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Johnny's Half Shell, Capitol Hill - Owners Johnny Fulchino and 2004 James Beard Award Winner Ann Cashion Now in the Original Cashion's Eat Place Space, Adams Morgan - Closed


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I searched for a thread on Johnny's but could only find a few comments here and there. Most comments saying how it's gone downhill, not as good as it used to be, etc. Since I've never been, I have nothing to compare it to previously.

First attempt at a late lunch, we were turned away from Firefly, so we walked up the street to look at our options, and lo and behold, Johnny's was still serving after 2:30pm. Service was very friendly and unobtrusive, and our meals were fabulous!

I ordered the soft shell crab with Old Bay Buerre Blanc sauce atop a corn (souffle?) something, and co-worker had the shallot, beer-battered fish and chips. First off, the bread was just so-so, and the butter was rock-hard cold. I can live with that, since the soft shell was divine. The Old Bay was subtle, and just gave the sauce a "melt-in the mouth" type of experience. The sauce also had fresh basil, which added a nice complexity to the mix. The corn, which I can't recall what they called it, was incredible. I'll try my best to relay...imagine sweet corn just shucked off the cob, still with a bit of a crunch, held together by something that did not in anyway interfere or hide the flavors. It would also have "melted in the mouth," had it not been for the slight crunch of the corn, with sweet juices in every bite. The complement of the sweet corn with the tanginess of the Old Bay was perfect. When I ordered, the menu said "crabs" (plural) so I was a little afraid that I'd have to leave some on the plate...but the crabs were small, so it was a perfect size for me to eat and not be completely stuffed.

My co-worker hadn't ever ordered fish and chips before, since he did not like fish in his youth, but thought the perfect time to try it would be here, since he loves shallots and loves beer! He was not disappointed, and said the fish was incredible. I snagged a taste of the very tempting chips---they were crisp and hot, and if I hadn't been savoring my own meal, would have tried to snag a few more!

Dessert was shared; an apple crisp topped with fresh cream. It was not "sweet" as most apple dishes tend to be...nice tart apples, no overwhelming flavor of cinnamon. In fact, both of us though we could detect a savory flavor, such as basil? But we asked the waitress and she said maybe it was the type of apples used. She said it was simply apples and cinnamon.

Sorry to be so long in the tooth, but FWIW, Johnny's Half Shell is a nice spot, nothing too fancy. In some ways it's good to compare a place to what it was before, but in other ways, those same comments may prevent new customers from giving the place a go. And from my first trip there, I will definitely return.

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Twelve years ago, in 2004, the great Ann Cashion won the James Beard Award for Best Chef - Mid-Atlantic Region: Ann was, and still is, the *only female* to win the award from Washington, DC, and is a

Ann Cashion was one of the first woman chefs in DC to make a big deal. Sorry, Kev, but young people are not the only people alive at the moment.

Sorry to disagree there Kev, but Ann Cashion is still one of the most influential chefs in DC. The dining crowd there should absolutely ‘give a shit’ if they know anything about food other than Thrill

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Johnny told Roll Call he hoped the move would happen by June. Also, it's now confirmed that La Colline Express is turning into a taco stand, according to the story:

"Meanwhile, the old La Colline Express carry-out will likely become a taqueria, with Juanita DeFlores, a longtime cook at Cashion’s Eat Place and a Salvadorean by birth, brought over as a business partner in the venture. Fulchino says the carry-out would likely serve breakfast and lunch tacos and be open on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m."

Very cool.

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I went to Johnny’s Half Shell last night. I’ll say what my boyfriend and I both had, because of course we had to share! (my cardinal rule of dining out) :)

Appetizer – mussels & fried oysters

Entrée – wood grilled halibut & fritto misto (fried shrimp, calamari & sea bass)

Dessert – chocolate angel food cake & strawberry shortcake

I had been to Johnny’s about 2 months ago, had the grilled swordfish and LOVED it!!! I fell so in love with the restaurant that I was telling everyone about it. However, this time, it was just not the same.

The mussels – very yummy and plentiful. perfect seasoning and just enough broth to go with them.

Fried oysters – blander than they were when I had them last time. Maybe I didn’t use enough of the relish this time. They were good but I would try something else next time.

Halibut – kind of bland as well. Not exactly bursting with flavor like the swordfish was last time. It was still really fresh and the mushroom sauce was very good—I shouldn’t have needed it. wouldn’t order it again.

Fritto Misto – Good, but again it could have done with some Old Bay seasoning. But the batter was perfect and not a drop of discernable oil on any of the pieces or on the fries!! That was certainly commendable. Portion was very, very generous and I could not finish it all. This entrée was very good value for the money.

Angel food cake – nice and light and a not-too-sweet end to the meal. I have a insatiable sweet tooth so I could have done with a scoop of vanilla ice cream with it, but it was light, airy and passable nonetheless.

