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I got the last seat at the bar at a crowded Riggsby, and immediately got an odd impression about the bartender. This was going to be an unusual evening - I felt it.

He handed me the cocktail list, full of ordinary wines a touch too expensive for my blood, but I flipped it over, and there were some graphics showing some of the more upscale drinks; the problem, is that both the graphics and the text were so faded that they were barely readable. Strike one.

But I wanted a Gin & Tonic, and that was the one list in the top-right corner, touting that it was made with Hendricks Gin and Fever Tree Tonic Water - I don't love Hendricks in my G&Ts, but I can live with it, so I ordered it. You're out of Fever Tree Tonic Water? Oh. Normally, I'd say Strike two, but you'd just been First Bitten the day before, so, no pitch. And plus, you told me you had their Ginger Beer, so I looked below it at their Moscow Mule.

A picture of a beautiful copper tankard was accompanied by the description that the drink was made with a "high-quality" vodka with Fever Tree Ginger Beer, a little lime juice, and a wedge of lime - sounded good to me, so I went with it. Oh, you don't serve these in copper tankards like you have them pictured? Well, I'd say Strike two, but that's not really you're fault, so no pitch. Sure, why not.

So I started my meal with a Moscow Mule ($8), and the vodka he used was pulled up from under the bar and poured like he was trying desperately to empty the bottle. The lime juice was measured, however - I thought it was supposed to be the other way around? It was a *strong* drink, but it didn't taste bad, and after all, it used Fever Tree Ginger Beer. But what was that vodka? It was in a blue bottle, and I became curious.

I nursed my drink while perusing the menu, and by the time I got to the bottom, I was ready for another, and when he asked me, I asked him what type of Vodka he used in that first drink. He pulled the bottle up from underneath the bar, and held it before my eyes: Skyy. Strike two, my friend: this is a $14 bottle of rot-gut, and it's no wonder you were trying to get rid of it - what happened to the "high-quality vodka" in the description? Well, at least it was an $8 drink.

He told me I could have it made with any of their shelf vodka's ... Tito's, Ketel One, Grey Goose ... okay, better. This one, I got with Ketel One. And he measured the vodka, and short-poured me - filling the measuring cup only about 3/4 of the way before taking a scoop of ice so large that there was ice 3-4 inches above the top of my glass which needed to be whisked off. The rest of the drink was made normally, but it's amazing how small of a cocktail you can get when your glass is absolutely full with small ice cubes. It tasted like a mocktail with no alcohol in it. And damned if I didn't get charged $12 for the drink. Strike three. He knew what he was doing; he was just anti-customer, or so I thought.

I ordered my meal, a Schnitzel "a la Holstein" ($29), and asked what it came with - "warm, German potato salad," he said. Okay, it sounded potentially acidic, but I took my chances, and with it, I ordered as a second side order, something from the bar menu: Chorizo-Stuffed Mushrooms ($7) which took him aback - I guess people aren't ordering these things as sides with their meals, but it sounded like it would go just fine with my meal, so I verified with him, yes, I'd like it with my meal; not as an appetizer. No problem.

A short while later, everything arrived from behind me, and I could see why my bartender had raised an eyebrow - my entree and its "German potato salad" had been cooked to order; my chorizo stuffed mushrooms were made earlier in the day and reheated - they were dried out, and really did look like pass-around canapes, or bar snacks. But the flavors were all there, and they did, in fact, go with everything else.

The schnitzel itself was delicious, but pounded more thinly than I've ever seen a schnitzel presented before - I was hoping for something nearly twice this thick for $29. So they not only get you with a high price, but also with deceptively small amounts of meat. Still, the batter was delicious, the schnitzel was cooked very well, and it came with some anchovies (for some much-needed salt), capers, and a runny egg. Every so often I'd spear a new potato from its iron skillet sitting next to my plate (this was my "German Potato Salad" - it was halved new potatoes, with a little onion on the bottom and cooked with some jus, perhaps from the schnitzel, and they were *delicious* - a nice surprise in a meal where I felt like I was getting nickled-and-dimed. Likewise, I did the same with my chorizo-stuffed mushrooms, which were about the same size as the potatoes - yes, they were older and dried out, but when put on my plate and cut in half, they went very well with my other two items.

Right when the food came, my bartender asked me if I'd wanted another drink, and I told him I was thinking about a glass of wine. He thought for a moment, and said, "I've got something for you to try," before pouring me a generous glass of Vermentino ($11), which is exactly the wine I would have chosen for myself. I complimented him on his call, and he began to warm up. So I enjoyed my rather expensive meal (the final bill was $73.70 before tip), then asked for the check. I reached for my wallet and mouthed the words, 'Oh, my God.' He saw me do this, obviously read my lips, and knew something was wrong. I had forgotten my wallet in the car.

