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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Elephant and Castle

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: One in Farragut/Foggy Bottom, the other in Federal Triangle

The Setup

I guess on some level I should expect it, this town being what it is. But yet another college friend, Official Friend of DCWD Julie, was leaving town (and yet again, not just leaving the city, but the country). So with only a week left before Julie picked up and left for the Peace Corps in Zambia, we decided to meet up. The bounds for this choice were 1) must be near both our workplaces, and 2) must have drinks and food (in that order). So we went with Elephant and Castle.

The Vibe

Elephant and Castle is part of a North American chain, with two outposts in DC. The Farragut franchise is the newer of the two, having just opened up this past summer. Since then, E&C has amassed a pretty steady clientele, composed of pretty much exactly who you would think considering its location: mostly yuppies or middle-aged workers from the neighboring office buildings, with the occasional college kids, or older gentlemen looking for a decent beer. I've been four or five times now, mostly for an after work happy hour.

E&C is essentially an attempt to bring the British pub atmosphere to North America. The restaurant is mostly bar area (though you have to be seated by the hostess even in the bar seating, which is a little annoying), with a small dining area on a raised platform to one side of the room. The whole room is a maple color, owing to the dominance of the bar, and really feels like what a British pub would look like. There are a few flat screens on the wall, almost always tuned to ESPN or Fox Soccer Net, and because of that, the vibe is almost always energetic, and verges on noisy from time to time.

The Food

E&C being a bar first, and a restaurant second, I don't feel that bad about only having the bar food there. Coincidentally enough, on this occasion, I had the only three sharing plates that I've had more than once: potato skins, sweet potato fries, and chicken picks. I'm not gonna pretend that the food was anything special; the potato skins were only a little better than the frozen ones that TGI Friday's sells in supermarkets, and the sweet potato fries were probably among the poorest I've ever had (which is to say, they were soggy but still edible, and probably only because I like sweet potato fries). I will add here that there are certain friends of DCWD that disagree with me on this point, but I like my sweet potato fries crispy and covered in cinnamon sugar; that these were neither was disappointing. As we'll see soon with BGR, I can abide by sweet potato fries that are at least crispy or sugary, but I'm not a fan of fries that are neither.

Of the three, I would say the chicken picks are the best, because the breading is crispy and light, and they come served with equally crispy kettle potato chips. It kept me sated at the very least. So while I've ordered all these things more than once, it's probably more because I need something to nosh on while drinking, and those seemed like the best choices of them all. What's more, it's not like there were any happy hour specials on this food, so it was still the same price as always.

What's probably more important is the beer selection, which features a pretty decent selection including some personal favorites on tap (Boddington's), as well as bottled (Delirium Tremens, Chimay). If you like English beer (though I don't know too many that I love), they have plenty of those on tap. On this trip, we each had two glasses of the Sam Adams Seasonal, the Noble Pils, which I featured a week or so ago as a Friday Night Flight.

The Verdict

This meal being what it was (a catch-up session), I didn't really particularly care about the date aspects of the places. But for the sake of the blog's objectivity, the food was only satisfactory (in that it was fried, tasted decent, and filled my stomach), and unlike say Brickskeller/RFD, the beer selection couldn't make up for it as much. Plus, you'll probably have to yell to your dinner date to have a conversation, with the lively atmosphere and all. So I guess unless your date is a huge fan of the English Premier League (or any world soccer for that matter), I would probably keep this one out of the date book, unless you're looking for greasy food and a rowdy time.

Food Rating: ** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Suits Scene
Vibe: Energetic to Noisy
$$ (out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing: As I suggested above, the one thing Elephant and Castle is good for is as a bar to watch soccer. So if you don't mind it (or heck, even enjoy it like I do), there are definitely worse things than sitting at the bar watching the EPL.

Elephant & Castle on Urbanspoon

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