Restaurants in The InTowner
The InTowner
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Marvin: Waffling Around

Imagine a piece of crisply fried chicken perched on top of a waffle, a small ramekin of amber maple syrup to the side. To many people, the concept seems a bit odd, if not on the face of it, unappealing. It’s breakfast and dinner at once, bringing together two disparate foods that, on their own, are comfort foods with their own enthusiastic followings.

It seems that there may be a real food story behind this illogical pairing, says a friend, who just told me about the restaurant owner in Harlem who decided to feed his late night/early morning customers by serving them dinner and breakfast at once. And her story checks out on Google, though other versions are out there as well. And, agree the versions, the dish does have Southern roots.

Not surprisingly, DC’s favorite son, doo-wopper, singer, and soloist drummer Marvin Gaye, has inspired a restaurant named eponymously “Marvin” at 14th and U Streets. Paying tribute to Gaye’s Southern heritage and to his two-year exile in Belgium — where, presumably, he ate lots of mussels and crispy fries (moules frites), a Belgian favorite — the restaurant’s chef fuses these two unlikely culinary compatriots into a menu that lists some offbeat dishes. And, right there on the dinner and brunch menus: fried chicken on a waffle — though it is a Belgian waffle.

Stopping by for brunch on any lazy Sunday morning may prove something of a challenge to the patience impaired: crowds swarm in and out, and the noise level precludes any kind of normal conversation. Leaning into be heard, one neighboring customer admitted that Sundays were always crowded. In fact, she added, “It’s always like this. You should see it when the patio is open in warm weather.” She had inched her way to the bar, grabbing the last stool for her early afternoon libations.

While she sipped an earthy ale, the folks seated on the other side had ordered — you guessed it — fried chicken and a waffle. What is it like, I asked, watching the woman to my left slicing into the chicken and dipping the pieces in maple syrup, and then into the pan gravy drizzled around the bed of steamed collards or possibly spinach (the menu calls for Brussels sprouts). It’s delicious, she said, noting that the gravy was mild and delicate, a perfect flavor balance for the total package.

Knowing its past, sort of, and listening to its praise, who wouldn’t want to sample this odd combination? It lives up to the hype, surprisingly, and may be one of the chef’s star dishes. Hot fried chicken dunked into maple syrup is certainly a gastronomic eye-opener.

But that can’t be said of the kitchen’s very odd appetizer asparagus salad topped with a poached egg. It’s all wrong: little flavor, unwieldy strips of endive tossed with peeled asparagus spears, a not-quite-hot egg, and a vinaigrette that really wasn’t. Redeeming the dish were the crunchy nuggets of deep-fried country ham adding their own flavor profile.

As for other brunch options, they’re basically the same morning routine you’d find at most breakfasting-out tables: omelets, waffles, sausage gravy on biscuits, and steak n’ eggs with a few oddities thrown in — though the bacon-cheese waffle does sound mighty tempting.

Maybe the menu would inspire you for some late-in-the-day vittles, when food takes a serious turn to bigger deals: shrimp and grits lead off, followed by steak frites, moules frites, pan-seared Alaskan halibut, and braised Berkshire pork shank, among other goodies. And you might find desserts tempting: the lemon coconut pound cake with a pomegranate custard sounds like really serious stuff. It’s possible, though probably unlikely, that the din no longer deafens, allowing the background music (probably Gaye’s recordings) and conversations to filter in.

Marvin <BULLET> 2007 14th St., NW; (202) 797-7171. Hours: Sun.-Thu., 5:30-11pm; Fri. & Sat .until midnight; Sun. brunch, 10:30am-3:45pm. Brunch entrée prices: $9-$16. Major credit cards.