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Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Munchies: Dickson Wine Bar

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: U Street

The Setup


Needing a quick bite around the neighborhood, Official Friend of DCWD Talia and I headed over to Dickson Wine Bar.

The Vibe

If you didn't know it was there, you'd think Dickson was just an office building. But behind the brick facade is a wonderfully put-together space. The set-up is two floors, with the upper one a balcony that looks over the lower. Seating is all bars, from the actual two-seat bar, to the rails along the windows, to a few six seat communal tables in the middle. All told, there are only about 20 seats tops, many of which don't face each other, so you'll have to get there early to snag any sort of dateworthy seat.

The decor is almost entirely wine bottles, which gleam a little bit in the dim light. Otherwise, the space is dark, a little loud, but definitely cozy.

The Food


For all of it, the menu is actually and unsurprisingly fairly limited. Looking only for a small bite, I decided to try the restaurant's take on banh mi, while Talia had her some tuna tartare.

For all the banh mi we've tried in our quest, this was one of the truer recreations I've had of the traditional Vietnamese sandwich. A little heavy on the pickling, but otherwise a nice crusty baguette with solid fillings. Maybe not worth the superlatives that seem to heaped onto it, but still captured the essence of it all.

On Talia's tuna tartare, it came served with a nice piece of sourdough-esque toast and some microgreens. The tuna was nice, with just enough acid to provide contrast (and you know, make it not super raw). Unlike the best tartares, it didn't provide any strong flavor contrast or interesting accompaniment, but unlike the worst tartares, it wasn't mushy or mish-mosh.

The Verdict


Some good stuff going, and we can't wait to see what else they can come up with.

Food Rating: **
1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 3.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout
Vibe:
Chatty
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)

Dickson Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Belga Cafe

Plaudits: RAMMY 2010 - Nominated Neighborhood Gathering Place
Neighborhood: Eastern Market

The Setup


For our twice annual Restaurant Week date, Official Friends of DCWD G, Baboon, and HR Intern joined me and Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas at Belga Cafe.

The Vibe

The space is a modern take on a brasserie set in a fairly thin dining room; despite the size of the space, the tables are very close to one another and to the walls. A long bar runs alongside the right side of the restaurant until the open kitchen. The space is defined by chocolate brown furniture and ecru paint with exposed brick, with small pieces of kitsch to decorate, like a saxophone over the bar. The whole space is slightly tinged red from small lamps, and the overhead ceiling traps a lot of the noise, creating a fairly loud space.

The Food


I'm probably one of the biggest fans of Restaurant Week, for reasons I've touched upon many times on this blog. It's in a restaurant's best interest to still provide a modicum of quality for anybody who might venture into their place, even if they might be the unwashed hordes that may never come back again. Good press is good press, right?

The meal started off pretty well with three fairly delicious appetizers. I ordered the white bean soup spiked with truffles and smoked foie gras. Rich and decadent, it was a delightful flavor that hit you with luxurious and silky notes, and somehow managed to combine two very strong and powerful things into an altogether pleasant dish.

Texas had a poached farm egg in a bed of buttermilk mashed potatoes, old bruges cheese, and brown butter topped with asparagus. The whole dish was very good, with the egg and potatoes mixing well into a nice creamy, buttery finish. With the strong cheese taste providing some punch, it was like a thicker cream soup.

The rest of our dinner party had the casserole of wild mushrooms, frog legs, and escargot in a green herb sauce with garlic chips. With the featuring of frog legs and escargot, the overwhelming taste was of butter, complimented with some amount of depth and earthiness. It was a little thin for my tastes, but still fairly good.

If the descriptions of the appetizers seem a little short, it's because what followed went from decent to regrettable to outright bad. On the better side was Baboon's duck breast, served with quince, ham, blood sausage, and croquettes, with sauce made from Rochefort 10. Decently cooked (though a little done for my tastes), at the very least, the flavor combinations were on. But all in all, it was a dish that was... just fine.

Similarly, the braised rabbit for G and HR Intern was okay. Though it did came late, as our server wrote down the wrong orders, the restaurant did us the solid of sending a salad while we waited (though, honestly, a perfunctory one). When the rabbit came, it was at best unmemorable, and at worst a mismatched set of ingredients. Taken in pieces, the individual components were fine, but were sort of mish-moshed otherwise, with two tiny misplaced crawfish and a silly tarragon jus (at least the salsify and Jerusalem artichoke were fine).

