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Circa, Generic American in Multiple Area Locations

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The Going Out Gurus have the latest scoop on the space that was formerly Wrap Works, appears to be a coffee shop type place in the likes of Tryst.

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/goingoutgur...circa.html#more

"Not unlike Tryst and Open City, the restaurant will be part coffee shop, part restaurant and part bar. Menu decisions are still being worked out, but Carlin tells us to expect "small- to medium-sized plates" with "international flair." The mastermind behind the restaurant's offerings is Munehiro Mori, a chef whose resume includes stints at Asia Nora and Wolfgang Puck's Chinois restaurant in Vegas. The owners hope to offer a wine list with 50 to 75 bottles and a full bar."

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I was amazed that WrapWorks lasted so long there.

No kidding.

It sounds a little all over the place, but will probably do OK in Dupont.

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Circa has opened. I haven't been personally, but I heard the space is cool including an awning that covers the patio on Q Street.

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I went to Circa for brunch on Sunday. The space feels a little sterile and constructed, more like Cosi than Tryst, but you can't beat that business model -- start serving coffee at 6 AM, full lunch, full dinner, then a full bar until 2...

Brunch-wise, the thing that impressed me most was the thoughtful selection of coffees offered in small or large french presses and the myriad teas. Though I did not try the tea, the sumatran coffee was dark and potent. I could happily post up there with a laptop and a large french press.

I ordered a crab, avocado and tomato salad. The crabmeat was unseasoned (seemingly right out of the can) and the salad was undressed. At least the tomato and the avocado were both ripe. My companions each ordered omelets with a smorgasboard of ingredients, some combination of mushrooms, spinach, cheese, peppers and other things. The portions were clearly large, but the report was that the omelets were a little dry. The hashbrowns looked more oily than crispy, but both girls cleaned their plates, and that speaks volumes. Though the menu reads well, I think the output needs some work.

The most frustrating part was the service. We had to plead for our coffee and flag down busboys to fill our waterglasses. The poor girl was clearly overworked an harried, and I'm things will settle down after a few weeks.

Alex

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I agree with the "needs work" assessment. I think it also needs better focus.

The location is great. I often find myself wanting to be somewhere in the Dupont vicinity and dismayed at the options either because it's just a bar (with no or lackluster food) of a restaurant that doesn't have any life. I thought the decor was reasonably nice, but I was there during a very bustling Friday night so it might be very different during a quiet brunch.

As for the food, we sampled the scallops, the sliders, the bangers and mash, [one dish I'm forgetting] plus bread pudding for dessert. Of the bunch, we loved the bread pudding, and thought the sliders had potential. Unfortunately they were a tad overcooked. The fries were decent. I didn't try the scallops, but they were popular with my three friends. We thought the "bangers" which looked like plain ol' hot dogs were strange, but the accompanying potato salad was nice.

We'll definitely go back, but will it be with expectations of a transportive meal? Nah, not so much. But sometimes just good is good enough.

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Fwiw, the tap list is terrible, Magic Hat #9 being the standout. No other observations, since that means I didn't stay to check the place out.

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I went here on a whim on Thursday night. The food was actually pretty good. I had the arugula salad and my boyfriend had the shrimp salad and then the halibut (I think) on some risotto. The fish was pretty good, if a bit bland. The risotto was yummy though. (maybe a tad overcooked, but basically good). The arugula salad was just OK…not bursting with flavor. It didn’t blow my hair back or anything. Another friend had the lobster ravioli and some kind of sandwich with fries. The ravioli was nice and fresh. I would order that next time.

I though the wine-by-the-glass selection was extensive. But I don’t get why the waiters bring that little bottle of wine to the table and set it beside the glass without pouring it in. Does it have something to do with making sure that extra air gets into the wine right before I drink it? I sure hope it has some kind of practical purpose because I don’t particularly like it. It makes me feel like I’m doing the waiter’s job…… (I know, I know…. I am such a elitist foodie person).

Now for the space and atmosphere. I really liked the music videos playing on the screen and the sound being piped through the restaurant. It gave it a fun, loungy, chill-out feel. This is a place to go to with friends to have a fun night out. It is not romantic or cozy, or suitable for visiting relatives. A great place to start a fun-filled evening with friends you want to catch up with and have a few laughs, not the friends whose eyes you plan to gaze into. Oh, and I LOVE all the seats outside.

