Category Archives: American

The Apple House (Linden, Va.)

Another trip to the wilds of Northern Virginia, another restaurant visited, this time Linden’s Apple House.  Family-owned for more than fifty years, AH is sort of a country diner, with a kitschy gift shop featuring not-necessarily-local foodstuffs and a kitchen/dining room all under one roof.  I don’t think it has been remodeled since 1961, and that’s okay, it has a certain cluttered, wood-paneled feel that works, given its geography.

The apple butter cinnamon donuts are the highlight, a solid value at 69 cents apiece (or a crumb or two for free from a glass jar at the counter), slight discount on a dozen, very tasty.  Pies looked okay but we did not partake.  Unfortunately, what we did order was not up to the standards of what I had hoped would be a fabulous country dive restaurant.  Grilled cheese was okay but small, thin, just white bread and maybe two slices of processed cheese, and it came with below-average (limp, underseasoned, from frozen) fries.  That’s what $3.99 gets you in Linden, evidently.  Pulled pork bbq was better but still below expectations, which were perhaps too high.  In the event I ever find myself hungry (likely) in Linden (unlikely), I might return to the Apple House but try the breakfast menu, or just order two dozen donuts — twelve to eat during the drive back to Wheaton, and the others for the coming week’s worth of breakfasts.

Also: some excellent t-shirts, high quality fabric and fun design.

Sonoma (DC not California)

I finally ate at Capitol Hill’s stylish Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar (223 Pennsylvania) and was impressed, yet may not have ordered right.  With friends for lunch, and despite the tantalizing aroma emanating from the pappardelle at the next table, where both people had ordered the porky, thymey mass of pasta goodness, I went instead with the burger.  And the burger was excellent! Local dry-aged beef, good char on the outside and perfect medium-rare inside as requested, with nice beefy flavor; juicy, and enough soft bun to sop it up; lots of fresh toppings including red onion (red onion signals gourmet, of course!).  And yet I’m still not sure I should have passed up the pappardelle.  One dining companion did get the pappardelle and he vacuumed it right up; another companion had the spaghetti which didn’t give me sensory overload from across the table in quite the same way, but it too disappeared with gusto.

Maybe part of the problem was the fries accompanying the burger, which looked great — thin-cut, dark-fried, well-spiced and salted — but lacked crispness.  They weren’t bad, but could have been great, and had they been great, the overall dish would have been awesome.  As it was, still a fine lunch, not cheap at $15 but not unreasonable for a nice restaurant these days.  Next time I’m getting the pappardelle (or the pizza, and maybe the brussel sprouts) (I’m not even hungry, and now I’m getting hungry).  Also, this is by far the most times I have ever used the term “pappardelle” in any two paragraphs.

U Street Two-fer: Dickson and Dodge City

Returned to Dickson (903 U Street) for dinner pre-9:30 Clubbing, again with the pork belly banh mi, which is still good if extremely fatty. Friends tried the ribeye banh mi, also reportedly good.  You have to watch out for the occasional jalapeño slice, they are not evenly dispersed across the sandwich and some of them pack quite a punch.  Also enjoyed an excellent Tuscan red wine.  The basement is much quieter than the main floor, where conversation is nearly impossible when it is crowded, which it was this time.

We returned to U Street a few doors down from Dickson after the show for a beverage at the newish (?) Dodge City, which has a well-selected draught beer list, including Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, woohoo!  No food though (FB says pepperoni rolls but we were told by the bartender “no food” — maybe pepperoni rolls do not technically qualify as “food”?).  Kind of weird space in downstairs front, simultaneously narrow yet barren-feeling, but the outdoor patio is nice, plus there’s  a balcony and indoor upstairs too.  Shiny new high-quality scorching hot heat lamps outdoors, they could easily keep the patio open all winter with those things running full blast.

District 2 (out of 10?)

No, that headline is unfair; I would give Glover Park’s* District 2 Bar & Grille a five out of ten, maybe a 6, or some otherwise average rating, partly due to my high expectations after having drinks there a month or so ago.  The bar area is fun, the staff is superfriendly, the place looks great — but the food is only okay.

* We discussed on our way from car to restaurant what neighborhood we were in, technically; I think we decided Cleveland Park, but the D2 website says Glover Park.  Living on the edge.  Not that it matters.

Actually, the superfriendly staff can be a little too aggressive; our server checked in with us seemingly every thirty seconds, including to ask how the food “looked” — a fair question I guess, since it had been served about ten seconds earlier and we had only a chance to look, not taste.  Anyway, better too attentive than not enough, I suppose.  And it tasted about how it looked: just okay.

District 2 has a short but sweet beer list — Goose Island IPA is always a winner.  I liked my mac & cheese ($9) with chili ($2 to add to the mac), but neither piece was especially exciting individually; together, still not the best ever or anything, but the dark beany chili swimming in its gooey pasta pool, some of each in every bite, hit the spot. Fish tacos weren’t as good: bland fish, too much mediocre coleslaw, and the tortilla-to-filling ratio leaned too far to the left.  Below-average not-crispy or particularly flavorful fries. House salad looked okay, nothing out of the ordinary (I didn’t get a bite of that).

