Chef Geoff's

$$$$ ($15-$24)

Editorial Review

Chef Geoff's, the original location of a growing chainlet of family-friendly restaurants, is a perpetual neighborhood hot spot. Set close enough to American University to lure students along with families, the restaurant is reliably popular for its innovative American fare. In the summer, waits can stretch over an hour for space on the bustling patio.

Early birds have plenty to love here. The restaurant hosts all-day happy hour on Mondays and Tuesdays and specials from 3 until 7 p.m. every other day. During the promotion, burgers, pizzas and bar snacks, including Korean fried wings and ham biscuits, are deeply discounted to accompany cheap drinks.

The menu is long and eclectic enough to appeal to just about anyone who finds a seat. Chef-owner Geoff Tracy (who is married to Norah O'Donnell) incorporates Asian, Cajun, Indian, Italian and Mexican flavors into his menu. Jumbo shrimp are served with Gouda-infused grits. The combination mixes in peppers, tomatoes and a dose of heat from andouille sausage. Flatiron steak nods to Argentina, with a thatch of yucca fries ready to scoop up drips of the dish's spicy, herb-filled chimichurri sauce.

Pizzas can occasionally sag under their many toppings, but diners who stick to basic combinations are rewarded with nicely crisped crusts and plenty of flavor.

Should you save room, desserts are playful and nostalgic. Try a gooey s'more tart, dunk cinnamon doughnuts into your after-dinner coffee or go wild for popcorn panna cotta.

-- Erin Hartigan (April 24, 2012)