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C. F. Folks, 19th and N Streets NW - Art Carlson and Peggy Fredricksen's 2013 James Beard "America's Classics" Award Winning Lunchbox - Closed


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Had a nice softshell over corn risotto at CF Folks for lunch today. Not a bad deal for $11.50.

Had the same from CF Folks today, but to be honest I wished they had served up the sandwich from last year. While the crab was excellent the risotto and salad didn't do much for me. The sandwich with remoulade was freaking fantastic.
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Had the same from CF Folks today, but to be honest I wished they had served up the sandwich from last year.  While the crab was excellent the risotto and salad didn't do much for me.  The sandwich with remoulade was freaking fantastic.

I agree the crab was quite tasty and the risotto was a little bland.

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I agree the crab was quite tasty and the risotto was a little bland.

I found that a quick grind of the sea salt (the grinder is right there on the counter) did wonders for the risotto (the crab too, actually). A really good crab. And the little grains of salt on the risotto just add that nice zing both the the flavor and the texture.

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It was Middle-Eastern day at C. F. Folks, and I ordered my lunch from the counter. When the gentleman asked me what I'd like, I ordered a bowl of vegetable soup and the Greek Lemon Chicken ($9.95).

He looked me dead in the eye, raised his index finger to me, and said slowly and scoldingly:

"Too much."

I gulped.

"Get a cup not a bowl," he said.

A downsell!

The soup ($2.95 for a CUP) was good in a way that my mom's is good: It tasted homemade, and was. The chicken was a tiny, deboned (not boneless), skinless half, flattened and roasted with oregano, lemon and garlic, served with its juices over rice, with a medium-sized green salad and piece of grilled pita bread. Like the soup, it was homey, good, and light on the salt.

It would be a stretch to say that C. F. Folks is one of the The! Greatest! Restaurants! in Washington, DC, but I'll say this much: It would be a sad day if it ever closed its doors.

On the way out, the gentleman who took my order, tended the register.

"You had a cup of soup, and what else?"

"The chicken."

He took my money, handed me my change, and said, "Come back and see us again, son."

With pleasure, sir.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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He looked me dead in the eye, raised his index finger to me, and said slowly and scoldingly:

"Too much."

I gulped.

"Get a cup not a bowl," he said.

A downsell!

I had a slightly similar experience the other day. We sat in the tented area (reasonably warm, even though it was 30 degrees outside). When I went inside to pay and mentioned that I had a bowl of the soup, the gentleman at the counter asked: "Are you sure it wasn't a cup?"

The soup of the day was tomato-crab, which actually didn't have much liquid because it contained so much crab and vegetables. There was also a decent amount of spice that worked well.

I had the hot pastrami sandwich (#1), about as tasty as I've eaten in the DC area though admittedly I haven't been to Deli City yet. My only quibble is that the meat could've been a tiny bit fattier.

My last time here had been in 2002, and I definitely won't wait another 6 years to return.

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Grilled Swordfish Nií§oise Salad $13.25
Berry Torta with ginger-crema $3.95

My office is moving to Chinatown so I'm running down the list of favorites that I won't be able to easily get to from the new location. This lunch today at CF Folks left me ambivalent. I was delighted to see the swordfish on the menu, but the grilling left the meat a bit flabby (although tasty). The dressing was a very good mustard-based vinegarette, but the random bits of potato and the half of a hard-boiled egg just seemed out of place. Also, terrible bread. The greens and surprise asparagus were quite good, and the torta was pretty tasty (blueberries, strawberries) but served in a pastry shell that was too hard to be easily cut with plastic knife/fork. I ended up eating it the torta my hands (civilized!).

I will still remember CF Folks fondly, but today they weren't exactly firing on all cylinders. The conversation with the guys behind the counter was good as ever, though smile.gif

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I'm not sure what makes Thursday "American Day" CF Folks -- the meat loaf and crab cake was clearly outnumbered by the Vol a Vent, the Blanquette du Veau and the Pasta con Suga Tona Rosso. Indian & Indian Wednesdays must be a blast.