Strawberry shortcake – Their version is done with biscuits and not cake—(I know it is more authentic, but I don’t like that version). The biscuits were fairly sweet and moist so I was able to enjoy it. the trawberries were perfect as was the homemade whipped cream. A very nice and delectable end to the meal.

Service was very, very good!! Attentive but not intrusive. Waiter offered good suggestions on wine and promptly removed plates as soon as we were finished. This was definitely the highlight of the experience.

OVERALL – they still have good cooking technique and I would definitely go back and I would still recommend it to people. But next time I would splurge a bit more and try the soft shell crabs that people rave about. The only thing I would order again from this bunch would be the mussels.

Peace & Many Blessings,

LaShanta

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Fritto Misto – Good, but again it could have done with some Old Bay seasoning.

Speaking of Old Bay, I had the soft-shell crab on Saturday night. They were sauteed instead of fried, which was a nice change, in an Old Bay and basil buerre blanc. Delicious!

I had only ever been to Johnny's for lunch, and I was never really all that impressed with their lunch menu. This dinner turned me around, and I'm sad that they'll be moving to Capitol Hill since Dupont is more convenient for me.

Oh, and the lemon chess pie. Oh, yeah, that lemon chess pie.

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They're moving at the end of June, so I recommend taking advantage of the happy hour while it's still here. All beers and appetizers are half-price from 5-6 (might be 7?) A great deal.

The happy hour is 5-7, and all drinks are half price (except for wine, I think). Their chicken wings are crazy delicious.

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You're right on both points CI, the wine is not half price and the wings are crazy delicious. Assuming they keep the happy hour prices the same, Capital Hill is gaining an excellent happy hour spot.

I stopped by there tonight with a coworker to write a report. For $44 total, including a tip that was more than 22% we had the crab cake appetizer, roasted little neck clams, two orders of wings, two beers and three vodka drinks. Every thing was delicious. The clams only came with six clams, which if I had paid full price would have been disappointing, but for half price at about $4.00 was great. The crab cake was full of lump crab with just enough filler to hold it together and a mound of terrific mayonaise free cole slaw. The wings, which are grilled, were fantastic. They were not spicy but full of flavor. The crab cake and wings came with the same dipping sauce, I can't remember the details but it was more like a thin ranch rather than blue cheese or tarter sauce. All in all, it was the best $22 I have spent in a while.

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Anyone know when the place officially opens? I see the old has closed and the new has held a fundraiser, so perhaps it will be open to the public soon?

I'm going to an opening of some sort tomorrow (no idea if it's a hard/soft/over easy/one of many opening) but I assume full fledged service will follow soon thereafter.

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No fair! I want to go to the soft opening! Stomping feet...

Seriously, what a great addition this venture may be, not just to Capitol Hill but to Washington in general. I attended the festivities tonight to raise funds for Willa Mae's restaurant in New Orleans. John Currance of City Grocery in Oxford was in attendance as well as Willa Mae herself.

Okay, the food... at first I was concerned that there wasn't going to be any real food. While the space is beautiful, and the bar has great potential, I was sort of hungry... Then I spoted a tray being passed that held Asian soup spoons... in the spoons were beautiful fried oysters! Time passed and I grew concerned again... lo and behold a tray of delicious mini-crabcakes passes. From then on out it was a delicious delight, baked oysters in the shell were passed, along with those clever spoons with shrimp & grits. Mini-burgers and hot wings were passed as well! The raw bar was home to what seemed like an endless supply of oysters on the half shell (they looked delicious but I have given up raw oysters). Cheese tarts and beignets were passed as well. Oh, the banana pudding was divine, seriously divine. Warm banana pudding served in a phylo shell...

And how about some homemade butter mints? Who knew...

I was thrilled to support the Southern Foodways, and was impressed that Johnny's Half Shell went out of their way to honor the food traditions of New Orleans.

The place has a great vibe. The patio is fabulous.

For those who work on the Hill, the take out window tradition continues.

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Actually, it should open Monday after next. Several more events and some mock service is planned this coming week and by next Monday, barring any unforseen issues, things will be up and running for good. It's a beautiful place.

And that banana pudding canape was, simply, the best dessert that I have had in a very long time. Johnny's is lucky to have Valerie Hall (and Valerie is lucky to have an actual, seperate, and incredibly well equipped pastry kitchen-a little laboratory for creating sweetness) as a pastry chef. The little lemon chess tarts and tiny pecan pies were pretty danged skippy, as well.

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I went there today for lunch.

The place is HUGE and looks very much like the old location. The bar area is very nice and they have a couple of seperate rooms that are a bit dressier than the old location. Also, they have a LOT of tables outside, so please put this on your list of spring/summer eateries.

