Restaurants in 2009 – The Bad (Part 2 of 3)

This is part 2 of a 3 part series.  Read the first post here about restaurants on rebound

We now have come to the most disappointing part of this series…restaurants that I once enjoyed, but in the past year – seemed to have lost their magic.  All of these restaurants I have eaten at more than 8-10 times each, so I feel as if I know if something has changed for the worse.

On the way down:

Tallula/Eat Bar: This used to be one of my favorite places to eat in years past.  Every time I’ve been there this year, Tallula has been empty, and EatBar was thriving.  Before last week, the last time I went to EatBar about 6-8 months ago.  It may have been an outlier experience, but this time the food wasn’t that good.  The mini-burgers tasted more like dried sausage and the steak tartare lacked character.  It was decent, but if I want to eat a good mini-burger, I’ll just go to Matchbox.

11th Street: Another watering hole that I used to frequent.  Sometime last year they changed the menu and removed almost everything that we went there for, and haven’t recovered since.  After talking to the manager, a few items have made a return, but somehow they’re not as good as they used to be.  For example, you can’t get just sweet potato fries anymore – they come with regular fries interspersed now.  Other items missing from the menu – mini steak frites.  Please, bring them back!

Liberty Tavern – I don’t know what’s going on with this place, but the last two times I have gone there have been some…umm….interesting odors.  The first time was a distinct vomit smell, and the second time (over a week later) was the overwhelming smell of bleach.  I actually do like the food.  Their Vermont Pizza is one of my favorites, but it’s hard for me to imagine eating it with so much going on in the air.

Any restaurants that have taken a turn for the worse?

Next up is the last of three posts about the new restaurants that I’m excited for as well as some restaurants that I’ve come to love over the past year…

Review: Restaurant 3

The growth of new restaurants in the N. Arlington area has somewhat slowed down as builders continue to put up new condos and apartments. Welcome Restaurant 3 to the Clarendon night scene. Restaurant 3 is the latest creation of involving the owner of one of my favorite burger and beer spots – Whitlow’s. It occupies the lot that, thankfully now defunct neon-green eyesore Mama Quan’s used to claim. The old building was knocked down, and a new, very nice looking structure was put in its place about a month and a half ago.

I finally got around to meeting with some friends for dinner there, and so far it got off on the wrong foot…At first sight, the place looks very nice, the menu a little sparse, but all the essentials were represented (beef, chicken, vegetarian, duck, etc.). We sat in the bar dining area, which turned out to be very loud, but bearable. Average entree price ranged from $14-$28, pretty standard. I started with the grilled Brie platter for the table, and noticed a very strong charcoal taste. It wasn’t bad, but turned out to be a theme with everyone’s dinner later…

It turns out that I’ve become a huge fan of pork chops. It’s such a simple thing to order at restaurants, but when you get a pork chop done right, it’s amazing. (yeah, I said it – amazing.) I ordered it medium as usual, and it came with a side of mashed potatoes, and diced apples. Here starts the bad news, the chops were dry. Nowhere near medium, and also had the strong charcoal taste. Two strikes. It wasn’t just me, the fillet mignon that was ordered was cooked correctly, but had the same overpowering smoky taste. Not good.

I’ll have to give it a “just ok” and temporarily withhold judgment as it’s less than two months old and they still have some kinks to work out, but in the highly competitive N. Arlington restaurant business, you don’t have that long to get things working right. Some suggestions: clean the excess residue off your grill, check the temperature of your meat before you serve it, and put in some noise muffling in the bar area somehow and you’ll be ahead of the game. Until then, for those in the Arlington area, I’d recommend another favorite of mine, Tallula. It has similar prices, superior pork chops and better ambiance. If you’ve been to Restaurant 3 and disagree, let me know what you thought!

Website: Restaurant Three

Update 01.05.09: I’ve been here 2-3 times now, and still haven’t been impressed.  I plan on only going here for drinks and not much else.  For another excellent restaurant in the same family as Tallula, check out Evening Star Cafe in Del Ray/Alexandria – haven’t had a bad dish there yet.