Neighborhood Eclectic
[from August 2006 issue]

For non-city slickers, finding the way to W Domku (the ‘W’ means "in the little house," said the waitress) in the Petworth neighborhood is a bit of a challenge. And if you arrive with no preconceived notions about the restaurant, you may be left puzzling over what it all means.

At least, this one-size-fits-all place echoed for me sounds of Berkeley and Birkenstock past with its post-Salvation Army era eclectic and mis-matched furniture, artwork (some of it oversized) on the walls, and casual air that welcomes readers, chatters, eaters. In some ways, it resembles your crazy aunt's parlor, assuming she drinks lots of vodka in one corner of the room and loves to play pool behind a partition. Come one, come all.

Finding the right mindset for Domku is one thing, but figuring out the menu is quite another. I was under the mistaken impression that breakfast is served daily, and figured on splurging with some interesting waffles or pancakes. As it turns out, management has trimmed back its breakfast days to Friday and Saturday only, deleting Thursdays, and leaving lunchers with the regular menu to pour over on other days.

As luck would have it, the day I dropped by, several of the menu items hadn't made it to the kitchen yet, but there were still plenty of choices, if one could only figure them all out. Which, a bison burger Svenska or a Polska kielbasa and kapusta? Nope -- too much food for a hot day. Well, how about a gravlax sandwich or possibly a plate of Swedish meatballs? Or maybe the braised beef wrapped with lefse, a potato flatbread?

Nope, nope, and nope. What I really wanted was an order of Norwegian pancakes with a shot of one of their chilled and oddball vodkas, but instead, I settled for the cheese nalesniki, or Polish crêpes filled with buckwheat, mushrooms, leeks, and, of course, cheese. What the waitress -- she was another reminder of hippier days gone by -- forgot to mention was that the crêpes take forever to cook. Other patrons came in, were served, and were happily working on their desserts while the crêpes baked away in the kitchen.

All this wait time allows patrons to ponder the joys of such cocktails as the Swedie Pie, Budapest Daily, Velvet Revolution, and Rzeczypospolitu Petsworthka; you'll have to stop by to find out. And that's not even dreaming of their slew of Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian beers. All I know is that the coffee was good and bracing -- and very nonalcoholic.

As it turns out, the crêpes are, well, thin pancakes wrapped around a filling, and these were no different than crêpes elsewhere, except that they took so long to bake; I guess the cheese needed to melt. While not a three-cheers entrée, they did pass muster and satisfied the inner pancake person, especially the rich sauce, which was, I suspect, three parts heavy cream to three parts cheese. Intriguing, too, is finding a scattering of buckwheat as part of the filling. Just don't consider the crêpes if you are in a hurry; if you do, bring along a book or the morning paper to while away the time.

And don't skip the single-layer almond cake for dessert -- the only cake on offer that day -- because its frosting is a smooth almond paste studded with sliced almonds. The waitress noted that there wasn't much else offered for dessert anyway.

If you think W Domku is a bit of a puzzle, just take it all in stride. Yes. it's a bit wacky, a bit out there, a bit edgy, and the food does not resemble much else served in town. So have a good time! Drink vodka.

W Domku 821 Upshur St., NW; tel., 722-7475. Hours: Tue.-Thu., 11am-11pm; Fri. & Sat., 8am-10pm; Sun. brunch, 10am-3pm. Entrée price range: $10-$18. Visa & MasterCard accepted.

Copyright (c) 2006 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Alexandra Greeley. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited, except as provided by 17 U.S.C. §107.

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.

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