Embarrassed, I explained this all to him, and handed him my keys and iPhone, saying I'd be back in five minutes.  (I did have the wits about me to take my car key off the ring.) No problem, he said, and I showed up a bit later, left a $15 tip, and all was well. "I could tell something bad had happened when I saw your face," he laughed. So, all's well that ends well, and I enjoyed my meal even though I was out $88.70. And the bartender wasn't such a bad chap after all.

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I had a long write up that was lost when my computer crashed and I don't have the energy to do over, but I'll still make a post about a dinner I had here two weeks.  I don't always agree with everyone's favorite Washington Post food critic, but on this place him and I are on the same page.  Everything that both my wife and I ordered was somewhere between Good and Fantastic, with the highlight being the Schnitzel, which did not suffer from the excessive pounding that Don experienced (there's a joke there).  Mine was about a half inch thick, tender and cooked just below medium in temperature, which took me aback at first as I have never seen the inside of a schnitzel be anything but white but our waiter assured me that this was how the chef prepared the dish and it was delicious.  My portion was also huge, so perhaps someone read Don's review and responded appropriately.  The one commonality between his dish and mine was that the schnitzel, on it's own without a squeeze of lemon or any accompaniments, was a bit bland, but this was fine because this dish is meant to be eaten with a bit of anchovy, egg, and caper in every bite of the meat if possible.  

The Chopped Salad  was refreshing and exactly what I was looking for, the NY Strip Filet was perfectly cooked and had a delightfully acidic bearnaise, the Caesar Salad was good but the lowlight of the meal as it was overdressed even after we sent it back and got it replaced, and the Strawberry Shortcake was divine, the best version I have had of this dessert (although I have to admit that I don't remember the last time I had it before last week).  This wasn't cheap (~$135 before tax and tip) but between the relaxed 80s Brown Derby atmosphere and lovely familiar flavors of all the dishes we ordered, I'm sure we'll be back.

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Lovely lunch today with the Missus and baby.

Feeling fancy and had a well-made Hendrick's martini.  Not much to say other than it was made well, and was a very generous portion.  It was nice to pretend to be an executive for a minute.

The grilled sardines were a nice start.  Butterflied and deboned, topped with a medium dice of lightly pickled fennel and golden raisins.  The fish were fairly small (even for sardines), and there were only 2 to the order, so the value (at $15) wasn't quite there.  With a larger, meatier sardine, I'd be cool, but with what they were working with today, 3 or 4 to an order would be more appropriate.

I had the Schnitzel a la Holstein, and my wife had the Chopped Salad with an addition of (a ton of) grilled chicken.  The schnitzel was a substantial portion, definitely not pounded too thinly as has happened upthread.  Taken as a whole, with capers and a bit of anchovy in each bite, smeared with some of the runny yolk of the fried egg, each bite was perfect.  If you happen to run out of the salty accompaniments near the end, you may find the batter slightly under seasoned (though I get the reason for that).  The side of potato salad was a hit, with pickled onions, and a minced bacon jus situation on top.  Again, a healthy portion that disappeared quickly.

The salad was...a salad.  My people love pickled things, so the roughly chopped cornichons in the housemade Thousand Island were nice.  With the $6 addition of grilled chicken (nicely cooked, not too dry, served as a large dice), I'm not sure it comes close to warranting its $20 price tag.

Service was pleasant and professional. The space is sharp.  I would definitely recommend it to people as a nice place to enjoy a bit of nostalgic cuisine.  I'm not sure I'll be rushing back for more (but who knows...that schnitzel/martini combo was pretty damned good).

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The grilled sardines were a nice start.  Butterflied and deboned, topped with a medium dice of lightly pickled fennel and golden raisins.  The fish were fairly small (even for sardines), and there were only 2 to the order, so the value (at $15) wasn't quite there.

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa THINK?!?!?!

That's $7.50 per sardine!

Maybe I'm missing something, but this might be the single most overpriced food item I've ever read about. What else was there?

This would make *Fabio* cringe; pray to God it won't give him an idea.

The staff at 2 Amys bar is reading this and laughing their asses off right now - and their sardines aren't exactly cheap.

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Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa THINK?!?!?!

That's $7.50 per sardine!

Maybe I'm missing something, but this might be the single most overpriced food item I've ever read about. What else was there?

This would make *Fabio* cringe; pray to God it won't give him an idea.

