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The Red Hen - Regional Italian in Bloomingdale with Chef-Owner Michael Friedman and GM-Owner Mike-O'Malley


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After a soft opening on Sunday afternoon for friends and neighbors The Red Hen officially opened last night.   Menu is not on the website yet, but Washingtonian has a scan.  We were hoping to walk down right around 5:00, but never made it out the door; it was apparently packed (as expected given the neighborhood excitement for this place).  Early Comments I've read so far are very good on the food, so-so on the value (although no cocktail is over $10, so hooray?).  Portions size comes up most, but there are lots of small plates.

We're very much excited to try it out.  Has anyone been yet?

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We put the "kids at Red Hen" thing to the test with 2 visits in the past 2 weeks with a 2 year old.  The 1st was an early reservation.  Fantastic service and the little guy loved his pasta (he had the

Last night we got delivery from Red Hen for the second time, and both times it was a good experience, and a good splurge meal (last night was my wife's birthday). We got charred octopus with potatoes,

If I was to design a restaurant this would be it: 1) Rustic interior 2) Neighborhood vibe 3) Central bar 4) Knowledgeable bartenders and servers 5) Seasonal menu 6) Inter

I just got back and am pleased to report that it was wonderful. Great interior design, diverse menu, and by my count only one dish over $20 (a very welcome sight these days). Congrats to Sebastian et al, a great staff and space that should do very well in an area starving for something just like what Red Hen offers.

Oh, get the Wood grilled Hen and/or any of the pastas. Very well prepared.

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Oh, the injustice.

24 posts on the middling-but-hip corporate cookie-cutter Le Diplomate (hey, I liked it, but...) and only two on the vastly better, home-grown neighborhood hangout The Red Hen.

From the spare but welcoming room and the wood smoke that envelopes you like an old friend's arms the instant you walk in, to a menu priced like a neighborhood joint and not a tourist destination to the vertigo-inducing clash of plaids on Sebastian's jacket/shirt and bow-tie combination, The Red Hen feels immediately like The Place you Have Been Looking For.

But don't trust me, ask the superstar chef with the supermodel wife Johnny Monis (I confess she was the one who caught my attention first, with me wondering why a girl like that was hanging out with such a short dude), or Dave, the new-ish bartender at CityZen who were both hanging out around the rectangular bar. Far more than Chinese in a Chinese Restaurant (check out Mr. Tang's in NYC) or truckers at a diner, industry pros at a mid-scale establishment seems a reliable indicator of a quality joint and, especially, good food with a minimum of fuss.

I started out with a "Bad Liver and Broken Heart," with vodka and some combination of bitter, orange and bubble that made it a refreshing start to an early evening, but I confess that I just got it because the name is the same as two great songs, one by

("And I don't have a drinking problem, 'cept when I can't get a drink/ And I wish you'd a-known her, we were quite a pair,/She was sharp as a razor and soft as a prayer") and one by
("It's girls like her that keep me tryin'/she goes off like an air raid siren").

None of the fancy-schmancy custom cocktails cost more than $9, by the way, and none of the wines on the by-the-glass list is more than $10. When was the last time you got a $7 glass of wine at a bar that didn't suck? Of course, you didn't have M.Zutant scouring the world for a bracing (with a softly sherry-ish finish) Slovenian Toh-Kai or a surprisingly assertive Pecchenino Dolcetto, which felt too tannic for a split second before resolving itself a delicious Italian quaffer.

Chicken livers were, you know, chicken livers but tasty with shaved Parmesan(?) on toast. And, if the brandade was runnier than I make it, it pulled no punches and it's a favorite that I see too rarely on local menus.

We asked Sebastian which pasta to get and he recommended the Fusilli Caccio e Pepe -- fusilli with cheese and pepper -- which did indeed turn out to be an al dente plate of minimalist deliciousness.

I had the most expensive item on the menu, a $23 chicken that had been spatchcocked and fired on the aforementioned wood grill. For 23 bucks, you actually get a perfectly cooked, whole -- if diminutive -- chicken seemingly glazed with something balsamic, sitting atop mushrooms and an assortment of vegetables with a bit of grill-taste to them, as well.

My friend won the evening, though, with grilled scallops resting atop fresh peas and (something else grain-ish -- she selfishly ate most of the scallops, so I forget). Hard to talk about the dish without layering on the kind of superfluous embellishment that The Red Hen eschews, just delicious ingredients combined with an understated flair and cooked with respect. They alone would bring me back.

We finished with a couple of bitter brown digestifs (an Amaro and something else a little sweeter) and walked into the rain feeling very, very good about life.

I know someone will enlighten me, but I am hard-pressed to think of another place in DC that can accurately be called a neighborhood establishment and also offers food this creative and this good at this price. Perhaps because Sebastian actually lives in the neighborhood* and can' t have the moms and dads at his kid's daycare or the barristas at Big Bear (which charges more for wine than he does) calling him all uppity or -- worse -- boring, there seems to have been a lot of effort put into making this as effortlessly appealing as your favorite pair of old jeans.

I am led to understand that many table are left open for walk-ins, so even if Open Table says no, it might be worth a call. When we dialed, we were told there were no seats but the bar was empty -- a condition which had changed utterly by the time we departed.

I recommend going early or very late if you don't care for crowds. But mostly I just recommend going.

* (I have given co-owners Chef Michael Friedman and FOH Majordomo Michael O'Malley short shrift because I haven't had the pleasure of meeting them, but consider my accolades as accruing equally to all three ).

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I concur with Waitman that it's a mystery why this thread isn't more populated. so for shits and giggles, i write. (side note: i am contributing purely as an unassuming diner who just wanted to get a decent meal on her one night off.)

I dined at the Red Hen last month and had a swell meal. Between the two of us, we tried the following:

  • Proscuitto Cotto Crostini with Taleggio and Fig Jam -- hard to mess up but in any case, the bread made the dish.
  • Local lettuces with smoked olives -- smoke olives!! they were a little burnt but were a lovely contribution to an otherwise, cesar salad-ish salad. the greens were dressed perfectly.
  • Grilled beef tongue with dill, cauliflower, and bagna cauda sauce -- the one dish that we had that seemed to try too hard. i get the concept but thought there could be room for edits....there was also pine nuts. also the tongue was smokey. so to recap, there's smoke, tongue, dill, pine nuts, cauliflower, and anchovies, citrus, garlic, and olive oil....and maybe something else in their bagna cauda...dare i guess rosemary??
  • Gnocchi alla romana with hazelnut pesto -- semolina pillows with just the right amount of pesto.
  • roasted scallops w calamari in squid ink and aioli -- i am biased because of my blind love for squid ink and will eat the goya or whatever shit brand of canned pulpo in squid ink straight out of the tin and drink the remaining squid ink out of said tin...but regardless, this was my favorite dish. the scallops were perfectly cooked. the calamari retained a lovely toothsome-ness. the greens (in this case, spinach) were a nice, healthy contributor. the aioli, however, was superfluous.
  • wood grilled hen -- the volume of the dish was impressive for a mere $23. at this point, we decided to leave enough for a late night snack at home. the chicken was well seasoned and smoky. i was, however, still too busy licking the squid ink off the other dish to try much of the sides but there were smoky potatoes and smoky tomatoes and smoky mushrooms.
  • dessert!
    • chocolate egg cream -- i'm pretty sure the egg cream properly used U-bet but i'd like confirmation if anyone knows.
    • the panna cotta -- the panna cotta was nice.
    • the parmesean plate with mostarda. the parmesean was substantial. the mostarda was not mostarda but still a really nice preserve, which there is nothing wrong with....but i had really been expecting mostarda. if italian mustard oil is unavailable in the US, what about testing indian mustard oil?
  • drinks! sebastian is possibly one of my favorite wine-knows (ha ha!). one of his most admirable qualities is his total lack of pretense and his expert ability to select outstanding wines that are in in the $11-12/glass range -- which is about all i'm interested in paying on a random night out. all that said, i had three cocktails, three glasses of wine, and a generous taste of about every amaro they carry so i have only a vague recollection of what i drank. i am very keen on their cardoon-based, cardamaro. i think i saw it at 2 amys recently but this is the first time i tried it. as a hardcore fan of fernet, i may be converting to this for the time being...also, i'm very excited that he is highlighting orange wines. these two points, i remember.