Peace & Blessings,

LaShanta

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I think this place serves a couple of niches very well. I went one night last week for dinner. The service was friendly and accommodating (for example, we said we were splitting a salad and it came on two plates), I liked the long, high communal table running down the middle of the restaurant, and they were playing Van Morrison on the video. As for the food, we had the sliders, which were good (though I agree with JLK that they were a bit overcooked -- this didn't bother me, but those who lean rarer should take note), the salad was very good (I can't remember the details, and the website isn't coming up), and the yakitori was fine. The pizzas served to people on either side of us looked and smelled great, but we didn't try them. Although they have full dinners, the small plates and casual food make this a good place to meet up with a friend for a casual dinner or just a drink. There aren't a lot of places like that in Dupont, so I appreciate having it there.

Or go for coffee in the morning. I went on the early side last Sunday before the farmer's market opened. It was empty -- I don't know if this was simply a reflection of the early hour or of the fact no one knows it's there yet. But I got a cafe au lait and a normal-size muffin (they also sell them in big-as-your-head size). Inside because of the long, high communal table I mentioned, as well as a bar area, there are lots of places to perch for a coffee (unlike a lot of other coffee places, where they tend toward the cushy chairs and sofas that people camp out in all day studying for the GRE). There was something a bit European about the bar area in the morning -- I could picture Italians standing at the bar drinking espresso. Though I was happier sitting outside on the spacious patio.

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I've been here twice and I've basically been dissapointed by what amounts to middling-to-poor quality food. I like Circa's atmosphere and location, which makes it tough for me to write off a place, especially one that I'd like to see succeed. But until they make a marked improvement on the food, I doubt I'll be going back to Circa any time soon.

The first time I had gone to Circa it was late at night and we were restricted to the pizza menu. We ordered the margherita pizza, and it was essentially good, but not great, with the tomatoes being somewhat undercooked and crust not particularly crispy. So, essentially, I figured it was a good late night option if there was nothing else and I was hungry.

Last night, however, was the big dissapointment. Electing to stick to the appetizers, I initially ordered the chicken yakitori and vegetable pot-stickers, only to be informed by the waiter himself that the potstickers are really bad and I shouldn't order them. Which was fine, and I actually appreciated his honesty. The lady and I suspected that the potstickers were from a frozen bag. Anyhow, in lieu of the potstickers, I ordered the grilled portobello mushroom. There was some sort of mixup with order, and it resulted in my getting a free platter of prosciutto di parma with canteloupe, in addition to the other orders. The chicken yakitori was out first and it was a disaster. Overcooked, TOUGH strips of chicken that were impossible to pull off the skewers with a fork, much less my teeth. The chicken was completely flavorless and dry and it was just a whole mess of unpleasantness. The prosciutto was pretty good, because I can't imagine it's hard to screw that up, and the canteloupe itself was pretty good. The grilled portobello was another mess. It was thin slices of this mushroom whose flavor was completely hidden by this overly tangy balsamic vinegar sauce and horribly salty melted cheese (mozzarella, I suspect) that formed a crust moreso than any sort of fun melted goodness.

Circa has the opportunity to become a great neighborhood joint, but the food needs major improvement. So, I won't write them off totally, but I'm not ready to go back soon.

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Tom's take: one sorry little star.

Don't miss "Strawberry23"'s review of Circa at the bottom in which the place is likened to a poor man's CityZen or Citronelle. blink.gif

Given that the short review also compares it to Starbucks and Cosi, the reference to CityZen and Citronelle is even more bizarre.

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Given that the short review also compares it to Starbucks and Cosi, the reference to CityZen and Citronelle is even more bizarre.

I haven't tried their food yet but the coffee they brew is excellent.

I think I might be the only person in DC who actually liked Wrapworks. Go figure.

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Did this place get any better? I believe that another is opening on my street.

It's a fine place to have a drink when everyplace else around is packed or closed. The staff is always nice. I haven't eaten there, and from what I see of the food that comes out, I doubt that I will.

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You know when you bite into something and it tastes bad, and then that taste lasts with you for the rest of the day? No matter what you do or how many times you brush your teeth, the bitter taste never goes away? Well, that is what my experience at Circa in Clarendon last night was like.

With my company's office in Courthouse and my client site in Rosslyn, I have heard a lot about Circa over the past few months that it has been open. Seems to be a lot of happy hours happening there and some good buzz about the place in general, so it was the option that we picked for a Sunday night dinner with friends.

