What's shaking in the Palisades
By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
For all its money and population, the Palisades neighborhood in Northwest Washington is surprisingly bereft of places to eat.
Residents therefore cheered the arrival of Salt & Pepper in June. The newcomer replaces Kemble Park Tavern and marks the first restaurant for husband and wife Nate and Lindsey Auchter.
The two graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., in 2007 and eventually made their way to Washington, where they both worked at BlackSalt and Equinox. Nate last served as the executive chef of the Corporate Executive Board in Rosslyn; Lindsey was the executive sous-chef at the Canadian Embassy. Their current project is a collaboration with the owners of the Asian-themed Bambu nearby.
Why Salt & Pepper? Because "they're the essential things you need to cook," says Lindsey, who runs the front of the house. (Nate pilots the kitchen.)
The project represents a change for the casual for the couple. Their menu of burgers, salads, fried chicken and meatloaf emphasizes dishes "we like to eat every day," says Lindsey, who put together an all-American drinks program that extends to vermouth from California.
Kemble Park Tavern was dressed for Middleburg in houndstooth check fabric and horse figures. Its gray-and-black successor is set off with red accents and a granite counter that offers diners a close-up view of the rear kitchen. Best place for pet lovers: the outdoor patio, host to "Yappy Hour" every other Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. (The next event is July 23.)
As for the food, Salt & Pepper's twist on gazpacho is pleasantly sweet with watermelon. The fried chicken is decent, although the collard greens sharing the plate are oddly cloying the evening I drop in. If I lived nearby, I might return for the moist meatloaf but not the arid pork chop or the shrimp and grits; the seafood is tough from its time on the grill. For sure, I'd add onion rings to my order. The beer-battered snacks arrive on a spindle and don't last long enough to cool off.
With the check comes a neighborly touch: warm chocolate chip cookies.