The staff at 2 Amys bar is reading this and laughing their asses off right now - and their sardines aren't exactly cheap.

Haha...I was trying to be "measured," but go for it.

(And don't get me started on the fact that they were asking $13 for a pour of Fernet.)

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This is the place Tom Sietsema currently is going gaga over. I just don't see it.

First, it should be noted that Todd Kliman seems to be even more sold on it than SIetsema; TS gave it 2.5 stars, Kliman 3 stars.

That said, I have to agree with you. Bob and I had our belated anniversary celebration here on Friday night, and while the meal was perfectly fine, there's a lot here that doesn't add up for me. The "filled-to-the-brim" cocktails that Sietsema crowed about when it first opened are actually pretty small pours now, particularly for $13 a pop (though well made--I had a lovely Sazerac and Bob a Manhattan). We split the chopped salad as one of our appetizers, and it was our favorite dish of the night--fresh, light, and well done. The sauteed calamari with cranberry beans was fine also; both dishes, however, we thought would have been too much of one thing for a single diner.

For entrees, Bob had the spaghetti with tomato, Italian bacon, onion, and pecorino; it was clearly fresh pasta and perfectly cooked. I went for the double-cut pork chop with Italian sausage, hot cherry peppers, and tiny potatoes. It was a huge portion for $28; they slice the chop in the system, leaving the bone on the side, then pour the sauce over at the table. I liked it though it was rather spicy, and the sausage seemed like porcine overkill. (Looking over the menu, the chef seems to have a penchant for spice and chilis; Bob balked at a number of items he would have otherwise ordered. Our two glasses of wine by the glass (Barbera and Pinot Noir) were just okay, but decent pours.

Service was professional, but often veered toward the slightly awkward, particularly when they tried to be more elegant. And no question, this place is LOUD. If we would have been any closer to the bar, I would have walked out. This is not the place to go for an intimate meal. So, despite decent food, in the end, it just didn't feel like a special as the reviews have suggested. It's a good-enough place, which is nothing to sneeze at, but not so good that I'll be back again soon.

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7.50 for a sardine. Wow. We are in the gilded age.
How do non rich people eat out these days at nicer places?
$12 for 6 Brussels sprouts. $25 for fried chicken plates. $18 for ramen. And the FOHBOH staff barely makes a living wage?? Wow, again. The price of dinner at a decent place continues to go up, wages are stagnant or falling, and it's $7.50 a sardine... Couldn't make this up if you tried...

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Treat yourself to the sardine banh mi at Bí¡nh Ta in the Eden Center -- $4 for a full meal, and it's delicious.

7.50 for a sardine. Wow. We are in the gilded age.
How do non rich people eat out these days at nicer places?
$12 for 6 Brussels sprouts. $25 for fried chicken plates. $18 for ramen. And the FOH staff barely makes a living wage?? Wow, again. The price of dinner at a decent place continues to go up, wages are stagnant or falling, and it's $7.50 a sardine... Couldn't make this up if you tried...

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7.50 for a sardine. Wow. We are in the gilded age.

How do non rich people eat out these days at nicer places?

$12 for 6 Brussels sprouts. $25 for fried chicken plates. $18 for ramen. And the FOH staff barely makes a living wage?? Wow, again. The price of dinner at a decent place continues to go up, wages are stagnant or falling, and it's $7.50 a sardine... Couldn't make this up if you tried...

At high end restaurants like the Riggsby FOH staff often do really well so they can afford to eat there.

Restaurateur Jeff Black, owner of BlackSalt and Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, among other places, says members of his wait staff earn between $85,000 and $150,000 annually. "My waiters make more money than" D.C. Council members, Black said. "They don't need a raise."

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But I shouldn't feel bad at all if I complain about this. You're telling me that the waitstaff make $75-150k annually?

If we live in a world that the people serving the food should make that sort of money, but the people making it are making $12-15/hr, maybe sometimes more, but nowhere near $75-150k annually, that anyone ... that we should be okay with that?

His pride of saying that ... I don't even know what to make of it. Teachers don't make that per annum. My nurses don't make that (don't blame me, I'm a private practice doc, a hospital conglomerate pays them).

Ugh. Fine. Maybe they don't need a raise. But there is something absolutely disgusting going on if a waiter makes $150k, and the gal in the back is getting $15-20/hr (as posted on many job sites).

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I made a typo and it ruined my point :(

I meant BOH staff

I won't correct it in original post. But, that's what I meant. I know FOH are making pharmacist money, and sometimes pediatrician money, and sometimes even medical specialist money...

I meant BOH.

