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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review ~ Salt & Pepper / 5125 MacArthur Blvd., NW

Spicing up life.

Sometimes heading away from downtown DC for a meal out appeals: little traffic, easy parking, casual restaurants, few pedestrians. In fact, a leisurely way to enjoy a few hours of conversation and someone else’s cooking.

To that end, pick the best time for relaxing, and that could be a Sunday brunch, a time when Salt & Pepper (S&P), up a flight of stairs and overlooking MacArthur Boulevard, lays out a fabulous brunch spread. It’s all organic food, says the manager, and you probably can’t find a better dollar value in DC. Recently, patrons could select from paella, beef tenderloin, pork loin, fettuccine with pesto, veal Bolognese, French toast, and omelets from the omelet station, among other offerings. And all this for $20 per person.

But should you arrive after Sunday brunch, when the staff is clearing away all this bounty, you have plenty of menu options from the establishment which management dubs, “the quintessential American restaurant.”

Keeping in mind Americana, what could be more American than the classic Caesar salad, which since its creation many decades ago in California, has undergone various iterations and interpretations. But basically, this is a romaine lettuce-based dish with anchovies, grated Parmesan cheese, good olive oil, and garlic as the key flavor notes. Chefs who add shrimp, beef, or chicken have really altered the original creation.

What you find at S&P is a reasonable facsimile of the original, though this version could use a larger dose of dressing. The waitstaff brings a container of shredded Parmesan, so if you want to heighten that cheese texture and flavor, that is up to you. In hindsight, the kitchen should have added a few more croutons for that extra crunch. But other than that, this salad is a fine way to start your all-American meal.

Other starters include Parmesan-stuffed lobster coddies, hummus, a pair of fish tacos, and an avocado egg roll: such ethnically diverse tastes underscore the ethnic diversity of DC, and of the nation as a whole.

Moving on to the main course, look for such dishes as rigatoni Bolognese, a lobster mac & cheese, shrimp and grits of fire-roasted shrimp on creamy Southern grits. But it is hard to bypass the burger selections, which include of all things, a bison burger. For those who have not ever eaten buffalo (or bison), it is a practically zero-fat meat that has a more pronounced flavor than beef. Here it is topped with onion rings with a side of fries. But the big treat here is the late-night burger (forget that you are a midday patron), which comes with applewood smoked bacon, Cheddar cheese, and a topping of a fried egg. Double yum!!!

Dessert selections are few and somewhat predictable: classic apple pie, strawberry shortcake, German double chocolate cake, and a lava chocolate cake are among the choices. While these are all American favs, wouldn’t a lemon meringue pie be a welcome dessert addition?

Note that what patrons should do while waiting for their meal is to take a good look at the salt and pepper shakers at theirs and others’ tables. How about mini male and female cows? Delightful.

Salt & Pepper Restaurant / Sun.-Thu. 11am-10pm, Fri. & Sat. to 11pm. Entrée price range: $12-$32. 5125 MacArthur Blvd., NW; (202) 364-5125. www.saltandpepperdc.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.