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goldenticket

Del Ray Cafe, From The Owners of La Bergerie - 205 E. Howell Avenue in Del Ray

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After a sweet renovation of a large house just off the main drag (Mt. Vernon Ave), it looks like Del Ray Café has opened (or is doing so, softly).

They serve breakfast and lunch Mon-Fri, brunch on Sat-Sun, and dinner Mon-Sun.

Thrillist has some details on the space and menu items (menus are available on the website linked above).

It does say they're closed this Saturday - and they're hiring.

I look forward to checking it out!

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After reading goldenticket's posting I decided to take advantage of the Del Ray Cafe's soft opening to have a nice lunch out on Friday. I am happy to report I made a very good decision. The Cafe is created out of a former residential home that had also recently served as a retail space. The owners have created a parking lot at the back of the building, allowing for a significant amount of off street parking. As you enter across a sizable wraparound porch (which will soon be available for outdoor dining), you see a working kitchen on your right, and a bright, open casual dining area on your left. There are a number of two-tops tables in the room and a long dining shelf against the windows facing the front of the house where you can seat a number of individual diners or a family with small children. The upstairs is divided into two large dining areas, each with high ceilings and a number of skylights to let natural light in throughout the day.

I was seated downstairs and started with a bowl of the carrot and ginger 'soup of the day'. I was served a bowl of pureed vegetables tasting as much of cream and butter as of carrots and ginger. There was just enough bread left to clean out the bowl when I was finished. While I was waiting for my entree, the ladies seated next to me were making short work of two servings of PEI Mussels Meunière with Saffron. One of them was so intent on consuming every bit of the broth that I thought she was going to start licking the pot the Mussels came in. I chose the Chatham Cod on Crushed New Potato for my main course (this was a very leisurely lunch). It was perfectly cooked, and was just the right amount for a midday meal. After I finished, I was told by staff that they were going to serve Brunch on Saturday, and then close for the rest of the weekend to take a look at what was working and what things needed to be addressed prior to the official opening on Monday, May 14.

With that information in hand and a positive first impression for lunch, I decided to go back for the brunch first thing Saturday - another good idea. They had just opened the doors when I arrived and I was again seated in the first floor dining area . I had planned to try the French Toast that was listed on the Monday - Friday breakfast menu, but it was not listed for the weekend Brunch menu. I was delighted when they offered to prepare it anyway. What came out were two pieces of perfectly cooked brioche bread topped with warm, poached fresh fruit and a small mound of Creme Fraiche on the side of the plate. As with lunch, the portions were not the usual mountain of food that would guarantee a request for a take home container, but the civilized portions you would expect at a French country cafe. Again, I observed a couple at another table who were being served their orders of Eggs Benedict. The young lady took a first bite and just closed her eyes and tilted her head back in enjoyment - no words needed.

I think this restaurant has a chance to establish itself as one of the best places to dine in Del Ray. The only problem I can foresee is too much popularity, too fast impacting the food service. The food is cooked with care and with an appreciation for the quality of its ingredients - which means it takes some time to reach the table. When I was there for lunch on Friday, some of the people arriving after 12:30 or so were told they would have to wait until some tables cleared if they wanted to be seated.

I talked to the owner, Laurent Janowsky, after my breakfast. He is still working to bring aboard what he considers adequate waitstaff for the Cafe, and is still working out the reservations vs walk-in policies. If future customers will have a little patience and understanding while the additional service staff is brought aboard and ownership works out the inevitable kinks that occur with a new operation, they will be amply rewarded.

By the way, after my conversation with Mr. Janowsky, he offered me a small croissant as I left. Now I have another reason to go back.

TSchaad

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Grover and I had dinner here last night and it was well worth the money. Just a simple coq au vin that was as good if not better than any we've had in France. This is the Monday night special during the month of November and well worth going for (actually the nightly specials are ALL worth going for). We followed the coq au vin with dessert, a poached pear stuffed with ganache on a bed of chocolate for me and a blueberry tart for Grover...both worthy endings to a great meal.

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Del Ray Cafe is close to becoming a habit. The service, the staff and the food have all been excellent on our every visit. Everything from the baguettes to the house made sparkling water to the selection of house wines shows an attention to detail. Check the daily dinner specials and you'll find some great food at reasonable prices.

I apologize if this sounds like a commercial, but I'm really impressed with Del Ray Cafe. It's becoming a regular on our local restaurant rotation..

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I apologize if this sounds like a commercial, but I'm really impressed with Del Ray Cafe. It's becoming a regular on our local restaurant rotation..

Link

I'm happy to hear this after a couple of rough spots we encountered a while back. I'm curious if you have been mainly for dinner or for lunch as well. Our lunch experience involved good food, but poor service, mostly because there simply were not enough servers to deal with the packed house.

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[This is a perfect example of a restaurant that may be suffering unfairly from my initial placement in the Dining Guide (I have to put them somewhere). I have not yet been to Del Ray Cafe, and it sounds like it should be higher - are there any other experiences? In this situation, I do weight members' experiences very heavily until I can get there myself (and even then, I take everyone's experiences into consideration).]

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I've only been there for breakfast a few times, but have enjoyed it immensely each time. Most recently I ordered their French bread with goat cheese, ham and potatoes. Sort of a classed up corned beef hash. It was delicious. Their croissants (regular and chocolate) are excellent, and if you call them a day out, you can order a bunch to go. They were a hit at a recent brunch we hosted.

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Most recently I ordered their French bread with goat cheese, ham and potatoes. Sort of a classed up corned beef hash. It was delicious.

You forgot that there are also eggs on that dish. Everything you could possibly want for breakfast in one dish. I've ordered that once and then had to skip lunch and dinner because, after that, I couldn't think of anything I could possibly want (for that day, anyway :)).