i left immensely satisfied and happy and drunk. i am so very happy for sebastian and co. and am excited to go back soon to try the rest of the menu!

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I'm kind of amazed at the lack of discussion about Red Hen, but selfishly I like it that way :D . It's nice that they are setting aside so many spots for drop-ins to keep it neighbor-friendly, and given the business I doubt there will be any pressure to change that. We've not had a sit down experience here yet, all of our visits have been for a drink and a quick bite at the bar (which honestly may be what Red Hen excels at). I do recall a couple of cocktails at $11 or $12 on a recent visit, but it sounds like the list changes frequently. They certainly *average* well under $10.

As a friend said last week, first we marveled when scores cabs were coming in to drop people off at Rhode Island and 1st on a weeknight (for Boundary Stone), and now we have Ubers blocking the street and valet parking (!!!) around the corner.

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Bloomingdale seems to have hit critical mass...hail the pioneers like Big Bear, Hail the Bloomingdale Farmers market, hail the Rustik and the very important Boundary Stone, but this, i think, elevates everything a notch.

I fell in love with that building the first time I saw it, back in 2006. Thinking back on it that was when I joined this community, to get a feel, as an outsider, for what was going on around town. There was a good Bloomingdale blog, at the same time, authored by a blogger named IMGoph, who, I figured out from the blog, lived in one of the two upstairs apartments in that exact building. I wanted to put a nano-brewery in there but zoning was wrong, and really, DC laws weren't and I think still aren't right for the brewery/tap room combo you can do here in CO, or (after a change in the law last July) in VA.

But I digress. This is the PERFECT place in the perfect space. Couldn't have happened to a nicer neighborhood. I predict a long and happy life for what I think is a restaurant in the early days of being a neighborhood institution.

Can't wait 'til I'm back in town to try this out.

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I was very excited to try The Red Hen - where we live, NoMa, is absolutely devoid of real restaurants, so our only options are to walk to H Street or Metro elsewhere. I was thrilled at the idea of a quality restaurant that we could walk to! Overall, I walked away thinking that The Red Hen is a boon for those who live in Bloomingdale - which may be part of the problem for the rest of us.

The space is very inviting, and Jason enjoys any place where you go home smelling like a smoker. :D We sat at the bar, which had a couple of open seats when we got there between 6:30 and 7, and we were presented with menus right away...but then we were promptly ignored. The bartendress on our side started talking to the manager, making simple syrup, and otherwise avoiding eye contact with us. It was quite an effort to get our first round of drinks and an order of the smoked ricotta crostini. When we got them, I was blown away - the rose, at $7 a glass (!!!), was crisp and dry and delicious. The crostini were a bit too smoky for me, but Jason enjoyed them a lot. We also tried the salt cod brandade, which I loved - great texture and flavor.

Service would start to improve and the bartendress would warm up to us a bit, but then a neighborhood friend or regular would come in, and the chef would come out and spend time with them, and she would feed off that extra attention and go back to forgetting about us. I totally get that this is a neighborhood place, and that the Bloomingdale folks were really excited about it and gave it a lot of support, but they are going to have to find a balance between rewarding their regulars and keeping their first-time or "outsider" guests happy as well. No one feels comfortable watching some people get special treatment while they themselves are sitting around with empty plates/glasses.

We split the black linguini with clams and the scallops with peas and farro (I think it was farro?). The linguini was delicious, but the scallops stole the show - the dish wasn't anything fancy or complicated, but it was just cooked and seasoned beautifully. Perfection.

Husband ordered the lemon sorbet for dessert, and he really liked it. I was quite impressed at how reasonable they have kept the pricing - crostini, brandade, a pasta, an entree, a dessert, two beers, three glasses of wine, and a limoncello for just over $100 (not including tip) is pretty darn good in this town, especially considering that we left very satisfied with the quality AND quantity of what we ate.

Like I said, overall, I'm very happy to welcome The Red Hen to the area - the food made the experience for us. Perhaps next time we will try sitting at a table to see if/how that changes the vibe?

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Betty gave a good synopsis and analysis of our dinner last night, but there are a couple of points I wanted to expand on and a couple of points to add.

First, I loved that there was so much space at the bar, with such a good view of the kitchen. I loved every bite of food we had, save the brandade, but that is a personal issue I have with things that taste "fishy". Betty loved it, so I'll take her word that it tasted exactly as it was supposed to.

The beer selection was good, though it seemed to me that it leaned more towards a cooler weather time and less towards the upcoming summer. That doesn't mean there weren't a few selections for warmer weather, but the only two draught selections were dark. Maybe they are on the cusp of changing seasons and just getting rid of the initial stock. It would be nice, in the future, to have the draughts available written down somewhere so you don't have to ask the bartender. It was hard enough to get her attention to actually order something. Adding times to waive her down to ask questions isn't fun. That said, I will forgive a lot when you have sparkling water on tap. Yum! Again though, it would have been nice to know that up front, rather than having to watch her pour for someone else, guess what it was, flag her down to ask, then ask for some for myself.

I have to echo Betty's sentiment about feeling like we were uninvited guests when there were regulars around. We had a great view of the managers/owners who tended to stand at the back of the bar/front of the kitchen and talk to each other and the bartenders, unless there were regulars dining. When the regulars were around, the managers would lavish them with attention. The bartenders would follow the managers' lead, as would be expected.

On the few occasions that we were able to get the bartender to say more than a word or two to us, it was obvious that she knew her stuff and had the capability of being very welcoming. I just wish we were treated like guests you hoped would return, rather than patrons at a museum whom you are obliged to share your knowledge to, but don't plan on seeing again.

I think we'll be back to The Red Hen, as it was convenient to get to, with very good fare. I just hope we are treated a little more hospitably - not because we've been there before, but because that's just how you treat people, whether they're in town for one night, or live next door.

