DINNER AND THEATER are seldom comfortable companions in Washington. But West End Cafe has just improved the situation. This creative American restaurant at Washington Circle now offers its diners free limousine service from the restaurant to the Kennedy Center -- and a return ride after the show, of course. Customers must specify when they make dinner reservations that they want limousine service, as it is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Starting in March, West End Cafe is going even further to accommodate theatergoers. It has planned a dinner-theater package for three Kennedy Center performances. The restaurant has acquired orchestra and first-tier seats, and will offer them with free valet parking at the restaurant, dinner before the show (appetizer, entree and glass of wine), limousine to and from the theater, then dessert, champagne and coffee after the show. The pre-theater courses will be limited to a choice of three appetizers and three entrees, those that can be prepared quickly enough to allow for early curtains.
The first dinner-theater package will be $75 per person for the Dance Theater of Harlem on March 28, the second is $80 for"The Heidi Chronicles" on April 25 and the third is $100 for the Sept. 12 performance of "Phantom of the Opera." There are only 20 to 30 tickets available for each performance, so early reservations are advised; call 202/293-5390.
NEW ORLEANS COOKING may have been a nationwide trend that came and went in the '80s, but there's still life to it in Washington. Copeland's of New Orleans is opening a branch in Rockville in March. That means that with the Alexandria branch, Washington will have two of the chain's eight branches (five in New Orleans, one in Dallas).
I'VE HEARD OF restaurants offering a free drink or dessert for having inconvenienced a patron, but the Jockey Club has set a new world record. It offered a free bottle of champagne in apology for Galileo's having inconvenienced a patron. Two diners who had reserved dinner for 9 p.m. at Galileo and arrived at 8:30 were kept waiting until at least 9:30 while earlier diners lingered at their tables. Finally the couple decided to dine elsewhere, and called the Jockey Club to see if there was room. They left, refusing a table Galileo then offered, and went to the Jockey Club.
At the Jockey Club, maitre d'hotel Martin Garbisu, the consummate gentleman, apologized on behalf of Galileo, and recommended that they give it another try in the future. Then Garbisu brought them champagne on the house. That's about the grandest gesture on the part of a restaurant I have ever heard of.
As for Galileo, the restaurant is so popular now that a backlash of complaints is growing. The restaurant blames the waiting on early diners who linger at the table after dinner. I don't see why people would do anything but linger after dinner when they have paid well over $50 a person. The problem is that this restaurant, like many, is trying to fit in two or more seatings. It was booking as many as 200 reservations for its 85 seats, but now in the wake of complaints has cut back to a maximum of 150.
Owner-chef Roberto Donna says he doesn't like to tell people that they will have to vacate their tables by a particular time, so he has to put up with the other end of the problem -- people having to wait for tables to be vacated.
As for the customers who went to the Jockey Club, they got doubly compensated. Galileo afterwards offered its apologies and invited them back for dinner on the house.
Phyllis C. Richman's restaurant reviews appear Sundays in The Washington Post Magazine.