Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday; dinner, 6 to 11 p.m. daily; Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Atmosphere: A cool, dark bar and a restaurant that offers good Italian fare.
Price range: Entrees at dinner between $6.25 and $9. Sandwiches and lighter selections at lunch.
Reservations: Helps at dinner since there are few tables.
Charge cards: American Express, Mastercard and VISA.
Special Facilities: Accessible by wheelchair; street parking; half-portions of pasta for children.
As a former Foggy Bottom dweller, I remember the old days when dining out in that neighborhood meant getting a box of Good and Plenties out of the machine at the corner gas station.
Now, as almost everyone knows, the area is thick with bistros, watering holes and assorted establishments of varying quality. One spot where you may take your family with confidence is Marshall's West End, cleverly located toward the west end of the Pennsylvania Avenue block between 25th and 26th streets.
Marshall's decor is standard pub: dimly lit with a long, polished oak bar, a jukebox and some tables with checkered cloths. The use of Tiffany glass is mercifully restrained.
What's not so standard about Marshall's West End is its effort to offer something beyond the corned beef sandwiches, omelets or cheesburgers that normally make up the menu in a bar-restaurant.
In the evenings, Marshall's West End goes Italian, offering half a dozen pasta dishes and another dozen or so featuring chicken, veal, shrimp, fish or squid. These range between $6.95 and $8.95.
The appetizer list is small but appealing, with items like a hefty anti-pasto for two, baked clams and a selection of fried vegetables and cheese. aCream of broccoli soup and minestrone, each $1.75, are always available, and the special during our visit was lobster bisque.
The less-famished (an unknown condition in our family) could be satisfied with a supper of soup and one of Marshall's spinach or mixed green salads.
Three of us order pasta dishes which apparently are not counted as bonafide entrees since they don't come with salads like the meat and fish dishes do. Only our 11-year-old got the romaine salad, which she sanitized by removing the onion rings, because she had ordered chicken christina.
She could have chosen chicken peitro, with pieces of breast and asparagus simmered in a wine and cream sauce, but ruled it out because it also had carrots. And despite our prompting, chicken gian claudio was out because of the scallians and mushrooms.
But christina fit the bill. Even the wine sauce did not offend the sensibilities of this overdiscrminating diner, and she loved the artichoke hearts and we simply didn't tell her about the capers. In any case, it was all pleasant, mildly garlicky and nicely seasoned. On the side was a large dish of very fresh, crispy green beans, cooked with oil, fresh basil and bits of tomato. Definitely a bonus.
Our 14-year-old had nice things to say about her cannelloni, two large noodle cylinders stuffed with piping hot cheese and covered with a bubbling tomato sauce.
I'm sorry to report I had fewer nice things to say about my choice, a concoction call straw and hay. From the menu description, it sounded like a good idea, this dish of green noodles, proscuitto ham, mushrooms and peas tossed with a creamy sauce, but it didn't live up to expectations. The sauce had a flat taste and the noodles were gummy.
Marshall's West End redeemed itself with my husband's choice of linguine with clams, shrimp and scallops. The white sauce was perfectly seasoned with garlic and herbs. My husband, of course, got little of his meal, for the mark of a successful dish is how many bites the rest of the family wants.
On another visit we will try, perhaps, the shrimp sauteed with tomato, garlic and wine, or the stuffed calamari or the veal francese with lemon.
Meanwhile, we moved on to dessert. A passable apple pie was the day's special, but an oustanding key lime pie, made on the premises, is available daily, and it's worth saving room for.
Our bill, including soft drinks and tip, came to $46, not bad by today's standards. It was a whole lot better than Good and Plenties.