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So, I actively went to this place, purely based on DR recommendations, so I was expecting great things. I went to Boundary Stone first to meet my compadres, a couple of UMich alum. Didn't eat there, so won't say much other than I want to go back soon.

We got to Red Hen, and I loved the space. It has that great open layout, with a rectangular bar in the middle and the open kitchen in the back. When we got there, it was a 45 minute wait, so we went to the bar instead. There were 2 seats and 3 of us, so that kind of stunk. There was a couple to the right of me, pretty sure they were on their first date. Cute blonde and a European gentleman. When I asked him to move a bit to squeeze us in, he was very happy about it because "I like the idea of getting closer to her". I do my part, and glad when it's appreciated.

The bar girl was the lovely Courtney. If I say that I want to feed her grapes and take care of her the rest of my life, is that too much? Seriously fell in love with her. Guys, if you want to see a woman that knows her food, knows her drinks, and looks like a dream, come here. I feel like Brent Musburger after that bowl game, and I'm sorry for that, but had to give her a shout out. We ordered drinks - I got the Bad Liver/Broken Heart, and it was perfect for a brisk day - orange soda, vodka - it was like a picnic in Metro Detroit (we sure love Crush and Vodka there). One Wolverine got the Imperial Stout on draft (agree that draft drinks did not reflect season) and the other Wolverine got a beer that I don't remember.

For appetizers, we got some based on what looked good and some based on the recommendations from the bar girl. We ordered the Chicken Liver Crostini, the asparagus, and the cured salmon (her pick). I don't love chicken and I don't love liver, but that sort of hit the spot. It was light, flavorful, and interesting. I'd get it again. The asparagus was awesome - there was a yellow cream sauce that made it perfect. Well worth the interesting urinary odor I'd eventually get from the asparagus. The salmon was great, too. Didn't taste too "cured", and the fava bean puree perfectly accompanied it. We were very happy with the apps.

For mains, we ordered the Leg of Lamb sandwich, the halibut, and I got the black linguini with clams. Tried them all and I'll give my comments, but the group didn't love the mains as much as the appetizers. As for the leg of lamb that was ordered by female Wolverine, I liked it, but didn't think it really fit a place like this. The first impression, and not a bad one, was that of a Banh Mi sandwich with the slaw and dressing. Don't get me wrong, I love Banh Mi, I love lamb, and it was good. But with the good and crusty bread, might as well have went to Edens Center. It was hearty and definitely a value. The halibut was probably the best main, and the male Wolverine had it. It had this great crispy exterior and halibut always tastes pretty good to me - it's fishy enough without being overbearing. I'm not a fish guy (prefer crustaceans, if we are dealing with sea dwellers), but it was good. I got the linguini. The bread crumbs in it gave it a good texture, but there weren't very many clams. The sauce was good, and for some reason, I liked that the linguini was black, it made me happy (related aside: one of my mentors loved when our patients were hard of hearing, because it was one of the few times he could raise his voice and it not be in anger; this happiness is similar to how I felt eating black linguini).

I was starting to get a cold, and needed to get food in quickly before taste was lost, so we ordered dessert. Before it came, the lovely bar girl also provided me a Hot Toddy and it was perfect for the situation. I got the panna cotta, which is sort of flan like and it was great. Female Wolverine got the chocolate something or other that came in a glass. That was really good. I'd recommend that.

Bill was $177 + tip. Little higher than I thought (there are some drinks not accounted for in above narrative), but it was really great. I liked the place. I hope it stays busy. I hope Courtney finds me and I can feed her grapes.

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Great dinner here last night. Charming and warm space, refreshing mix of ages (hipsterville has not taken over.. At least not before 9), great service, moderate prices and delicious food. We started with a pair of crostinis - smoked trout (our favorite) and ricotta, two pastas (perfectly cooked), two glasses of wine each and were out under $100. Despite living on the Hill and working in DuPont we will make a point to venture back and in fact so wish the Hill had a truly neighborhood spot like this. Well done Red Hen team.

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I'll add to the chorus of glowing reports. The space looks great...love that they didn't cram too many tables in. It felt open and bustling, but not too loud for us to have a normal conversation.

We started off with a glass of the DC Brau-Red Hen collaboration saison, (which was great...aging in the wine barrels gave it a nice puckery dry finish), and a "Come Armageddon Come" (a very lemony and refreshing concoction). BTW, all the cocktails were named after Morrissey song lyrics, a huge plus in our book. To accompany our drinks, we started with the smoked ricotta crostini and the cured king salmon panzanella. There's not much more I can write about the crostini that hasn't been said already...fantastic. My wife likened it to creme fraiche and good smoked fish...without the fish. Surprising at first, but then instantly craveable. The panzanella was simple and well-done, with a sizable hunk of salmon atop small diced rye bread, pickled ramps, and cucumber. It's not often I've seen cured fish served like this...I'm used to the thinly sliced variety, but it was perfect in this dish. The ramps were not terribly assertive, and if the menu didn't list them, I wouldn't have guessed they were there.

Next up, a glass of each of the "Orange Wines," and the grilled octopus with frisee and crispy capers. We liked both wines, though I give the edge to the Italian over the Georgian...a bit smoother, rounder, more refined flavor that matched the acidity of the octopus dish well. The octopus was perfectly grilled, toothsome without being the least bit chewy. I loved the pairing with the crispy frisee and capers. The one oddity was the pesto mashed potatoes beneath the frisee. Great flavor, but a strange textural component to throw in with the rest of the dish.

For our mains, we shared the rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu and the grilled scallops over farro with guanciale and peas. I had a glass of the Primitivo, which at $9 was an awesome glass of wine. The pasta was perfect. Nothing to say other than I would happily order that again and again and again. It's nothing complicated, and I'm sure many of us could make something similar at home, but they really made sure each component was perfect. The scallops were nicely seared, and not overcooked. Overall, a great dish, but we did find that some bites were intensely salty while others were not...the only seasoning mishap of the night, but not a deal-breaker.

The hazelnut budino was fine...nothing to get excited about, but then, I never feel strongly about dessert unless it's terrible. We shared a couple amari (The Cardamaro, which was much lighter than any other amaro I've had, and the Nardini).

Overall a great, low-key affair that we will definitely repeat. I'm very jealous of Bloomingdale for scoring this place...would love to be able to walk there for a glass of wine and pasta 3-6 nights/week.

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We had an absolutely delightful dinner at the Red Hen this evening. We loved everything about the experience from the design and ambiance of the restaurant, to our fantastic server, to the very, very good food. Oh, and the price: my husband commented after paying the bill, "That's the least expensive meal we've had in a long time." Value: A+

We were fortunate to have as our server, Ejeon (yes, that is the correct spelling, I asked.) His knowledge of and enthusiasm for the food was electric. I'm sure we would have enjoyed the dinner just fine without him; but with him, it was elevated to an entirely different level. We followed several of his recommendations and they proved to be exactly right. For example, I was contemplating a French Sauvignon Blanc and, after hearing what I like in a wine, he noted that it might be too fruity; he suggested the Slovenian Toh-Kai and he even brought tastes of both wines for me to compare (all this for a 'wine by the glass'). And, he was right. I preferred the Toh-Kai -- it's an interesting wine and complimented my meal very well. And it was $7.00! Oh, and, lest I forget, I had a gin martini to start off, made with Botanist gin which I learned to love at the Gin Bar at New Heights. Price? $8.00!

