Old Angler's Inn

American
$$$$ ($25-$34)
large-image
With changes in the kitchen, Old Angler's Inn is on a new course.
Mon 5:30-9:30 pm; Tue-Thu: 11:30 am-2 pm
5:30-9:30 pm; Fri-Sat: 11:30 am-2 pm
5:30-10 pm; Sun: 11:30 am-2:30 pm
5:30-9 pm;
(Montgomery County)
301-299-9097
63 decibels (Conversation is easy)
'

Editorial Review

A historic spot that’s finally about the food
By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, April 14, 2013

The harshest critic of the Old Angler’s Inn is one of its heirs.

Mark Reges, whose family has owned the property since 1957, says the Potomac restaurant had “fallen asleep over the decades.” The old couches in the front were smelly, the restrooms were pathetic, the shape of the kitchen so “lousy” -- his word -- that no good chef would want to work there. Not so long ago, little but its idyllic wooded setting attracted customers to Old Angler’s Inn.

“ ‘I love it. I haven’t been in 25 years,’ ” Reges says countless people told him.

It took the passing of Reges’s mother, Olympia, in 2005 to get her sons to address the restaurant’s many problems and “dedicate ourselves to putting money back in” to the family business, Reges says. Five years ago, he, wife Sara and brother Greg reopened the back garden. Next, they tackled the interior, starting with the ground floor. Out went those sad sofas, and in went a marble-topped bar purchased from the late Watergate Hotel.

In 2011, a fresh chef was introduced to the equation: Nick Palermo, 31, whose credits include the four-star CityZen, where as chef de partie he focused on salads and hot appetizers, and the late Inox in Tysons Corner, where Palermo served as sous-chef. Since his arrival, just about every edible reminder of the inn, save Caesar salad and creme brulee, has been erased from the menu. Three recent dinners from his revamped kitchen reveal a chef to watch and a restaurant to reconsider.

Merely approaching the inn -- with its garlands of tiny lights in the trees and a patio with an open fire pit -- is no longer the best way to appreciate the dowager. Forge on, through the front door, and you are met by gentlemen in suits who look delighted to see you and by cocktails that honor tradition.

Cross the Prime Rib downtown with 1789 in Georgetown, and you get a sense of what to expect at the made-over Old Angler’s Inn: a classic restaurant where no one has to shout to be heard and where “Days of Wine and Roses” is apt to serenade you as you spoon into a vichyssoise or slurp oysters on the half-shell.

They’re delicious, those oysters. I prefer them with more chill, but the briny Virginia bivalves are nevertheless quickly dispatched. Vichyssoise is just the sort of soup you expect to find in a restaurant of this vintage; Palermo tweaks the satisfying puree of potatoes and leeks with a few small shrimp in the center of the bowl. The only reason to order the crab cake, on the other hand, is for the electric coleslaw that serves as its escort. The pasteurized crab I got did not pass the sniff test.

The lone pasta, cavatelli with veal-beef-lamb meatballs, prompts me to ask the chef if it’s his mother’s recipe. His response -- his father is a better cook than his mother, and the son is better than both -- reminds me of the dangers of assumption. Palermo’s pasta is listed as a starter but proves substantial enough to pass for a main course. However you see it, get the dish, draped in a light and tangy tomato sauce. The combination is experienced like a family reunion in Little Italy.

Palermo puts even more of himself into the main courses. Fish is a particular draw. Sole scattered with capers and perched on Swiss chard comes with a soft herbed potato cake that nearly upstages the center of the plate. Even better is sauteed rockfish displayed on lentils made luscious with nuggets of chorizo and diced bell pepper. The chef gives pork loin an Asian accent, framing the sliced meat with fragrant basmati rice and a peanut sauce ignited with habanero.

This is food with gusto, and polish. Beef bavette brings thick, intensely flavored slices of “flap” meat, from the bottom of the sirloin, arranged with batons of carrots and bites of fried potato. In the company of a low fire in the ground-floor hearth, the main course makes its recipient supremely happy to have found himself at OAI, as the inn refers to itself in the manicured shrubbery outside.

The generous portions might cancel any plans for dessert. An igloo of a chocolate-peanut butter bombe suggests a candy bar. The confection makes my teeth itch. Better is the apple strudel, with its thick fruit and restrained sweetening.

It seems that word about the refreshed Old Angler’s Inn has yet to go beyond Potomac. The clientele on all my visits has included blondes with Chiclet-white teeth in the company of their proud peacocks; some nights, I’ve shared the golden-glowing dining room with only a handful of other patrons. To lure more traffic, Palermo offers deals throughout the week, including half-price burgers on Mondays, seafood linguine on Wednesdays and a changing vegan dish on Thursdays.

“Food is simply not the point at some restaurants, and Old Angler’s is one of them,” former Washington Post critic Phyllis C. Richman wrote in these pages -- in 1982. Although the restaurant has a long history of relying on its exterior attributes for business, abundant TLC from the owners and a change of guard in the kitchen have reversed course.

Potomac, ho!

The harshest critic of the Old Angler’s Inn is one of its heirs.

Mark Reges, whose family has owned the property since 1957, says the Potomac restaurant had “fallen asleep over the decades.” The old couches in the front were smelly, the restrooms were pathetic, the shape of the kitchen so “lousy” -- his word -- that no good chef would want to work there. Not so long ago, little but its idyllic wooded setting attracted customers to Old Angler’s Inn.

“ ‘I love it. I haven’t been in 25 years,’ ” Reges says countless people told him.

