Saturday, November 8, 2008

Guest Review

My daughter Laura has started a new blog, The Service Project, in which she reviews the service at all kinds of restaurants. I decided to contribute to the cause while I'm out of town on a school trip:

After an all-day trip aboard Amtrak bound for Washington, D.C., from the quaint old station in Salisbury, NC, we arrived hungry in the Capitol. I decided to give the train food a pass, opting instead for an apple from Les Simmons, one of my teaching colleagues. Once we settled into our hotel room, we were ready for food. At that point, our group split. Some decided to grab a fast bite at Union Station (with all the ambience and options of a mall or an airport—Sbarro, McDonalds, you know the list).

I had talked to my sister Amy, who goes to D.C. almost every year with Jeff for an insurance convention, I think. She had mentioned some restaurants, so I wanted specifics. We opted for Old Ebbitt Grill, on 15th between F and G streets. It was an easy walk from Hotel Harrington the “group friendly” accommodations we found after the App House closed. When we arrived, the place was busy—a good sign in a city with plenty of dining choices. It’s billed as the oldest bar in Washington, D.C., and the d├ęcor has the character to back up the claim. (The chandeliers had real candles!) We were told we’d have an hour wait and could come back in 30-40 minutes for a beeper.) Our crew found some stools in the window at the edge of the bar, a perfect place to wait and observe. We were seated within the time frame.

Our first impression of the menu was positive—a great range of choices at what we considered very reasonable prices (Lobster was under twenty dollars, for example.) The waitress who took care of us had three special recommendations, including oysters, their specialty. When I expressed an interest, she brought an oyster menu. We all ended up ordering some of her suggestions. I had steamed oysters with an apple, walnut, goat cheese arugula salad. Others had the lump crab cake (mostly crab meat, not breading) and their special trout with Hollandaise. The vegetables were especially good.

Our food was delivered by a different waiter, so when he placed all our plates at the right spot, my dining partners were surprised. (“How did he know? He’s not even our waiter.”) Eventually we had three people waiting on us, although our waitress was most attentive. They were near when we needed them but never intrusive. We didn’t have to crane our necks once for anything. She or her associates just appeared.

Since we were there on my recommendation, fully depending on Amy’s word, I was happy when the three of them said, “Nancy, you set us up! That was awesome.”

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