A year and a half ago, Alexandria's Lobster Shed was replaced by the more sedate Bullfeathers. In a prime location on Old Town's main drag, Bullfeathers is a comfortable sort of place, a neighborhood eatery where you wouldn't feel out of place wearing shorts or jeans while others dined in coat and tie. In fact, the ground floor is two dining rooms split by a glass-and-wood divider, which gives patrons the option of dining in a setting of skylight and plants or near the bar with its darkened, pub-like tenor. If you want both, you could ask for a table upstairs, which overlooks the entire scene.
More often than not, service has been friendly and efficient at Bullfeathers. Empty plates are removed quickly and drinks are speedily replaced.
The lone sour note among the service staff was one waitress who, when asked about the day's specials, looked annoyed at the request and responded that she was too busy to recite the offerings. She went in search of the host, who came over to list the specials. The same waitress failed to remember to bring the breadbasket that accompanied our entrees.
With the exception of a handful of items, the fare at Bullfeathers has been a disappointment. Among those orders that we found unacceptable: an appetizer of mushy and tepid spiced shrimp (they were ordered hot), and salads awash in dressings, or overpowered by seasonings (specifically the tarragon in the house dressing). The Crock of Six Onion Soup sounded promising but the broth was oversalted and dull, its cover of cheese charred around the edges. And the Oysters Roosevelt would have been quite decent had they been free of grit. The oysters were plump and juicy, set on beds of creamed spinach laced with a hint of pernod. Another appetizer, Danish onions, which appeared with several entrees, was nothing more than a pile of stringy onions in a bland and greasy batter.
The highlight of the menu was the lobster bisque, a rich and creamy stew full of tender lobster bites, served by the cup or the bowl.
Entrees, too, were a disappointment. Both a hamburger and a New York strip steak were cooked medium despite the fact they were ordered otherwise. Crab cakes looked good -- plump and golden brown on the outside -- but they were wet and spongy. The cole slaw that sat alongside was bland. Veal parmesan was enveloped in a tinny-tasting tomato sauce and a thick slice of cheese. And though the Texas chili included generous bits of beef, it lacked spiciness. But the biggest disappointment was the steak fries with their odd aftertaste; a single bad batch could have been forgiven, but three separate orders left me wondering how often the kitchen changes its cooking oil.
Desserts at Bullfeathers can be quite good (if you avoid the dry and leaden cheesecake). Two of the best are made by the restaurant. One of them, key lime pie, is a very fresh and tangy concoction flecked with shreds of lime zest. Apple pie was good, too, made with big chunks of apple, sprinkled with nuts and served with a scoop of dutch apple ice cream.
All things considered, Bullfeathers is a fine setting for a drink, a bowl of lobster bisque or a slice of pie, but it doesn't stand out among King Street restaurants.