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The Dabney, Chef Jeremiah Langhorne in Blagden Alley near Mount Vernon Square


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I was thinking about this restaurant the other day, knowing that it was supposed to open in the Spring (but figuring that it would be delayed) and realized that we went the whole summer with no news on when exactly it will start service.  I figured I would come here to see if cheezepowder or any other members had heard any rumblings and was shocked to see that no one had posted a thread about it yet.  There has been quite a bit of buzz on the internets for over a year now, and dare I say that if David Chang and Eric Ziebold did not have anticipated openings this year or early next year that this would be the hottest reservation in town when it opens.  I'm sure everyone has at least heard in passing about it at this point, but wanted to see if anyone had any more insight into what sounds like a very cool new restaurant.

Website / @thedabneydc on Twitter

 

"Jeremiah Langhorne's Restaurant, The Dabney, Will Open in Blagden Alley" by Missy Frederick on dc.eater.com

"Meet Jeremiah Langhorne: Picking Composters, Pigs, and Potential Line Cooks" by Tim Carman on washingtonpost.com

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Ate at The Dabney last night.  love the space - particularly the open kitchen and hearth-  and the staff is genuinely enthusiastic.  The restaurant is filled with hard surfaces and so it's very loud- I would have a hard time hearing with a party of more than 2-3 people.

I really enjoyed my cocktail - Leather Britches with rum, Virginia maple syrup, lime, and The Dabney bay leaf bitters.

My husband and I shared flatbread with caramelized onions, Appalachian cheese, garlic and herbs.  The portion size of the flatbread was small and it was served lukewarm and somewhat soggy. The flavor was fine- but this is nothing special.

I had the seared fluke mentioned above, and it was quite good.  My husband had grilled swordfish with roasted beets, whey sauce and onion ($24).  The flavor was good and the fish well-prepared, but the portion size on this dish was teeny. We would happily pay a bit more for dishes in return for increased portion sizes.

For dessert, we enjoyed apple crumble with wood-grilled marshmallow (loved this element) and angostura bitters ice cream. La Colombe coffee is a plus.

The small menu changes daily- I'm seeing items there now that weren't available last night. This is a great thing and reflects the concept of being super local and sustainable.   I was dining with someone who doesn't eat meat or shellfish and this was a challenge.  I would love to see more vegetarian/pescatarian friendly dishes available.

I look forward to seeing this restaurant develop. I think it has great potential.

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I wasn't going to write up my meal at The Dabney, because it was on October 31st, the very first night they opened for business, and I was an early customer, so that quite likely means I had both dishes I ordered the very first time they were ever prepared.

Nevertheless, this restaurant seems to have some interest in it, so I'll contribute my experience - with the caveat that this was the first night they were in business. However, I should mention that the "normal" things that go wrong on the first night (i.e., service), didn't, so this is probably pretty representative.

I grabbed a seat at the end of the bar (on the left when you walk in). I asked my bartender to make me a Gimlet with Hayman's Old Tom, and it was not just good - it was perfect. Perfectly poured, perfectly shaken, perfectly served - whoever this girl was obviously knew what she was doing. It was remarkable to watch, actually, and it turns out this was Tyler Hudgens, who is not only running the bar at The Dabney, but also ran the bar at The Columbia Room for several months. Yeah, she knows what she's doing.

As a side note, I overheard that Version 2.0 of The Columbia Room (which is opening directly above The Dabney) will be opening soon. The precise word Angie Salame uses is "Novemberary," so you can take that for whatever it's worth.

I enjoyed my Gimlet as much as any I've had since Dwayne Sylvester shook me one at BourbonSteak awhile back - these drinks were both peers. I *love* tiny ice crystals in my Gimlets, as they add a thrilling textural nuance to the drink (even though some purist bartenders refuse to create them).

Anyway, after I unwound with my 10-out-of-10 Gimlet, I decided to do something a bit odd: I created an Egg Tasting dinner, with wine pairings for each.