But what a great American diner-meets-French cafe spot for real food. And the gentleman at the register seemed pleased as punch that I was as pleased with the perch as I was. Sauteed, on a bed of chard with lemon and capers. Just the right size for lunch.

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I'm not sure what makes Thursday "American Day" CF Folks -- the meat loaf and crab cake was clearly outnumbered by the Vol a Vent, the Blanquette du Veau and the Pasta con Suga Tona Rosso. Indian & Indian Wednesdays must be a blast.

But what a great American diner-meets-French cafe spot for real food. And the gentleman at the register seemed pleased as punch that I was as pleased with the perch as I was. Sauteed, on a bed of chard with lemon and capers. Just the right size for lunch.

That's no gentleman that's "resident crank" (as described by TS in WaPo) Art Carlson! If he seems pleased with anything he must be getting soft in his old age. :(
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After Bob and I fattened my IRA at Fidelity this morning, I decided to do the same for my belly at CF Folks, since I'd never been before, and it was early enough to beat the lunch rush. I opted for the Pastrami Reuben, and it was perhaps the best such sandwich I've had: the flavorful pastrami was shaved paper thin, and the swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing applied with a sparing hand (but not too much so). The result was a sandwich that let the meat do most of the talking, and what might honestly be called a "light" version of a Reuben--it left me satisfied but nowhere near overstuffed. Just right. Likewise Bob's chicken salad, of which I got just a nibble, wasn't overwhelmed by mayo and other ingredients so that the really flavorful chicken dominated as it should. I'm happy to make their acquaintance, though I'm not in the neighborhood often enough to make it a regular lunch spot.

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My boss goes here a fair bit, but I'd only ever come once a year or so ago. Our office (all 4 of us) went out to lunch together yesterday and I think we all enjoyed our meal here. It got a little cool sitting on the patio with the clouds and breeze, but was still pretty pleasant. Our waitress was a bit harried and scatterbrained, but she was nice. She did try to rush us out a bit at the end, but it's understandable with a small place when people may be waiting.

The most interesting thing about C.F. Folks is the variety between the different daily specials. I venture you won't find many places that serve deli sandwiches daily, yet swing from Cajun to Latin American to Italian to Indian to Mediterranean throughout the week. We were there on Wednesday, which was Indian/Italian.

My boss started with a cup of the soup of the day (Barley-Lentil-Chicken Soup with Parmesean - $3.75), which I didn't taste, but it smelled good (and came out within probably 2 minutes of ordering, along with our drinks).

Two at the table had the Rainbow Trout (Potato wrapped, on asparagus, tomato sauce with bacon and salad - $13.95), which they seemed to like, but which they both said was different than what they expected from the menu description. My other co-worker and I had the Moghul Chicken Korma (chicken prepared with garam masala, coconut milk and mango chutney, with basmati rice pilaf, pineapple salsa, saag and naan - $12.95). There was a lot going on with this, but it was all delicious. I don't think I have ever ordered Indian at a non-Indian restaurant before, but I would certainly try it again at C.F. Folks. The korma, chutney, rice, and salsa were all in one dish and everything married well together from the spice of the chicken to the sweet of the pineapple and the savory rice. The saag and naan were on a separate plate, but I ended up mixing some of both with the rest. The naan was surprisingly really good - very soft and flavorful.

For dessert we split a couple orders of the Apple Cobbler ($3.95 a la mode), but I wasn't a huge fan. It was more like a spice cake with a few apple bits underneath and not at all what I was expecting. It was ok, but I would not order it again.

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They won along with Johnny Monis

Just a quick shout out for one of my favorite places, that won in the "America's Classics" category along with Art Carlson's C.F. Folks. Prince's Hot Chicken Shack of Nashville. Best fried chicken anywhere. And even more of a hole-in-the-wall than CFF, actually the quintessential hole-in-the-wall; makes CFF look like the Ritz.

Also a winner in that category was Keenes Steakhouse in NYC, a good place. Janet and I had a very agreeable lunch there January last year while in town to attend Peter Chang's James Beard House dinner. Not a hole-in-the-wall, though we looked as if we were dressed for one having just come off a walk on the High Line, but they treated us very well.

