Restaurants in The InTowner
The InTowner
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Restaurant Review: Level One

Somewhat beneath the foodie radar, Dupont Circle’s Level One restaurant is one of the most interesting dining treats you have probably never heard about. Best of all, its alfresco dining patio is a must, a perfect vantage point for people watching and easy conversation amongst very convivial patrons.

Case in point: a recent Sunday evening, ultra-pleasant by anyone’s standards — clear, just warm enough, sunny, and calm — provided the perfect setting for an alfresco feast, from a cheese-enriched onion soup to start to a killer fudgy chocolate pie, simply oozing dark, rich calories to end.

The soup: most popularized versions of this French classic lack the necessary flavor depth to underscore the sweetness of caramelized onion — not this version, with its rich beefy broth. Also, most versions skimp on the Gruyère coating that should melt into the broth and, if generous enough, spill over the sides of the soup bowl. Once again, Level One’s chef hit a homer, making this one of the best onion soup versions in the city.

But if such a rich appetizer isn’t to your liking, the kitchen suggests these temptations: chorizo and cheddar ‘tater tots (well, that would be rich too); buffalo chicken dip; and bacon mac ‘n’ cheese, among others.

Then it’s on to the main deal — selections of salads, sandwiches, and, if you are up to it, larger entrées. And if your appetite is just about in the middle and you want room for that killer dessert, head to the sandwiches. Of these, the lamb burger, a rarity in the metro area, is the evening’s winner, hands down.

Of course, you need to embrace the richness of lamb, and its juiciness, sparked by salty feta cheese, sweet red onion, tangy tzatziki sauce, and all this on chewy ciabatta — a real lamb-lover’s treat. If lamb isn’t your thing, but burgers are, your other choices include a turkey burger, a chipotle black bean burger, a pimento cheese burger (doesn’t indicate the type of meat, but probably beef), and the “Level Burger,” a patty rubbed with coffee, and topped with thick pepper bacon and Tillamook cheese. Ok, if that’s your choice, well, it would surely be a good one. Whichever sandwich you choose, be sure to get a side of the kitchen’s sweet potato fries. Divine.

Want something bigger and fancier? Roasted chicken, Southern BBQ shrimp, and a cowboy-cut ribeye with mashed potatoes are just several other options. And someday, if a chocolate pie is not on the dessert menu, maybe such a ribeye would be my choice. But the calories . . . oh, the calories.

The chocolate, oh, the chocolate! A Godiva chocolate decadence pie with a silken, buttery texture is the answer to any chocoholic’s dream. With a thick crushed-chocolate crust and enough chocolate per mouthful to satisfy those inner cravings, this is one mean dessert. But for different non-chocolate tastes, there’s always the rhubarb and gingerbread pudding, the piña colada cake, and a Key Lime pie. Perhaps to settle the issue, order one of each from the dessert menu, and be content.

Note: While outdoors is charming and delightful, a real warm-weather treat, the indoors decibel level — a combo of music and conversation — tends to skyrocket. Or, at least a brief indoor inspection suggests.<ENDMARK>

Level One | 1639 R St., NW (corner of 17th); (202) 745-0025. Hours: Dinner, Mon.-Thu. 5-11pm, Fri. to midnight; Sat. & Sun. Brunch, 10am-4pm, Dinner, 5-10pm. Entrée price range: $12-$27.