 

Ugh. Fine. Maybe they don't need a raise. But there is something absolutely disgusting going on if a waiter makes $150k, and the gal in the back is getting $15-20/hr (as posted on many job sites).

 

This is what I've been saying for years. I'm probably losing friends by saying it, but it isn't fair to the BOH - it's just not right.

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I'm not looking for a cheap meal. I just don't know if this is a good thing that is happening. I will certainly appreciate a cheap meal, and can't wait to try the Banh Mi here, but money is not an issue to me. My concern is that if we live in a world where $7.50 gets you one sardine, $12 gets you a few Brussels sprouts ... Eventually we go back to bad food America. I know I'm creating a huge slippery slope, but I think some food historians may agree with that- that when the middle end becomes too high end, the economic pressure is to create a low end ... And then food and meal quality may turn poor.

I don't know. It's just feel at this point. I don't like it. Does anyone have a good justification that Green Pig Bistro and many other places charge $25 for a fried chicken dinner other than it can? ***

Food/dining/carousing has become really elitist. Sometimes I go on dates and I love recommending DR to people... But some people read it and are like "you guys are so rich, this doesn't make sense to us". I'm not just saying that, this is what people think.

*** (it can- meaning- there is no regulation against it - as there shouldn't be - but they do charge it; and, in the same vein, understanding, that I can charge $250k for a life saving lung cancer treatment, and I don't... Meaning we shouldn't always use the market to justify what we do; also, meaning if you're sick with cancer and poor come to me, I'll take care of you)

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This is a valuable conversation, but the Riggsby is hardly the worst offender here; all these posts follow from a single report. Overall, I found the quality/quantity/price balance here to be above average, at least on the food side. (The sardines were off the menu the night I was there, FWIW, so perhaps they aren't getting the size or quality of fish they hope for right now, and that's connected to what Josh experienced.) Just trying to bring the conversation back to THIS restaurant.

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We went for happy hour/dinner last Friday night - overall we were quite pleased.  The champagne cocktail and gimlet were both lovely, especially at happy hour prices.  We tried a couple of the small bar bites, and the one that stood out were the potato chips with onion dip - really, really good, crispy, well-seasoned, not greasy, yum yum yum.  We split a caesar salad, and it was very, very tasty - though hubby did not like the anchovy filets in prime view (he's weird - flavor doesn't bother him, but he hates seeing any kind of "whole" fish).  He got the schnitzel for his main, which was tasty if a bit underseasoned (and I did not care for the super bacony potato salad that came with it), but my roasted chicken was perfectly cooked and full of flavor (as were the potatoes, onions, and rapini that came with it).  The chicken was also a HUGE portion - I took half of it home, and it will be another full meal.

Definitely not a cheap meal, but reliable and really good for the neighboring homes and offices.  We don't get to NW much, so I can't say we'll be regulars, but we'd certainly recommend it to others.

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*Now* I know why this place has gotten such good reviews - it's owned by Michael Schlow, the same person who controls Alta Strada, Tico, and a bunch of other restaurants nationwide - I had no idea it was part of a large restaurant corporation with a "celebrity chef" as their poster child. When I went, I just didn't see the big deal, or why people were flocking there, giving it such good reviews; now, it at least makes sense, even though my opinion of my dinner hasn't changed from being merely "good." Fawning critics - ah, what would this city be without them.

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We took some friends moving out of the area to the Riggsby because I hadn't been and it looked like a menu anyone could find something they liked on.  It was people Hubby worked with, so although I saw them often, I didn't really have any idea of their food preferences.  The bar was very enjoyable and we had some cocktails waiting for them to arrive and settle in- a Tom Collins, pear drink, sidecar and something else.  For dinner we split some oysters and deviled eggs as appetizers- both were fine, although I thought a couple of the oysters when shucked looked a little more disturbed than I thought necessary.  For dinner I had the clams with sausage and fennel.  I thought the fennel was a little under-cooked for the dish in total, but it wasn't raw.  I would just have liked it more done.  It wasn't a wow dish, but it wasn't bad.  Hubby had veal cheeks, which he didn't comment on too much, but didn't seem to dislike the dish.  Friends had the lobster pasta and chicken, which they both liked.  I had the chocolate cake for dessert which was very rich and lovely, I am a chocolate lover, but couldn't finish.  Hubby had the apple tart, which was REALLY good.  Dessert may have been the best course.  Overall it was a very nice night, the food was all good, but I don't think the food is special really.  I did love the atmosphere of the bar.

