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America Eats Tavern, Moved to Wisconsin and M Street - by ThinkFoodGroup - Closed


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On 5/16/2011 at 3:10 PM, Tujague said:

Cafe Atlantico is disappearing, at least temporarily, for this, then the long-promised Minibar expansion will happen.


I think I'm going to like the concept. An accomplished foreign chef, like Jose Andres (or Jacques Pepin) comes to America and falls in love with our regional ingredients and traditions, and then gives them center stage with a slight uplifting from his culinary heritage. I'm going to like this a lot....
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The other day I asked a friend of mine why people take an immediate dislike to me. "Well, Chuck," she said, "it saves time."

Fair enough.

Because that's exactly how I feel about America Eats Tavern. And, in this case, taking an immediate dislike saves money, as well.

Take this with a grain of salt because we just did three dishes and some wine, but there is much to dislike.

Take the decor. I like the hanging windows dangling down the locus of the staircase. But slapping reproductions of famous phrases ("we the people") on random surfaces give the place the feel of the souvenir stand you hit just before the tour bus picks you up.

Or the wine list. The concept of an American tavern suggests to me a certain egalitarianism. And yet, the wine list offers far more bottles over $100 than under $40. More over $300 than under $30.

There may have been some serious food research done but it doesn't show up on the tavern menu, which looks like an agglomeration of the neo-traditionalist food trends that have already trickled down to food trucks (lobster rolls), Cosi (Cobb Salad), bullet-proof glass joints in bad neighborhoods (wings) and your kitchen (peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese).

We had the grilled butter oysters, which had all the disadvantages of warm oysters and none of the advantages of grilling, such as smoke, butter or -- just a thought -- garlic. I kind of liked the hush-puppies, but my wife, who is from LA (Lower Alabama) pointed out that they were more fluff than flavor. The wings were an expensive joke. First, if you're going to reference the Anchor Bar but serve some kind of neo-not hot-soy sauce wings, there should be a warning. Second, $14 for four little winglets, boned out and topped with a smallish dollop of blue cheese and diced celery, is ludicrous. And, now that I think of it, $10 for six tasteless corn balls was a little much, as well.

I am willing to be persuaded otherwise, but the whole thing felt less like a tribute to the fine tradition of American cooking, but a tribute to that other fine American tradition: Separating tourists from their money.

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I had a satisfying meal at America Eats on Friday with the wife. I thought the food was rather good, but the prices seemed high for the small portions. For appetizers I had the peanut soup and the wife had the butter oysters mentioned above. Our oysters were rather delicious - smoky, buttery, warm. It worked well. The peanut soup was very good as well - if you like peanut butter.

For mains I had the short ribs with cole slaw and my wife ordered the baby corn and the "fried chicken" appetizers. The short rib was good - it was tender, had a nice smokiness and came with a nice spicy sauce. The cole slaw served served with it was excellent - vinegary, crisp cabbage - it was very good. My wife enjoyed her corn, but the portion was tiny for $12- 5 little baby corns, grilled. (But they were "from the best farming co-op near the nation's capital" according to the menu, so I guess that explains the miniscule portion of the highly prized veges). The fried chicken was good, but unexpected. It was thigh meat (we think) compressed into nuggets and fried. The chicken was very juicy and the breading was very good and crisp - so it was enjoyable, but certainly not traditional. We also had some of their early American cocktails which were tasty. For dessert my wife had the pineapple upside down cake which was good and I had the strawberry shortcake which was fine but unremarkable. I had wanted to get the cheese plate, but at $21 for a couple reasonably garden variety cheeses, I couldn't get myself to order it.

Service was friendly and efficient. The restaurant was packed. Overall, I won't be running back but it was good and something different than the norm.

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Congratulations to Matthew Petersen of CityZen and Sou'Wester who will be a contestant during the upcoming season of Just Desserts.

Thank you Don! Hey next time you're in Sou'Wester ask for me!

I am looking forward to the upcoming season and all of the fun that will come with it!

Season two will air on Bravo at 10pmEST on August 24.

And as long as I'm at it, congratulations to Joe Raffa, who has been promoted to Culinary Operations Director of ThinkFoodGroup.

