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Acacia Food & Wine (2009-, Formerly Acacia Bistro), Owner Uzay Turker on Connecticut Avenue in Van Ness


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After many months, Acacia Bistro (they seem to have dropped "Wellness" from their name) has opened in Van Ness, same side of the street as the Days Inn. They have been open for less than a week, so this is an inaugural review, featuring the good, bad, and the ugly.

Acacia draws from the Big Book of Current Restaurant Trends: "wine bar" check; "cheese and cured meats" check; "small plates" check; "flatbreads" check. But we will forgive them, because A. Van Ness has to be one of the worst restaurant neighborhoods on the Red Line and B. After a small sampling of dishes...it's not bad, in fact with some seasoning and editing, it could be quite good.

The menu opens with salads, cured meats, and cheese, the second page has a list of perhaps 15 small plates, followed by about 8 flatbreads, and then about 8 entrees. I would describe the food to be mediterranean inspired.

Food

Bread basket, some ordinary supermarket quality baguette, but a nice basil oil for dipping.

Small plate order of fingerling potatoes with paprika aioli ($5.50), well cook potatoes but they needed some salt. If the seasoning is adjusted this will make a solid dish.

small plate order of Eggs with tomato and fontina ($7.50)...the big miss of the night, runny scrambled eggs topped with a diced tomato sauce...frankly looked like a puddle of puke on a plate...also needed salt. Avoid this dish!

Feta, Olive, tomato flatbread ($9.00), basically a small pizza which would make a meal for one, or an app for 2-4 people, this was good, although heavy on the feta, less is sometimes more!

Mackerel ($18), holy...the star of the night, a tail section that had been butterflied, "marinated" overnight in what not sure, then slathered in diced tomatoes, lemon slices and herbs, the dish was dripping in juice and the fish was perfectly cooked. I would order this again.

dessert (comp), apparently made by the manager's mother, went with the raspberry tart, tart shell, pastry cream style custard, fresh raspberries...rustic, decent, satisfying.

Alcohol

Decent selection of beer. They will have two taps, currently Allagash, and about a dozen in bottle, we had the Allagash ($5.50) and Brooklyn Brown Ale ($5.50).

A good size wine list, although we didn't indulge.

Decor

"Bistro modern", two walls of windows overlooking the street, outdoor patio on the side, nice small bar, although once the place draws a crowd I fear it will be loud, lots of hard surfaces.

Service

Young and in training, which was fine, everyone was very nice, although not sure that we needed 4 servers checking in on us. I'm sure this will improve in the coming weeks.

Bill

4 beers, 2 small plates, 1 flatbread, 1 entree was $62 without tax and tip. Honestly for two people we way over ordered and would have been perfectly happy with a couple of small plates and a flatbread.

Make sure you review your check, we found an $11 overcharge for a dish we did not order, however I will chalk that up as new and inexperienced waitstaff.

Overall, a good first impression. I think we will find some quality dishes at fairly reasonable prices. We look forward to exploring the menu more!

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Sounds good- Thank goodness Van Ness finally got an infusion of what sounds like quality dining. What a bleak restaurant scene for what is a pretty populated and decent neighborhood. Hopefully there's more where that came from! Good restaurants would make a killing there.

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Sounds good- Thank goodness Van Ness finally got an infusion of what sounds like quality dining. What a bleak restaurant scene for what is a pretty populated and decent neighborhood. Hopefully there's more where that came from! Good restaurants would make a killing there.

van ness will need more than an infusion of one new promising place to turn things around. although there are some who have hung on here for ages, there are a lot of businesses and restaurants that come and go, most recently trattoria liliana, which might have been able to develop into something at a different location, one that wasn't jinxed. it's no small consolation, however, that you can walk 15 minutes back toward town to palena or 10 or 15 minutes in the opposite direction to buck's.

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Thanks for the recommendation. I will try the Acacia Bistro very soon. But don't give up on our Van Ness restaurants completely--I enjoy the lunch buffet at Indian Ocean, and have had good pizza delivered from Italian Pizza Kitchen.

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They may have dropped "wellness" from their name on the menus, but it still appears on the signage. On their opening night I walked by and looked at the menu. In my mind "wellness" suggests vegetarian-type foods, whole grains, wheat grass smoothies, salads etc. So I was pretty surprised by their menu which has none of those foods and leans more trendy. I asked the waitress standing by the door what made this a "wellness bistro" and she said the food is organic and sustainable. My fear for this restaurant is that their signage sends the wrong message- attracting (and then disappointing) some while perhaps dissuading those who their menu and concept is hoping to attract.

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couldn't agree more - I've noticed the coming soon sign for the last few weeks/months and the wellness part was not appealing

They may have dropped "wellness" from their name on the menus, but it still appears on the signage. On their opening night I walked by and looked at the menu. In my mind "wellness" suggests vegetarian-type foods, whole grains, wheat grass smoothies, salads etc. So I was pretty surprised by their menu which has none of those foods and leans more trendy. I asked the waitress standing by the door what made this a "wellness bistro" and she said the food is organic and sustainable. My fear for this restaurant is that their signage sends the wrong message- attracting (and then disappointing) some while perhaps dissuading those who their menu and concept is hoping to attract.