For my first course, from the "Dishes" section of the menu (which falls in-between "Appetizers" and "Family Style"), I ordered the Baked Farm Egg ($18), with creamed celeriac, farro verde, kimchee, and herbs. With the dish, I ordered a glass of Sherry (which delighted Tyler to no end), an El Maestro "Sierra" Amontillado 12-Year ($13) which was pretty much a perfect Amontillado, and I would urge Sherry drinkers to spend the extra dollar and get this instead of the (also very fine) Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla "En Rama" - as good as the La Gitana is, this is better, and more suitable for this type of cuisine. Speaking of which, this dish was an obvious riff on Bibim Bap, even though I'm pretty sure that's going to go over the heads of the vast majority of diners here. I know the ingredients aren't typical for such a thing, but it was "strongly influenced" by this Korean classic. Surprisingly, I thought the Sherry would go with this even better than it did - maybe this needed soju, I don't know - the pairing was good, but not the dazzling brilliance I'd hoped (and thought) it would be.

Next up: a step backward to the "Appetizer" section, where I ordered a Buttermilk Biscuit with fried egg, foie gras, country ham, apples, and maple ($15). And with it, I opted for a glass of 2014 Bernard Baudry Chinon "Les Granges" because I wanted the green-pepper stalkiness of Loire Valley Cabernet Franc with the ingredients in this dish - I waited awhile, and was told they had to bring a bottle up to the bar; I told them not to worry about it, and instead ordered a 2014 Chateau Cambon Beaujolais ($14) which I figured would be the next best thing, and "close enough," and sure enough, it was - it went beautifully with the dish. Two components in the dish itself needed work: the egg was slightly overcooked (I wanted runny), and there was no discernible foie gras, anywhere I looked or sniffed - there might have been a thimble-full mixed into the sauce, but none that I detected. So I would suggest the restaurant either up the ingredient, or the diner should not assume it's going to be there.

This was an extremely light meal, although I did manage to down three drinks, and I decided to keep it that way - it was a really good showing for the first night of a restaurant, and I have souvenir menus from The Dabney's first night in business (yes, I asked). Especially with The Columbia Room on top of it, and with Rogue 24 next door for now, The Dabney, and Blagden Alley in general - with La Colombe coffee (which The Dabney serves, btw) seems poised to be a shining star pocket of cuisine. Keep an eye out for it.

My, how cuisine has changed in this town over the past thirty years - my, how it has changed just in the past five years.

The Dabney is initiated strongly in Italic in the Dining Guide, and should be on your list of places to try.

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After dinner here last night, I walked away feeling that this place is really quite expensive for what you get. I feel like there'd been a decent amount of hype surrounding the restaurant and I'd read some articles about it, so it's not as if I walked into the place having heard nothing about it. Yet, I had no clue it was a share plates type of place. Yes, that is typical for many places nowadays, but I guess nothing I'd read or heard had make me think this was anything but a more traditional appetizer/entree place.



As Sietsema noted in his review, there's no separation on the menu between apps and entrees, but our waiter did tell us the plates were meant to be shared and they were listed in order of size. He recommended we order 5-6 dishes between the 2 of us and noted that even the largest dish ($28) was still smaller than a traditional entree. He also mentioned something about thinking of it as making your own tasting menu.



We weren't super hungry, and so decided to cut his recommendation in half. We ordered the roasted beets ($14), chicken liver and foie gras parfait ($20) and the ranchers cut ($28). We also got the ice cream sandwich cookie ($9) for dessert which ended up being my favorite thing of the night. Their current online menu matches what we saw (but will likely change soon).



I completely agree with Lori's descriptions above of the portions being small and "teeny". In the beet dish there were 4 chunks of beets that were each about the size of half a golf ball. The parfait came in the form of a bar that was maybe a little bigger than a Twix. It came with a slice of brioche that was cut in half. The beef was I'd guess about 4 oz (maybe?) the dish included a small sunchoke and a charred endive that was about half an inch wide and 5 inches long. No real complaints about the dessert, as mentioned above I could eat that thing every day and be happy. The complimentary (ciabetta?) bread they brought out was excellent and had just the right amount of char on it. It was served with a delicious sorghum butter.



