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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

First Look: Drafting Table

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: 14th Street/Logan Circle

The Setup


The first in the new wave of restaurants opening along 14th Street, Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I stopped by to take a first look at Drafting Table.

The Vibe

If you knew that Drafting Table took over the old ACKC space on the corner of 14th and Q, you can recognize some of the pieces: the ramp leading down from the front door, the bar to the restaurant's right side, the generally open layout. But even then, you'd be surprised at the renovations that Aaron Gordon's team (he of TangySweet, Red Velvet Cupcakery, and Rabbit Grill) have put in. Gone is the red and gold color scheme with fanciful embellishments, replaced with a much more modern charcoal gray and slate and honey brown that is displayed everywhere, from the aforementioned 15-seat bar, to the bright wood paneling that charmingly lines part of the walls. I can't remember now if ACKC had the brick tile flooring, but at the very least, Drafting Table's new decor makes it a focal point.

Seating follows the open layout: to one side are three communal bar tables, a 14-seat one with numbered-cube light fixtures above it, the others six/seven-seat tables lying perpendicular. The rest of the space takes its cue from the restaurant's namesake, with the eponymous drafting tables making up the rest of the tables. It's certainly charming, though it means that pairs will sit at four-tops. On the plus side, you're gonna have a lot more space than most places; on the down side, you'll also have to battle larger groups for a table. The accompanying chairs also leave a little to be desired: from a decorative perspective, they're cute and quaint, but from an actual sitting perspective, some may find them wobbly and low-to-the-ground.

All the same, the space is nothing if not cool. The aforementioned cubed light fixtures are balanced out with gaslight incandescent bulbs that provide an orange flow to the dim space. Framed blueprints (reminiscent of Meridian Pint's downstairs) hang on the walls, as do black and white portraits, while two flat screens play playoff baseball at the bar. There's a sizable buzz, and you can't escape the feeling that this place fits in very well with what it aims to be: a neighborhood hangout place. My Borderstan editrix Alejandra described it as nice for a first date, nice place to sit and wait for friends. Stole the words out of mouth.

The Food


It's hard to tell whether or not the menu from our dinner is a stripped-down one for opening week, or if it's a true representation of what's to come, but if the former, then the food offerings fit in very nicely with the gastropub description. Or at the very least, fancied-up diner. On this trip, we go for the server's recommendation and the most-interesting-thing-on-the-menu, the kaya toast. It's apparently a Singaporean/Malaysian thing, which makes it an odd blend at first glance given the rest of the dishes. The snack, toast sandwiches of coconut jam meant to be dipped in fried eggs and soy sauce, was something that promised strange flavors. What we had was something very reminiscent of a breakfast of French toast and eggs (especially given my childhood habit of dousing my scrambled eggs in Maggi). Sweet and salty and fun, though nothing crazy memorable.

Texas's entree was the fried chicken and pickles. As her nickname suggests, Texas is serious about her fried... well basically anything, much like I would have strong opinions about pizza or pork roll. So we were in basic disagreement about the fry on her dish. A traditionalist, Texas was a little concerned that Drafting Table batters its chicken much like you would fish and chips, encasing it in a solid crisp rather than say melding it directly onto the skin, like at Popeye's or KFC's. Me, I didn't mind it much, since it still tasted great. Both of us though were in agreement that the portion was surprisingly generous: a leg, a thigh, and a breast. Sadly, both of us were also in agreement that the pickles left something to be desired, tasting a little stale and overcooked.

My draftsman burger (a blended patty of beef and beer braised brisket, crispy blue cheese, apricot chutney, bacon-onion jam) and fries was a solid offering. Definitely juicy, and punched with decent flavor, with no one ingredient overwhelming any of the others. With the brisket intermixed, the whole patty had a much more grounded, gamey, earthy flavor to it, augmented by the tang of chutney and the onions.

For dessert, we split the homemade snickers pie: a wedge slice of a chocolate cookie crust, peanut butter mousse, and snickers pieces. The filling was a little saccharine for us, though the crust was tres enjoyable, and it made for a nice connected end point to the meal.

The Verdict


Like I said, a nice place for a first date in an upbeat hangout spot.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5) 
Date Rating: 4 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Suits Scene
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: With the weather quickly shifting into fall, get out to nearby pumpkin patch or apple orchard (if you can even find the latter), and get to picking some decorations/apple pie goods.

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