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Unfortunately "wellness" is a terrible effort in cross branding - The Acacia Bistro is owned by the same folks that run the Wellness Cafe on Capitol Hill, which is decidedly more heath store...I get the impression that the "concept" for the Acacia Bistro has changed several times.

Stopped in again over the weekend.

Sampled three salads (mixed greens; arugula/fennel; and heirloom tomato) all solid efforts.

The anchovy toast small plate was basically a toasted cheese sandwich stuffed with anchovies...way too salty. Unless you love anchovies, I would skip this one.

The flatbread with chorizo and manchego cheese was good, and the flatbread with anchovy/green olives was again a little too salty.

service was stilled confused.

After two visits, Acacia has the potential to be a nice little neighborhood restaurant where you can get good to very good food at a reasonable price.

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Went for lunch today as it is near where I work. Really great first impression. Had a delicious salmon burger which comes with a nice side salad with lemon vinaigrette. My friend had the tuna with tapenade. He also raved about it. He has been here 3 times this week. He raved about the buffalo burger. I am looking forward to trying their other dishes. I also noticed that they served wine in nice big goblets so I hope to make it to a happy hour too.

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I had a pretty good experience at Acacia a few weeks ago. The wine selection is good, and you have the option of ordering 1/2 glass, full glass, or by the bottle. Had a very nice Catena Chardonnay from Argentina. As for the food, we just had appetizers. I recommend the flatbread with manchego cheese and potato and the fingerling potatoes with paprika aioli. The caprese (tomato & mozzarella) dish was unremarkable as was the flatbred with feta cheese and olives (it actually seemed undercooked).

The service was pretty good, and the ambiance is casual and laidback. We also noticed a few tables outside. It seems like they could add a few more...Another thing that would generate more interest would be a happy hour.

I hope Acacia will stick around. With so many sandwich shops in the neighborhood, it's a welcome addition!

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I'm rooting for the new kid on the block--Acacia Bistro--and would encourage neighbors or those on their way to or from Politics and Prose or errands to stop by for a glass of wine and light bite.

Took friends to Acacia Friday night around 8pm, and snagged the last four top - the first time we have seen every table full, so hopefully that is a positive for this restaurant.

enjoyed the arugula salad again.

The brocoli rabe small plate was good

The lamb sausage in the lamb sausage with chickpeas small plate was excellent, the chickpeas were

a little dull.

The bianco flatbread had waaay too much cheese on it and the crust was soggy.

They have also recently started a happy hour, beer, wine, and flatbread specials until 8pm at the bar.

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The lamb sausage in the lamb sausage with chickpeas small plate was excellent, the chickpeas were

a little dull.

The bianco flatbread had waaay too much cheese on it and the crust was soggy.

They have also recently started a happy hour, beer, wine, and flatbread specials until 8pm at the bar.

That is great news about Acacia's happy hour. Re the flatbreads, the one you had sounds terrible. Based on my own (one-time) experience w/ Acacia's flatbreads, there seems to be a big difference between the manchego and potato flatbread and the one w/ kalamata olives and tomatoes, the latter which seemed undercooked. Btw, I was pleasantly surprised by a delicious margherita flatbread pizza at Cosi the other day.

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Get's the First Bite treatment.

Thanks for posting the link, Tweaked. Interesting back story. I'm so glad Acacia didn't stick to its original plan. I like having a casual wine bar/small plates place in the neighborhood althogh a few of my neighbors seem to think it's pricey for what it is. I think it's OK for a light bite. And that reminds me, I still need to try the Turkish meatballs.

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Yeah it really depends upon what you order. Two salads, a less expensive small plate, a flatbread, and a couple glasses of wine is going to set you back $40-$50 for two. Not a heinous expense and plenty of food for two, IMO. Their main courses are a little more pricey.

Last night:

Braised Cuttlefish with Peas, cuttlefish very tender and delicious, although a small portion, and at $12 one of the pricer small plates...although the cuttlefish was good, probably not worth the price tag.

Veal Ragu with Grilled Polenta: the veal ragu was excellent.

Seafood Risotto: Also very good, a rich garlic, wine, fishy (in a good way) stock was used for this.

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Feb 29, 2012 - "Chef Ravi Narayanan Heads to Acacia Bistro" on wtop.com

Before Liliana Dumas opened Acacia Bistro in 2009, she was chef at Locanda; before that, Trattoria Liliana.

Dec 5, 2007 - "Locanda Hits Sweet Spot with New Lunch Service" by Emily Heil on rollcall.com

Way back when, the Acacia space (4340 Connecticut Ave NW) used to be Rib-It, a Philadelphia chain, and before that, Fiddler's.

Oct 23, 1983 - "Rib-It"  by Phyllis C. Richman on washingtonpost.com

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