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  • Reservations Recommended

    Restaurant Review ~ CIRCA / 21st & I Sts., NW

    Circulating with CIRCA. Very few DC restaurants can showcase their brand in more than one destination. But CIRCA, a member of the Metropolitan Hospitality Group, takes that big step out of one neighborhood into a total of five, including Dupont Circle — and chances are there are more to come. That makes finding good American eats easy enough; so if you are near Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle, Chinatown, the Navy Yard or in northern Virginia at Clarendon, stop by a grab a beer and burger, or whatever appeals on their American-style menus.

    Of course, located as it is in the middle of the busy-busy GW university and hospital scene means you may have problems finding seating, unless it’s a warm day and alfresco tables are ready. But such a crowded venue explains why people do stop in for brunch, lunch, dinner, happy hours and/or drinks and late-night fare.

    And a note to patrons: even at lunchtime: do read through the cocktails menu. Lighter drinks (i.e., less alcoholic) include a “Foggy Bottom,” with vodka, ginger beer, lime, and ginger. Would that impair afternoon work hours?

    If lunchtime is your target, the menu starts you off with an assortment of small plates for one (with a big appetite) or to share. A big hit for all who are enticed by some slightly Asian  flavors is the tuna poke nachos, a DC version of a Hawaiian standard of raw fish (here tuna) mixed with sesame-ginger marinade, wasabi guacamole, pickled ginger and mango purée.

    Also a must-have is the “Brussels Blue,” a combo of fried Brussels sprouts stirred with applewood-smoked bacon and St. Pete’s blue cheese. For sprouts fans, this is a knock-out dish, and the portion is large enough to share generously or to keep as part of a main course. With friends? Add on to your appetizers order the heirloom tomato bruschetta, a solidly Italian cheese-tomato starter.

    As for main courses, patrons can move through the sandwich listings where hamburgers predominate — three different options include a plain burger, a turkey burger, or a fancied-up bison-blue cheese burger, the blue cheese once again the St. Pete’s version. Only two other sandwich options are listed, including the grilled chicken sandwich with roasted peppers, arugula, and provolone, and the universal Southern fave, a shrimp Po’ Boy, here served with Old Bay fries.

    Other luncheon treats include hearty salads — blackened chicken mango, Fuji apple shrimp, tuna Nicoise, and all served on mixed greens. For the really hungry, the kitchen turns out pumpkin ravioli (likely seasonal), pan-seared halibut, shrimp and grits, and jambalaya with shrimp, chicken, Andouille sausage, and penne pasta doused with a chipotle cream sauce.

    Patrons can wind up mealtime with one of the entreés or consider one of the sweet treats, including a pumpkin cheesecake, apple pie, and a Nutella trifle.

    CIRCA / Hours: open 11 a.m. Mon.-Fri. opens at 11am; Sat. & Sun. at 10am. (202) 506-5589.

    Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.