Mohammed Elijah–even as others try to rob them of their glory by misappropriating their unique and revolutionary symbol of faith–the lapel pin.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to clear this up, and if I can ever be of service to the original chatter, or to any of the proud lapel-pin bearing members of the Nation of Islam, please have them contact me directly. Peace.

This one's for the Kliman Online Hall of Fame. An insta-classic.

Too, too funny … 

 

Gaithersburg, MD

Todd,

I just wanted to thanks to you and your staff for recommending more affordable places in the DC area.

Your lists come in very handy when deciding to dine out (now only go out to dinner once a week, previously went out to dinner three times a week). It is much appreciated especially since alot of people's disposable income has suffered due to the higher gas prices (reports have it that will go as high as $7 per gallon in 2 years!), rising food prices, rising electric bills, shrinking home prices…I need a drink!

So sorry to hear about Colorado Kitchen and Butterfield 9. I hope other Top 100 restaurants don't have share the same fate and can ride the slumping economy.

Thank you, Gaithersburg.

That issue is a phenomenal amount of work. But also, I think, the most fun we have all year here.

But think about it — the driving, the scouting, the visiting, the re-visiting, the writing, the re-writing, the editing … And there are probably another thirty restaurants that didn't get included, that we could have put on that list. Of course, there are also many, many restaurants — more than a hundred, I'd guess — that you never hear about that didn't come close. Didn't even sniff the list.

Incidentally, the Cheap Eats package has just gone online.

Arlington Va

I've had two straight mediocre experiences at Thai Square and I'm afraid to go there again and risk another bad meal. A few specifics: The crispy honey roasted duck was too sweet and too rich/greasy. The chicken with chilies/garlic/basil was oily. The Tom Kha Ghai was so salty I couldnt stomach two bites.

Why is this place so highly recommended?

It's a good question.

And you're not the only one asking it. Clearly, there are problems, of late, in the kitchen there. I've noticed a definite slip, but not as big as some are contesting. I'll be keeping my eye on it.

A year, two years ago, Thai Square might have been the best place in the area to go for Thai cooking. 

Now? The clear favorite, I think, is Nava Thai, in Wheaton, which I wrote about for the magazine in July.

Alexandria VA

I had one of the most wonderful meals in a long, long time on Sunday. We went to Bastille in Alexandria outside of Old Town. They have a "Sunday Supper" which has a selection from the menu and arranged as a pre-fixe meal (only $33 for a 5 course meal you will not soon forget).

It was superb from the cream of garlic and asparagus cold soup to the mussels with chirizo broth followed up by a cheese course and dessert. It was our anniversary and they sat us at a little secluded table for two. It was just great!

Nice.

I've heard complaints from time to time about the restaurant, but I think that's largely a matter of expectations. This isn't knock-your-socks off French food. But I think you can eat well here, and the intimacy of the room, and the affordability of the wine list (lots of Rhone reds), and the charm of much of the cooking, adds up to something worthwhile.

And I think the "Sunday Supper" is one of the better pre-fixe deals in the area.

Washington, D.C.
Just a follow-up to your earlier comment about where you can get homemade pasta. Doesn't Amalfi Restaurante Italiano, the family-owned, hard-to-find restaurant in Rockville MD boast of making its own pasta?

Yep. Good one.

The thing is, finding a place that makes its own pastas is not all that hard. Finding a place that makes good pastas — and makes them cheaply — is.

Right now, I think the best pasta in the area is being made at Tosca, downtown. But it'll cost you. Same at Obelisk, another excellent spot for good, handrolled pasta.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining about paying for quality — great pasta is worth splurging for. 

I just wish there were more spots in town that were good and affordable.

Good call, Chevy Chase

Hi Todd,

It’s been on our list since the review a couple months back, but my wife and I finally got over to Mio last week. We went for dinner and had a great experience.

We had a table right in front of the kitchen, which was great entertainment. We had planned on talking, but ended up spending most of the dinner watching the team in the kitchen work.

Here’s the goods: I started out with a cuttlefish stew, which had a great, powerful flavor. The stew was thick and nicely seasoned. I used ALL of our bread to soak up every last drop. My wife had the spaghetti with crawfish and enjoyed it as well. The spaghetti had that homemade flavor and texture and the crawfish were nice, with a little spice kick to them.