It started out with a thud. We arrived at 5:45 PM, the space had some life, but still quiet that early in the evening. We asked for a table for six people and the hostess asked, "How many people in your party are here?" We told her that five of us were there and she stated that she was only able to sit entire parties and that we should wait at the bar until our sixth guest arrived. I told her that we would like to be seated at our table so that we could order drinks and appetizers, and she said that she couldn't do it. I then asked her what table she would seat us at if there were only five people in our party and she pointed to a round table that had six chairs. Realizing that I was trying to back her into a corner, she relented and said that she would ask her manager if she could sit us even though our entire party wasn't there. About five minutes later she came back, seated us at our table and did nothing to hide her disgust with us, just dropped our menus on the table and walked away.

Now it is about 6:00 PM and our waitress comes over to our table. She was more pleasant than the hostess, but still made it clear that our table was not one of her more important ones of the night. We ordered a round of drinks and said that we would look at the menu to order some appetizers. She came back one minute later, without our drinks, and asked us if we had decided on our appetizers. I told her that we hadn't, but we will order them when our drinks arrived. Our drinks come several minutes later and she asks us if we are ready to order, we place two appetizer orders and get the question, "Are you ready to order your entrees yet?" I tell her that we have a sixth guest and will order our entrees when she arrives. We get our appetizers and start to eat them when our sixth guest arrives (right around 6:30 PM). As she is taking off our coat, our waitress is back again to ask us if we are ready to order our entrees. Are you fucking kidding me!? We order our entrees, our late arriving guest orders last, and that is the end of that fiasco.

On top of that, the food pretty much sucked. Filet mignon sliders had little beefy flavor and the buns were terrible. The rocket salad was actually very good, but served on a warm plate. The fried chicken was super dry, the corn pudding that came with it was cloyingly sweet and the cole slaw was terrible. The rest of the table all ate their food, but said it was merely average when walking out of the place. They also auctioned off our plates when they came out, which I hate, and kept asking us if we were done when there half our food was left on our plates.

We walked out of the door at 7:30 PM, 90 minutes after we sat at our table. 2 appetizers, 4 entrees, 2 salads and maybe 8 drinks came to $185 without tip.

Awful hostess, rushed service and bad food. Clearly a case of a restaurant that is doing well and is too big for their britches. I will never set foot in that establishment again and will encourage all of my friends to do the same. There are so many good people out there working at great restaurants that it irks me that this place is packed every night of the week.

By the way, my wife, who had never read anything on this board, told me that this should have been my review.

Dear Circa in Clarendon,

Go fuck yourself.

Tony

  • Haha 1

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You know when you bite into something and it tastes bad, and then that taste lasts with you for the rest of the day? No matter what you do or how many times you brush your teeth, the bitter taste never goes away? Well, that is what my experience at Circa in Clarendon last night was like.

With my company's office in Courthouse and my client site in Rosslyn, I have heard a lot about Circa over the past few months that it has been open. Seems to be a lot of happy hours happening there and some good buzz about the place in general, so it was the option that we picked for a Sunday night dinner with friends.

It started out with a thud. We arrived at 5:45 PM, the space had some life, but still quiet that early in the evening. We asked for a table for six people and the hostess asked, "How many people in your party are here?" We told her that five of us were there and she stated that she was only able to sit entire parties and that we should wait at the bar until our sixth guest arrived. I told her that we would like to be seated at our table so that we could order drinks and appetizers, and she said that she couldn't do it. I then asked her what table she would seat us at if there were only five people in our party and she pointed to a round table that had six chairs. Realizing that I was trying to back her into a corner, she relented and said that she would ask her manager if she could sit us even though our entire party wasn't there. About five minutes later she came back, seated us at our table and did nothing to hide her disgust with us, just dropped our menus on the table and walked away.

Now it is about 6:00 PM and our waitress comes over to our table. She was more pleasant than the hostess, but still made it clear that our table was not one of her more important ones of the night. We ordered a round of drinks and said that we would look at the menu to order some appetizers. She came back one minute later, without our drinks, and asked us if we had decided on our appetizers. I told her that we hadn't, but we will order them when our drinks arrived. Our drinks come several minutes later and she asks us if we are ready to order, we place two appetizer orders and get the question, "Are you ready to order your entrees yet?" I tell her that we have a sixth guest and will order our entrees when she arrives. We get our appetizers and start to eat them when our sixth guest arrives (right around 6:30 PM). As she is taking off our coat, our waitress is back again to ask us if we are ready to order our entrees. Are you fucking kidding me!? We order our entrees, our late arriving guest orders last, and that is the end of that fiasco.