Drinks included one (tiny) cocktail, a beer (Right Proper Haxan at $8 for a mere 12 oz pour) and a $5 nonalcoholic thyme lemonade. The bill came with 4 really good cookies a little bigger than a quarter - 2 ginger sorghum and 2 pecan sandies which was a really nice touch. Our total bill before tip was about $105, which might not sound so expensive but honestly for the amount of food we got it was a lot more than I would have expected to pay.



Luckily we made up for it in the bang for the buck category with dinner at Peter Chang's (Arlington) tonight.  :)

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I don't understand how an entree type dish that is meant to "share" is so small. Shouldn't shareable dishes be bigger than a typical dish? Where did this all come from?!? Tapas in Spain are served behind a bar and you can literally eat one shrimp or one piece and be charged for that...this whole small plates/share thing may be related to that but it is so far removed from what actually happens at a Spanish bar that I have a real difficult understanding where this whole thing was born from.

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Shouldn't shareable dishes be bigger than a typical dish? Where did this all come from?!? 

Where did this come from is exactly what I was thinking, Jonathan - that's what puzzled me more than anything. It's like they're almost creating some new category of dining - entree prices, shareable concept, but with portions too tiny for that.

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I had a completely different experience about a month or two ago. I thought the portions were rather large, and I was stuffed. Granted, the menu looks markedly different from the one they had when I went there, so they might have made some adjustments to pricing and portion size since I went, but I couldn't imagine being more full after finishing my meal. I think my dining companion and I spent around $100 -- though we didn't get drinks.

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I had a similar experience to WWZ.  i went both opening night and the night of the blizzard, and each time my companion (a different person each visit) and i felt that the portions were quite small and expensive, even by DC standards. i have found the cocktails and decor to be some of the best in the city though.  still, i find myself around the corner at convivial much, much more often. 

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I've now eaten there three times and have not had the time to write something longer, but I absolutely love everything about this place, and have not had a bad experience. I've also been able to just walk in on two of those occasions and be seated nearly immediately. The winter vegetable salad that they have on the menu right now is terrific. 

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I've now eaten there three times and have not had the time to write something longer, but I absolutely love everything about this place, and have not had a bad experience. I've also been able to just walk in on two of those occasions and be seated nearly immediately. The winter vegetable salad that they have on the menu right now is terrific. 

I'd love to hear more when you have time. It's on my list of places to get to soon.

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We had dinner at the Dabney on Sunday night at 8:30 - the only time we could get in!  It was four adults and one toddler (who was mesmerized by the hearth!), and it was really lovely.  In particular, I was quite pleasantly surprised by how many vegetables were on the menu and how well they were treated - perhaps this should not have been surprising, but I guess based on the "Southern" tilt I figured it would be porkier than it was.  Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of piggy on the menu!

The space is stunning, but boy it is LOUD.  Had the dining room been full, we would not have been able to hear one another at the table.  I thought there was a great selection of cocktails, wine, and beer, and we enjoyed everything that we ordered from the drink menu.

We sampled most of the food menu, and everything was really yummy - my favorites were the sorghum glazed maitake mushrooms, the grilled ciabatta, the pan-fried blue catfish (totally unlike any catfish I've ever had before - delicious), and the farro verde.  There was also a chicken special with grilled potatoes and charred lettuces that was awesome.

I wasn't super enamored with the dessert choices, but the devil's food cake with sour cream ice cream was actually quite good.  I have no idea what the total bill was (and we were probably comped some items), but we definitely did not leave hungry.  I thought the portion sizes were really generous for what they were and for the prices, and I can see hubby and I coming in to sit at the bar and order a few dishes.

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The vegetable dishes have been among my favorites here, including the amazing mushroom dish bettyjoan described above (honestly one of the best things I've tasted in a long time) and a celery root (yes, celery root) dish from a winter menu a few months ago. Actually some of my favorite things at the Dabney have been dishes I didn't necessarily expect to love from the menu descriptions but was convinced to try. He does really creative things with interesting ingredients. I love this place.

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I went to the The Dabney right when it opened, and liked it well enough, but what I experienced there this week was a restaurant that has started to come into its own - the entire experience being at a much higher level.