My monkfish, with savoy cabbage, celery root, and lobster beignets in a Duvel beurre blanc was decent but also a curious mix. For one, the monkfish came in small fried chunks as opposed to a long filet, and was dominated by both the sauce, and the strength of the lobster flavor. All the same, my memory of the dish is one of blandness.

But perhaps the worst entree was Texas's pot of "mama greta" mussels. Unlike virtually every other mussels dish on the menu, this one was weak and thin, owing to its broth, which seemed to consist, self-admittedly, of lots of vegetables. No cream, not even a strong white wine flavoring. Just the taste of peppers and celery. This, to me, represented the dirty downside of Restaurant Week: restaurants mailing it in with subpar dishes below their normal quality.

If that were the ignominy of the dinner, it might have been tolerable, but the dinner pressed on to the dessert round. This battle quickly became who had the worse dish. On one end were G and Texas's Belgian chocolate "flan," the quotes indicating that it was more like a weird puddle of pudding than any sort of custard. On the other hand, the marshmallow cake bar was so rubbery that the two of them struggled to even cut it in two (imagine Flubber). And all of this is ignoring the passion fruit sorbet, which was so sour that everyone's reaction was one of, "Ohhhhhh."

On the other hand was my dessert, a cake of cubed poached pears held together by globs of beer gelee topped with a rosemary crumble, and sided by a sweet pear sorbet. The pears were mushy and acerbic, the gelee was bitter and unpleasant, and the crumble had the faint taste of steak rub and licorice. All told, it was not a good dish in any way, shape, or form, save for the sorbet which at least tasted like pears.


And to think, HR Intern's Belgian cheese plate was the best dessert.

The Verdict


We've heard they have a great waffle brunch, and that it's a gem in the neighborhood. And I know this was Restaurant Week. But, outside of the appetizers, it just wasn't good.

Food Rating: * 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Hipster Hangout
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$$
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
Pairing
: Stock up on supplies, or take a cooking class at Hill's Kitchen.

Belga Café on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Blackbyrd Warehouse, Part Deux

This Part Deux finds us revisiting somewhere we gave a First Look at on Day Two of its opening: Blackbyrd Warehouse. Joining me on this re-return was Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas.

The Food


Unsurprisingly, the menu has greatly shifted since we showed, to be expected when a kitchen is still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. What remains the same is a seafood menu that heavily features a raw bar, which served as the reason for this particular trip. Texas and I had been craving an oyster happy hour, and with absolutely no room at the bar at Pearl Dive, Blackbyrd was an easy alternative option. First up were $1 oysters, with us having six apiece. They were fresh and decently shucked, and the particular ones offered at happy hour were actually real good.

Along with the oysters, we also got peel-and-eat shrimp cocktail. I can’t remember what spice they put on the shrimp (cayenne, maybe?) but it was real good. The shrimp was perfectly cooked, and the dish was so good that Texas saved it for her last bite.

Lastly, we split the lobster mac-and-cheese. The ingredients for this were fantastic, but sadly didn’t mix well together at all. The lobster was wonderfully tender and the cheddar was potent, but together they clashed with too much strength on strength.  A lighter, white cheese that was creamier would have made this dish.

The Verdict


Still good seafood, still working on everything else.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Taylor Gourmet, Part Deux

This Part Deux revisits a second location of a place we've been before: the new 14th Street location of DC sandwich shop Taylor Gourmet.

The new location, at the old Ruff and Ready storefront, shares man of the same traits as the others: a garage feel, recycled materials as furniture (see: plastic bucket light fixtures). This location is more deli counter feel with dividers creating a natural line to the cash register. From there, there are a few four-tops, some long tables, and a row of high bar tables by the far wall.

On the docket for tonight were two sandwiches, a Lombard Avenue (sopressata, genoa salami, roasted red peppers, pesto, mozzarella) for me and a Tasker Street (arugala, sharp provolone, parmesan, mozzarella, goat cheese) for Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas. The sandwiches were again real good for me, wonderful salami and fresh ingredients on lovely semolina bread (Texas: "everything was quality, and the bread was awesome"). On Texas's end, her sandwich was probably a bit too loaded with cheese, but that was probably not Taylor's fault.