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Went last night for a friend's birthday dinner. Very loud. I liked our server, although she disappeared for awhile between dessert and the check. Generous pours of wine. The schnitzel mentioned several times above is no longer on the menu, nor is the steak with bearnaise sauce (praised in many online reviews), which disappointed my friend (although our server offered to see if the kitchen could still make it).

I had the braised clams as my entree. I enjoyed them, but the broth they were served in, while tasty, was very, very salty. I left most of the fennel in the bowl, as it was just kind of floppy, pale, and flavorless. (Is that just how fennel is?) The trumpet mushrooms in the trumpet mushroom appetizer were very rubbery. (Is that just how trumpet mushrooms are?)

The three of us tried a bunch of other things on the menu (potato chips, deviled eggs, burrata, smoked trout, burger, Brussels sprouts, creme brulee, sundae -- we're pigs :-)). I enjoyed my bites of all of those items, although the Brussels sprouts, which were supposedly prepared with fish sauce caramel, just tasted like run of the mill roasted Brussels sprouts with pomegranate. I thought portions overall were quite generous, especially the first courses. I wish the divine strawberry shortcake mentioned above had been in season.

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2 hours ago, dracisk said:

I left most of the fennel in the bowl, as it was just kind of floppy, pale, and flavorless. (Is that just how fennel is?) The trumpet mushrooms in the trumpet mushroom appetizer were very rubbery. (Is that just how trumpet mushrooms are?)

I make both at home and do not get this result, although I normally roast fennel.  I don't think I have any recipes for non-roasted fennel.

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On 3/24/2017 at 11:42 AM, ktmoomau said:

I make both at home and do not get this result, although I normally roast fennel.  I don't think I have any recipes for non-roasted fennel.

I'm as surprised as anyone else that I would post the below, but we tried this last week (minorly messing with the 3-ingredient recipe by adding just half of a small onion and a minced small garlic clove) and it was fantastic.  Now you have another fennel recipe!

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/3-ingredient-orecchiette-with-sausage-and-fennel

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One more meal review to add. Ate at the Riggsby for Saturday dinner with a few friends.  Started with drinks, which were tasty.  The bartender was clearly trying to keep pace though, because it looked like a decent amount of good stuff ended up on the bar as she tried to work quickly.  Moved onto dinner.  Appetizers were the homemade chips (American) with green onions, goat cheese fritters, and deviled eggs.  All were good, but the first was actually the big surprise.  The comment at the table was, "So this is what happens when a chef makes French Onion Dip."

Dinner was Seared Tuna, Roasted Rack of Lamb, Lobster Fra Diavolo, and the special of Monkfish wrapped in prosciutto.  The seared tuna was probably the best of the lot (I'm told), while the Rack of Lamb and Fra Diavolo were also good.  The special was just not good - prosciutto was overcooked and the whole thing had enough grit that you wondered if this is where they put the soaking liquid for their clams and mussels.  Overall a good experience with just one big whiff.  Portion sizes were good - I'm guessing they corrected this after earlier complaints seen above.

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8 minutes ago, zgast said:

Appetizers were the homemade chips (American) with green onions, goat cheese fritters, and deviled eggs.  All were good, but the first was actually the big surprise.  The comment at the table was, "So this is what happens when a chef makes French Onion Dip."

zgast, I read this comment as a compliment - am I reading it correctly?

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31 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

zgast, I read this comment as a compliment - am I reading it correctly?

Yes - it was intended as a compliment.  Count me as having a sore spot for Midwestern French Onion Dip (hello, Lipton!), but this was quite good.  it's under bar food and I have to say I'd order it again in a heartbeat.

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39 minutes ago, zgast said:

Yes - it was intended as a compliment.  Count me as having a sore spot for Midwestern French Onion Dip (hello, Lipton!), but this was quite good.  it's under bar food and I have to say I'd order it again in a heartbeat.

Lipton?

What about McCormick?!

Ramen, my eye. This is *America's* ramen. Just add ... I don't know ... everything of nutritional value, I guess.

Hell, just add it to the ramen.

FOD.jpg

(Complete with government-subsidized *corn* gluten!)

And now we know why we have corn fields growing on the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains.

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1 hour ago, DonRocks said:

Lipton?

What about McCormick?!

Ramen, my eye. This is *America's* ramen. Just add ... I don't know ... everything of nutritional value, I guess.

Hell, just add it to the ramen.

FOD.jpg

(Complete with government-subsidized *corn* gluten!)

And now we know why we have corn fields growing on the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains.

Like I said, Midwest staple.  In Lipton's defense, there's not hydrolyzed corn gluten. They've replaced it with salt!

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