Hours: 7 to 9:30 a.m. for breakfast, 6 to 10 p.m. for dinner. Atmosphere: Like a summer garden in full bloom. Price Range: $3.95 to $9.95. Reservations: Not necessary.Credit Cards: Accepts major credit cards. Special Facilities: Accessible to wheelchairs; on-street parking.
"It's like a street in Paris," our friend exulted from a bar stool at the Foggy Bottom Cafe.
We had come from surburban Maryland to rendezvous with her and her son. Our boys, who were neighbors once upon a time in southwest Washington, had maintained their friendship despite the distance between Arlington, where they now live, and Bethesda. We were meetng to get the boys, both 11, together. Foggy Bottom Cafe seemed a convenient half way point.
Our friend, who arrived first, was obviously delighted with the choice. She and her son were seated on graceful oak stoops, looking through a big picture window at the passing street scene. The cafe, which is in the River Inn hotel, is on one of those lovely residential streets that have tall trees, tidy townhouses and a nice degree of bustle. Since he cafe did not have its liquor license -- due in August, we were told -- there was no reason to feel self conscious sitting at the bar with a child.
The cafe is small but delightfully furnished. The bar is a light natural oak expanse with triple curved brass railings overhead and liquor racks filled with 11 brands of mineral water. Tables and chairs are of the same light oak and each table has a bud vase filled with flowers -- clusters of day lilies the day of our visit. A flowered service plate was at each setting. Prints on the walls were of stylized, richly colored flower buds, while outside the picture window were bands of red geraniums.
The menu was brief with only six main course selections, which ranged fom the ordinary -- a hamburger, $3.95 -- to the unusual -- shrimp and broccoli tempura, $8.95. Appetizer choices were even briefer -- small salad, $1.50, or the day's soup, $1.25, wich was lentil on the day of our visit.
Our waitress told us that in a effort to make up for the temporary lack of wine, beer and Bloody Marys, the cafe had a cantaloupe frappe and several fresh fruit juices. One of the boys ordered a large, freshly squeezed orange juice that, much to our later surprise, cost $3.My husband braved the cantaloupe frappe, $1.50, a blenderized combination of cantaloupe and cream that we all tasted and admired -- at least those of us who like cantaloupe.
Our orders ran the gamut of the cafe's offerings. My husband chose the lentil soup and a club sandwich, $3.95. I wanted a chef salad, $4.50; our friend had the tempura and the two boys ordered the half slab of barbecued ribs, $5.75.
The tempura and ribs came with salad served at the same time as the lentil soup. The soup needed a heavy dose of salt and pepper but, once that was administered, was fine, light and piping hot in a pretty crock.
Next came the rolls, which we agreed were the best we'd ever had in a restaurant, cracker crisp on the outside, light and flavorful on the inside, without being doughy. They were served with curls of sweet buter. We were glad there was only one roll to a customer because we would have eaten more and never been able to eat our dinners.
The shrimp part of the tempura was better than the broccoli pat, our friend reported, but she found the dish well prepared and tasty. The ribs, about six to the slab, had a nice barbecue sauce on them and were a bit messy to eat, but then what isn't when two 11-year-olds get together? The ribs came with thin, light and crisp shoestring potatoes.
The chef's salad was made up of spinach, romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, ham, turkey and swiss cheese. Unlike most versions, this salad was heavier on the meat and cheese than the greens, but just right for a summer dinner.
The club sandwich was well-made but too filling to finish, my husband found.
For dessert, there was a choice of cheesecake or banana fritters. Because banana fritters are my husband's favorite dessert, he ordered a portion, $2, to share with the rest of us. Four chunks of banana, deep fried in a crisp batter, came with our cream seasoned with cinnamon. He thought they were ambrosia. The rest of us thought they were good if you like banana fritters.
Dinner for three adults and two children came to $36.13, including tax and beverages. Had we been our usual foursome of two adults and two children, dinner would have been just under $30. We thought we'd eaten excellent food in a lovely setting at a fair price.