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You forgot that there are also eggs on that dish. Everything you could possibly want for breakfast in one dish. I've ordered that once and then had to skip lunch and dinner because, after that, I couldn't think of anything I could possibly want (for that day, anyway :)).

You are right. I neglected to mention the eggs over easy that I got on top. Delicious. It can be tough to find good weekday breakfast places in Alexandria, but Del Ray Cafe is a welcome addition.

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After taking care of Lord Henrico Stinkerbottom aka Henry, my brother and sister-in-law's puppy, they offered to take me out for dinner. We went to Del Ray Cafe on a rainy Saturday night. We had about a ten to fifteen minute wait, and while they don't have a proper bar per se, we sat at a nice little bench/bar near the window and had a drink.

Very quickly though we were seated upstairs. We started with a charcuterie plate and some calamari, while my SIL had the cream of broccoli soup. She loved her soup, and my brother and I really enjoyed both our appetizers - the calamari was perhaps the best I've had in a long time.

For main entrees, I had a stuffed pork tenderloin, while my brother had the lobster and my SIL the scallops. We all quite enjoyed our meals - the waiter showed my brother how to get the meat out of the knuckles. My only very slight nit was my pork was kind of dry, but with the cheese and peppers stuffed into it it wasn't bad.

We had to try dessert (despite my diagnosis of diabetes earlier in the week). My brother polished off a black and white mousse in no time. I had some mini-beignets that had melted chocolate inside them and an orange cream dipping sauce while my SIL had the chaquettes. They were awesome, we couldn't finish them, and the waiter not only packaged them up for us but also took the time to make sure the dipping sauces got containers, too.

My brother and I split a couple of carafes of wine over dinner while my SIL had a mimosa. Still, the bill was quite reasonable in the end of the night, and it was one of the best meals I've had in quite a while. We'll definitely be returning.

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I met a couple friends for dinner last night at Del Ray Cafe. Frazzled and harried - it took me *one hour* to get there from Merrifield, and I was "not in the best of shape" when I arrived - I did get to taste through the restaurant's best effort (these friends are regulars of Del Ray Cafe).

Although I haven't been to Evening Star Cafe lately, I've been hearing mostly that it's not what it once was (I can't say this with any degree of confidence, however). I'd never been to Del Ray Cafe before, but I feel comfortable enough after last night (Risotto with Escargots and Black truffle, Quail with Cauliflower Mousseline and Asparagus, Crèpe Suzette) to promote it to Italic and raise it to the very top of the Del Ray section in the Dining Guide.

I cannot stress strongly enough how much Del Ray Cafe needs to lower the temperature of their red wines, which were served fully ten degrees too warm - they were good wines, but almost undrinkable because of their temperature. But this was the only flaw in an otherwise lovely dinner.

Cheers,

Rocks

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We lunched recently at Del Ray café, and were pleasantly surprised by the improvement in the service.  The food has always been quite good, however, we stopped going because of the lack of staffing in the dining room.  I sincerely hope this trend continues well into the future. 

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Based on the comments above and the italics in the Dining Guide, I decided to try lunch here today. It looked good on paper, but unfortunately the highlight of my outing was my visit to The Happy Tart after lunch.

I found the menu kind of pricey for lunch. I was pleased that items were marked on the menu as "gluten free" and that the menu said that some could be made GF by omitting bread or croissants.

The service was friendly, although the server forgot to tell the runner not to bring me a basket of bread, so I regretfully sent it back.

I settled on the "6 oz Teres Major Steak with Bernaise Sauce and Garlic Fries," listed at $17 on the menu. Although I ordered the steak medium rare, it was cooked to medium well, with no char on the outside. That made for a tough chew. The Bernaise sauce was bland, with no distinct flavor of tarragon or anything, really. The steak had not been seasoned before cooking, and the fries had lots of garlic and were crispy, but no salt. Although a lovely salt and pepper grinder was on the table, that didn't help much, applied after the fact.

Then I got the check, which listed a charge of $17 for the steak and $1 for the garlic fries, for a total of $18. No, I didn't question it, just paid my bill and got out of there.

Also, be warned: The menus on their website and Facebook page list the price for 6 oysters on the half-shell as $12, but they are actually $17 on the menu in the restaurant.

I'm sure I'll be dinged by some for not sending my lunch back, but I was tired and hungry, and really didn't know if it would come out better a second time. It wasn't worth the special trip I made. Next time I'm in the area, I'll head for Bastille.

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On the menu, it's stated that "truffled fries, garlic fries, fries with Old Bay" are an additional $1.  If the menu said with Garlic fries, you shouldn't have been charged that additional $1.

Website price differences?  Yeah, well, I use the internet menus more for a guide of what kind of food to expect, not a price guide. Very few restaurants keep their pricing up to date on the web. Something about trying to run a restaurant getting in the way.

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Well its true that I don't get out often especially with both boys in tow. Went for Brunch and have to say it was a great welcome to my surprise. We ate upstairs with two of my closest friends. I agree on the earlier post about price point but have to tell you that sometimes quality of product is worth the extra $$$ than hoping someone can take mass produced, over ripe, and poorly stored veggies and fruit and make it something special. Veggie Hash was flavorful, the crepes my youngest had were perfect in size and good flavor throughout, my eldest had pancakes that were not over the top nor naked to the eye. Meat items I will leave for my friends to discuss. Service was solid, not overly aggressive and as well there when need be, but most importantly the place is a good spot for the kids. Pretty place (ate upstairs) and although the dinner menu is 'meat-centric' I will go back for brunch anytime.

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Wish I'd known you were going to be there, we would have joined you.  As it is, we're headed there tonight (Monday, something that seems to have become a ritual).

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