Even when it opened, The Dabney had a strong beverage program, but not what it is now. Paying homage to The Dabney's commitment towards "local," I started out with a draft of Right Proper Ornithology, brewed right up the street, and weighing in at a refreshingly light 3.9% alcohol - a Grisette - closely related to a Saison in that it's meant to keep you light on your feet, and can be had in multiples during a single sitting.

Here's a slight mistake I made so you don't have to: I began my meal with an order of Pumpernickel Toast ($4), topped with ricotta, smoked honey, and charred Spring onions. The mistake was not in ordering this delightful bread course, but in forgetting that The Dabney serves you a complimentary slice of grilled ciabatta, with flavored sorghum butter that is, in itself, a wonderful course, and more than enough to satisfy any bread cravings a single person may have. Remember this if you go there alone, but don't neglect the Pumpernickel Toast just because of this, because both bread plates are delicious.

Then came the 1-2 punch of the main course: Lacquered Quail ($25) with Chesapeake Oyster Stuffing (inside the deboned quail), brown butter, greens, and golden raisins - the only bones that remained were the legs, so you could pick each one up and finish off the dish. It was fantastic, and even better with a side of Ember-Roasted Young Potatoes ($8) - make sure to turn your head towards the kitchen when ordering, because the wood-burning fire is raging, several feet high, and these clearly picked up some of the smoke, and were served with pork sausage, sour cream, and mustard. The two dishes as a combination worked brilliantly, and I couldn't help myself in getting two different reds: a Beaujolais, and a Chinon.

The Beaujolais ($12) was a 2014 Cháteau Cambon, which, although not from a single village, had a reasonably full body and a delicious palate presence. However, even this fine example of Gamay was dwarfed by the Chinon ($11), a 2014 Fabrice Gasnier "Les Graves" - a single-vineyard, 100% Cabernet Franc with a body that would put many a St. Emilion to shame. This is a red wine I could drink every day and not get tired of, and I made sure to save half a glass of it for my dessert, which I knew in advance would be chocolate.

Devil's Food Cake ($9 (all desserts are $9)) came with Sour Cream Ice Cream, Pumpernickel Streusel (closing the circuit from the first course of the dinner), and Candied Ginger, and went splendidly with the Chinon. Has anyone noticed that we're having an ice-cream spurt in town of late? We're seeing flavors now that we've never seen before, and we're seeing them at many, many restaurants. Ten years ago? It was 2 Amys; now, there are fully two dozen restaurants serving homemade ice cream filled with heart and soul.

My bartender was fabulous, and this meal at The Dabney solidifies the restaurant in my mind as one of the very greatest newcomers on the scene (I had some doubts after my first visit, but no longer). Well-worth the time and effort to get into Blagden Alley early, right at 5:30 when they open.

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I had yet another just-okay meal at the Dabney last night.  Sat at the bar alone around 8.  Chef Langhorne wasn't in the kitchen--a first for my visits.  I ordered the Green Garlic Soup with crab, garlic croutons, radish, & yogurt to start.  It was tasty, but had a strong flavor of tom yum soup (lemongrass/ginger?), which I asked the bartender about.  She couldn't figure out why, and neither could the kitchen.  Oh well--I still liked it, but there wasn't nearly enough crab (as in, barely any) to justify the $15 price tag.

I then had the soft shell crab ($17), which I had been craving.   It came with ramps, pea shoots, radish, benne, pickled strawberries, & hollandaise.  Unfortunately, either the kitchen lost my order or the bartender forgot to put it in, as I had to ask for them to check on it after about a half hour.  Upon arrival, it was quite good, but I've definitely had better, juicier ones elsewhere.  My skepticism about how the pickled strawberries would work with the dish was unfounded, as they paired surprisingly nicely.

The staff was nice enough to give me a 10% "We Like You" discount on my bill, which I appreciated.  Unsure if it's something they do often for solo diners, or if it was a mea culpa for the delay in the softshell.  Either way it was nice.

