A list of Georgetown restaurants reads like someone's little black book: Clyde's, Lisa's, Germaine's, J. Paul's, Nathan's to name but a few. And now there are two more names (and another restaurant) to add to the list -- Leo and Linda, as in Leo & Linda's, in Georgetown's Dutch Inn.
In the case of this restaurant, Leo and Linda are the names of the proprietors, Leo and Linda Speros, both late of Normandy Farms in Potomac. He tends bar and she presides over the dining room.
You almost need a map to find the treasure that is this restaurant, but by now the desk clerks are getting used to directing restaurant patrons to the basement. The path takes you behind the main desk, and one flight down, so you might assume you're headed for a utility room, as my party did recently. It's a pleasant surprise when you reach the dining room, a chic, intimate setting with handsome chrome chairs, smart watercolors and just enough greenery and light to suggest a garden in springtime (though the view from the glass French doors onto the backyard reminds us it's winter.)
Lunch at Leo & Linda's is the next best thing to dining al fresco, for the sunlight and pale pink walls blend to cast a cheerful, airy glow. And when the lights are dimmed for dinner, the dining room takes on an air of romance and quiet elegance.
The menu could hardly be more standard -- what's so unusual about soup and sandwiches at lunch or fish and steak at dinner? The execution -- that's what distinguishes this restaurant. Service, too, has been expert and gracious.
Certainly there's a lot to like about the food, which emphasizes American fare, fish and meat dishes. Lunch one day consisted of a lovely, well-seasoned crab cake sandwich and fresh cut fries, which were thick, greaseless and potatoey. A special of curry chicken soup was smooth and rich and perfectly balanced in terms of flavors.
Dinner prices remind us that we're dining in Georgetown. So when pasta primavera starts at $10.95, and a special of blackened redfish goes for $16.50, we have a right to demand perfection. Leo & Linda's certainly comes close. The shrimp pasta ($13.95) I sampled was delectably creamy, loaded with pearly pink shrimp and vegetables that retained their crunch. The blackened redfish wasn't as fiery as they serve it in New Orleans, where the dish originated, but it was certainly an appealing offering, highly seasoned and crusty on the surface, moist and flaky on the inside.
Other dishes were accorded similar care and attention: the rack of lamb was a platter of butterflied, succulent meat, cooked as requested. The prime rib (there are two sizes, amusingly referred to as "Leo" and "Linda" cuts) was a good, lean steak, tender and savory.The accompaniments of green beans -- so sweet and crisp you'd swear they came from someone's garden -- and sliced, sharply seasoned potatoes ("Cajun potatoes," suggested a companion) completed a near perfect meal.
More imaginative but less appealing was an entree of chicken amaretto, which was a perfectly tender chicken breast stuffed with ham and Monterey cheese. The liqueur sauce tended to overwhelm this dish, however, and proved rather cloying after the first few bites, though my dining companions found it pleasantly different.
The menu does quite well by the entrees, but there are some real disappointments lurking among the appetizers -- bready stuffed clams, an expensive gamble at $6.50, and salads that would look at home in a luncheonette (though the homemade dressings were quite good).
The pastry tray looks enticing, and there are apt to be at least half a dozen desserts from which to choose, but they tend to be either oversweetened (as in the creme brulee, which tasted more of egg yolk than custard) or very ordinary fare (as in the chocolate mousse cake.) Opt instead for a cup of rich, freshly brewed coffee.
While the opening and closing of this production need some work, the second act of Leo & Linda's can be a real treat. And for simple, quality food, I'd be sure to put this restaurant on my list of Georgetown destinations.