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Thursday, September 20, 2012

St. Arnold's

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Cleveland Park

The Setup

Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I had scheduled a get together with Official Friend of DCWD Juli and her boyfriend Ian. With last-minute plans threatening to derail our plans, we instead relocated to the quick and convenient St. Arnold’s in Cleveland Park.

The Vibe

Due mostly to its architecture, St. Arnold’s feels more like a biergarten than a restaurant; it’s essentially a covered patio space on the sidewalk adjacent to Dino. At that, the walls are almost entirely glass paned like a greenhouse, letting in the summer sun on this visit. Seating is in two rows: a long extended row of high-top bar tables that acts almost like communal seating; and a short row of half-booth twos in combination that lead into the long bar. The décor and set-up reflect the central tenet that St. Arnold’s is a mussels bar, nothing more and nothing less. It’s clean but no-nonsense, with a festive outdoor atmosphere.

The Food

While the menu does include a relatively extensive list of Belgian food, all of us were there for the mussels. Ever the neighborhood veterans, Juli and Ian opted for the Mussels St. Arnold’s: with a sauce made of house beer, caramelized shallots, garlic, thyme, and duck fat. In an effort not to have the whole table order the same thing, Texas and I passed, but it was a regrettable decision; picking the restaurant’s namesake dish is probably the best move you could make, and the inclusion of duck fat and beer made for a unique (and more importantly delicious) combination that I’ve yet to see among other Belgian mussels spots.

For our part, I ordered the Italian style mussels (Italian sausage, peppers, onions, tomatoes), while Texas got the Thai curry mussels with basil. My thought process for ordering was “if I can’t get the duck fat, let’s at least maximize the meat.” What I ended up with was essentially like eating a Nats sausage simultaneously with my mussels. So, it wasn’t the greatest, but it wasn’t bad either. It just felt a little odd, and a lot gluttonous. Still, the flavors were on for what they were, so there’s no faulting the kitchen. For her part, Texas’s curry was much more conventional and a lot tastier, with a good degree of heat and piquant flavor with each bit. Most importantly for all, the bread basket was refilled often and the fries were solid.

The Verdict

Perfectly decent mussels.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
Frat House
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
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St. Arnold's on Urbanspoon

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