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876 Cafe, Van Ness - Caribbean-American in the old Indian Ocean Space - Closed


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That will forever remain the Coat of Arms space to me.

Why not Riedel's?

(Maureen, the manager I was talking with outside, was *so happy* that the afternoon sun was blazing though the windows, showing off the reds, yellows, and oranges inside the dining room. "I thought sure you couldn't see through," she said. "That's because you're in there working all day, and haven't been outside to see the afternoon sun," I replied.)

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Will 876 Cafe (876 is the area code for Jamaica) break the curse...based upon one dinner on their second night of operation (so take it for what it's worth)...I would call it a coin toss at the moment.

First off, wow, what a difference a fresh coat of paint, new flooring, and new furniture can make to a restaurant space. They have erased the dark, dim, heavy feel of Indian Ocean. The staff was friendly, eager and enthusiastic, like one would expect from a young restaurant. They said they would be adding some new items to the menu like a curry and jerk of the day, and they are awaiting their liquor license.

I would describe the food as contemporary Caribbean...they are using Caribbean ingredients with plating/cooking techniques that are more American/European in style. However, based upon what we ate last night, this might be the restaurants biggest flaw. The cooking wasn't strong enough to pull off contemporary interpretations of Caribbean food, and at the same time the food was devoid of the rich, earthy, vibrant punch one associates with good homey Caribbean cooking.

We shared:

Ackee and salt fish spring rolls: One of the better items we tried, the spring roll was nicely crispy, if oily. The sweet chili sauce looked and tasted like jarred "Thai-style" chili sauce from an Asian grocery store.

876 Cafe Wings (Jamaican Jerk): Menu claims they are cold smoked and fried. However, there was nothing smoky nor "Jerky" about them. They were slathered with some kind of thick jerk sauce, which again smacked off something from a jar. Pretty much a waste of calories.

Pan Roast Black Bass Filet: This dish is what most represented contemporary Caribbean to me. A nicely cooked piece of bass, although devoid of any seasoning but salt. Sitting on a hash of sweet potatoes and corn (which needed more cooking, some of the sweet potato was al dente). Topped with a long deep fried length of plantain chip (very good). And sauced with an ackee beurre blanc (rich and buttery). The dish looked prettier than it tasted...but it was solid.

Rice and Peas (side dish): I've had better. This was oddly dry, like it had been sitting around or badly reheated.

Plantain Crumble: The crumble mixture and ice cream were good. However, the plantains used were not ripe enough. The dessert started off delicious, but by the end it was tired with starchy chunks of plantain sitting uneaten at the bottom of the bowl. Riper plantains that are cooked down and caramelized would work better here.

I'm interested to see how this restaurant grows, and looking forward to trying some of the curries if/when they make it onto the menu. I would say that Cafe 876 needs to revist its Caribbean roots and embrace some more of the elements that make up Caribbean cooking...right now the food is lacking punch and Caribbean soul.

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We were rather disappointed with our first meal at 876 Cafe, going on 7 months now. Recently, we bought a Groupon and decided to give them another shot..and we are glad that we did.

Our casual observations of the restaurant have been this place is in trouble. Unless they are doing a killer lunch business, it's hard to believe they will survive. Often we walk past and the place is empty. At 8:30 on Saturday night we found 6 other patrons. There were several uncollected checks on a handful of tables, but I would be surprises if they did more than a half turn on Saturday.

It appears they have simplified the menu, and the dishes are much more straight forward. While they probably won't win any awards for their Jamaican cooking it was a pleasent meal and reasonable enough for mid-week and casual weekend dining. I wouldn't recommend treking to Van Ness, but if you live in the hood, and you haven't been, then stop in for a meal.

Ackee and salt fish spring rolls: Same presentation as last time, but with a tropical fruit (mango? guava?) chutney with a touch of heat. Perfectly fried and delicious, I would order this everytime.

Beef Patty: Not made in house (I asked), but a decent flaky version. Didn't bring much heat, which is disappointing, but at $2.50 a patty you can't really go too wrong.

Jerk Chicken: As far as I can tell they don't use any in-house spice rub instead char grilling the chicken and then using a jerk sauce (I suspect it is from a bottle). Again not much heat, but it's a huge leg/thigh portion and at $10 they are giving it away. I would probably try some other items before revisiting...but I was gnawing the last scraps of chicken off the bones, so it wasn't all bad!

Curry Shrimp: A huge plate of shrimp and vegetables (primarily onions, bell peppers) in a curry sauce. Again not much heat but a pleasent dish with enough for leftovers the next day.

