This is the new place co-owned by the folks from Cowboy Ciao and Blue Wasabi. It's located in DC Ranch Marketplace right by Eddie V's, Blue Wasabi and Patsy Grimaldi's. I think they hoped to open on July 4th, but it was set back a couple of times. It opened on Aug 3rd and we ate there on August 12th.
The concept is all American. I mean everything in the place is American grown or made, from the glasses, silverware, etc to every ingredient in the kitchen. Even the bar is all American down to only American made gin, vodka, beer, wine, etc.
We arrived 30 minutes early for our reservation, and went to the small bar after checking in at the hostess stand outside. The bar consists only of the bar itself and maybe 10 stools. They were all occupied when we arrived, but as we pondered whether to stand or go around the corner for a drink, the hostess returned and said she could seat us immediately. She said they saw us standing there, so decided to get us in quickly. Very nice of them.
The restaurant looks great with wood floors and trim. Kind of like a contemporary ski lodge. It's one room and the small bar with a high window along one wall allowing you to see the chef's faces, but not much else. The decor fits the overall theme quite well.
After talking to the waitress about the available gins and vodkas, we ordered cocktails and wine. The restaurant has access to Cowboy Ciao's huge wine list, and offers flights and wines by the glass. We ordered two of the house gin drink...I forget the name but it muddles basil, pineapple juice and the gin ($10). Tasty, but a little sweet for me. Gin and tonic for the second round. The pinot noir flight of three 3 oz pours was $27. A nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc was about $9.
We were all starving and frankly ordered too much food. We started with the homemade potato chips with gorgonzola melted over the top ($3 and a great bargain). The waitress brought out a huge bowl of chips with not really enough cheese, but it was very good. Everyone liked it and we finished it off over time. The bread basket we saw on other tables, including pretzel bread, looked great, but was listed as a nosh for $6. A little steep for something they give out free elsewhere.
Next we picked 3 cheeses from the modest list ($11). We chose a gorgonzola, camembert and aged gouda. All were delicious, but the camembert was everyone's favorite. The cheese comes on a huge platter that my wife pointed out made the servings look very small. The platter included a somewhat dried fruit salad, nuts and water crackers. It was good, but frankly we had a 3 cheese plate at Zinc Bistro the night before that blew this one away. Some good bread, crostini or something interesting would have been a welcome addition.
The menu includes three sections that could be called appetizers. It's a good place if you want to share some small plates and some wine. We next ordered a couple of chopped salads ($11). Obviously a play off the incredible chopped salad at Cowboy Ciao, this one includes turkey, greens and 6 other ingredients. It was very good, but not as good as the one at Ciao, although it seemed bigger.
Entrees were next. I ordered the flat iron steak ($27). It was excellent, although I ordered it medium and it came out closer to medium rare. Delicious, beefy, sliced on the plate over blue cheese mashed potatoes with snap peas and asparagus. Very good! My wife ordered the pulled pork sandwich, mostly because she loves pulled pork, wanted to try they're version, and knew she would be too full by then to eat an entree. I think the sandwich was around $10, and it came with coleslaw on top, and a ton of the chips on the side. I tasted the meat, and it was good with a nice spice. Others thought it was too spicy and a little dry.
Our friend ordered the meatloaf ($22). It was a giant slab and very tasty. Although it was too much food and very dense and rich. I liked my couple of bites, but he seemed sick of it half way through. It came with a corn pudding of some sort that he said was awesome and wouldn't share.
His wife ordered one of the starters...crabby fried green tomatoes ($14). Three breaded and fried slices of green tomato topped with fresh crab. It was a great combination. I don't know if the crab is traditional or not on fried green tomatoes but it was really good.
We shared a Michigan blueberry pandowdy ($9) for dessert mostly because I had never heard of it before. It's biscuit dough baked and then pushed down (?). This version had a ton of small blueberries, like a pie, in the bottom of a small dish with the cooked dough on top, topped with a scoop of lemon sorbet. Interesting flavor combination, and I kind of enjoyed it. No one else thought it was too good, and everyone said the dough was very dry (it is biscuit, afterall). Glad I tried it, but I wouldn't order it again.
Overall, I enjoyed it more than everyone else, but I like trying new places. The service was very friendly, if still a bit rusty. For example, our waitress constantly referred to her notes, but she was very accomodating, competent and nice. The menu is full of references to the farm, grower, state or whatever for many ingredients. It's a bit much. More importantly, the food and menu is all over the place. It's got the Ciao type of style, desserts up front, under noshes, little funny references, etc. The food is different styles from all parts of the USA. It's a little hard to get a handle on what they are doing. I understand the concept, but the others thought it was difficult to get through. The food is also quite heavy (although in fairness we over ordered and ate too much). Not much, if any, fish on the menu, but a lot of beef (flat iron, meat loaf, short ribs, strip steak, etc). I think I recall seeing a salmon but not much else.
Overall, the others said it was ok, but not great, and they probably won't be back unless I drag them. I'd rather eat at Ciao, Sea Saw, Blue Wasabi, Sol y Sombra, but it wasn't bad. Maybe a little more time and tweaking is in order.
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