The Verdict


Still great sandwiches, especially for Northeastern expats.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

District Commons

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Foggy Bottom

The Setup


Needing a place to eat dinner in Foggy Bottom, Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I decided to check out the new addition PassionFood's new addition, District Commons.

The Vibe

Back when I went to GW, we used to lament the state of Square 54, an empty lot that was the site of the old hospital, now reduced to a pile of rubble sitting vacant and unused despite its tony location. Of course, when we graduated, they started construction on an ambitious mixed-use monstrosity. Its ground floor is almost entirely filled with eateries, dominated by a large two floor Whole Foods. On the opposite side is District Commons, clean-cut, put-together, and fairly large.

Enter in the glass revolving door, and you arrive onto a platform in front of the square bar beyond the hostess stand. Beyond that and wrapped around the curve of the wall is the large open kitchen. The dining area itself is three long lines of tables, one a set of fours and sixes, one a set of twos and fours, and the other a row of window-side booths with curtain dividers. The color scheme is browns and grays, with wood linings alongside concrete pillars. Circular light fixtures provide a soft glow as do the candles on the tables and the streetlights outside the large windows. Perhaps the only flaw is that, despite the large space, the twos are fairly bunched up together, unless you score a booth.

Service was a little weird: four different people came and talked to us, and at one point we thought our server had just outright changed. The one that settled on us started by recommending and fully describing half the menu (unsolicited I may add).

The Food


After the actor's monologue about certain dishes, we decided to play along, ordering three dishes he had recommended. First we split the "red" mussels (as opposed to the "white" and "blue") - a red thai curry with golden pineapple. In comparison to other mussels we've had around this fair city, these were fairly... bland. For the description, I wanted to get hit with some spice and some sweet and instead we got some fairly rubbery mussels with middle-of-the-road flavors.

If we thought we'd be rescued by the entrees, we were sorely mistaken. On my end, I ordered one of the flatbreads: the Mediterranean, merguez, eggplant, kalamata olives, feta, and pomegranate molasses. On the face of it, this should have at least have been interesting, but everything about it was bad: too dry sausage, not enough molasses sauce or anything else to marry the toppings together, and not enough toppings to make up for it. Rather than a warm crisp flatbread, this was more like a dry cracker.

Texas's roasted vegetable pot pie suffered from the opposite problem. Cracking open the crust revealed the insides were more soup than filling, watery instead of chunky. The butternut squash and parsnip and celery root should have made for a warm, creamy bite, but instead it tasted like thin and flat vegetable soup.

The Verdict


For a space that nice, and a location that tony, a sorely disappointing meal.

Food Rating: * 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd to Suits Scene
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$$
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
Pairing
: After this meal, you'll probably need another meal anyway, so swing by the Whole Foods and play Iron Chef with one another. Pick out five ingredients for each other and cook a meal together.


District Commons on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cafe Indigo

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Rappahannock, Virginia

The Setup


Part two of our Inn tour (or three I guess), Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas stopped by Cafe Indigo for the other dinner that weekend.

The Vibe

Cafe Indigo is a charming little restaurant tucked away in the back of a little barn-like complex, called River District Arts, home to an art cooperative, with open artists' stalls and a studio (similar to the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria). Walking into the space, you get hit with a sudden and comforting scent of pistachios or almonds or whatever the store up front is selling at that point.

The interior of the actual restaurant is a modernized barn, in a totally non-perjorative way (we personally love that aesthetic). Wooden cross-beams overhang the restaurant space, bathed in white and the restaurant's eponymous color. On one side is a small bar and an old piano, while in the back is an open kitchen. Everyone is warm and friendly, and the space is handsome and inviting.

The Food


The chef at Cafe Indigo has a great provenance, having worked at The Inn and Bourbon Steak. The menu therefore is simple, straightforward, and interestingly put together.

To start, we split the butternut squash soup with curried crispy rice. This was perfectly fine, though fairly ordinary in retrospect. Unlike some other autumn soups, this wasn't as rich and full as I wanted it; in fact, it was a little thin. Similarly, the rice crisps vacillated between interesting and distracting. I don't very much like rice cakes, but that's what it tasted like.

