The Needle: Dogfish Head Alehouse, Cesco Osteria, Café Saint-Ex

What's hot and what's not in the region's dining.

Dogfish Head Alehouse

On a Saturday night, the Seven Corners branch of this brewpub crawled with kids, lending it a happy chaos seldom seen in bars. Ales–such as Namaste, a witbier, and Chateau Jiahu, made with Muscat grapes–were excellent. Food was hit or miss: Old Bay wings hit the spot, but a burger was overpowered by marinated mushrooms and chipotle mayo was the best thing about mahi-mahi tacos. Next time we’ll get a double order of wings and keep the beers coming.

Cesco Osteria

Known for unfussy Tuscan fare, Francesco Ricchi’s restaurant seems to be struggling in its airy new digs, a former McCormick & Schmick’s. One evening, overcooked noodles weighed down eggplant lasagna; scallops and prawns were ruined by a gloppy Marsala gravy. Service was spotty–glasses of wine arrived late, frenzied staff disappeared for 20 minutes at a time. Cesco may work out the kinks, but for now dinner isn’t the simple pleasure it used to be.

Café Saint-Ex

Years before 14th Street became restaurant row, there was this gathering place. The burnt-orange dining room looks the same, but things have changed in the kitchen. Some combinations on Billy Klein’s menu–sweetbreads in Buffalo sauce, sweet-potato soup with bacony pecans–taste like they were meant for each other. But fried orbs of minced shrimp with apricot jam and risotto croquettes with ranch make you wonder what Klein was thinking.

This article appears in the April 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.