Unlike previous visits, I didn't have one of their delicious cocktails, just a Highland Oatmeal Porter from a bottle, which I very much enjoyed.  Less enjoyable was listening to a bartender complain to the guests next to me about another bartender working that night.  That kind of stuff should be left to private conversations, I think.

It's right around the corner from me and a beautiful space, so it pains me to say, but I'm running out of chances to give The Dabney, especially with so much great nearby competition.

BTW, I also should mention that I came by with about five friends at 12 a.m. on a Saturday a few weeks ago for a nightcap.  The bar was full, with the main dining room mostly empty.  We were informed by the host--who surely was just doing his job--that we would not be allowed to stand at the bar.  Non-plussed, my friend who knew a staff member appealed to the bartender, who reluctantly allowed us to stay and run up a $100+ tab.  I understand the reason for such a policy during crowded dinner hours, but it didn't make much sense at that time.  Not sure if it's been revised since then.

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Had a very nice solo meal at the bar last night. Arrived just before the doors opened at 5:30 and there were just a few other people along with me waiting. Had generous pours of the Chenin Blanc and later the Millstone Cider.

I started with a smoked catfish dip that was very similar in composition and texture to the pork rillettes I had right after. But they were both right in my wheelhouse, so I was happy. The catfish was very smoky with pickled red onion and served with very rustic corn crackers that took me a few bites to figure out how not to break them when dipping them. This was easily my favorite dish of my night. The rillettes was good, but there are others in town (i.e. Restaurant Eve) that I prefer. Served with grilled ciabatta and some pickled elements. Had a hard time picking my third dish, but settled on the softshell crab. Served almost identically as @funkyfood had it, but with pickled rhubard instead of strawberry. I enjoyed it, particularly with the hollandaise that was very bright with lemon.

The bar was never full the whole time I was there from opening to about 6:45. I'd say it was generally just a little over half full the whole time. Service at the bar was lovely. All-in-all a very relaxing, solo evening.

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I had reservation last night but missed it by 30 minutes because of single tracking.  What's the point of a Trip Planner if they don't take circumstances into account?  It took 1 hr 30 minutes for me to go from Tysons Corner to the Dabney, and that's with me hopping off at McPherson Sq. and catching a cab.  Luckily, Steve was able to get there on time and hog 2 bar seats.

We order some oysters, pork rind and

SOFTSHELL CRAB charred onion, basil, pickled cucumber, & hollandaise — $17

SMOKED DUCK TOAST bbq sauce, herb pesto, preserved lemon, & raw veggies — $14

TILEFISH yellow squash, nasturtium-crab butter, & basil — $17

WHOLE BBQ BEAVER CREEK QUAIL creamed corn, kimchi puree, bay leaf pickled blueberries, & shiso — $18

FRIED CHICKEN cucumber and lemon verbena salad & buttermilk dressing — $16

To my surprise, every dish was perfectly executed - right temperature, texture and seasoning.  The crabs were fried crispy on the outside, the tilefish, quail and chicken were all wonderfully tender.  I may not have loved everything but I can't complain about lack of execution.  The reason that I didn't love every dish is that I'm not a fan of sweet food and many dishes used sorghum, and many dishes were topped with a number of pickled vegetables, herbs or other greens.  I'm never certain what to do with sauces on the plate and colorful things topping the protein.  Should I swirl the protein in the sauce?  If the sauce is meant to be eaten, why isn't it on the food instead of the plate?  Should I eat all the toppings?  What if  you can't get the same toppings on each any every bite?  

Nevertheless, the Dabney is impressive for its high level of execution, and reasonable pricing.  With over $80 of booze, the bill was only about $200 with tax.


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54 minutes ago, Ericandblueboy said:

I'm never certain what to do with sauces on the plate and colorful things topping the protein.  Should I swirl the protein in the sauce?  If the sauce is meant to be eaten, why isn't it on the food instead of the plate?  Should I eat all the toppings?  What if  you can't get the same toppings on each any every bite?  

I know your questions were rhetorical, but I'll try to address them anyway, with the understanding that I don't pretend to be any mountain of wisdom:

"Should I swirl the protein in the sauce?" Yes, the sauce is there to be eaten; otherwise, it could just as well be a piece of parsley for garnish. 