My only complaint about that dish – maybe a little more sauce on the spaghetti. From there I had the lamb. I asked for it to be prepared as the chef suggests and it came out rare. I don’t usually eat lamb that rare, but I asked for the chef’s preparation and wanted to try it out. It was fantastic. It was served with a thyme sauce that had me asking for more bread to sop it up with. It was a wonderful dish and I’ll order my lamb rare next time I go out.

My wife had a soft-shell crab which was done in the simplest way I have ever seen in a restaurant. It was pan-seared and served with a parsley froth. It was great to taste a soft-shell without the deep-fried batter. The service was good, but not as good as the food.

All-in-all, the food was incredible, and being able to watch the kitchen at work made the dining experience. None of our dishes were over $30, pretty good deal for the food we ate. Our server said that the menu changes often, so we’re excited to get back for another round. Thanks for the recommend! Dan

Dan, glad to hear it. Sounds like a terrific meal.

If we were to do a reset of the 100 Best Restaurants rankings — I'm channeling my inner Jim Rome — I think Mio, with its new chef, Stefano Frigerio, would probably clock in somewhere in the Top 25. I just hope the restaurant can sustain it. 

(Be interesting, wouldn't it, to do a mid-year reset, huh? Who'd be up for that?)

I agree with you about the service, which I pointed out in my review in the magazine. Frigerio is cooking above the level, in many ways, of the organization and support system.

Regarding the lamb … Always go more rare than less. I think it's unusual that a chef would take the risk of suggesting a diner order the dish rare, but I like it. That's gutsy. Usually, medium-rare is the norm of demanding, persnickety chefs. 

Arlington, VA
Is one able to eat a full meal at Bastille Day at the Embassy of France? Is it worth the price tag?

I can't answer that, Arlington, because I've never gone there for the Bastille Day festivities.

Stephanie Haven, my crack researcher, just obtained a copy of the menu for the event, and there are some good names on the list of providers.

On the other hand, I've never been enamored of buffets.

Take a look …

French regional cuisine prepared by
Breadline,
Brasserie Les Halles,
Cacao Fine European Chocolate and Pastry
Cuisine Solutions
Pâtisserie Poupon Washington DC/Baltimore
Restaurant- Pâtisserie Prâline
Sofitel Lafayette Square Washington DC Ici Urban Bistro
Willard InterContinental Washington D.C. Le Café du Parc

Bretagne-Normandy Buffet
Crunchy salad with cauliflower, artichoke, and shrimps in a chive vinaigrette
Chicken fricassee in cider
Potatoes with leeks
Breton shortcakes in a light cream sauce with cider reduction

Provence Buffet
Salmon pate with red pepper coulis and small market salad
Provençal lamb
Polenta
Lavender macaroons – Caramelized peaches in brown sugar

Burgundy Buffet
Terrine of dried fruits – Cassoulet
Basque prune cakes with Armagnac     

Alsace Buffet
Quiche Lorraine  – Choucroute
Prune tarts  in a hot wine sauce    

Buffets will be open from 7:00 p.m. until all food is served

Three open bars serving wine, beer, bottled water, juices, soft drinks and coffee.

Re: homemade pasta
Il Pizzico makes their own, too, as I recall. And is on the Cheap Eats list. Not a geographicaly convenient as it could be, though.

Yes, they do.

And a good thing, too, that the pastas are so often so tasty. Because the martial pacing of a meal there is deplorable. I wouldn't mind, if I were trying to make it to a movie. But otherwise, I find it presumptuous and inhospitable. I've never, ever gone there without being hustled out the door before I'm ready. Without fail, dinner always ends in an hour-and-fifteen minutes — no matter that you may have ordered a bottle of wine, no matter that you may want to linger. 

A bill should never, ever come with dessert, but it does. It does. It always does.  

Lorton, Va

Hi Todd, I am looking for a fairly inexpensive restaurant nearby or in Georgetown to host 40 people on a Friday evening to follow our wedding rehearsal. I've contacted Old Ebbitt Grill & Chef Geoff's per the Washingtonian Wedding Guides suggested rehearsal venue sites but would be interested in any suggestions you might have.

I've just realized this is going to cost my fiancee and I about another 2k and am tempted to walk everyone down to M Street for Philly Cheesesteaks.