For our main course, I ordered the aged ribeye served with swiss chard, potato croquettes, carrots, and cipollini onions in a red wine sauce. This was a much better step, seared well with a lot of flavor, and wonderfully seasonal considering the cold weather outside. In fact, it was so good that the ethical eater Texas decided to switch plates with me.

In return, I received her order of day boat halibut, with cauliflower cous cous, lemon gremolata, and crispy shallots. The mix of cauliflower flavor and lemon and garlic was a perfect match with the soft halibut, and the bed of spaghetti squash underneath made for a wonderful texture contrast while still matching the overall flavor profile.

Last up was a pumpkin tartlet with whipped cream. This was a solid hit of pumpkin flavor, like opening up the oven while baking a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. It was smooth and perfectly fine, though again, nothing to call home about.

On the way out, we walked over to the kitchen to see what the chef was cooking that smelled so wonderful.  Braised beef tongue... until next time.

The Verdict


A good meal in a great space.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 4 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks
Vibe:
Calm to chatty
Cost:
$$$
(out of 5) ($50-75 for two)
Pairing
: Besides the art space, the Cafe shares a lot with Copper Fox Antiques, a cavernous space with a wide and interesting collection of antiques, and the Copper Fox Distillery, which offers hourly tours of its whiskey-making plant.

Cafe Indigo on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 16, 2012

24 Crows

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Flint Hill, Virginia

The Setup


On our weekend trip out to The Inn, Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I needed more than one place to have a meal. The first suggestion from our innkeepers was 24 Crows.

The Vibe

The team behind 24 Crows were the former owners of Four and Twenty Blackbirds (get it?), a restaurant that regularly appeared on the Washingtonian Top 100 in the earlier part of the decade. Instead of the regular service of that now-closed restaurant, this roadside cafe opens only for lunch every day from 10am-2pm. And the descriptor cafe might be a stretch: the space itself has maybe 12 seats, which seem perpetually full. All the other space is filled with curios and craft goods, so much so that you'd think you were in a gift shop, not a restaurant.

The Food


24 Crows fashions an ever changing menu on two small glass panels every day, with maybe three to five options for the four hours it's open. On this trip, Texas and I decided to start by splitting an old-fashioned tomato bisque with homemade cheese croutons. I'll start by saying I'm not a fan of tomato soup; I just don't get it. But this just about changed my mind. For one, there were actual chunks of tomato and onion, so it felt less like a puree and more like a soup. More importantly, the croutons were life-changing. It's hard to be hyperbolic about toasted cubes of bread, but if ever a batch of croutons merited it, these were them. Like little pieces of complex cheese flavor with a satisfying crunch.

For the main course, I had the house-roasted roast beef sandwich, with baby arugala, roasted red peppers, and rosemary aioli on ciabatta. I used to work in a deli, so I know the value of making the roast beef in-house. This was much better than anything our supermarket used to crank out, with wonderful punch from the aioli and richness from the roast beef.

Texas had the pan-fried Idaho trout sandwich with applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, and smoky red pepper mayo on challah bread. The fish had a wonderful crisp on it, and was matched perfectly in punch by the bacon and the mayo. Together, with the challah, it was a wonderful gooey bite.

The Verdict


Wonderful, delicious food. Just be sure to grab a seat early.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
N/A
Vibe:
Calm
Cost:
$
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
Pairing
: Wine tour! Our personal favorites were Narmada and Gray Ghost.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Night Flights: Gray Ghost Vineyards

On our trip out to the Inn at Little Washington, Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I stopped by Gray Ghost Vineyards, on the suggestion of a friend who lives out there. Open for a tasting, we decided to stop by and were not disappointed. I'm not a fan of Virginia wines normally, but this was an amazing exception; each of the wines we had were clear, vibrant, and delicious.

Of particular note were three wines we ended up purchasing: a Chardonnay and Victorian White for ourselves, and Reserve Chardonnay for Official Parents of DCWD DV and MV. The Chardonnays were crisp with notes of pear and vanilla, perfect for a chicken or shrimp pasta dish; the Victorian White was on the other hand, an amazing white dessert wine that was sweet without being too saccharine. Definitely recommended for all.