I thought District 2 might be a superior alternative to Cactus Cantina and 2 Amy’s across the street, but I’m higher on CC and lower on D2 based on recent visits.  Not that we live near enough to patronize any of them very often.  I’m more likely to hit D2 for happy hour at the bar.

Best part of our meal was watching, from the comfort of our booth, a large SUV attempt to parallel park between two cars in a space that was barely large enough; the SUV played some serious bumper pool, twice rocking the compact behind it back a couple of inches.  That’s what bumpers are for, and I don’t think any damage was done, but since it wasn’t our car, it was fun to watch.  If it had been our car, Mrs. Me would have been out there in a nanosecond.

Churchkey

Metro thinks we’re still in August, so I may as well finish catching up from summer. My July visit to Churchkey (1337 14th Street NW) is kind of a blur. It was a hot day, and my brain melted as the afternoon dragged on. Probably Churchkey’s beers didn’t help, but I remember enough to know we really enjoyed the experience.  Their website is basically a placeholder and their facebook page has only marginally more info, but thanks to their sister restaurant Birch & Barley (which is downstairs, Churchkey is up), I can look up what we ate and drank.

We liked DC Brau’s “The Corruption”. But they change their menu so often, whatever else we had has been lost to the sands (hops?) of time. Some kind of cask ale from Heavy Seas was consumed, I’m pretty sure.  Also something slightly naughty-sounding, like the Corruption but different.  And a bunch of us had Lagunitas‘ Little Sumpin’ Wild with dinner, loved it. Anyway, all good, and the guys behind the bar were all superfriendly and full of explanation about the overwhelming selection — not as many beers as the Brickskeller, but they’re all in stock, and they’re all really good, so an overall big win for Churchkey.  I also like how you can order either 4oz or a full glass of anything, and prices are not unreasonable.  If I lived closer to Logan Circle, I would spend far too much time at Churchkey.

Oh, the food: solid, but nothing special. The mac & cheese sticks were okay, fries were pretty good, I’ve forgotten what else we had.  Nothing bad, indeed a fine array of drinking-accompaniment snacks, but not as excellent or excellent-value as the beer. Friends who have been to Birch & Barley like the food there; I think there is minimal upstairs-downstairs overlap foodwise.

Recent Returns: Woodside Deli

The Woodside Deli website is strange: despite their longstanding location just south of the Beltway, across from Snider’s — is that Forest Glen, or Silver Spring or Woodside, or All of the Above, or…whatever.  Despite that location, the website focuses nearly exclusively on the Rockville catering arm of the company, and lists the deli menu for “historical value” only, as though the original restaurant no longer exists.  The actual hard copy menu, which does in fact exist, has a different design but all the same items, and prices don’t seem far off. No mention online of the restaurant address, hours, etc.  Which makes me think this isn’t the right website…but if there’s another one, I can’t find it, and this is the one linked to by Yelp and its ilk. So my first unsolicited recommendation (aren’t they all?) is to upgrade the website.

On the other hand, the apparent fact that they are focusing on the catering at the expense of the restaurant kind of came through in our meal this time.  We have liked Woodside in the past, and our recent visit wasn’t bad, but the food wasn’t particularly good either: uninspired salads, big but bland sandwiches, corned beef hash that clearly came from a can. The pancakes are decently fluffy, though, and HUGE, like the greasy-but-good potato latkes and also every other item we’ve ever ordered or seen ordered there. If you’re sick of the small plate trend gripping greater DC, Woodside could be the antidote. Hard to avoid leftovers at Woodside — but do we really want them?

Service can be good or indifferent, depending who you get. The best part of brunch was the people-watching. Most Wheaton restaurants, especially the Thai and Chinese places, have a diverse ethnic clientele.  But Woodside Deli’s customers seem more diverse, in terms of not only ethnicity, but also age, and economic status (judging by attire, personal sanitation, dental work), than any other restaurant I’ve been in lately.  That’s intended as an observation, not a judgment, and if (like me) you don’t mind eating at a table next to the occasional person dressed like she earned her brunch money by turning tricks the night before, and on the other side a kid throwing his utensils all over the place…well, if you like this sort of cross-section of America and you like leftovers, but you prefer a local dive to a generic national chain, then you’ll dig Woodside Deli the most.

Bethesda Redwood

Not quite the same ring as California Redwood, but pretty good in its own right. Redwood (7121 Bethesda Lane) is huge, and has loads of outdoor seating, which is nice on a sunny but not too disgustingly humid summer day, especially when you get there for happy hour before the besotted masses.  This happy hour is made for you and me? Actually, Redwood may be too swank for Woody Guthrie’s taste.

I had been to Redwood only once before, not long after it opened, when the drinks were good but expensive and the delivery was sloooowwwwww.  The drinks are still good, and strong too — the bartender knows his way around a mojito, at least — and at happy hour prices ($5) a relative bargain.  Delivery was friendly and prompt, though they didn’t get busy until we were leaving so it wasn’t much of a test.

Several appetizers also get the HH price treatment; a big dish of addictive fries for $4 is a particular winner. Potstickers are also pretty good though they’re really more like stuffed wontons, or what some Chinese restaurants have called crab rangoons; these have ground pork instead of crab.  Not bad.  If I could leave Metro Center early more often to meet Mrs. Me at Redwood for an early-side happy hour mojito and fries, I would be a happier (though I suppose less healthy) camper.