I had the soft shell crabs (are they STILL in season??) with corn pudding. The crabs were yummy, but the sauce it came with was a bit overwhelming. The corn pudding was good, but only room temperature.

My co-workers had crab cakes. They liked them but said that they had been broiled just a little bit too much. Both of them are big fans of the CC at Oceanaire, so these didn't even come close--in their opinion. I would have to agree.

The dessert menu was uninspiring. I had a apple crumb pie that I will not be racing back to order again. My co-worker had the passion fruit layer cake which was rather dry and didn't taste like it had been done in house.

The service was amazing, as always. Our server was very prompt and gracious when I changed my dessert order. She was friendly and patient but still attentive.

All in all, I would go back, but not in the near future. I was not as blown away asI had been when visiting the Dupont Circle location. Maybe they need a bit more time to get the kinks out.

Peace & Many Blessings,

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grabbed a late lunch there today, had the half oyster po'boy which was um, huge....don't know how someone could eat a full one....not bad....8-10 oysters on the roll, decent 'not so hard as to make your mouth bleed' roll, the accompanying sauce was a little bland but all in all I think I will return fairly regularly for this sandwich....beats anything else in the area and only a few bucks more..... $9.90 w/ tax

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I was there today eating the same thing. I had a similar feeling, but a little tabasco definitely adds something to the sandwich. And I love that they serve them with Zapp's as they are nearly impossible to find around here. If only they had the Spicy Crawtators flavor. I look forward to returning to try the Brisket Po' Boy.

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I polished off a half today as well, and one of my dining companions got a full - looked like an entire baguette on his plate. He made a valiant effort. Next time I'll grab for the Tabasco as well.

Looked like the bar was almost full toward the end of lunch. Clearly the neighborhood is embracing them, which is great.

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Had lunch there on Thursday. The barbeque shrimp and asiago grits were pretty good whereas the roasted chicken breast salad was very good. The skin-on chicken breast was wonderfully moist and flavorful. The show stealer was the mint white chocolate chip ice cream and the bite of pecan pie served as a garnish.

Even with the ice cream it felt like a light lunch.

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Use that phone number! Went two weeks ago and it was jam packed. This week had to battle the hordes of walk-ins clustered around the front hoping for something to open up. Nothwithstanding that the service was first rate - even if the pacing is understandably a bit slow - and the food (trout this time and halibut before) attractively plated and cooked perfectly.

Riddle me this: Why in the world has it been so hard to get a good dining scene going on the Hill? People are clearly desperate for good food at a price point below Bis and Charlie Palmer. Witness the success of Sonoma on the House side. Congress has shown that it isn't going to stamp out $50 lunches anytime soon. That leaves a lot of room - or so it would seem - for good investments. What am I missing?

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Went to Johnnys for the first time today. I imagine I'll be there fairly frequently as I'm a lobbyist and the previous tenant, La Colline, did quite a bit of business hosting fundraisers. There were a few of those today, in fact.

Had the BBQ shrimp and grits to start with -- loved the taste (had a beat of heat and the grits were quite creamy) but didn't love the huge pool of oil that came with them. I don't even know where that oil came from -- had to be the BBQ sauce I suppose.

Had the shrimp po boy (half) for my main meal -- I really liked it. Like one of the previous posters, I can't imagine eating a whole one. Five shrimp, not too much mayonnaise but just enough to moisten the sandwich and fairly soft bread. I didn't like the potato chips served with the sandwich. They were just bland.

I loved the banana pudding I had for dessert -- pudding with what tasted like caramelized banana pieces in it, topped with a healthy serving of meringue and lined with, I'm guessing, Nilla wafers. SOOOO GOOOOOOD.

Definitely worth heading back for...

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How has the food been? Not much mention since it first opened.

I've only been for lunches, but have been pleased. They do the breakfast in keeping with La Coline. Lots of crew from C-Span, NBC, Fox do live shots in the early morn and it appears to be a nice break from donuts. I encourge an HH at Johnny's in the near future...

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I had an enjoyable lunch at Johnny's today. It's taken me quite a while to get there :lol: . I like what they've done with the space. Many, many moons ago, La Colline is where my husband and I had our rehearsal dinner. It's hard to believe it's the same place.

I enjoyed my half oyster po boy but wish I had reread this thread before I went, since tabasco sauce would have been a perfect addition to the sandwich. That's one big sandwich, quite a bit of bread to consume in one sitting. I asked for fries with it and was quite pleased. They were just the way I like them: thin, crispy, and just the slightest bit greasy. My friend had fried oysters and the barbecued shrimp with grits. I got one of the shrimp--quite tasty but not too drippy/buttery.

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I had an enjoyable lunch at Johnny's today.
Hmm...I had lunch there today, too. The spicy wood-grilled chicken wings, accompanied by 'green goddess dressing', were pretty good - meaty, with a nice heat to them. And the dressing was a nice improvement on what I think of as Green Goddess (think Tommy Saris' Orleans House salad bar) - it was chunky with chopped herbs and not too thick.