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I went for a very early lunch today (I wanted to read outside before coming back to a bear of a meeting this afternoon).  I have never been to CF Folks before, but I think that I may be the only one that can say that in the surrounding area, when I left around 12:30 PM it was pretty packed.

I had the leg of lamb special ($14.95).  The potatoes (red, smashed, crispy on the outside) were very good.  I thought that the lamb itself was simply OK, just a few slices of typical lamb with typical gravy.  The greens were nicely dressed, but there was way too much bitter frisee in the mix on my plate.  The piece of bread, with corresponding frozen pat of prepackaged butter, was a throw away.

Still hungry, I got the bourbon and pecan bread pudding for dessert ($3.95 + $1.50 for a la mode).  It was too dry for my taste, but the flavors were good.  I do, however, take umbrage with the size of the dessert as it only took five bites for me to eat it.  I don't need, or even want, a huge dessert for lunch, but this cost much more than it was worth.

Overall, I see why this place has a following (the sandwich prices are quite low), but I didn't see the value or quality for me to go running back soon.  I will give it another chance and try one of their sandwiches, it just moved down my personal list of places to go to for lunch.

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Pelecanos was born in the District in 1957, the second-generation American son of Pete and Ruby. His family moved to Silver Spring shortly after his birth, and Pelecanos lives there today with his wife and three children. In addition to defining D.C.'s literary noir canon, he wrote for and helped produce HBO's superlative crime epic The Wire, personally penning the balcony scene between Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale ("Just dream with me," one crime lord says to another with all of Baltimore before them). Teaming up with David Simon of The Wire, Pelecanos also co-wrote and produced Treme, a New Orleans drama, and has a Times Square"“set show called The Deuce in pilot production......

The book takes place during the summer Pelecanos started working at his father Pete's lunch counter, The Jefferson Coffee Shop, at 19th Street and Jefferson Place NW. "My mother and father said, "˜You're 11, it's time to go to work,'" Pelecanos says. "My job was to deliver food on foot to offices........

Nick Kendros, his mother's biological father, owned the Woodward Grille at H and 15th streets NW; today, it's Woodward Table, an upscale American eatery owned by Jeff Buben (of Vidalia and Bistro Bis fame), where the server gushes over Pelecanos: "He's, like, my favorite author. I grew up in Takoma Park......."

But it's the Jefferson Coffee Shop that shows up most often in Pelecanos' work. There, he gleaned the motifs that glue together his fictional kitchens: the bar with vinyl seating; the open kitchen; the friendly arguments between owner and chef. The lunch counter becomes a microcosm of the community and vitality that energizes Pelecanos' blue-collar D.C., and a metaphor for the forces that divide it. Pay attention to who sits on which side of the counter. At the Jefferson, it was obvious enough to 11-year-old Pelecanos: "It wasn't lost on me that, on one side of the counter, blacks and Greeks were serving white professionals who were seated on the other side."

Today, that counter is owned by Art Carlson, and the place is called CF Folks. "

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http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/stories/2004/04/12/smallb1.html

Pelecanos was born in the District in 1957, the second-generation American son of Pete and Ruby. His family moved to Silver Spring shortly after his birth, and Pelecanos lives there today with his wife and three children. In addition to defining D.C.'s literary noir canon, he wrote for and helped produce HBO's superlative crime epic The Wire, personally penning the balcony scene between Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale ("Just dream with me," one crime lord says to another with all of Baltimore before them). Teaming up with David Simon of The Wire, Pelecanos also co-wrote and produced Treme, a New Orleans drama, and has a Times Square"“set show called The Deuce in pilot production......

The book takes place during the summer Pelecanos started working at his father Pete's lunch counter, The Jefferson Coffee Shop, at 19th Street and Jefferson Place NW. "My mother and father said, "˜You're 11, it's time to go to work,'" Pelecanos says. "My job was to deliver food on foot to offices........

Nick Kendros, his mother's biological father, owned the Woodward Grille at H and 15th streets NW; today, it's Woodward Table, an upscale American eatery owned by Jeff Buben (of Vidalia and Bistro Bis fame), where the server gushes over Pelecanos: "He's, like, my favorite author. I grew up in Takoma Park......."