Bar Rating:
5 Cheers (out of 5)
Perfect for
: Gift wines, especially for people who love buying local

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Oyamel, Part Deux

This Part Deux takes us one of the first meals I ever wrote about for the blog, Oyamel. With me on this excursion are Official Friend of DCWD Alison, and Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas.

The Food

 
Before spending the last year on the Thai-Burmese border, Alison had done a yearlong fellowship in Mexico and had studied abroad in Oaxaca, so her knowledge here was definitely real helpful. All the same, we stuck mostly with dishes that were familiar to all.

First up were chilaquiles: nachos that are basically drowning in melted cheese and tomatillo salsa. These were ordered almost entirely because we saw them on the table next to ours and they looked delicious. In fact, they were amazing, dripping in cheese and awesome, so much so that the chain continued when the table next to us asked what we were eating and ordered some as well.

Also to share was black refried beans with melted Chihuahua cheese inside, served with Mexican cream, micro cilantro, and fresh tortillas. This was better than your average refried beans, owing to its freshness, though to me they were still a tad bit bland.

On the opposite end of the spectrum were our mussels steamed with tequila and a broth of sautéed garlic and chipotle. This had a spicy kick for days that really give a short jolt with each bite. For me, the subtlety of any tequila was lost because of the spice, and the mussels were sadly a little undercooked.

With the decided lack of meat at the table (owing to my vegetarian and pescetarian dinner companions), I ordered myself two tacos: one, a pork belly taco with tomatoes, guajillo chiles, pineapple, onions, and cilantro; and one a Guadalajara-style goat, veal, and lamb taco with cascabel, ancho, guajillo chile sauce, onions, and cilantro. Of the two, the pork belly was the more solid, a mix of sweet and savory with a little heat; the mashup of meats in the other taco made for a cool first bite, but something that quickly because boring afterwards.
 
To wrap up, we decided to order a tres leches cake. Lovely ice cream, but the cake itself was a little dry for my tastes.

The Verdict

Solid food, and knows what flavors to play up.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

First Look: The Hamilton

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Downtown, McPherson Square

The Setup


This First Look brings us to the brand new addition to the Clyde's family: The Hamilton.

The Vibe

Perhaps it's appropriate that The Hamilton is so close to the White House; such is the level of grandiosity of just the sheer scale of the place. Built into the former Borders space on F Street, The Hamilton is almost more high-end hotel than restaurant. From its entrance on 14th St, you enter the bar, which is exactly what you'd expect out of a sister of Old Ebbitt's; it's almost like this is the spillover room for the venerable oysters and drink bar down the street. Everything is wood-paneled and old school, like a room straight out of the Untouchables, except for the pictures of DC scenes that abound around the area. The space is kept dim and gets real loud, with the post-work hoi polloi that fill the space.

Past the bar is one dining area, a room that represents the Clyde's influence, though a tad bit more formal. The room, more wood panels and beiges and organized in rows of booths and fours, is a testament to power lunches; the row of booths along the F Street window can actually have sliding doors close them away from the main floor. The strange part of the room, and the part that makes you wonder if The Hamilton even understands its American provenance and American theme is a sushi bar which lines the back wall of the restaurant.  Beyond that, another bar, then a lobby like area, then another dining space.

And what exactly is in this lobby? The stairs down to The Hamilton Live, a concert space where the music and movies section of the Borders used to be. But the space is entirely reconfigured into a jazz club like setting. All black with B&W pictures of famous musicians, the room rotates around a small stage, with two-tops lined up in rows extending like sun beams. On the left side and the back of the room are a two raised platforms with a bar each and some rail seating and tables. The music there will almost always be local, and the loudest it will probably ever get is Norah Jones, but it's a decidedly cool date space, and where we spent this dinner.

The Food


In The Hamilton's defense, the menu downstairs is ostensibly much more limited than the real dining room. From these options, Texas and I split the Clams Casino pizza (clams, bacon, roasted red peppers, oregano, mozzarella). The pizza was okay, which is to say that it wasn't terrible, but it was nothing to call home about either. The mix of ingredients was interesting, but the crust was in the middle place between soft and crunchy, so that it pleased neither of us.