I wasn't so impressed with my beef brisket po' boy - there was more fat than meat in the sandwich. I did point this out as the plate was removed (more as an FYI than anything else) and the waitress very graciously removed it from the bill. I told her it wasn't necessary but she said she felt bad because she had recommended it. I like the airy and bright ambiance of the space - I never was in La Colline so can't compare it. I think next time I'll stick to the seafood!

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Johnny told Roll Call he hoped the move would happen by June. Also, it's now confirmed that La Colline Express is turning into a taco stand, according to the story:

"Meanwhile, the old La Colline Express carry-out will likely become a taqueria, with Juanita DeFlores, a longtime cook at Cashion’s Eat Place and a Salvadorean by birth, brought over as a business partner in the venture. Fulchino says the carry-out would likely serve breakfast and lunch tacos and be open on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m."

Very cool.

It's true! Woo Hoo. No Columbia Heights location at all (sorry I used to live around there miserably).

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Let me reiterate, no where else in this city do you get a heaping plateful of spicy wood-grilled chicken wings ($3.50), a generous portion of delicate fried oysters ($4) and so many stiff drinks, all the while being entertained by pretty yellow fishies in a glowing tank. Johnny’s my friend.

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Let me reiterate, no where else in this city do you get a heaping plateful of spicy wood-grilled chicken wings ($3.50), a generous portion of delicate fried oysters ($4) and so many stiff drinks, all the while being entertained by pretty yellow fishies in a glowing tank. Johnny’s my friend.

Meaghan, I should assume that this was for happy hour, right?

I just can't get over having the exact same prices for appetizers and entrees at lunch as they have at dinner. I gues sif I am only going there for the sandwiches then it's OK (since they don't have them on the dinner menu). But I think that Charlie Palmer is much better value for money.

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I just can't get over having the exact same prices for appetizers and entrees at lunch as they have at dinner.

Unless they're giving you a smaller portion at lunch, why is this a problem? Why should they give you a discount just because you're eating at lunchtime? Having an all day menu is very common in Europe, and the term "brasserie" in French basically implies a single all-day dining menu.

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Unless they're giving you a smaller portion at lunch, why is this a problem? Why should they give you a discount just because you're eating at lunchtime? Having an all day menu is very common in Europe, and the term "brasserie" in French basically implies a single all-day dining menu.

Very true. I just assumed that they would be giving me a smaller portion at lunch.

It's just me being unreasonable maybe. I will keep this tidbit in mind the next time I go to Eurpoe. :blink:

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Unless they're giving you a smaller portion at lunch, why is this a problem? Why should they give you a discount just because you're eating at lunchtime? Having an all day menu is very common in Europe, and the term "brasserie" in French basically implies a single all-day dining menu.
Very true. I just assumed that they would be giving me a smaller portion at lunch.

It's just me being unreasonable maybe. I will keep this tidbit in mind the next time I go to Eurpoe. :blink:

Actually, it's not unusual either here or in Europe for restaurants to offer lower prices at lunch, not because the portions are smaller but because it's harder to fill the seats with big spenders at lunch time. You see it more at mid- and upscale places than cafes and I'm sure it's related to demand: lunch at the French Laundry is no cheaper than dinner, but lunch at Le Paradou is reputed to be a bargain. Given is modest (relatively) prices and location, it's not surprising that Johnny's doesn't, although in the old days it used to offer so lower-priced alternatives (the excellent hot dog among them) at lunch that were not on the dinner menu.

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Actually, it's not unusual either here or in Europe for restaurants to offer lower prices at lunch, not because the portions are smaller but because it's harder to fill the seats with big spenders at lunch time. You see it more at mid- and upscale places than cafes and I'm sure it's related to demand: lunch at the French Laundry is no cheaper than dinner, but lunch at Le Paradou is reputed to be a bargain. Given is modest (relatively) prices and location, it's not surprising that Johnny's doesn't, although in the old days it used to offer so lower-priced alternatives (the excellent hot dog among them) at lunch that were not on the dinner menu.

I'm not sure I follow this. Johnny's prices are pretty comprable to Charlie Palmer and Bis and the location is the same, yet both of them offer discount lunch options.

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Actually, according to the on-line menus, Johnny's is substantially less expensive than Charlie Palmer's and a cut below Bis.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree here. Bis apps run from $10-16, entrees from $24-29, while Johnny's apps are from $6.50-18, entrees from $16-28 (all but three over $24).

You are right that Charlie Palmer can be very expensive if your order their biggest or fanciest dishes, but if you are ordering on the cheap, they offer two entrees for under $24, while Johnny's offers three. Regardless, I think Johnny's should and eventually will match their neighborhood competition in offering a discounted lunch menu.

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