Please help! Broke Bride-to-be

Do it, Broke Bride-to-be. Walk them all down to M St. for cheesesteaks. What a great and memorable way to cap your big day!

But if you want to play it safer … I think Old Ebbitt would be great — terrific atmosphere, outrageous towers of great shellfish, a lot of history. 

One of the problems is, "inexpensive" and "Georgetown" just don't belong in the same sentence together. 

Bethesda, MD
Hi Todd! How many entries are we allowed in the "You be the Critic" contest??? I have eaten some really great things lately and think several deserve a chance!

I should have said: Feel free to enter as many times as you like.

I also should have said: We may publish the winning entry in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

Incidentally, some entries have already come in. And — they're not too shabby. Not too shabby at all … 

Put those writing caps on, chatters! 

 

arlington va
you responded to my question two weeks ago about my ordering issues at Hong Kong Palace in Falls Church, and i took your advice on a few dishes. I'm sorry to say the restaurant still isn't doing it for me. The tea-smoked duck had a 1/2 inch layer of flabby fat and the meat itself was overwhelmingly salty. The chengdu dumplings were good, but not a revelation by any stretch. I also got the sichuan green beans, which, like several of the dishes I've had there, were too oily. I'm about ready to give up on this place even though i live a few miles away and love spicy food. Give me a reason not to.

Revelation? You want revelation? No one ever promised revelation.

You've been twice; I doubt the third time'll be the charm. Although I have to say: you ordered the tea-smoked duck and the dumplings I recommended, but not the braised fish, or the cumin-spiced lamb, or the spicy Szechuan beef?

I think the thing to do, is to give Sichuan Village, the former Formosa Cafe, a shot. It's in Chantilly. Huge menu, and a lot of good, spicy Sichuan cooking among the options. Check back with me if you want some (more) recommendations, or just go to the Cheap Eats list online or in the magazine.

Washington, DC
I'm heading to Annapolis in a week to celebrate my girlfriend's birthday. What's the best place to take her for a nice, romantic dinner?

I like Joss on Main St. for sushi — cozy space, good fish, some interesting combinations (the other night I had a scallop sashimi with a bright, fresh-tasting seaweed salad on the side). At the other end of the spectrum — heavier, heartier cooking — is Lewnes's, a sort of neighborhood steakhouse, just over the bridge in Eastport. Good wet-aged steaks, big red wines, and a friendly, helpful staff.

After dinner, consider walking down to the city dock to Aroma d'Italia for good gelato. Lots of flavors (I love the strachiatella, the caramel and the Grand Marnier) and unlike some gelato shops, they're not in the habit of freezing their supply for the next day.  

A romantic dinner, some good gelato, and a stroll by the water on a hot summer's night with the one you love. What's better than that? 

Silver Spring, MD
I'm so glad to see Franklin's getting some praise for the improvements there recently. We went there to celebrate a graduation and were pleasantly surprised. My husband had a delicious duck confit over pureed celeriac, just because it seemed like an odd thing for Franklin's to have on the menu, given our years of experience. It was frightfully good.

Good to hear.

There's a lot to like these days. The barramundi with green curry, the recently departed Hung Over in Mexico (one of the lightest preparations of chilaquiles I've tasted), the dip plate (homemade hummus, tzaziki, and baba ghanous) , the muffaletta pizza, salmon in a tomato-fennel broth, the marvelous lamb sliders with tzaziki For lunch, I can't resist the chicken salad sandwich with thick, crispy bacon, piled high between two hefty slices of marbled rye.

And, of course — the microbrew beers! My current favorite: The crisp, creamy Belgian Trippel. 

WDC

Todd,

Thanks for letting us know that cheap eats has gone online (and much more quickly than in the past, I might add). Any chance you all might think about organizing the list or making it sortable by location?

After all, cheap eats do become more expensive if they aren't anywhere near where you work, live or ride the metro. Thanks!

Good suggestions, and point well taken. Thank you.

I would like to say, though, that many of the restaurants on the list are, in my estimation, worth a drive — sometimes, a long drive. 

I'd think nothing of driving forty-five minutes, for instance, for a taste of Ravi Kabob I or II, or Nava Thai, or Mia's Pizzas, or Kotobuki. 

