Neighborhood: Foggy Bottom
I often lament that my own neighborhood seems so good-food-starved (to which I'm sure I owe apologies to Marcel's, Kinkead's, Circle Bistro...). But when a new restaurant opens up literally down the block? I have to try it out. In this case, new Louisiana/Southern restaurant Bayou.
I don't recall what was there before (some manner of bar I think), but Bayou now occupies the enviable spot on Pennsylvania Avenue between a Subway and a Papa John's. Despite this decidedly lackluster positioning, the inside decor is nice albeit fairly standard for a Southern restaurant.
Chalkboard menus line a solid portion of the dark crimson walls, which list out not only specials but also the regular offerings of beer and po boys. The ceiling is textured and tiled in a style that mimics the French Quarter, and in many ways the decor draws heavily from that theme: New Orleans photos and posters, lanterns, mason jar glasses, and Southern-style crystal chandeliers.
The host didn't give us the choice of sitting upstairs where the live music plays from Wednesday to Saturday (sad), so we sat downstairs where there are a few half-booths, two butcher table booths, and one lonely two-top by the stairs where we sat.
ZOMG, before I forget, the biscuits. They only bring you one-a-person at a time and don't refill unless you ask them, which is both frustrating but totally a matter of cost control, because if they kept refilling, you would never stop eating them. Lovely crisp on the bottom, but fluffy and soft. Great.
Rajistan was shocked that I had never heard of oysters Rockefeller; I cited by New Jersey upbringing and my longstanding fake shellfish allergy. Still, after reading the description, how could I not fall in love? Oysters coated in bread crumbs and bacon and spinach and cheddar and then charbroiled on the half shell? Talk about vices. So I insisted we split a dish for an appetizer. I won't lie: sort of expensive for such a fleeting taste experience, and I got a little bit of an uncomfortable grit. But otherwise tasty.
For our actual meal, we ended up getting super Southern foods. Rajistan went with the jambalaya: the typical rice dish with chicken, shrimp, and andouille sausage. Good amount of heat, and definitely a good representation of what I expect out of jambalaya (having never actually been to New Orleans, I obviously can't say for sure, but it was better than most attempts I've eaten). The andouille sausage was the best part of the dish with the chicken mostly hidden and the shrimp few and far between.
I went with the Wednesday night special: gator and grits served with spinach, mushroom, and more andouille sausage. The dish was a mixed success for me. The gator was a little bit chewier than expected (I've had fried gator before, so I knew what it could be, this was just a little too much) but that was balanced by the absolutely divine white grits, creamy and filling and delicious. The andouille came in nicely, but the dish was enveloped with a tomato-based sauce that I hadn't been expecting. Like I said, a mixed bag.
I think I will reserve my final judgment until we head back for po boys and beer, but for now, a better-than-average restaurant in a part of town that could use some more "middle-class" restaurants.
Food Rating: ** 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Suits Scene
Cost: $$ (out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing: Most everyone loves D.C. for its abundance of free cultural events, like the free concerts at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, which features a wide array of musical performances every day at 6pm for absolutely no cost.