On top of that, the food pretty much sucked. Filet mignon sliders had little beefy flavor and the buns were terrible. The rocket salad was actually very good, but served on a warm plate. The fried chicken was super dry, the corn pudding that came with it was cloyingly sweet and the cole slaw was terrible. The rest of the table all ate their food, but said it was merely average when walking out of the place. They also auctioned off our plates when they came out, which I hate, and kept asking us if we were done when there half our food was left on our plates.

We walked out of the door at 7:30 PM, 90 minutes after we sat at our table. 2 appetizers, 4 entrees, 2 salads and maybe 8 drinks came to $185 without tip.

Awful hostess, rushed service and bad food. Clearly a case of a restaurant that is doing well and is too big for their britches. I will never set foot in that establishment again and will encourage all of my friends to do the same. There are so many good people out there working at great restaurants that it irks me that this place is packed every night of the week.

By the way, my wife, who had never read anything on this board, told me that this should have been my review.

Dear Circa in Clarendon,

Go fuck yourself.

Tony

Spoke with a colleague of mine yesterday at a birthday party who had the same experience with the table. All but one of the guests had not arrived, hostess had attitude, refused to seat table, yada yada yada, they left. As he pointed out, there are so many other options in Clarendon. I did point out to him that on the slightest chance the reasoning on not seating the table could have simply come from people coming in,waiting for another guest, sitting down, and holding the table for another 20 minutes while the guest arrived. Thus causing a possible back up or delay in turning tables. The attitude is ocmpletely and totally not needed, but a thorough explanation of their policy. That is where the manager should have stepped in to explain, if that is truly their policy.

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Spoke with a colleague of mine yesterday at a birthday party who had the same experience with the table. All but one of the guests had not arrived, hostess had attitude, refused to seat table, yada yada yada, they left. As he pointed out, there are so many other options in Clarendon.

Lesson to be learned: You should lie to Circa and say you have a party of five, three, or one (when in fact, you have a party of six, four, or two, and everyone has arrived except for one person). You'll get the same table anyway. Then, when the last person shows up, say "Oh! Won't you please come and join us?"

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Lesson to be learned: You should lie to Circa and say you have a party of five, three, or one (when in fact, you have a party of six, four, or two, and everyone has arrived except for one person). You'll get the same table anyway. Then, when the last person shows up, say "Oh! Won't you please come and join us?"

I actually thought of that when first approaching the hostess, but 1) I figured that it wouldn't be a huge deal because it was not that crowded yet and 2) I hate lying about stupid stuff like this. And, when it comes down to it, when you have to strategize to get a table because the place is rigid beyond belief on their policy, it probably doesn't make sense to go there.

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I actually thought of that when first approaching the hostess, but 1) I figured that it wouldn't be a huge deal because it was not that crowded yet and 2) I hate lying about stupid stuff like this. And, when it comes down to it, when you have to strategize to get a table because the place is rigid beyond belief on their policy, it probably doesn't make sense to go there.

Agreed, its stupid that one who makes the hardest decison of choosing a restaurant, and walking in, shouldn't have to lie about getting a table, nor encounter staff that treats you as one of another million that will eventually walk in the door. The company that owns Circa is a construction company with no restaurant experience and this time it showed.

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I had dinner with my wife on Thursday night. I had a much different experience. I thought the service was very good. We did two apps., a cheese plate and split an entree. Everything was timed perfectly, the waitress monitored without being intrusive. The apps and cheese plate were good; the entree was decent but nothing special. That being said other things looked like they were pretty good. Also of note, I thought they had a wine list that was focused on reasonably priced wines that weren't marked up to much. Got a Wild Horse pinot noir for mid-thirties.

To address some of the concerns raised by the prior poster, I get the frustration, but places that don't take reservations (which Circa does not) often refuse to seat parties until all members are there. It costs them money to seat them without all members of the party; it often does not make sense for them to seat someone if they expect to have multiple parties take up the same number of seats right away.

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To address some of the concerns raised by the prior poster, I get the frustration, but places that don't take reservations (which Circa does not) often refuse to seat parties until all members are there. It costs them money to seat them without all members of the party; it often does not make sense for them to seat someone if they expect to have multiple parties take up the same number of seats right away.

It really does not make any sense if the entire restaurant is slow and the tables are available. They should have seated the party no matter what. The hostess should have taken the charge without asking the manager`s permission. Now after what happened to jiveturk21, it costs more money to the restaurant because they lost a potential customer who will not be going back and spending money.