We both began with a crostini: the Tuscan Chicken Liver with Parmesan & Thyme ($6) for him; the Baby Tomatoes, Spring Onion & Basil for me ($6). He could not stop exclaiming over how good his was. I was initially hesitant about the tomatoes crostini, thinking that it is still early in the tomato season and it could turn out to be very pedestrian. I was leaning toward the Smoked Trout. Ejeon steered me toward the tomato and I am so glad he did. One bite and I nearly burst into tears. I haven't had a really good fresh tomato since last summer and this was like coming home. The tomatoes were red and yellow and served on excellent bread with basil, scallions and a simple olive oil vinaigrette. The portion was also much larger than I was expecting, so for $6, it was a great value.

Our next course was Mezze Rigatoni with Fennel Sausage Ragu & Pecorino Romano ($16) for him; the Seared Scallops with English Peas, Guanciale & Dill ($20) for me. My scallops were very fresh and high quality, perfectly seared, and delicious. The only place I've had better scallops recently is at the Rappahannock Oyster Bar at Union Market. The accompanying farro/pea mélange was fine, if a bit salty, although I'm not sure it did the scallops justice. I think a better partner for them would be something lighter than the farro. I also think I'm just not much of a farro fan. Every time I eat it I think I would have preferred rice or just about any other grain. The Rigatoni was the star of the night. I managed to steal several bites and I was seriously envious. That fennel sausage! Dare I call a sausage elegant? Well, it was. The fennel flavor was subtle, yet very evident. The pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente. And the ragu sauce had a lovely, light texture, delicate and beautifully flavored.

This restaurant is a real gem and a gift to any neighborhood. Very soon we will be moving to an adjacent neighborhood and we can easily imagine becoming regulars here.

**And ladies, they have handbag hooks under the bar!

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We had an absolutely delightful dinner at the Red Hen this evening. We loved everything about the experience from the design and ambiance of the restaurant, to our fantastic server, to the very, very good food. Oh, and the price: my husband commented after paying the bill, "That's the least expensive meal we've had in a long time." Value: A+

Next time say hello!

Is Ejeon the energetic guy with the modified Van Dyke beard? He's quite intense.

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Next time say hello!

Is Ejeon the energetic guy with the modified Van Dyke beard? He's quite intense.

That's him. He is intense, yes. He's very passionate about good food. He's been in the biz a long time -- used to be at Woodberry Kitchen, which I think has a similar mission to that of Red Hen. I could see where his intensity might be too much for those whose approach to food is a bit more casual than ours.

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I was there on Sat. night for dinner. The food was excellent and we couldn't get over the value. I started with an aperol spritz for $6.00! The crostinis were a big hit- we had the tomatoes (also came highly recommended), the smoked ricotta crostini with brown butter and truffle honey- which was my favorite. But I am a sucker for anything truffle. We also had salt cod brandade with chives and garlic toast. This did not get a universal thumbs up, but it reminded me of smoked whitefish and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I had garganelli pasta with braised duck, zucchini, tomato and black olives, which was filled with wonderfully tender, lean pieces of meat. loved the dish.

The ambiance was charming but the noise level detracted a bit. Our server was impossible to hear and he had issues hearing us.

That's him. He is intense, yes. He's very passionate about good food. He's been in the biz a long time -- used to be at Woodberry Kitchen, which I think has a similar mission to that of Red Hen. I could see where his intensity might be too much for those whose approach to food is a bit more casual than ours.

it's funny that you mention Woodberry Kitchen. There is something about Red Hen that reminds me of a scaled-down version of that restaurant.

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2.5 stars from Tom. That feels just right to me.

It's very unfortunate that, according to their Facebook page, their air conditioning was off today, and they had intermittent power outages. Hopefully, they'll get it back for what could prove to be quite a busy weekend for them.

Good luck, my friends - I'm pulling for you.

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The owners have done a wonderful job building a neighborhood restaurant here. The space is designed beautifully.  I loved the high windows and all of the wood.  If I lived in Bloomingdale, I'd be here often.   Having the bar in the middle seems to give an extra buzz to the energy.  At  8ish on a Sunday night, the restaurant was completely full (unless there were any empty bar stools at the far end of the bar I couldn't see, but I doubt it).

It was my husband's birthday and, amusingly, there was a huge party there for a birthday at a table (2 large tables pushed together) directly behind him, so he got an extra vicarious birthday celebration.  The atmosphere in the restaurant (in part due to this party but not solely) was quite festive.

The downside of this is that I couldn't hear much of anything.  And the lighting is dim, so, especially as the sun went down, I increasingly couldn't see much either.  We were, however, well outside of the age demographic for the establishment, and this probably isn't an issue for most people going there. This tends to be a problem many places we/I go, so I just deal.

Most of the food was delicious, well-prepared, and spot-on.  The two misses were more a matter of execution than flawed concept.  I started with a vibrant wheat berry salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, pea shoots, and ??) with a tart vinaigrette.  (The menu might have said red wine, but it's not on the online menu and I don't recall.)  My husband noticed this on the menu before I did and commented that I was sure to order it, since I love wheat berries.  He was right, and I would order it again in a heartbeat.  He had a cold tomato soup with (I think) ricotta salata, which he enjoyed.  Both of these dishes were $11.

The other starter I ordered was the chicken liver crostini.  I love chicken liver pate.  With the Parmesan and thyme, it sounded like a sure winner.  I was very surprised at how underwhelmed I was by it.  The pieces of crostini were shellacked in olive oil.  In the dim light, at first I thought it was honey, since one of the other crostini contains honey, and I couldn't figure out the gloss.  When I tried the first piece, I didn't taste any chicken liver but rather something sort of sweet, so I asked what the coating was and if this was what I had ordered.  The server checked and it was olive oil.  A lot of olive oil.  About 2/3 of the way through the piece of crostini, I finally tasted chicken liver.  That's a hard taste to miss. Clearly it had only been spread on part of the toast.  I gingerly started on the second piece, and oily chicken liver pate began oozing out. This piece was overly slathered with it.   I picked the cheese off the top and left the rest as a loss.  The chicken liver pate I tasted was fine, but it was hard to get to it.  Given how many people have said they liked this crostini, I'm going to chalk this up to unevenness in its construction on this occasion.

For mains, I had the rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu, which was very satisfying and more or less what I expected it to be.  It was a solid $16 plate of food.  My husband had the lamb sandwich (also $16), not noticing that it had broccoli rabe, which he doesn't like that much.  The way the sandwich was constructed, the rapini flavor didn't come through through distinctly, and he liked the sandwich.  I had several bites and loved the spicy smokiness of it.  All of the components meshed well.  The hard roll it was on was a perfect foil for the insides.  I would order this myself with no hesitation.  It came with raw slices of fennel.