You've come a long way, robojoe. :mellow:

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After reading mixed reviews of this place, and the departure of the chef, I was a bit uneasy about taking Bob to America Eats for his birthday last night. But the menu and its historical descriptions appealed to him, and we were fortunately rewarded, belying most of my misgivings. The space is at best evolutionary from Cafe Atlantico days, mostly matters of paint and decorations (those hanging windows mentioned earlier). It's not unpleasant, but still has the feel of a design rush job.

That perhaps describes much of the food, too, though we enjoyed everything we ate. Bob opened with a Waldorf salad, which surprised him by being more like an ordinary dressed salad strewn with walnuts and green apple balls. It was tasty, but not what he expected. My vermicelli pudding was perhaps the star of the evening--a thick oval of intense cheesiness (parmesan and chevre), moist yet firm, surrounded by tiny sauteed mushrooms. This is a must-order dish, and lighter than you might expect. We also shared a plate of shrimp remoulade with fried green tomatoes; this also differed from the usual preparation in that the tomatoes were in chunks than in slices, and the remoulade was not slathered on everything (though it had a nice spiciness to it.)

For entrees, Bob opted for the mutton with oysters and potatoes, which is offered only on weekends. This must be one of their signature dishes; I can't recall seeing mutton on any menu in town. A deliciously tender cylinder of meat was surrounded by cornmeal-fried oysters and cubes of fried potatoes, and accompanied with (I think) an oyster catsup. If you go on Saturday and Sunday, do order this. My Eisenhower stew was pleasant--a composed plate of stewed culotte steak and baby vegetables. Again, very tender meat that was reminiscent of childhood meals, but rethought. It's only problem was a sauce/gravy that was a bit too salty.

For dessert, Bob went for pineapple upside down cake, which again took me back to my mom's kitchen, even in its more deconstructed form. And I went for the New York cheesecake, which is really more like a cheesecake-flavored mousse--very light, very tasty, with a nice raspberry couli. We shared a bottle of Coeur de Terre pinot noir, preceded by a few classic cocktalis (a Last Call and a Bourbon Rickey). Our server was pleasant, but answered every remark with "Thank you!" But she at least was not as verbose as some of the other servers I witnessed.

So, if the food was satisfying, what's not like to like? Well, for one, the pricing. There was hardly a dish that shouldn't have been priced 10 to 20% below what it was--not so much because of portion size, which was mostly reasonable, but because of refinement. These were near-luxury food prices for what was mostly upscale tavern food. Everything was done with technical finesse, but not much refinement. (That seems to describe much of what Andres does, in my mind.) The flavor is there, the technique is fine, yet you're always aware that most of this is gussied-up comfort food, which makes the prices hard to take. For instance, that remoulade appetizer--four medium-sized shrimp and five small tomato chunks was $14! Most of the cocktails run $12-14, and some are not particularly large. Desserts, at $10, are also above what comparable restaurants charge. It's also annoying that some of the more intriguing-sounding dishes are only available on one or two nights per week.

America Eats is an honorable experiment that deserves to be tried out, even at the high prices. I hope that after it ends its run, Andres finds a way to refine the concept and reopen it elsewhere, at a more reasonable price point. Right now, it feels like it's still a work in progress; it's temporary purpose is still a bit too much in evidence. But there is much I'd like to come back for nevertheless. It was a good birthday choice for Bob, but on return visits I'd probably only do some light grazing to keep the price down.

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Was here last week, and while the cocktails were absolutely fantastic. And the food was ok, it was not special, and it certainly was priced at special. I started with a few oysters which were really wonderful. I then had the grapefruit and shrimp salad, which had nice flavors, but just wasn't special. And expensive for what it was. I then had the lobster newburg which was a really small portion, although it was very good. The pineapple upside down cake was not as good as a normal one.

They said the portions were made so that you could have multiple courses, and I had three with a couple oysters, and I thought it was way overpriced. But I did love the cocktails.

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It's hard to overstate how underwhelmed I was with this place. Severely overpriced for what you get (as previously stated by many others.) Food offerings simply not very exciting or (frankly) good. The biggest beef I have with the place is innovation in the place of quality. This place is supposed to be a sort of "museum of American food"? Then why are you serving Buffalo Wings without the traditional sauce? Why does the She Crab Soup in no way resemble ANY version I have ever had during numerous visits to Charleston?