For every restaurant the rules are made to protect and benefit them. However, since human beings are enforcing the rules they should be able to bend and/or customize them with each customer`s need.

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It really does not make any sense if the entire restaurant is slow and the tables are available. They should have seated the party no matter what. The hostess should have taken the charge without asking the manager`s permission. Now after what happened to jiveturk21, it costs more money to the restaurant because they lost a potential customer who will not be going back and spending money.

For every restaurant the rules are made to protect and benefit them. However, since human beings are enforcing the rules they should be able to bend and/or customize them with each customer`s need.

They also lost money that evening. We drank way less than normal because we were constantly being harassed by their wait staff. And, to be honest, I am sure that we would have ordered two or three desserts for the table, as we always do, but couldn't because we were being pushed out the door.

Trust me, I get it. When you walk into a busy restaurant and ask for a table of six when you have two or three people, I understand why they don't seat you. But, when you have five people there and ask for a table for six people, which is the same damn table no matter how you slice it, and they don't seat you, you get super pissed.

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The Clarendon neighborhood in general is ground-zero for mediocre restaurants. True, you can get a decent sandwich at Whitlow's (if you're in a dive bar mood) or an average salad at Harry's. And I respect what Liberty Tavern and Lyon Hall do, even though I'm personally not a fan of either menu- I understand these are 'good' restaurants.

Where I get frustrated is when a restaurant, just due to location & design is always busy, to the point where they don't care about service or standards. Look at Rosa Mexicana or Tony & Joe's. Good locations, wretched food and service. I believe Circa Clarendon to be one of these restaurants.

The food at Circa, at least at the Clarendon location, blows harder than the big bad wolf. The lobster ravioli (3 pieces $12.50) was overcooked to the point they didn't hold a shape, stuffed with some reddish paste that didn't have any flavor or texture of anything seafood- let alone lobster, and was smeared with so much goat cheese that completely overwhelmed any other flavor... probably for the best.

The "Southern Fried Chicken" was so bland and poorly executed that I felt it was just shake-and-bake cooked in a microwave. After sending that dish back, with one bite taken out of one piece, the manager came to the table and said "you know- I tried a piece of the chicken in the back, it has no business being on the menu- the chef should be ashamed." Never-the-less, it was still on the check at the end of dinner.

If you order a mimosa during brunch, expect it to be served in a rocks glass, with ice and a straw. By the time it was delivered to the table, half the ice had melted into a watery yuck. And the service is just simply pretentious and rude.

But it's a pretty restaurant with a nice bar, and I'm sure it will stay busy for quite some time. Either because the patrons don't know better, or they don't know to know better. Either way, you'll never find me back at Circa Clarendon. Sigh.

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Don't you think that going from Piratz Tavern to Corporate Bar was going from one bad idea to another?

I still think the places that are quietly laughing all the way to the bank are places like Circa. Although I have absolutely no knowledge of Circa's ownership, business model, etc., every single time I walk by one it is crowded.

Remember that line in "When Harry Met Sally," where the older woman said, "I'll have what she's having?"

Circa. Bistro du Coin. Lauriol Plaza. Sweetwater Tavern. I could probably rattle off 100 more (Flippin' Pizza just came to mind). Places that don't give a whit about this website, or quality, or cuisine, or much of anything else other than making fistfuls of dollars. Hell, I can even think of a few places (two leap to mind, and I guarantee they aren't the two you'd first think of) that *do* care about this website and are using it to their advantage, financially (and why wouldn't they? It takes mere minutes and costs nothing). And I guarantee they're making a fortune.

Well anyway, *I* care about quality, for whatever that's worth, although quality seems to have very little to do with Piratz Tavern or Corporate Bar. I wish the owners well - I'd rather something individual and quirky succeeds than have yet another generic institution open up. If people can go play pirate and have a good time for a few hours, well, why not?

Circa has always stuck me as a place for people who really miss the experience of eating in an anonymous upscale cafe in an airport terminal concourse and wish they could have that same thing at home.

I think there are an unfortunate number of places like that (Circa, Logan Tavern, Chef Geoff's, Clyde's, etc.) which are nominally independent (but all with multiple locations!) but bland beyond belief. They're trying to pretty much be an Applebee's - broad menu, reasonable prices, nothing offputting to most people - for people who wouldn't go to Applebee's and they're succeeding.

That said, I ate at Applebee's and Buca di Beppo while visiting my grandparents in Georgia a few weeks ago and had pretty good experiences at both. And I go to Clyde's quite a bit.

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