2512 L St. NW 337-7101
Hours: Open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, 6 to 10 p.m. Prices: Appetizers, $2.25 to $4.25; sandwiches and entrees, $5.75 to $12.50. Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
Beezer's has a lot going for it: a convenient location near Georgetown, a small patio, hosts and waiters who are quick with a smile, and a menu that changes often enough to encourage frequent visits.
Foremost, it is a restaurant grounded in the basics of what has come to be known as "new American" cuisine. As such, so common an appetizer as fried mozzarella sticks is served here with a basil-laced tomato sauce. The meat in the club sandwich is turkey, and it is smoked. There are usually a few grilled items -- veal chops (with wild mushrooms), steak (with herb butter) -- in addition to lots of "light" main dishes, many featuring pasta. And recently at least, the restaurant has experimented with offering a number of wines by the glass, allowing diners to sample a wider range of wines without having to commit to a whole bottle.
Some of those ideas translate into pretty good eating. I share the chef's fondness for fresh fish dishes. At Beezer's, you can get salmon grilled or poached or made in a very good quiche (along with a generous tortellini salad). Fresh lump crab shows up fairly often, and not only as the obvious crab cakes. One of the best starters I sampled was sweet crab meat stuffed in phyllo triangles, set on a rich cheese sauce; it was the most imaginative of any of Beezer's appetizers, which tend not to stray from the routine chicken wings, potato skins, sauteed mushrooms and vegetable platter.
Among the winning main dishes are a platter of mixed vegetables dressed in a glistening wash of sesame oil (my table split it as a first course) and a dish of three thick lamb chops, teamed with a creamy rosemary sauce and accompanied by a melange of saute'ed vegetables -- a lunch suited more to a lumberjack than a businessman, one should note.
But Beezer's is also a kitchen of excess: An otherwise decent seafood club sandwich was slathered with enough mayonnaise for three such sandwiches, and contrary to the menu's promise, I detected no shrimp. For all its richness, it was like eating cheesecake as a main course. What would have been satisfying -- a plate of fettuccine flecked with delicate, pearly pink baby shrimp -- was overwhelmed by a heart-stopping amount of buttery lobster sauce. And some things just don't work at all; the sauce on a plate of broiled duck tasted like undiluted orange juice concentrate. In fact, the best part of that meal was the perfectly cooked asparagus and roasted potatoes.
Furthermore, the diner's introduction to a meal is not very encouraging. Burnt rolls (and occasionally breadsticks and packaged crackers) have preceded all of my meals at Beezer's.
Because the rear of this two-story restaurant tends to be dark, the best seats in the house are those closest to the front windows, either the downstairs bar overlooking the patio, or upstairs, with its treetop view of the neighborhood. In all, it is a cozy if modestly decorated space, with a few black and white photographs lending some decoration to the otherwise bare maroon walls. Formerly the site of Cantina Mexicanos, Beezer's has retained the feel and much of the furniture of its predecessor.
A sense of newness prevails at Beezer's -- in the kitchen as well as the dining rooms. Yet although it sometimes takes patience to find something that works, this eatery shows a promising start in its first few months. Moreover, its location, prices and modestly inventive menu can only recommend it.Tom Sietsema is on the staff of The Washington Post Food section.