A periodic peek at my communication with readers.
“Due to my work and travel schedule, I don’t get to avail myself of D.C.’s restaurant offerings much during the week, so I have to make up for it on the weekend — and make every meal count!” wrote a recent participant on my online dining chat.
Just one problem: “During the weekend lunch hours, I find many of even the most innovative places reverting to brunch menus featuring barely disguised riffs on the same boring old breakfast plates. I want to see what the kitchen and chef can do, not how they can try to make a Benedict seem novel again. Where are some good places that serve a regular menu for weekend lunch?”
Until I put out a call for lunch-not-brunch on social media, I had no idea so many people wanted other than Belgian waffles and mimosas during daytime on the weekend.
“OMG. Please write about this,” tweeted @DCSuzyJ. “I hate brunch and would like to write a book of essays called ‘Foiled by Brunch’ about the impossible quest of finding a lunch spot not overcrowded with guests who have been drinking for 2+ hours.”
“Yes, yes and more yes,” replied Chris Ray of the District. “I realize this is bizarre as a millennial, but I hate brunch. Why? Because mixing cheap fizzy wine [with orange juice] isn’t amazing. Because sometimes I just want my Cobb salad on Sunday afternoon and not French toast.”
“Please! More weekend lunch,” followed up Kris Colby, who thoughtfully included a standby that gets my nod, too: Sfoglina , with locations near Van Ness Metro station and downtown.
While the Italian restaurants from Fabio Trabocchi serve brunch on weekends, they also offer an all-day menu that runs from grilled calamari and potato gnocchi to short ribs with salsa verde. Similarly, the very good Spanish restaurant Joselito Casa de Comidas on the Hill makes available its a la carte menu, with dishes in three portion sizes, during brunch service.
Elsewhere, the two popular All-Purpose Pizzeria locations focus on savory dishes over sweet ones, as do the globally minded Compass Rose off 14th Street NW and (break out the sake!) Sushiko in Chevy Chase.
Not every follower has a dog in the brunch vs. lunch fight. “I don’t care what you call it,” @DupontCircleDC tweeted, “just make sure there are plenty of egg dishes, because eggs are awesome at all times of the day.” No one asked, but the city’s best omelet is found at Le Diplomate , even at night.
My parents are coming to town in a few weeks. When they come, I like to take them out for a special dinner,” writes Maura Powell of Alexandria. “But in the past I’ve made the mistake of bringing them to a restaurant that is just too loud. Last time we went to Masseria . Food was no doubt fantastic, but it was almost impossible for my parents to hear the conversation!”
The Italian retreat near Union Market is indeed noisy, with a decibel count of 75, requiring diners to speak with a raised voice. A better Italian bet for Powell during her parents’ next visit: Obelisk in Dupont Circle, with a sound check of 70 decibels.
Have you heard? Quiet has become a restaurant luxury, an amenity diners often pay dearly for. Cases in point locally include the sedate Marcel’s in the West End and Métier near the convention center, where dinner can cost hundreds of dollars a person. Less pricey, but with good food and acoustics to match:Iron Gate in Dupont Circle, Plume in the Jefferson hotel and the venerable Prime Rib on K Street NW.
The demand for dining rooms where you can converse without raising your voice or leaning into companions is such that one of the filters I introduced in my fall dining guide was a category for quiet environments. In the mix of restaurants in the city proper, Zenebech in Adams Morgan was an exceptional find: a bargain, vegetarian-friendly and gentle on the ears, with a decibel rating of 69, meaning conversation is easy.
The best suggestions I can offer anyone looking for peace and quiet with their meal are to dine on the early side, before restaurants get busy and music is turned up, and to let owners know where you’ll be taking your business if the volume isn’t to your liking: elsewhere.
Touchy, touchy, touchy. Diners wish servers were less so, mostly with regard to glasses.
The latest complaint comes from Will Klingaman of Columbia, Md., who wants to know what to do when servers deliver a beverage by the rim, meaning their fingers are touching the surface from which customers sip. It’s a problem Klingaman says he has observed “with disturbing frequency, even in otherwise reputable dining establishments.”
In an email, Klingaman wonders about the options. “Should you point out the problem and ask for a different glass? Should you ask for a straw, as politically incorrect as that may be? Or should you just drink from the glass anyway and hope for the best? Am I being too squeamish?” Klingaman says he has no problem complaining about improperly cooked dishes, “but somehow this seems like a more personal affront (albeit well-deserved) to the server. What’s your suggestion?”
All of the above might clear things up, so to speak, as would simply asking for an empty glass, although the request alone wouldn’t (1) drive home Klingaman’s point or (2) save him the nuisance of transferring the beverage from one glass to another himself.
I’m no major germaphobe. But as someone who has been handed coffee with the telltale scent of perfume on its lid and wine whose rim has been grasped by an obvious smoker, I do prefer beverages handed over by the base, stem or middle rather than the top. Mostly, I ignore someone else’s fingerprints and imbibe. Now and then, I break out a lens wipe and erase whatever’s bothering me. Water and alcohol go down better than Opium and nicotine.