My husband was looking at the egg cream for dessert but I nudged him to order cake.  I felt bad that I had, since it was different from what we both expected.  He was looking for something fairly light, and this chocolate cake was not light.  The construction of the plate was beautiful:  Centered on the plate, chocolate cake with cherries smothered in deep dark chocolate sauce, with a scoop of rich roasted vanilla gelato capping the mountain.  I discovered that the way to eat it was to scoop downward from the ice cream through the layers, getting some of everything in each bite.  Otherwise, it was hit or miss.  About 2/3 of the way through the plate, we finally got to the cherries.  They hadn't been distributed evenly, and it was a real shame, because they added a flavor burst that cut through the heaviness and complemented the vanilla and chocolate.

Service was friendly and pretty good but not without some glitches.  I loved the water bottles they brought around.  Water refills were prompt.  I drank a lot of water and never had an empty glass for long.

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Very good dinner at Red Hen last night.  Unfortunately--and here's the take away--I'm not sure we'll be returning anytime soon, especially not with anybody with whom we actually want to converse.  The place is just too darn loud.  Half the time I couldn't hear our (very good) server, let alone my wife across the table from me.  That off my chest, on to the food:

We were greeted with bread served with a tapenade-like substance.  I'd say this was actually rather perfunctory.  Nothing particularly notable about either the bread or the spread.

Appetizers

We split the grilled octopus with (I think) greens and fried capers (it's not on their menu online, so I can't get the exact dish).  This might have been my favorite dish of the night.  I love grilled octopus except when it occasionally seems a bit mushy.  No mushiness here.  Quite good.

As a second appetizer, we had the chicken liver crostinis with parmesan.  Picture a triangle of bread with a thin schmeeer of chicken liver mousse with a couple of slices of parmesan on top.  Again, very good, but I'd note again that I don't think the underlying bread was all that great.  We had bread twice--when we were seated and in these crostini--and the bread was underwhelming both times.

Main course

We had the rigatoni with fennel sausage in a tomato ragu.  I described it to my wife as a very good sausage pizza without the crust.  I'd stick by that.  As Pat describes above, this was a good solid plate of food.  Very comforting, and I would eat this again on a chilly winter evening in a heartbeat.

We also had a pan roasted grouper with cannelini beans and mussels in a romesco sauce.  Barely noticed any mussels, but this dish was also very good.  In particular, I noted how expertly the grouper was pan roasted.  It had this delicious brown crust on the exterior yet was perfectly cooked throughout.  I wish I could cook fish like this.

Dessert

We split the chocolate cake with cherries and sweet ricotta gelato.  Perfectly fine, but not a dessert I'm likely to remember beyond today.

To drink, I had a "Hell is Empty"--bourbon, ginger beer, and anise.  Again, perfectly fine, but not something I'm going to hurry to recreate or order again.  My wife had a glass of the house prosecco, which she seemed quite happy with.

Service was affable and very efficient.  As noted above, water glasses were eagerly refilled, and the food come at a quick pace (which wasn't necessarily a bad thing--we were on the clock with a sitter).

All in all, the food really was very good, and I'd love to try more of the menu.  But the tragedy is we, frankly, would never bring friends here.  At least not friends with whom we want to have a conversation.

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Very good dinner at Red Hen last night.  Unfortunately--and here's the take away--I'm not sure we'll be returning anytime soon, especially not with anybody with whom we actually want to converse.  The place is just too darn loud.  Half the time I couldn't hear our (very good) server, let alone my wife across the table from me.

Did you all, perhaps, try to open a window to let some of the sound out?

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What a triumphant restaurant The Red Hen is. A neighborhood restaurant that's also a destination restaurant, it makes me wish I lived in Bloomingdale.

More than any other restaurant in the area, I was delinquent in getting to The Red Hen for the first time - for no good reason, other than it kept slipping, but I sure made up for it.

My wonderful bartender (and new donrockwell.com member) Victor Dooley asked me if I'd like something to drink, and I immediately ordered a Bell's Brown Ale ($7, now down to $6), and then after the first sip, asked myself, "Why?" As much as I enjoy this beer, between the cocktail and wine programs at The Red Hen, what was the point? I can get a Bell's pretty much anywhereand as much as I enjoyed it, it was a bad decision in terms of calories, alcohol, and dinero.

And so when Sebastian Zutant, whom I consider a personal friend (even though I've never seen him outside of a restaurant atmosphere), came over to talk about the wine list, I turned myself over to him. "You know what I like, and you know I don't spend a lot." He nodded his head, and came back a couple minutes later with a bottle of 2010 Cataratto Nino Barraco ($60), from Etna, Sicily - only 3,000 bottles (250 cases) produced. "Ah," I said. "An 'Orange Wine.'" His face lit up. "I heard you had these on your list."

So what is an orange wine? I actually don't know, except that they're from obscure places, are very acidic, and although they're technically white wines, they have something of an orange hue to them - not rosé; pale orange. Sebastian knows I'm an acid-head when it comes to wines, so he made a good call with this selection. As it turns out, this was actually the most expensive one on their list, and when the check arrived, I was only billed (full disclosure here) $45. "There are some funky shit grapes that go into this," he said, clearly excited to be serving it. Ironically, I might have preferred one of their low-end orange wines because this tasted like it had undergone malolactic fermentation (a secondary fermentation that changes malic acid (green apples) into lactic acid (milk), making the wine softer and rounder, less tart, and in this case, leaving it with something of a dairy aroma. This appeals to a lot of people, but I prefer tart - I also feel like an ingrate saying this after the discounted bottle. The "Orange Wines" section tends to be a bit expensive, but you won't regret ordering one, especially if you've never tried one before (they're vaguely reminiscent of a light-bodied Sherry, while at the same time not being anything at all like any Sherry - wrap your head around that one!). I drank over half the bottle, and it easily got me through the rest of the meal.

It being my first time here, I wanted to try several different things, so I ordered three, and let them come whenever they came. At Sebastian's urging, I got the Grilled Octopus with Potatoes, Pesto, Frisée & Crispy Capers ($14), and it was the best (cooked) octopus dish I've had in recent memory. I'm *always* leery of cooked octopus because its easy to make bitter, but this was heart-poundingly delicious, with the preparation defeating any possible bitterness that could have been there.

Spaghetti Squash ($6) was a side dish that I thought would go well with the Octopus, and sure enough it did. Roasted, these strands of squash were firm but fully cooked, served with crushed hazelnuts, sage, and Parmigiano Reggiano, and really hit a synergistic note with the wine (picture both these dishes with a light, acidic, Sherry-like wine - it was a best-case combination, and I felt like I was in Spain instead of Italy; yet here I was, in Bloomingdale. As Tom Sietsema might say: the moment was transporting, truly.