This place should have been focused on making the best version of <fill-in-the-blank> but instead just serves as another excuse for Jose Andres to get his pretentious self all over everything. Epic fail.

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It's hard to overstate how underwhelmed I was with this place. Severely overpriced for what you get (as previously stated by many others.) Food offerings simply not very exciting or (frankly) good. The biggest beef I have with the place is innovation in the place of quality. This place is supposed to be a sort of "museum of American food"? Then why are you serving Buffalo Wings without the traditional sauce? Why does the She Crab Soup in no way resemble ANY version I have ever had during numerous visits to Charleston?

This place should have been focused on making the best version of <fill-in-the-blank> but instead just serves as another excuse for Jose Andres to get his pretentious self all over everything. Epic fail.

I too was disappointed in what it was v. what it could have been. For the vast amounts of research he did for his talk, I feel the food just didn't do it for me. If you are going to reinvent something it should taste better than the original version.

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I too was disappointed in what it was v. what it could have been. For the vast amounts of research he did for his talk, I feel the food just didn't do it for me. If you are going to reinvent something it should taste better than the original version.

It seems like the concept does the food a disservice and vice versa by setting up expectations and comparisons leading to inevitable disappointments. Bob's "Waldorf salad" was respectable enough, but billing it as a "classic" dish left him wanting the original. Would he have liked it better if it had been called something like "apple-walnut salad"? In that case, he might have better enjoyed it on its terms and said it was "reminiscent" of Waldorf salad, without thinking it should actually be that. The best dishes here seem to be the ones that don't beg those sorts of comparisons, such as the vermicelli pudding or the mutton.

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As much as we might not want to recognize the problem, Jose Andres has become a "Brand Name." It began when Jaleo multiplied -- neither the Crystal City nor Bethesda locations were ever ujp to the original. Even very simple dishes such as the apple and anchego salad were prepared more coarsely at the satellites. Atlantico started going downhill when Minibar was a year into its run.

Jaleo in Vegas is considerably more upscale, but I found the food imitative of the original Jaleo menu. OTOH, his China Poblano in Aria is delicious and fascinating, particularly if you sit at the counter and watch the ethnic artisans at work assembling your meal's component dishes. I've eaten there three times this year, and all three have been great. But given his track record, I'd recommend getting there in the next year, before things start suffering from a lack of expert attention.

LA I don't get to, so haven't tried it. From reviews, I have no interest whatsoever in America Eats, just as I've never cared for Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria.

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LA I don't get to, so haven't tried it. From reviews, I have no interest whatsoever in America Eats, just as I've never cared for Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria.

Very different price points. I'd hate to be let down paying $$. Gadsby's is good for soup and a sandwich and it's uniquely Virginian. Good review in the Post, but I trust the reviews here a bit more, so I think I'll pass.

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I too was not impressed. I had hoped that Andres would add some twist to make classic new and interesting, but instead he seemed to go for authentic, which turned out to mean bland. I left thinking, "thank goodness for immigration."

As for 2 1/2 stars - I think sometimes they are assigned like headlines meaning not by the same person who wrote the review because they don't always seem to match. Sometimes I block out the starts, read the review and then ask myself, "is there any possible way Tom could not give this place 2 1/2?" It adds some excitement to the process.

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Yep, I took two of my staff there for lunch in August. They were scared to order when they saw the pricepoints and looked around at what people were getting. Someone said the serving sizes were OK. I'd say they were tiny. I suppose maybe I just like American food in volume and at least some foreign foods in more genteel portions. I agree with description of upscale tavern food - very well prepared, true to Atlantico heritage, but Expensive for what you get. Bring back my Atlantico please.

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I had a party of eight there last week. Underwhelmed all the way around. From spotty service (how could the raw oysters take the longest to prepare and be the late appetizer?) to middling food (the upside-down pot pie had a thick, doughy, tough crust and very little chicken) to a high price point it was not a great evening. I love what Andres does 90% of the time, this one just somehow misses the mark. Maybe the pop up concept really does not work when it lasts as long as this place has overall. I would love Atlantico back.

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Here is a small tip that I have not seen much reported. From 4-6 in the evening at the bar, they have $1 oysters on the half shell. I have been in several times for this, gorging myself on these succulent little bivalves. And where ever they get them from, they are very good quality oysters, highly recommended.

