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Bobby Van's Steakhouse

Michael Krantz | | Jan 4, 2002 06:16 PM

Just back from my seven day trip to your wonderful, magnificent city during which time I consumed breakfasts, lunches and dinners in many of the recommended addresses from here, from Zagats, from the Washington Post and from other sources.

There is an understandable air of depression within some of the better establishments caused by the post 911 downturn. It was only in Kinkheads and Inn at Little Washington that we encountered smiling happy faces and full restaurants. At no time did we fail to book a table within 24 hours.

On my first day, I picked up a copy of The Washingtonian’s Guide to the 100 Best DC Restaurants and my eye was immediately drawn to its review of Bobby Van's Steakhouse. My brother and I went on a meat-eating pilgrimage to New York a few months ago and so I was intrigued by the comparison with Lugers (and eager to repeat the experience if at all possible). I also preferred the idea of a non-chain steakhouse although I now know that Bobby Vans has two other locations.

Well, I am sorry, but Lugers it ain’t.

I knew that I was in for a disappointment the second our waitress introduced herself. Now, I have nothing against young women, quite the opposite, but this woefully under-trained server knew nothing about food, steak, wine or the art of hospitality and in a restaurant where the bill is going to exceed $200 for two, I feel that knowledgeable serving staff is a must have.

We chose the Porterhouse steak for two, the spinach and the hash browns, all three said to be the signature dishes of the restaurant. I then turned my attention to the wine list where I struggled to find even a modest bottle for less than $40. In the end, I went for an Australian Shiraz that was $38 and although it was excellent, I knew at that point that they were applying over 400% markup on their wines. I can buy that same bottle here in the UK for about $8.00.

The breads were top rate.

The steak arrived and although the plates were searingly hot, the steak somehow contrived to be only warm.

Yes, the meat was good. It was porterhouse and it was well cooked. But at Lugers, they apply melted butter to the steak before serving which combined with the meat juices adds to the perfection. The spinach was acceptable, but I can cook better spinach in my own kitchen and the Hash Browns were only so so.

So would I recommend Bobby Van's Steakhouse? Nah.

There is a leaflet on every table that certifys that Bobby Van's is America's #2 Steakhouse in 'Tom Horan's America's Top Ten Club.'

To me this is nothing more than pure American marketing fluff.