Rice and Peas: The rice and peas are weak here. There seems to be little seasoning. My understanding of the dish and past experiences include flavoring with allspice, coconut milk, and thyme, this has none of those flavors. Probably the most disappointing part of the meal.

With the steady decline of Acacia, we have been looking for a go to neighborhood spot in Van Ness for a low-key meal out. Right now 876 Cafe could be the spot (until Pho 14 opens). The food (at least on saturday) is solid and reasonably priced. I would love to see them embrace their Jamaican roots further and give their food more punch. I'm not sure how much longer these guys can survive, but we will certainly do our best to help them stay open.

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We were rather disappointed with our first meal at 876 Cafe, going on 7 months now. Recently, we bought a Groupon and decided to give them another shot..and we are glad that we did.

Our casual observations of the restaurant have been this place is in trouble. Unless they are doing a killer lunch business, it's hard to believe they will survive. Often we walk past and the place is empty. At 8:30 on Saturday night we found 6 other patrons. There were several uncollected checks on a handful of tables, but I would be surprises if they did more than a half turn on Saturday.

Based on my one "visit" there on April 9th (has it really been 8 months?!), I've been fearing this. They seemed like *such* nice people, and they were so genuinely excited to be opening.

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Maureen is still there. She was the one and only server working Saturday. Still super nice.

They are starting a weekend brunch buffet soon. A mix of traditional American brunch food and Jamaican items off their menu. With no place for weekend brunch in the hood they might draw in some new customers, there are two massive apartment building complexes right there...someone has to be hungry!

I really would like this place to survive. But the lame Van Ness dining scene, terrible name for the restaurant (I guarantee 99.9% of the neighborhood does not know the 876 references Jamaica), and poor foot traffic flow (most people in the hood live in the opposite direction)....does not bode well.

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I really would like this place to survive. But the lame Van Ness dining scene, terrible name for the restaurant (I guarantee 99.9% of the neighborhood does not know the 876 references Jamaica), and poor foot traffic flow (most people in the hood live in the opposite direction)....does not bode well.

We also live in the neighborhood and agree about the dining scene and need for a brunch option. I'm not around during lunch time on a week day, but evenings and weekends the place is usually pretty much empty. I'll be honest, I've never eaten there. I'm not a fan of that cuisine and they don't do any PR in the neighborhood that would make me want to try it. I'm venturing a guess that many of the local residents are either unfamiliar with Jamaican or are unadventurous eaters making the menu at 876 a stretch. So unless they do a brisk lunch business, I can't see the place staying in business.

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Placed a take-out order on Friday. Place was the busiest I've seen it, with maybe 20 people dining.

The ackee and salt cod spring rolls continue to be strong.

I went with an order of the braised oxtail. Not sure if this is a special, or limited availability, or what, last time it was on the menu, this time it wasn't, but I asked and they had it...Anyhoo, excellent, the meat was barely holding on and tender, with enough nubbly bits for you to gnaw off the bone. A nice rich gravy had soaked into the rice and peas. I would order it again.

The plantains they used for the fried plantains weren't ripe enough so they come out starchy rather than caramelized.

So a mostly successful night, and now that I have a menu at home I foresee more take-out orders being made.

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Closed and empty of furniture. Not surprising.

Now I can dream about Mark Furstenberg opening a place in that spot...

Not surprising, but it makes me very sad. :(

Along with Riedel's, Coat of Arms, and Indian Ocean, 876 Café is the fourth restaurant to open, then close, at this address since this website was founded on April 15, 2005 - no other address in the DC area that I'm aware of has had four (*) closures in eight years.

(*) Maybe even five, depending on what was there before Riedel's.

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I will miss the braised oxtail and the ackee spring rolls...perhaps the best two dishes in Van Ness.

But yeah, not the best location for a Jamaican restaurant...and the name of the place didn't help, 876 Cafe doesn't exactly inspire. I think they were hoping to get UDC business, and at times they had a hopping bar scene, but most nights they only had a handful of customers.

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Not surprising, but it makes me very sad. :(

Along with Riedel's, Coat of Arms, and Indian Ocean, 876 Café is the fourth restaurant to open, then close, at this address since this website was founded on April 15, 2005 - no other address in the DC area that I'm aware of has had four (*) closures in eight years.

(*) Maybe even five, depending on what was there before Riedel's.

Next door to us at Cashion's: Taan (currently and seems like they will survive the curse of 1817 Columbia Rd.), Marrakesh Lounge, Mudbugz, Marrakesh Lounge again, Evolve (greatly missed), Cafe Sofia, Pharoah's (because sometimes you just gotta have some Ancient Egpytian culture to go with your blues), now I'm getting confused, Rocky's might be next

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