Atmosphere: Neighborhood pub.
Hours: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day, but the kitchen does not open until 5:30 p.m.
Price Range: $2.95 for a hamburger to $5.25 for shish kabob.
Reservations: It's not that sort of place.
Credit Cards: None, but will accept a check on a D.C. bank.
Special Facilities: Street parking; no accommodations for small children; restaurant is accessible to wheelchairs.
The large sign out front still reads Cafedon, but for a year now the place has been Cafe D'Or and under new management. Don't be put off by the dim light and the large bar when you enter; Cafe D'Or, if you let yourself settle into the experience, offers bits of gold.
Let's say immediately that Cafe D'Or is not a typical setting for a family night out. You wouldn't feel comfortable taking a baby there, and it is a far cry from the usual Marriott-inspired family restaurant. Which is exactly why you should take your older children to Cafe D'Or. And if your family consists of you and two roommates instead of people you must haul regularly to the orthodontist, you will probably want to beat tracks there.
It is as authentic a local pub as you will find in Washington -- small, paneled, and full of character. Cafe D'Or has mounted stags' heads and a stuffed alligator adorning its walls. A stuffed fox and beaver reside in glass cases.
There is a color TV to watch if there are no local characters to observe, and the jukebox offers something for everybody: Frank Sinatra, Pink Floyd and Janis Joplin. Prices are low, and the food, for the most part, is a class act. Cafe D'Or is the sort of place where people sit talking over a beer or a mug of coffee. It is a city experience, and a good one.
With an extra 10-year old in tow, we squeezed into a back booth and squinted at the menu and a small blackboard on the wall listing the day's specials. Offerings have a French flavor, with a few oddball items thrown in. Choose quiche or ratatouille, salad nicoise or croque monsieur, or, if you'd rather, nachos and a bowl of chili.
From the specials we ordered a shish kabob with salad, $5.25, baked chicken and rice, $4.75, and lasagna with salad, $3. The younger girls had cheeseburgers, $3.25, and a tuna-salad sandwich, $2.75, which can be served on pita bread if you wish.
The blessing of the place is that nothing seems prepackaged. The salads that come first were fresh and simple, although overdosed with dressing. Dressings are homemade and good, particularly the vinaigrette, but one can get too much of a good thing, and lettuce should not swim.
The cheeseburgers were real cheeseburgers, fat and juicy and pink in the middle, served on a kaiser roll; the tuna-salad eater admired the absence of onions in her sandwich and dug in happily. Our older daughter's large serving of lasagna looked particularly rich and appetizing. Accompanied by salad, it is a best buy for $3. Cheesy and flavorful, it had meat sauce slightly too sweet for my taste, but it was nevertheless a winner.
I had ordered baked chicken, which turned out to be half a bird simply prepared but juicy and delicious, served on a bed of perfectly cooked rice. My husband's shish kabob was the least satisfying dish, primarily because it had been grilled a bit too long.
Cafe D'Or offers an assortment of cakes and cannoli for dessert, at $1.50 each. We sampled the cannoli, a good one, and fudge cake that was rich and heavy with chocolate. Although not made in the kitchen, cakes are turned out by somebody with a good hand; they have a homemade quality. Coffee comes in a big old-fashioned white mug accompanied by cream in a shot glass.
We have heard that Cafe D'Or's service can leave much to be desired when things get busy, but with the place half-full on a Sunday night, we found service fast, pleasant and very accommodating: the waiter produced a glass of iced tea even though it wasn't on the menu, and cheerfully wrapped up the chicken I couldn't finish.
Heading for the door, we noticed yet another group of statuesque beasties standing above the entrance, the best of which was a rather pompous-looking frog wearing horn-rimmed glasses. We loved it. Our tab for six was $37, without tip.