When the corner bar grows up
By Julia Beizer
Friday, February 5, 2010
At a glance: When Gaynor Jablonski began planning Maddy's Bar & Grille in Dupont, he was going for a slightly different vibe than the one that defines his first establishment.
"I opened the Ugly Mug when I was 26," says Jablonski, referring to his beer-soaked Barracks Row hangout. "The Ugly Mug was a really cool bar when I was 26 . . . and it's still very cool for 26-year-olds. But Maddy's is more where I'd want to sit now at 33."
Jablonski and his childhood friend, Dale Shields, took over the former Timberlake's space in July, and set out to remake the restaurant into what Jablonski says is a "grown-up version of the Mug." Maddy's, which opened in October, has the same neighborhood-bar appeal -- complete with seven flat-screen TVs for sports lovers -- but the touches are a little more sophisticated. Here, you'll find comfortable leather seats in place of bar stools, a wine list with a dozen offerings by the bottle and a more extensive menu.
The partners grew up near Annapolis and are both non-practicing lawyers. They named their project Maddy's after Shields's mother, Madeline, who died of cancer May 13, 2003. (Jablonski says the restaurant will donate all profits from sales on May 13 each year to the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown in her honor.)
On the menu: Jablonski tapped Carlos Gonzalez to lead the kitchen at the new establishment and asked him to develop an upscale variation on the pub-grub theme. The chef, who had previously worked designing first-class menus for airlines, came up with a concept that includes appetizers such as sliders and wings but also more substantive meals, including meatloaf and pot roast. The grill, deep fryer and pizza oven keep going after 11 p.m., and you can get more than a dozen items from the regular menu until an hour before closing.
The appetizers are all big enough to share, good for game-watchers or happy-hour patrons. Mini-burgers, a staple on the menu at the Ugly Mug, are well represented here. They're juicy and easily customizable with a handful of toppings and served with delicate onion strings. Flatbreads are the restaurant's answer to humdrum pizza. The combination of roasted-eggplant spread, figs, prosciutto and blue cheese on a crisp crust provide flavors not normally found in this kind of casual setting.
Sweet potato fries are a must-order, mostly because of the house-made dipping sauces. Patrons can choose from six varieties, including an earthy truffle cream sauce and a tangy raspberry barbecue sauce. (The dish is called "Remy's Sweet Potato Fries," a reference to Jablonski's fry-eating dog.)
Sandwiches are reliable -- and filling -- bets here. The sweet-zesty mango slaw elevates a chicken-and-ciabatta number. Rosemary-studded bread serves as a lovely, fragrant complement to the Manchego and prosciutto on one sandwich, but an abundance of leafy arugula made me wish for more meat and cheese.
At your service: I have found friendly, attentive bartenders when I've bellied up to the bar around dinner time. Service is more aloof in the small dining room in back.
What to avoid: The Maryland crab soup was a bit of a downer, with potatoes dominating the red broth. Lackluster lettuce torpedoed a Southwestern salad, and the meatloaf's otherwise good flavor was undercut by a dry texture. Dishes can come out under-seasoned here, particularly when the kitchen is busy.
Wet your whistle: In addition to the wine list, Maddy's offers a strong beer selection -- with choices like Bell's Two Hearted Ale on tap alongside usual suspects, including Miller Lite. Juice and soft drinks are also available.
Bottom line: Maddy's offers Dupont-dwellers a comfortable place to catch a late-night bite or tuck into some appetizers during the game.