I wanted to try one of the house-made pastas, and the other dish Sebastian raved about was the Mezze Rigatoni with Fennel Sausage Ragu & Pecorino Romano ($16). And he raved about it for good reason, too: I have an outgoing text message to Sebastian saved on my phone from 9:05 PM that evening which says, simply, "Double your pasta cook's salary." I don't know who this gentleman was, but he was pan-finishing the pastas, several at a time, twisting and turning and moving all about. The mezze rigatoni was a perfect al dente, and the shape was just right for capturing the hearty sausage ragu. Even though there are several untried pastas on the menu, I would urge - urge - anyone going to The Red Hen to get this dish. The balance of flavors - just the thought of it - between the fennel and sauce is downright Pavlovian.

Not knowing when I'd return, and wanting to try as many things as possible, I asked for one more small dish despite being stuffed. Salt Cod Brandade with Chives & Garlic Toast ($12) went right to my heart (I love brandade), but in retrospect, I wish I'd ordered this first, the pasta second, and the octopus third. This course also went really well with the wine, but I was so full that I just couldn't give it the appreciation it deserved - it was a generous and hearty portion, and if you like brandade, you'll like this.

---

Not knowing when I'd return. Ha, ha, ha. Well, I was back three days later. Given that I live in Virginia, that should tell you something right there.

My friend and I started with an impressive Junipero Gimlet ($10), and I noticed that our bartender shook our drinks exactly twenty times. I asked him if he counted his shakes (which some bartenders do), and surprisingly, he replied that he shakes drinks by sound (!) - when the sound changes to a certain tone, he knows it's ready. I guess this is why he makes drinks, and I merely drink them.

Perusing the wine list (I didn't really get a good look at it on my first visit), I noticed that the least expensive Orange Wine was $55, and I felt like being cheap (especially since I wasn't paying), and so we ordered a bottle of 2011 Tami Grillo ($35), a white wine, also from Sicily. Don't overlook this beautiful bianco just because it's on the inexpensive side - it works really well with Mike Friedman's cooking, Sicilian whites being on the heavier side, and it's also imported by the great firm of Louis-Dressner (R.I.P. Joe Dressner - I will always remember you with heartfelt respect and admiration (*)).

Although I often (usually) dine solo, I love dining with others because, well, there's the company, but also it gives me a chance to try more things, and even more importantly, things I might overlook if I was ordering by myself. Case in point: the Pear & Endive Salad ($11) with hazelnuts, celery, and gorgonzola dressing, which was just a beautiful, classic combination, especially paired with this Grillo (which is the grape used to make Masala - now that I'm writing this, I recall with near certainty that Sebastian told me there was some Grillo in the Cataratto Nino Barraco I had on my previous visit as well). Anyway, these flavors were simple, flawless, and a delightful start to the meal.

Garganelli with Braised Duck, Tomato, English Peas, & Taggiasca Olives ($17) signaled the arrival of autumn, and confirmed that the pastas here are important and downright obligatory - I cannot imagine coming here and not at least splitting one. Of all the world's olives, none could have gone better with this duck than the Taggiasca. Chef Friedman knows what he's doing, that's for sure. With this pasta, a side order of Zucchini ($8) was ordered mostly for color and texture, yet ended up lightening the course as a whole, not that it really needed it - the duck was extremely delicate.

Unfortunately, this was the time I (literally) got called away from the meal, and so I only got carryout nibbles of our two entrees, a couple of hours later: Seared Veal Sweetbreads with a Fried Egg, Bacon, Pea Shoots, & Soft Polenta ($19), aargh, this is the one that I really wish I'd gotten to try right when it was served - it was still delicious even later in the evening; and Wood Grilled Hen with Wild Mushrooms, Tomato, Cherry Peppers, and Roasted Potatoes ($23), also wonderful even hours later. But as good as these were as room-temperature carryout dishes, they would have obviously been that much better hot off the stove.

Wow, I sure went through a lot of this menu in just a few days, but sitting here typing this in the hinterlands of Virginia, not having eaten a thing today, I'm tempted to go back yet again this evening. I love The Red Hen, and the residents of Bloomingdale are fortunate to have a casual restaurant of this caliber in their midst. If I lived in Bloomingdale, and wasn't Robo-Critic, I'd be there all the time.

Needless to say, The Red Hen is initiated in Italic, a strong, secure Italic, in the Dining Guide. Bravo.

(*) One other thing: Joe, I'm going to steal the last line of your obit because it is *exactly* how I feel about myself. If you object, speak up; otherwise, thanks (and knowing you, you're smiling right now. Cheers, my friend.).

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Not knowing when I'd return. Ha, ha, ha. Well, I was back three days later. Given that I live in Virginia, that should tell you something right there.

Funny thing about this place...The day after our first visit, we decided to make a repeat appearance just a few days later.

And now that I'm thinking about it, I think we may need another visit, even if it is on the wrong side of North Capitol.

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Garganelli with Braised Duck, Tomato, English Peas, & Taggiasca Olives ($17) signaled the arrival of autumn, and confirmed that the pastas here are important and downright obligatory - I cannot imagine coming here and not at least splitting one. Of all the world's olives, none could have gone better with this duck than the Taggiasca. Chef Friedman knows what he's doing, that's for sure. With this pasta, a side order of Zucchini ($8) was ordered mostly for color and texture, yet ended up lightening the course as a whole, not that it really needed it - the duck was extremely delicate.

Your post really makes me yearn for a return visit.  I had the garganelli in the heat of summer (although it was with zucchini rather than peas) and loved it, but I think it would be even better now that there's a chill in the air.

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We finally made it here on Friday night, and I want to echo all of the positive comments above, this place is absolutely fantastic. I honestly can't say enough good things about the entire experience. The room is wonderful, warm and inviting. Our service was great throughout, our cocktails were good, and the food was absolutely incredible.  I also turned our table over to Sebastian for wine, and was extremely pleased with the Orange Wine he selected, the first one I've tried. We're already trying to figure out when we can return.

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We had a lovely dinner at Red Hen on Saturday night.  The atmosphere is pretty unique for DC- maybe it is the neighborhood, it feels almost Brooklyn-esque. Very different from the years I commuted through there on my way to Children's National Medical Center and there was nothing but a gas station Dunkin Donuts. I echo others' comments that the food is superlative. High quality ingredients prepared with care and without pretense. We enjoyed the beet salad, squash soup, grouper with heirloom beans, and the rigatoni with sausage ragu. We were too stuffed to order dessert but what was coming out of the kitchen looked great. Only a minor quibble- there was a fairly long lag time between our appetizers and entrees. During that time we also finished our drinks- an orange wine and a beer.  I think we might have liked another of each but no one stopped by to ask.

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Sometimes, we'll go to a new place without reviewing the relevant thread here. Then, assured of feeling either brilliant or positively idiotic after going and checking the discussion retrospectively, I'll resolve to either always check here first, never check here first, and then not change much.

At least as often, I will review whatever has been posted before a first visit.  In Red Hen's case, we're going for the first time later this week with friends and all the posts above have been very helpful. I'm sure they'll inform choices we'll make.  Thank you.

....

I know someone will enlighten me, but I am hard-pressed to think of another place in DC that can accurately be called a neighborhood establishment and also offers food this creative and this good at this price.

