Full-service soul food restaurants are about as easy to find as a parking space in Georgetown, an occurrence so rare that you might be willing to settle for a less than perfect dining experience just to satiate a craving for fried chicken and mashed potatoes.
Moreover, the chances of finding good food, a sit-down dining room and a decent location are almost impossible -- you might get one or two, but all three in a single eatery?
Face's, a 13-year-old soul/seafood restaurant, certainly does much better than its few rivals. It wouldn't win any awards for its decor, which appears to be a throwback to a '60s supper club, but for food, it's about as good as soul gets in this city.
Indeed, the southern fried chicken is a testament to what good home cooking is all about. A recent entree included three meaty pieces of chicken under a thin crispy cover that had been fried just enough to render it golden. Admittedly, we were the first patrons in the restaurant one Saturday evening when we ordered the dish, so we weren't able to determine the kitchen's mettle under fire, but subsequent visits proved that quality and care are high on this restaurant's list of priorities.
Ribs are large, meaty and tender. While they taste somewhat steamed on occasion, they are complemented by a thin blanket of peppery barbecue sauce. Pork chops are cooked in a batter similar to that of the chicken, a complement to two rather average pieces of lean meat.
What can make or break a dish is a side dish or two (a choice of two vegetable accompaniments are included with many of the entrees). What to select? Collard greens, which lack the too-often encountered bitterness, mashed potatoes or potato salad, if it's offered. What to avoid? The tinny tasting green beans and the mushy, vaguely cheesy macaroni.
The seafood platter -- which included shrimp, scallops, a piece of white fish and a crab cake -- was all deep-fried stuff, set on a mound of french fries and served with coleslaw. Everything save the coleslaw appeared to have been resurrected from the freezer, though it was of good quality. Only the crab cake proved a bit overdone in its dark brown crustiness. On another occasion, those crab cakes were light golden, the filling surprisingly meaty and tasty but a bit too heavy and wet. On future visits, I'll remember to emphasize the soul food and save my hankering for seafood for elsewhere.
One might not want to travel across town just for a sandwich at Face's, but the half-pound burger I tried recently -- so large it all but hid the tiny bun -- was a quite flavorful patty. Rounding out the menu are cold cut platters, club, steak and tuna salad sandwiches and a few salads.
Dessert isn't made in house, but there's a respectable nutmeg-tinged sweet potato pie to be had.
Service is relaxed to the point that guests usually end up seating themselves. And it's not uncommon to have the staff sit down at neighboring tables between orders and food deliveries. But by and large, it's an efficient, amiable crew. Particularly welcoming is the presence of the manager at Face's. Not only has he been known to pinch-hit for the chef on occasion, but he's as pleasant an encounter as one would wish.
Face's does a commendable job with food that too often suffers a poor reputation. And in a neighborhood dotted with fast food franchises, Face's reminds us just how pleasant a home-cooked meal can be.