The recently opened Waterfront Grill has none of the trademarks of a typical Georgetown restaurant. The prices are modest, the menu eschews trendiness and the dining room has all the appeal of an airport cocktail lounge.
Moreover, it's tucked away in a big brick office building, as though the owners were trying to keep its location a secret. Its name suggests a Potomac view, but the best this eatery offers is a window seat near the bar overlooking an indoor courtyard. So once you track it down, you might well wonder if the hunt was worth it.
If an inexpensive meal is more important than esthetics, the Waterfront Grill is a find of sorts. The most exotic offering is swordfish steak (in season), but otherwise the menu tends toward the predictable -- several luncheon-size salads, hamburgers, steaks, sandwiches and fried seafood dishes.
Considering the dining room's less than appealing decor -- the booths are garish blue-black plastic and the chairs are on wheels -- your initial impulse is to get through a meal as quickly as possible. Yet there are some decent appetizers, particularly the soups. A recent daily offering of french onion soup was as good as any in the neighborhood, and a regular offering of chili was a generous bowl of finely ground beef and beans, slightly sweet and redolent of tomato. Both of these have proven better bets than the nacho chips and heavy fried mozzarella sticks. The vegetable platter was a varied selection of carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, some of which appeared less than fresh.
It's best to stick with the simplest of entrees. Hamburgers are served as rectangular patties of juicy ground beef and are accompanied by french fries that can be good if they're not undercooked. Salads -- including a meaty, cheesy taco concoction, and a chicken and almond salad featuring some good, moist poultry -- are hardly imaginative renditions, but they're most assuredly filling and rather decent.
Sandwiches, however, tend to be the most reliable fare at the Waterfront. A generous grilled reuben, piled high with sauerkraut and plenty of corned beef, or a steak and cheese submarine, oozing with melted cheese, are both safe bets.
It's as important to know what not to order as what to order here. Flounder stuffed with crab meat sounded too much of a bargain at $4.95; in fact, the fish was oddly textured, and the crab/rice stuffing was hardly a complement. Steak has been alternately undercooked and burned to a crisp on recent visits.
Any number of eateries manage better fish, steak and appetizers (and in much finer settings), so you might be hard pressed to find a reason to visit the Waterfront Grill. Yet if you don't expect too much, and remember that you do get what you pay for, this restaurant can serve well for a quick, inexpensive meal.