...

Not sure this will be "enlighten"ing but I think of Izakaya Seki, definitionally a "neighborhood restaurant" in much the way you described your experience.  Room 11 is also a successful neighborhood place but much more limited than what Red Hen seems to be.  And, of course, years ago before the expansion and maybe 3 or 4 price hikes, the old Palena Cafe was a fabulous and high-value neighborhood spot.

... "Ah," I said. "An 'Orange Wine.'" His face lit up. "I heard you had these on your list."

So what is an orange wine? I

---

Not knowing when I'd return. Ha, ha, ha. Well, I was back three days later. Given that I live in Virginia, that should tell you something right there.

My friend and I started with an impressive Junipero Gimlet ($10), and I noticed that our bartender shook our drinks exactly twenty times. I asked him if he counted his shakes (which some bartenders do), and surprisingly, he replied that he shakes drinks by sound (!) - when the sound changes to a certain tone, he knows it's ready. I guess this is why he makes drinks, and I merely drink them.

...

Really enjoyed the above post.  All of it (mostly deleted in the quote) but especially 1) learning about "orange wine" and 2) that Junipero Gimlet paragraph was just fun to read.  :)

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I truly feel badly for the good residents of Bloomingdale.



A neighborhood historically underserved by good restaurants gets a really good one.  And, it positions itself as a neighborhood spot.  Yet, the whole point of a true neighborhood spot is that it's a place loved and frequented by the (very) locals because, while good or very good, it isn't good enough to draw from beyond the 'hood with any regularity.



Red Hen is, of course, well more than good enough to draw from all over. And, that's why, if I lived a block away and walked over from time to time for a good meal and couldn't get a bar seat, I'd be annoyed. But then I'd be glad--and proud even--that this place was in my 'hood.  And, so it is.  Red Hen is in a neighborhood but the food and wine it's offering are every bit of the destination variety. This will never be a true neighborhood restaurant and we're all better for it.



We were the largest group at Red Hen tonight.  There was one six top nearby but that was the only other group close in size. This is relevant because with a group our size of good friends, we were able to share and thus tried most of the menu.



LOVED IT.



I won't detail everything we had or write a very long post since I largely agree with all the praise and commentary above.  Will just comment on a few things that may add to what's already been posted.



- The grilled octopus tonight was perhaps a slightly different preparation atop a pesto potato puree and topped with frisee and crispy capers.  Not "mushy." Not chewy, which is the most common problem in my own experience.  Simply delicious.



- We didn't ask but I'm guessing the spatchcocked "wood grilled" chicken must be brined. How else would the breast meat be as flavorful and as moist as it was?  We had a vigorous but short debate over whether this or the Palena variant was better. For me, Palena by a nose or two. But a vocal minority in our group who know food disagreed.



- Our waitress, Sophia, was wonderful.  Great service--attentive without ever feeling intrusive--but, damn, that woman knows her wines"¦and food.  She steered us toward two Slovenian wines.  An orange and then a pinot.  We went through maybe 7 bottles of the two varieties and loved them.



- Two veggie dishes deserve brief comment.  A beet salad with greens and, maybe, feta was very interesting and even more tasty.  My +1 loved her brussel sprouts and I'd have to say, as ubiquitous as this dish seems to be (sprouts + some salty pork product + something sweet like balsamic, maple or honey seems to be the formula), these were excellent and maybe even better than most.



- We ordered three of the four pastas.  All great and, personally, as I ordered the duck ragu version that foodobsessed6 did above, I agree wholeheartedly with her view of the dish.



- At dessert time, we ordered again three of the four options on the menu but the best was the extra that Sophia brought us just to try. A maple brulee/custard with finely chopped nuts (hazelnut maybe) as a topping.  Wow.  I really love maple. Can't eat french toast, waffles or pancakes without real maple syrup, for example.  Loved this beyond the fact that real maple was used.



- The best thing i can say about my egg cream is that it was real. And, for the poster upthread who only speculated, I can now confirm that they are indeed using u-bet"¦.as it should be.



- The only two misses for me were the smoked ricotta crostini and the coffee.  The ricotta crostini was fine but not strongly flavored or especially smoky and too thinly applied to the unremarkable toast neutralizing the distinctive texture of the cheese. Coffee and espresso is Lavazza. Again fine but, really, Red Hen, you should upgrade your coffee program to be more a match for the food imho.



BOTTOM LINE



Lighting is a bit dim but I think perfect for a dinner spot that encourages conversation. Likewise the noise level which didn't prevent us from having an active conversation across a larger table. Agree the wonderful design (evidently done by the wife of one of the three owners--maybe Sebastian's?--who's an architect) is reminiscent of Woodberry Kitchen. Then again, so is the menu and simple but delicious execution of nearly all dishes.



Red Hen is a wonderful new push pin on an increasingly amazing DC restaurant map.  With so many new restaurants opening at such a rapid clip, this is a thoughtful, reasonably-priced and delicious outpost that shouldn't be obscured by the blur of restaurants--good and mediocre--opening just to the west.



Bravo, Red Hen. Bravo.


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The best 3 desserts that I had in 2013 were at, of all places, Red Hen and are all currently still on their menu.

The Pine Nut Tart is a stalwart that has been on their menu quite a bit since the restaurant opened and is exactly what you want when you are looking for a finishing course that is substantive.  The crust on the tart is thicker than what you would see at most restaurants, but plays well with the delicately sweet pine nut topping.  Perhaps the best part of the dish, however, is the maple gelato that comes on the side, which my wife has made a dessert out of on its own on occasion.

The Maple Custard with Hazelnut Crumble sounded relatively unexciting but I obliged our enthusiastic server's recommendation and was very happy I did.  This dessert showed up in a shallow oval ramekin and looked as ordinary as it sounded, but wow was it great.  The balance of egg and cream was just perfect, whoever crafted this recipe (Mikey, I assume) must have gone through many iterations to get this how it is, as most custards tend to lean heavily one way or the other.  The sweet hazelnuts liberally spread over the top gave it a nice crunch and made the dessert seem like more than it was in terms of quantity, if that makes sense.  The brown sugar gelato accompaniment is not quite as good as the maple, but is hardly an afterthought as well.

I'm probably screwing up the name, and shame on me, because the Rice Pudding with Dulce de Leche concoction is my favorite of this group.  Another really well executed idea that is never going to jump off the menu at you based on the description but tasted carefully crafted and completely satisfying.  This dessert comes in a medium sized narrow cylinder and served chilled but not freezing, which is key because it ate as if it might not shine as bright served at either room temperature or very cold.  The swirl of dulce de leche, which can sometimes overpower the other taste profiles in dishes, danced so well throughout this glass, giving glimpses rather than bursts in every bite and truly set this dish over the top for me.

All of these follow a theme of not being the fussy desserts that you often see at upscale places these days, but finishing courses with some substance that stand up well in the cold months of late Fall through early Spring.  I've enjoyed these so much that I find myself eating dinner at some other very good restaurants around town and skipping dessert to come to Red Hen for one of the above and a glass of funky, esoteric wine at the bar.  I can't speak highly enough for how well this place continues to do, at multiple levels, in a neighborhood that is really benefitting from having them open.