After doing the happy hour thing a dining companion and I went upstairs and had a tasting menu and several glasses of recommended vino. It was really a top-shelf dinner, made complete by the lovely chef coming out to kiss a little wanna-be foodie customer ass and press the flesh after I made a point of complimenting the "buffalo wings" that she sent out as a part of the menu. Man, those things are awesome. "Buffalo wings" they ain't, but tasty, oh yeah.

The dinner menu is at a higher price point, so be aware. But for the thrifty minded, just hang out at the bar and have a couple dozen oysters for a double sawbuck and change.

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America Eats Tavern will be closing on July 4th.

Last call! Get in and let Chef Karen cook for you before my favorite restaurant closes down. The "buffalo wings" (I say it in quotes because they aren't really buffalo wings that one consumes at a sports bar) themselves are worth the trip. And the $1 oysters at happy hour are a deal that can't be beat.

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Had lunch today at America Eats Tavern at the Ritz Carlton at Tysons. Not bad, not great, and let's get this out of the way up front -- too expensive. A friend and I had two appetizers, two mains, and sparkling water, and total with tax and tip was $77. Ouch!

And WTF is the rear wall display of bicycle handlebars?

My appetizer was the Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken with Dumplings. I'll applaud the broth for its deep chicken flavor, but the dumplings were more like dim sum. And no self-respecting Amish or Mennonite cook would bring out a bowl with a few dumplings and some diced veggies, and then theatrically pour half a cup of broth around the bowl. I grew up in Lancaster County, so I would call this re-imagined Chicken and Dumplings with a dim sum recreation of the dumplings and a nouveau presentation, or some such foolishness.

My main was the Soft-Shell Crab Sandwich, which Maryland supposedly declared as its official state sandwich last year. This version wasn't bad, but it certainly dumped quite a bit of crab schmutz, tomato juices and remoulade onto my plate. It's certainly not a dish you ever want to order on an important business luncheon....or a first date....or a lot of other occasions unless you're eating alone at the bar.

I can't say that I get the menu at all....Chicken Pot Pie is presented as a main course, but it's the pie version inside a crust. Righteous Chicken Pot Pie a la Pennsylvania Dutch would easily supplant the Chicken and Dumplings on the front end of the menu and be a better offering, although neither one makes sense in these hot months. The sandwich menu consists of Maine Lobster Roll, Maryland Soft Shell Crab Sandwich and Coney Island Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog. Plus three Hamburgers. When I think of America Eats and Sandwiches, I think of the Philly Cheese Steak, the Baltimore Pit Beef, the New York Deli Tongue or Pastrami, the New Orleans Muffaletta and a world-class Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup.

I can't really seem to draw a bead through the menu from start to finish that gives me a sensible theme. And the bill to be paid for not much rhyme or reason is too high.

Tysons Corner continues to struggle with a fine dining identity and this space in the Ritz-Carlton continues to struggle with a restaurant that people actually want to go to, more than once.

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I wish Jose Andres and Marriott the absolute best of luck with their new restaurant.  But, I fear that this may be another celebrity chef restaurant where the celebrity chef never steps foot in the kitchen.

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Wine list: all-domestic, concise but great selections (a good mix of classic and esoteric), with a full 3x mark-up across the board

Food: salmon was cooked perfectly. Surprisingly dainty portions for a restaurant called America Eats, and excessively expensive. Many dishes appeared unimaginative or otherwise unexciting, including all the desserts

Service: bumbling, but it's unfair to judge at this stage

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Had dinner here last night. Cocktails were great, apps were great, everyone at my table enjoyed everything from cocktails to dessert.  Prices were pretty reasonable in comparison to the chain places (GAR, Mon Ami Gabi, Clyde's Group).  A little lower or the same.

Food was cooked perfectly.  The mutton and oysters featured the best fried oysters I've ever had in my whole life, and I love them.  My husband had the fried chicken (they give you half a chicken, basically, and he couldn't finish) and our friends had the chicken pot pie (which we joked was deconstructed before it came... and they deconstruct it in front of you) and the scallops.

The service has not improved.  Our server was actually quite attentive, but it was the touches like water glasses being left empty long enough for me to consider switching with my husband.  Also, the food runner brought the wrong orders to us, and then cleared our bread and appetizer plates.  There was some confusion because one of the meals was correct.  By the time he left, our bread and app plates were gone.  Then the rest of the apps came out and we had to ask the next runner for plates.

