A room full of drawing boards to go back to
By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The way its owner tells the story, the Drafting Table started with a drafting table. Aaron Gordon wasn’t sure what he wanted to put in the Logan Circle space vacated by ACKC until his friend, designer Andrew Christenberry, started building some of the furniture for Gordon’s latest project.
The retro tables, says the food entrepreneur, “sparked everything.” Unveiled in October, the 80-seat gastropub could pass for a design studio. Lining the front wall are blueprints of familiar Washington sites, including the elephant house at the National Zoo and the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial. In the corner stands a six-foot wooden compass. Vintage bus stop lamps not only illuminate a tall communal table near the bar but also repeat the numbers in the restaurant’s address.
Gordon’s earlier ideas are based on simple pleasures: salads and sandwiches at Rabbit, desserts at Red Velvet Cupcakery and frozen yogurt at Tangysweet. Drafting Table, he says, was conceived as a place to “relax and have a beer or an entire meal.” Because “so many restaurants have a theme,” Drafting Table would forgo a single one in favor of food from all over.
Ciji Wagner is billed as the executive chef. Previously, she baked at Red Velvet Cupcakery. Her menu of a dozen or so savory dishes is a quirky assembly that includes a party-size pickle platter, beer-braised brisket, fried chicken, falafel and a sexy egg sandwich made with aioli, red peppers, prosciutto and arugula.
Falafel with a fan of sliced pita and chickpea dip is fine, and a slick Snickers pie is fun for candy lovers, but nothing else I tried in the painfully loud tavern would lure me back. Not the gray and juiceless burger served with french fries that have no potato flavor. Not the duck confit arranged on a sodden mattress of grilled Napa cabbage, shallots and grapes. The pickle platter composed from a bushel of sweet carrots, curried cauliflower, stinging green beans and more is okay for a few bites, but even a pickle fan like myself quickly tires of the garden. Even basic steamed mussels suffer from an overdose of salt in their broth.
When a customer asks for a Maker’s Mark Manhattan, he realizes he should have considered one of the bar’s 16 beers on tap. “You’re really testing me on alcohol tonight,” replies a server who earlier wasn’t sure whether the bartender could make my companion a gin gimlet.
For the moment, the Drafting Table is something I’d rather watch than eat.