I admit, I couldn’t think of anything more creative for a headline. But “golly” is kind of a retro word and Ollie’s Trolley (425 12th Street, Metro Center) is a retro restaurant, classic old DC with its bright colors and kitschy gewgaws and all-original everything as far as I can tell. Like, at the counter, where you would normally put your tray — about the only place possible to put your tray — there is a sign warning not to put your tray down because the surface is uneven. The surface IS uneven, and neon orange, and should have been replaced years ago, but that ain’t Ollie’s way. And that’s okay.
After a couple of recent visits, I have concluded that my previous visit 30 or so months ago was an anomaly, and the fries (which were mushy and blah then) are actually pretty good. Lately they have been crisp and spice-resplendent. The menu says the fries are “sprinkled with our blend of 26 herbs and spices” — they are certainly sprinkled with stuff, but 26 kinds? That’s more than double what Colonel Sanders came up with! I discerned salt, pepper, sugar, cayenne, paprika, sesame seeds, cumin seeds…maybe poppy seeds…are we at 26 yet? No idea what else is in there. MSG? Anyway, very different from Five Guys or KFC or most other places, but they’re above average if you like that style.
Friends like Ollie’s burgers, which I think are only okay. Another friend loves the steak and cheese. I prefer the reuben, which is excellent in a greasy fast food way; the thousand island dressing might have been imported from Chernobyl, its light orange glow matching the counters that one’s tray dare not touch; the rye could be toasted a bit more; the sauerkraut and swiss are fine; the flavors and textures all blend into something much better than the parts might suggest.
The bbq ribs — I think a limited time special, not on the regular menu — are also reportedly good, although the slab I saw looked more like an oversized gelatinous Swanson Hungry Man Salisbury steak. While I waited for my reuben, a dude was yelling loudly but (at first) unintelligably at Ollie’s staff. Turned out he was ecstatically happy about the bbq ribs.
Someone pointed to the grill man, and Ribs Dude yelled at him: “you made these ribs? you my new best friend!” Must be some good ribs!
Then: “I’ma start a gang and put you in it!” Okayyyy…
And then: “I’ma get some girl pregnant and when she have the baby, that baby name gonna be your name!” what
That statement seems just so so wrong on multiple levels, and yet as a testament to the quality of the bbq ribs, it could hardly be stronger. Ribs Dude looked like a slightly younger, slightly heavier Cedric the Entertainer, and sounded kinda like Cedric too, or maybe more like Cookie Monster after a long weekend of chainsmoking and bourbon shots. In other words, someone whose opinion on bbq ribs should be taken seriously.
I was tempted to say “I’ll have what he’s having” but decided against it. Maybe next time.
Note: Ollie’s takes cash only.