It took the passing of Reges’s mother, Olympia, in 2005 to get her sons to address the restaurant’s many problems and “dedicate ourselves to putting money back in” to the family business, Reges says. Five years ago, he, wife Sara and brother Greg reopened the back garden. Next, they tackled the interior, starting with the ground floor. Out went those sad sofas, and in went a marble-topped bar purchased from the late Watergate Hotel.

In 2011, a fresh chef was introduced to the equation: Nick Palermo, 31, whose credits include the four-star CityZen, where as chef de partie he focused on salads and hot appetizers, and the late Inox in Tysons Corner, where Palermo served as sous-chef. Since his arrival, just about every edible reminder of the inn, save Caesar salad and creme brulee, has been erased from the menu. Three recent dinners from his revamped kitchen reveal a chef to watch and a restaurant to reconsider.

Merely approaching the inn -- with its garlands of tiny lights in the trees and a patio with an open fire pit -- is no longer the best way to appreciate the dowager. Forge on, through the front door, and you are met by gentlemen in suits who look delighted to see you and by cocktails that honor tradition.

Cross the Prime Rib downtown with 1789 in Georgetown, and you get a sense of what to expect at the made-over Old Angler’s Inn: a classic restaurant where no one has to shout to be heard and where “Days of Wine and Roses” is apt to serenade you as you spoon into a vichyssoise or slurp oysters on the half-shell.

They’re delicious, those oysters. I prefer them with more chill, but the briny Virginia bivalves are nevertheless quickly dispatched. Vichyssoise is just the sort of soup you expect to find in a restaurant of this vintage; Palermo tweaks the satisfying puree of potatoes and leeks with a few small shrimp in the center of the bowl. The only reason to order the crab cake, on the other hand, is for the electric coleslaw that serves as its escort. The pasteurized crab I got did not pass the sniff test.

The lone pasta, cavatelli with veal-beef-lamb meatballs, prompts me to ask the chef if it’s his mother’s recipe. His response -- his father is a better cook than his mother, and the son is better than both -- reminds me of the dangers of assumption. Palermo’s pasta is listed as a starter but proves substantial enough to pass for a main course. However you see it, get the dish, draped in a light and tangy tomato sauce. The combination is experienced like a family reunion in Little Italy.

Palermo puts even more of himself into the main courses. Fish is a particular draw. Sole scattered with capers and perched on Swiss chard comes with a soft herbed potato cake that nearly upstages the center of the plate. Even better is sauteed rockfish displayed on lentils made luscious with nuggets of chorizo and diced bell pepper. The chef gives pork loin an Asian accent, framing the sliced meat with fragrant basmati rice and a peanut sauce ignited with habanero.

This is food with gusto, and polish. Beef bavette brings thick, intensely flavored slices of “flap” meat, from the bottom of the sirloin, arranged with batons of carrots and bites of fried potato. In the company of a low fire in the ground-floor hearth, the main course makes its recipient supremely happy to have found himself at OAI, as the inn refers to itself in the manicured shrubbery outside.

The generous portions might cancel any plans for dessert. An igloo of a chocolate-peanut butter bombe suggests a candy bar. The confection makes my teeth itch. Better is the apple strudel, with its thick fruit and restrained sweetening.

It seems that word about the refreshed Old Angler’s Inn has yet to go beyond Potomac. The clientele on all my visits has included blondes with Chiclet-white teeth in the company of their proud peacocks; some nights, I’ve shared the golden-glowing dining room with only a handful of other patrons. To lure more traffic, Palermo offers deals throughout the week, including half-price burgers on Mondays, seafood linguine on Wednesdays and a changing vegan dish on Thursdays.

“Food is simply not the point at some restaurants, and Old Angler’s is one of them,” former Washington Post critic Phyllis C. Richman wrote in these pages -- in 1982. Although the restaurant has a long history of relying on its exterior attributes for business, abundant TLC from the owners and a change of guard in the kitchen have reversed course.

Potomac, ho!

Reader Reviews

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Avg reader rating
Fat roll for dinner

I have eaten at Old Anglers Inn about 5-6 times in the past - and have generally been happy with the quality of service and the food. However, my experience this evening - 7-July 2013 - was terrible. The waiter staff was obviously new - and had a difficult time explaining items on the menu. But my biggest issue was with the food. I ordered something the waiter described as a pork roll - a boneless pork that is rolled and baked. I couldn't figure that out from the menu in the restaurant - but online it is called 'Papa Weaver Pork'. When the waiter brought it to me - it was more of a 'fat roll' than a 'pork roll'. Literally more than 50% of the entree was pure fat. Terrible! Expensive entrees - terrible food. No more

Still a very sad place

We also went to Old Anglers based on the review. I hoped for the best. We pulled in without a reservation, put our name on the list,were told we could wait at the bar around back.We waited for 10 minutes to be waited on, there were only 10 other people there and 3 waitstaff. We ordered 2 beers, my wife asked for a glass, that took another 10 minutes.When we were heading off to eat.We gave them a $20 for a less than $12 tab.They didn't return with change.When asked, they thought it was a tip.This was just a prelude to dinner.It took 30 minutes to get a menu and after ordering they came back 15 minutes later to tell us they were out of what we ordered.There is much more to tell but there is no more space to write.ZERO STARS Unsatisfactory!

Not done yet

My Dad Old Anglers Inn where we've celebrated many family occasions. He was regular at Table 7. We lived through the downfall and after years away, we tried it again last night, mostly convinced by this review. We assembled on the lovely patio to celebrate our Dad who passed away last September - it was Father's Day and his birthday. I am sorry to say that the "New" Old Anglers didn't live up to this review. Horrible service - one notch above a diner, awful food for the price (from the sloppy chopped salad to the tough steak). The bathrooms were messy. Long time patrons, we are still hoping for the day when things get back on track. This is not that day.

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