Dining with music, it has been said, is an insult to both the cook and the musician. After several trips to two new brunch sites -- Adams-Morgan's Dakota and the Art Deco-inspired Kennedy-Warren -- both of which serve up music with their breakfast menus, I would happily disagree:
Dakota, 1777 Columbia Rd. NW, 265-6600. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Brunch selections $3.50 to $9.95. American Express, MasterCard, Visa accepted.
If the rich and aromatic coffee doesn't wake you up at Dakota, the overhead neon lights and fanciful pink and green serviceware probably will.
As a purveyor of breakfast, this splashy, high-tech nightclub/restaurant is nevertheless soft enough to nurse a hangover, interesting enough to keep you entertained while lingering over a basket of muffins -- and delicious enough to warrant your getting acquainted with this as a Sunday rendezvous spot.
Dakota's brunch crew is pleasant, if a bit on the forgetful side -- some of them act as if they had stayed on from the previous night's festivities. Which brings up another point: Someone should see to it that the place gets a thorough post-dance cleaning; it's difficult to ignore the confetti-like litter and dirty ashtrays left from the Saturday night crowd.
The food itself leaves a better impression. From the perfectly executed, saffron-tinged eggs benedict to the thick ovals of french toast, served with a medley of fresh fruit, the breakfast menu successfully teams the conventional with the eclectic: Traditionalists might opt for the creamy, herby scrambled eggs (flanked with a generous slice of velvety smoked salmon), blueberry pancakes or quiche, while the more adventurous can head for the three-cheese frittata -- an open-faced omelette striped down the middle with a chunky, herby tomato coulis -- or perhaps a side of intensely flavored lamb sausage. To round out the meal there are those complimentary muffins -- warm, thimble-size breads studded with the likes of cranberries and nuts, or poppyseeds, and accompanied by flavored butters -- as well as fresh squeezed juices. And I wouldn't miss ordering a side of lovely fat, homemade-tasting biscuits, either. On the debit side, a well-seasoned, meaty hamburger served between English muffin halves was marred by oversalted french fries, and a side of shredded lettuce, dry as straw.
You expect good music from a nightclub, and you get it at Dakota, which has offered everything from (piped in) Ella Fitzgerald to a dynamite (live) bass and xylophone duet at recent brunches.
The Kennedy-Warren Restaurant & Ballroom, 3133 Connecticut Ave. NW, 483-2058. Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. $13.95 per person. Visa, MasterCard and personal checks accepted.
The fabled "good old days" are alive and (pretty) well at the Kennedy-Warren, the stately Art Deco apartment complex that not long ago slightly upgraded its charmingly faded dining room, and revamped its menu to include Sunday brunch.
This is the place to take your parents, or your maiden aunt, for a nostalgic walk through the not-so-distant past. Descending the carpeted staircase into the spacious, high-ceilinged dining room, with its antique brass chandeliers and mammoth columns, you feel every bit the time traveler. In the center of the room, potted palms surround the buffet tables, little shaded lamps brighten the tables, and the waiters are attired in white cotton coats and black bow ties. Vintage background music completes the scene.
Actually, it took me a while to warm up to this place. The advertised hours of operation changed several times, so that when I showed up at 11 a.m. with a party in tow, we were told brunch wouldn't be served for another 1 1/2 hours. Another time, I arrived just as the dining room opened, and our waiter informed my party that "everything should be in order by the time you leave." Note, too, that if you enter through the central lobby, you have to ring to be admitted.
So it takes a bit of tenacity just to get a table. Is it worth the effort?
For $13.95, I'd be inclined to say yes. The buffet spread is not without its flaws -- notably some dried bread selections, and crepes and vegetables that suffer from sitting on a steam table. And the kitchen overreaches with dishes such as the "Thai-style" chicken, a sweetish combination of chicken strips and bell peppers.
Even so, the variety is such that there's plenty else to feast upon: With the exception of a mushy eggplant concoction, the salads are fresh and lively combinations, and the meat selections have included some delicious fennel-accented sausage patties, and rosy pink medallions of juicy pork loin. You can also fill up on fresh vegetables, a variety of cheeses, fresh fruit served with several yogurt toppings, and a less-than-memorable dessert spread of chocolate cake, cheesecake and such.
But that's just the tip of this iceberg of a menu. In addition to the buffet, the waiter will recite at least a half dozen made-to-order breakfast specials, all of which are included in the $13.95 tab (if your belt can take it, the egg dishes have been consistently well-executed). And glasses of champagne, mimosa and orange juice are refilled as often as one's coffee cup.
In all, this is a lot of food and a lot of scenery for the money.
Tom Sietsema is on the staff of The Washington Post Food section.