Cheverly, MD

Hi Todd,

On Friday, we decided after working hard in the garden all day we would get clean and treat ourselves to a nice dinner with the $37 three-course dinner at 1789 in Georgetown. It also gets you complimentary valet parking in Georgetown—a nice perk.

We were lucky to get a last minute reservation at 5:45. We sat in the proper yet sunlight second floor and ate a very satisfying dinner.

My appetizer of hamachi was gently sea-salted and dressed with a lovely fruited olive oil, my husbands cavatelli were hand-rolled nuggets in porcini broth with these lovely clumsy fava beans, a nice contrast and decidedly contemporary. Dinner for me was "raw and cooked" king salmon– this was a fun way to showcase the fine fish, with the same meal on both sides of my plate: salmon, king oyster mushrooms, arugula; with one side all raw and the other all cooked. This was one of the tastiest pieces of salmon I have had.

My husband's local rockfish on a bed of leeks, calamari, and oyster mushrooms was just as delicious, if a bit salty on the skin. Desserts were good, but nothing to jump up and down over, although the guava-passion fruit sorbet makes my mouth water still.

What impressed me most? The charm, the fact that they didn't ask what kind of bottled water we wanted when I asked for water and lemon (I am SO tired of feeling cheap when I just want water and lemon), the ability for the food to honor it's stoic and traditional roots but be modern, fresh and creative, and the idea of serving fish not floating in butter.

Given the quality of food and waitstaff, and the price-break on all of this, it is certainly a good value (my meal would have been $57 a la carte). We got out of there for $120 including 3 courses each, wine, coffee, tax, and tip. Probably won't be back anytime soon, but who knows the next time I will want to strap on some pearls and head to Georgetown for dinner.

The charm. The place has it to spare.

That's a lot of what you're buying when you go to 1789, but that's not to say it doesn't count for something. For some of us, it counts for almost everything.

The prix fixe is a good deal, I agree — and smart of 1789 to try to broaden its audience. 

RestaurantRefugee

I have been to bar at Source three times now. Three times I have intended to eat and drink my way through a couple of hours. Three times and with three different bartenders I have left without a morsel of food and the only taste in my mouth bitter regret.

Three times I have been unimpressed with their wines by the glass.

Three times I have been ignored for far longer than any guest should be.

Three times after finding something on the list to drink I have been served overly cold white wines and tepid beers.

Three times I have had to do something I find to be inappropriate behavior for a guest at any bar – flag down a bartender. I have been told more than three times and by people whose opinion I respect that this is a worthy destination.

I gave it three attempts. Source – I am done with you.

Thanks for writing in.

I feel your frustration, and let me say: It doesn't matter what people you respect say. It matters what you yourself experienced.

I can tell you that The Source is a good place with good food, but my words — here and in the magazine — are based on the things I experienced when I made my four visits over the course of a couple of months not long after the place opened. Things can change. From the sound of it, The Source, for you anyway, is a terrible disappointment, an unworthy destination. Trust that.

I will say, though, that I don't hear much in your complaint that would damn the place to all eternity for me. You weren't impressed by the wines. The whites were served too cold. The place was crowded, and you had to flag down a waiter.

Am I missing something?

DC

Hi Todd,

I just read the news about Butterfield 9 and am sad to learn about its closing. I had never been so I am not able to extol the virtues, but my husband has and even though it was unsung at the time he said the food was excellent – and food is just one of the things my husbands knows extremely well, so I trust his judgement.

I was looking forward to trying Butterfield 9 in the near future but now I will not have the chance. I do hope that Chef Harr finds a great new place in Washington DC so that I may experience his wonderful cooking. I wish I was in the food business so I could offer him a job. I certainly wish him well as he pursues other avenues. Thank you

It's a shame.

I think the place had just begun to find its groove. It had become consistent, the prices were more in line with what they should have been all along, and the cooking was imaginative and often found its mark. Harr is a real talent. Some savvy restaurateur should do the smart thing and snatch him up soon. In the right setting, with the right team behind him, he will do big things.

That's it for today, folks. Have a great and happy 4th. i'll be in Rehoboth, doing some cooking (I've got orders with Niman Ranch, Pike Place market, and a couple of cheese purveyors, and I've assembled a small case of wine for the weekend) playing with the baby, and having a relaxed and — as the kids say — a chill good time.

Eat well, enjoy yourselves, and let's do it again next week at 11 …

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