For dessert, we split the "hot chocolate" ice cream sandwich: chocolate chili cookies and cinnamon ice cream in a crispy chocolate shell. This was a little more notable: some nice heat from the cookies, and the ice cream was interesting, though it didn't meld and melt as much as we wanted it to.

The Verdict


Awesome space, meh food. But we're psyched to go back and experience all The Hamilton has to offer.

Food Rating: **
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 4 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Suits Scene
Vibe:
Chatty in the room, Noisy in the bar and live space
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: Itself. I mean the Live space is a wonderful date.

The Hamilton on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Equinox, Part Deux

This Part Deux brings Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and me back to one of my favorite haunts: Equinox.

The Food

Texas has a rule with meat, one I’ve mentioned a few times here: if the meat is locally-sourced and farm-raised rather than factory farming, she’ll eat it. Which means that Equinox is right in her wheelhouse, as Todd Gray is one of the pioneers for local food in the D.C. food scene (that he also is on the forefront of amazing vegetarian menus was something I forgot to mention). So on this trip, Texas ordered the roast pork with heirloom sweet potatoes, braised escarole, and pears. This dish was beautifully seasonal (despite its posting date, this dinner was back in October), the pork and sweet potatoes mixing to create a warmth and depth that was perfectly autumn. The pears were a perfect touch, adding a bit of sweet finish to each bite.

For my part, I had the duck, served with roasted jerusalem artichokes, wilted swiss chard, and a cranberry jus. My mom very much dislikes turkey, so much so, that our holidays are dominated by goose and duck. Because of that, this dish also fell into my sense of both autumn and home; the flavorful duck, tender leaning toward the rare side, complimented well by the rich, almost starchy notes from the artichoke and chard. Maybe not the best duck ever, but definitely an enjoyable dish.

I originally wasn’t going to write about this dinner, instead letting this dinner just be. But the dessert was so overwhelmingly good, so superlative, that it demanded to be shouted from the rooftops. The treat in question was the dark chocolate custard, topped with Leopold Bros. absinthe ice cream, and plated with coffee soil and sea salt. Everything about this was a study in delicious. The oh-so-rich creamy feeling of the custard which lingered in your mouth countered by the granular soil, the heady taste of bitter licorice from the absinthe that left a slight intoxication with each subsequent bite, and the perfect balance of flavors that commanded your attention: sweet, then salty, then sweet again.

The Verdict

Still awesome after all these years.

Food Rating: *****
(out of 5)

Monday, January 2, 2012

DCWD Travels: Anderson's BBQ, Dallas

Deep in the heart of Texas, next to a hospital and a gas station, is one of the state's best kept secrets. At least that's what Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas's brother-in-law P (nay, every member of her family) has been telling me about Mike Anderson's BBQ, a diamond-in-the-rough barbecue place in an otherwise nondescript section of the city. Having been revealed as a foodie way before my arrival, the five-day trip has seemingly been anchored by the question “So when are you going to go to Anderson’s?” as if to say, “You can’t call yourself a food lover until you’ve had authentic Texas barbecue, and so we’re giving you only the best.”

It’s funny then that a restaurant with this much acclaim can look so conventional at the outset. Anderson’s looks much like one would expect any other roadside pitstop to look like: orange and neon green signage on a brown decor, a brick and tile building set up cafeteria-style and decorated like a cabin, but with Texan and rodeo paraphernalia. To wit: the space is centered around a tray sliding line, loaded with a veritable panoply of salads and sides, which  almost demand that you get a BBQ plate. At the head of this line is the carving station where the meat is ordered. The smells emanating from the grill behind are indiscriminate, insofar as they all smell delicious.

P talks me into the aforementioned plate, which features a sandwich with two meats and two sides. I order a beef brisket and pulled pork sandwich, coated lightly with barbecue sauce, and flanked by my choice of fried okra and garlic and cheddar smashed potatoes, and a large sweet tea. Everything about this was fantastic: the tenderness of the brisket, the sweet tanginess of the house BBQ sauce, and the heart-attack level awesome of the smashed potatoes. The pulled pork is okay, but my best bet would have been the Polish sausage that P lets me sample. That and the brisket on a soft bun would have been something to behold indeed. 

Taste Test: 4 Forks (out of 5)
Perfect for: Barbecue fans

Mike Anderson's BBQ on Urbanspoon