The Weekly Dish
FRIES OF A FEATHER: The secret to the addictive steak fries at the just-opened Blue Duck Tavern (1201 24th St. NW; 202-419-6755)? "Duck fat," says chef Brian McBride . "You can't beat the flavor" it adds to whatever it touches, including the $7 side dish of thrice-fried rectangular spuds served on the solidly American menu in McBride's new roost (the former Melrose ) in the Park Hyatt Washington. Crisp on the outside, with the texture of mashed potatoes on the inside, a "duck dozen" of the squat fries are presented in a silver pot with tongs. Like the chef's galantine of duck and mushrooms and his molasses-flavored roast duck, the french fries underscore the restaurant's name. And their unusual shape is intentional: "We're a tavern," McBride wants to remind diners. "We didn't want [the fries] to be too dainty."
LUNCH WITH SOME AGE ON IT: Be prepared to answer a few questions when you place your sandwich order at Hodges (616 New York Ave. NW; 202-628-0606). Such as, "Rare, medium or well-done?" if you order roast beef, which is then hand-carved from a steamship round bathing in its own juices. Or "White meat or dark?" should you request roast turkey, sliced from a whole bird at the counter in front of you. "Want me to dip it?" the veteran meat carver, Rider Nolasco , asks next; a nod from the customers sees half the sandwich roll dipped into whichever pan juice is appropriate, making for a more succulent (if slightly messier) weekday lunch.
Located near the Washington Convention Center, Hodges is hardly new; the original location opened on Ninth Street in 1898. The carryout isn't much for the eyes, either; blink when you drive by, and you'll think you passed a shed with a few plastic tables set out front. But your stomach is rewarded with some generous sandwiches (my favorite is the smoked ham, offered only on Fridays) and several side dishes that speak with a convincing southern accent. Collards run tangy and peppery, macaroni and cheese proves creamy and soothing, coleslaw tastes fresh and pleasantly sweet. And the price is right: The sandwiches cost $5.45 apiece, while a platter with two accompaniments goes for just under eight bucks. Trust us, you won't be hungry for dinner.