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Let me preface by saying that's it's SO refreshing to dine at a restaurant that not only is devoid of small plates, but is actually affordable to boot AND serves up some great fare. Now that we have a little one, our days of going to special occasion places like Minibar or Restaurant Eve are numbered, but we could not have picked a better venue to celebrate my wife's birthday than at Red Hen.

First of all, the atmosphere is great. Very unpretentious with a nice, open layout. The grilled octopus could not have been better, while the autumn squash soup warmed us right up.

The Creste de Gallo was excellent - loved the braised duck and wild mushrooms. Having been to Casa Luca just a few weeks prior, this dish was just as good if not better, while also being a slightly larger portion AND less expensive. So basically you're getting an entree-sized portion of pasta for $17. That, my friends, is very reasonable.

Just as good was the chicken. I agree with darkstar965's comparison of Palena's bird. It's right up there with Ruta's preparation.

I really, really liked the Brussels sprouts. They had just the right amount of crispness, but it was the yogurt sauce that made it stand out.

Service was definitely slow at times - it seemed like they had a limited number of waitstaff, but nothing that warrants criticism. Anyway, I wish this place was closer as I would definitely dine here a lot given the great food and affordable pricing. You can read more over on our blog:

A Birthday Dinner at The Red Hen

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Any idea what the wait times will be like on a Friday night? There are no rez left at this point, just wondering if there is a time at which we could arrive and count on not having an unreasonable wait time. 30 min or less would be really nice, but I can handle 45 minutes, maybe even a few more.

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We've been twice although not in the last month or so but I don't think the waits were longer than an hour at most on Saturday night.  There are also quite a few bar seats that you can have dinner at.  Red Hen is excellent and deserves more attention on here.

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Or this. :)

I will be going to the Red Hen tomorrow night. My plan is to Uber over,  with a fat knot of $100's, a t-shirt that boldly states "Do You Know Who I AM?", and my DonRockwell.com Dining Card.

I have no doubt the combination of these four things will move me to the front of the line, and I am sure Mr. Friedman and Mr. Zutant will be overjoyed, if not outright exuberant, to have me.

The rest of you can dine at 9.

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Hey guys. Just a word of advice. Drop in early, put your name on the list then either graob a drink at our bar our please support our local pub Boundary Stone, their beer and whisky list is awesome. Also some fun beer across the street at Rustik. We will shoot you a text when your table is ready. Cheers, sebastian

Grab "a" beer??? I should have known what JoeH was saying was too good to be true. We arrived before 7 and the quoted wait time was 2-2 1/2 hrs. We opted to try to grab dinner at the bar, which was a total clusterfuck as we watched people who came after us hone in on and take seats before us. After an hour and no sign of eating anytime soon we left and went to Acadiana. I said this to them and I will reiterate it here, bar seating should have a waitlist just as the tables do, at least on weekends when it is so packed that everyone at the bar is eating a meal and there are crowds of people hovering in hopes of grabbing seats. That might also improve the service people receive when ordering drinks.

I did like the interior, the food that was coming out looked delicious and we each enjoyed the glasses of wine we ordered off of the small, but unique wine list. I just won't be going back unless I can secure a reservation first.

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Grab "a" beer??? I should have known what JoeH was saying was too good to be true. We arrived before 7 and the quoted wait time was 2-2 1/2 hrs. We opted to try to grab dinner at the bar, which was a total clusterfuck as we watched people who came after us hone in on and take seats before us. After an hour and no sign of eating anytime soon we left and went to Acadiana. I said this to them and I will reiterate it here, bar seating should have a waitlist just as the tables do, at least on weekends when it is so packed that everyone at the bar is eating a meal and there are crowds of people hovering in hopes of grabbing seats. That might also improve the service people receive when ordering drinks.

Was this tonight?

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I'll try and post a more *substantive* review in a bit when I have more time, but our dinner here last night was one of the more enjoyable dinners I have had in the last few years. Unpretentious, generous, flawlessly executed - just really, really strong.

*Having had meals at several of the "why dont they take reservations?" neighborhood hotspots, I found The Red Hen to be superior in every sense.

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Grab "a" beer??? I should have known what JoeH was saying was too good to be true. We arrived before 7 and the quoted wait time was 2-2 1/2 hrs. We opted to try to grab dinner at the bar, which was a total clusterfuck as we watched people who came after us hone in on and take seats before us. After an hour and no sign of eating anytime soon we left and went to Acadiana. I said this to them and I will reiterate it here, bar seating should have a waitlist just as the tables do, at least on weekends when it is so packed that everyone at the bar is eating a meal and there are crowds of people hovering in hopes of grabbing seats. That might also improve the service people receive when ordering drinks.

Pretty much the typical scenario when getting a bar seat at any tapas place in Spain.

I think the only local place that manages the bar seats is CityZen, or at least they used to do this.

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Grab "a" beer??? I should have known what JoeH was saying was too good to be true. We arrived before 7 and the quoted wait time was 2-2 1/2 hrs. We opted to try to grab dinner at the bar, which was a total clusterfuck as we watched people who came after us hone in on and take seats before us. After an hour and no sign of eating anytime soon we left and went to Acadiana. I said this to them and I will reiterate it here, bar seating should have a waitlist just as the tables do, at least on weekends when it is so packed that everyone at the bar is eating a meal and there are crowds of people hovering in hopes of grabbing seats. That might also improve the service people receive when ordering drinks.

I did like the interior, the food that was coming out looked delicious and we each enjoyed the glasses of wine we ordered off of the small, but unique wine list. I just won't be going back unless I can secure a reservation first.

I would hate to see the bar seats of any restaurant limited by a wait list.  While it can be frustrating to scope out where to wait, most times if you catch the attention of the bartender, and let them know you'd love to sit and eat when a space opens up, they will alert you to who may is leaving soon, and even warn off others who arrived after you.  This was our experience at Red Hen a while back.

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Our last dinner on our "return to DC" adventure was at Red Hen, on a day when I wasn't really feeling well and wasn't super hungry. But I really wanted to go, having snagged a 6:15 reservation to guarantee a seat with no wait. It's an easy walk from the Shaw metro. It mkes me sad, because when we were here regularly, we lived on the green line and all the things in happening Shaw and thereabouts would have been convenient to us.

We loved the vibe of the room which seemed to have a soft glow about it. The little touches that elevate the experience are all there...the bread service with a delicious tapenade, replacing flatware after each course, bottles of water on the table, large cloth napkins...and the food lived up to the hype. We had the beet salad, the crispy artichokes, the rockfish and the rabbit pasta. Everything was pretty much great, but the anchovy aioli under the artichokes was superb. That aioli could make a dishrag palatable! There was SO much on the menu that tempted us, and this is the kind of food I would enjoy and crave on a regular basis. It was a soothing evening for two tired and kind of sickly souls. Lucky, lucky neighbors who can visit Red hen regularly.

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