There was a bizarre need to clear all the things from the table, which left us in a couple of weird positions.  First, there was the last minute debate over who would have the last oyster.  Then the bread basket was whisked away, half full, after we asked for it to stay.

Appetizers: grilled oysters, oysters Rockefeller, and bread basket.  What I had of the bread basket was somewhat disappointing.  The oysters were fabulous.

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America Eats continues to baffle and befuddle. What could be a great concept is not being executed well.

I returned to the Chicken with Dumplings to see if there would be an upgrade over previous versions I've had here, and also because today was a frigid day that called for Chicken with Dumplings. While I can applaud the kitchen for the perfect dice on the carrots and celery, and the dumplings themselves were as tasty as ever, the broth was ... warm. On a day that called for piping hot, the broth was heated below where it needed to be.

Also in keeping with the weather, I ordered the Vermicelli Mac n'Cheese Prepared Like Pudding. It was a gloppy mess, also below the desired temperature for a day like this.

As to the concept, I still don't get it. WIth the temperature in the mid-20s, where is the decidedly American Eats of a righteous grilled cheese sandwich with a side of tomato soup (at the right temperature)? Or a clam chowder? Or a rib-sticking stew?

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America Eats continues to baffle and befuddle. What could be a great concept is not being executed well.

I returned to the Chicken with Dumplings to see if there would be an upgrade over previous versions I've had here, and also because today was a frigid day that called for Chicken with Dumplings. While I can applaud the kitchen for the perfect dice on the carrots and celery, and the dumplings themselves were as tasty as ever, the broth was ... warm. On a day that called for piping hot, the broth was heated below where it needed to be.

Also in keeping with the weather, I ordered the Vermicelli Mac n'Cheese Prepared Like Pudding. It was a gloppy mess, also below the desired temperature for a day like this.

As to the concept, I still don't get it. WIth the temperature in the mid-20s, where is the decidedly American Eats of a righteous grilled cheese sandwich with a side of tomato soup (at the right temperature)? Or a clam chowder? Or a rib-sticking stew?

I understand the sentiment, but I've always understood that restaurants try and serve food at a temperature that is perfect for eating immedietly. If I ever wanted something served "piping hot", I'd make a special request when I ordered.

Certainly agree with you about the menu in general though.

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I understand the sentiment, but I've always understood that restaurants try and serve food at a temperature that is perfect for eating immedietly. If I ever wanted something served "piping hot", I'd make a special request when I ordered.

Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese restaurants send their soups out piping hot, thankfully. My unstated concern is that America Eats under-nukes a number of their dishes....

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Lunch today at America Eats was so-so. I can safely assert that my Crab Louie salad was delicious, but only a few bites for $19...? Companion had the oyster po' boy, and enjoyed it well enough.

I go here for convenience, but I can't overcome the feeling that it could be so much better if it tried.....

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52 minutes ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

Lunch today at America Eats was so-so. I can safely assert that my Crab Louie salad was delicious, but only a few bites for $19...? Companion had the oyster po' boy, and enjoyed it well enough.

I go here for convenience, but I can't overcome the feeling that it could be so much better if it tried.....

This was basically my experience a month or so ago when circumstances left us out there without a car for two hours. It was fine, and probably the best dining option at that mall, but at the prices charged I wouldn't go out of my way to eat here again. 

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10 hours ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

Lunch today at America Eats was so-so. I can safely assert that my Crab Louie salad was delicious, but only a few bites for $19...? Companion had the oyster po' boy, and enjoyed it well enough.

I go here for convenience, but I can't overcome the feeling that it could be so much better if it tried.....

There's one key word in this review. Do you know which one? (Mouse-over the line below for the answer.)

The penultimate one.

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On 9/16/2018 at 11:27 AM, MarkS said:

Had a splendid dinner here last night.  Anything smoked including the beef ribs were superb.  grapefruit and shrimp salad was tasty and original.  Jose’s Andres did well.

Had a surprisingly good Restaurant Week lunch there as well a few weeks back. 

Started with the hush puppies, which were as good as I've eaten, had the pulled pork, which could have had a nicer bark, but was nicely smokey and juicy, and a solid piece of chocolate cake for dessert. 

I'd go back for a real meal. 

 

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