But it's the Jefferson Coffee Shop that shows up most often in Pelecanos' work. There, he gleaned the motifs that glue together his fictional kitchens: the bar with vinyl seating; the open kitchen; the friendly arguments between owner and chef. The lunch counter becomes a microcosm of the community and vitality that energizes Pelecanos' blue-collar D.C., and a metaphor for the forces that divide it. Pay attention to who sits on which side of the counter. At the Jefferson, it was obvious enough to 11-year-old Pelecanos: "It wasn't lost on me that, on one side of the counter, blacks and Greeks were serving white professionals who were seated on the other side."

Today, that counter is owned by Art Carlson, and the place is called CF Folks. "

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2 hours ago, Pat said:

That thing with the restrooms is kind of bizarre. The landlord must have known that would drive them out.

Well said.  If a landlord wants to get rid of a tenant they will come up w/ some nuttiness to drive the tenant bonkers.  This appears to be one of those cases

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We don't have the landlord's side of the story here, but it's fairly clear to read between the lines:

This place opened in 1981, before passage of the ADA.  I haven't been in probably 15 years, but I recall it being a small awkward space at best.  If you tried to open it today, you couldn't.  It would be cost prohibitive, and probably logistically impossible, to install two complete ADA-compliant restrooms in this space.   That would take up about 100 of their 600 total square feet.  

So the main restroom access has presumably always been to the non-accessible restroom down the stairs, and people who couldn't access that were directed to a public restroom in the attached office building.  This worked fine when CF Folks was only open for lunch because the building was open, even though customers have been "self identifying" which restroom they need since the place opened (either that, or they've been telling disabled patrons that they don't have a restroom they can use, which is worse). 

Now CF Folks wants to open for dinner, when the office building is closed to the public.  So the landlord says, quite reasonably in my opinion, we can't just have random people walking around a closed office building after hours.  So they proposed to instead have the on-duty security guards accompany people that need to use the accessible restroom.  This actually sounds like the landlord trying to come up with a solution to an intractable problem, not a landlord trying to come up with a pretext to give these guys the boot.  

I would ask the owners of CF Folks:  given your space and facility constraints, what alternative did you propose for disabled restroom access for your restaurant that complies with the ADA and that would not involve patrons having to "self identify" if they need to use the disabled restroom?  

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1 hour ago, natsguy said:

We don't have the landlord's side of the story here, but it's fairly clear to read between the lines:

This place opened in 1981, before passage of the ADA.  I haven't been in probably 15 years, but I recall it being a small awkward space at best.  If you tried to open it today, you couldn't.  It would be cost prohibitive, and probably logistically impossible, to install two complete ADA-compliant restrooms in this space.   That would take up about 100 of their 600 total square feet.  

So the main restroom access has presumably always been to the non-accessible restroom down the stairs, and people who couldn't access that were directed to a public restroom in the attached office building.  This worked fine when CF Folks was only open for lunch because the building was open, even though customers have been "self identifying" which restroom they need since the place opened (either that, or they've been telling disabled patrons that they don't have a restroom they can use, which is worse). 

Now CF Folks wants to open for dinner, when the office building is closed to the public.  So the landlord says, quite reasonably in my opinion, we can't just have random people walking around a closed office building after hours.  So they proposed to instead have the on-duty security guards accompany people that need to use the accessible restroom.  This actually sounds like the landlord trying to come up with a solution to an intractable problem, not a landlord trying to come up with a pretext to give these guys the boot.  

I would ask the owners of CF Folks:  given your space and facility constraints, what alternative did you propose for disabled restroom access for your restaurant that complies with the ADA and that would not involve patrons having to "self identify" if they need to use the disabled restroom?  

I believe both of the referenced restrooms are in the attached office building.  And, fwiw, I (non-disabled) have always been directed to take the elevator up to the presumably accessible restroom.

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5 hours ago, natsguy said:

I would ask the owners of CF Folks:  given your space and facility constraints, what alternative did you propose for disabled restroom access for your restaurant that complies with the ADA and that would not involve patrons having to "self identify" if they need to use the disabled restroom?  

Arduous Journeys to the Restroom

Alberto's

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