By Phyllis C. Richman
Washington Post Restaurant Critic
From The Washington Post Dining Guide, November 1996
Tucked behind a gay bar downstairs on 17th Street is a restaurant with one of the most clever and satisfying menus in town. Chef David Hagedorn never runs out of good ideas. Now he's divided his menu into the Low Fat Side and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Side.
And I could happily eat from either list.
This cozy, funky modern dining room caters to diners of every dress code, from glamour to grunge, though mostly it's casual. And the menu encompasses burgers (beef or turkey) as well as a dressed-up shrimp cocktail with pepper vodka that's served in a martini glass, tenderloin of beef and pizza with smoked salmon. Hagedorn's signatures are such witticisms as a carrot and goat cheese turned into corn on
the cob, fish and chips in tempura batter puffed up like a sofa pillow and pizza with a portobello mushroom as the crust. Yet he doesn't
confuse witty with silly or substitute clever for delicious.
I've roamed the menu, from the shish kebab on couscous (terrific North African seasoning but too chewy) to the appetizer plate of baba ghanouj, olives, goat cheese and roasted peppers with irresistible grill-striped pita wedges. But finally I've come home to what would draw me back to Trumpets regularly: The Gadsden Blueplate Special. This is Hagedorn's family recipe from his home town in Alabama. Two cornflake-crusted pork chops, slightly Tabasco-spiked and extravagantly juicy, sit atop a soft warm pool of cheese grits littered with crunchy little cuts of fried okra that could convert an okra hater. Maybe I'd alternate this with my Trumpets dream meal, which would be a plate of side dishes: the grits, the okra, garlicky fried potatoes, potato fingers and herbed mashed potatoes. Then, I suppose, it would be back to the Low Fat Side.