"Why isn't it on the food instead of the plate?" Both so the protein doesn't get mushy and to keep the sauce hot by covering it (the over/under presentation also becomes a chef's personal preference after a time, or perhaps even a habit).

"Should I eat all the toppings?" My feeling with composed plates is that the chef has portioned everything to be eaten by the time the plate is finished, but if you dislike something, it's no great sin if you leave it out (think ginger on a plate of sushi - it's there if you want it; some diners will finish it all; others will have just a smidgen).

"What if you can't get the same toppings on each and every bite?" The diner can play with different combinations and come up with various sensations, either having everything together, or taking certain bites as "taste breaks" (like having a sip of Champagne at certain intervals).

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We end up at The Dabney at least every few weeks, and were back last night for dinner.  We've loved the bar from the beginning -- their cocktails, especially the brown liquor ones, are generally excellent -- but have found the food to be a little more variable.  Sometimes a dish is amazing, but sometimes just okay.  (Service is generally fantastic.  I especially love sitting at the bar and getting to chat with Tyler, Frank, and others, although the host stand/table staff are also great.)  However, since the start of the summer, the kitchen has been absolutely hitting it out of the park.  The cucumber gazpacho (maryland blue crab, lime, pickled ramp, evoo, & mint) continues to be a refreshing way to start on a sweltering night; I particularly love the acidic punch of the slivers of pickled ramp.  Last night's whole grilled black bass (cilantro-lime jalapeno dressing, carolina gold rice, kimchi, roma beans & benne) was delicious when we had it as a "small plate" a few weeks ago, and if anything it's better in its whole, "family style" presententation.  (But then I get a lot of glee out of filleting a whole fish.)  The cilantro-prominent sauce is bright and spicy, the charred onions and beans are satisfying, and the kimchi puree-dressed rice provides a respite of simpler (although not boring) flavored bites to punctuate the more exciting fish/veg bites.  The ember-roasted beets (smoked & dried scallop, virginia peanut, basil, lemongrass, & pickled chili) were unexpectedly refined, with a thick beet foam on the roasted beet chunks and a lot of umami depth from the fishy and nutty elements, balanced by the bright basil.  (I'd expected something satisfyingly homey, but this dish would fit easily on the menu of a farm-to-table restaurant with more fine dining ambitions.)  And I I may love their thickly sliced, grilled ciabatta with sweet, whipped sorghum butter (which I've definitely licked off on the tiny serving spoon on occasion) more than Rose's potato bread.  The only less-than-stunning dish was the side of charred corn on the cob (feta, black garlic, & popped sorghum).  Maybe I'm too accustomed to lime-dressed elote, but I wanted more acid on this corn.  

Props to the staff for updating the online menu daily; we love seeing an exciting new dish that makes us want to pop in.

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Does anyone know if they reserve a handful of tables for walk-ins or is it all reservation-only? 

I couldn't find any info on their site.

 

EDIT:  Never mind.  I clicked the "reservation" button which opened up a new window on their reservation site and found this note:

Non reservable seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis at our 16-seat bar, bar tables, and, if weather permits, our courtyard.

They should put that on their main  site.  Or maybe not!  ;-)

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1 hour ago, Bart said:

Does anyone know if they reserve a handful of tables for walk-ins or is it all reservation-only? 

I couldn't find any info on their site.

Their whole bar area is available for walk-ins. In addition to bar seating, there are two or three high tops that seat four people.

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2 minutes ago, eatruneat said:

Their whole bar area is available for walk-ins. In addition to bar seating, there are two or three high tops that seat four people.

Thanks!  Your response popped up in the middle of me updating my message.

Thanks again!

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Is there a better looking restaurant to walk into when the weather is turning to Autumn and the hearth is blazing and the air is tinged with smoke?  It's tough to come up with one that tops The Dabney.

After settling in with a cocktail we ordered a round of white stone oysters ($16/half dozen), a little pricey, but man these are good oysters.  Maybe the best oysters I've ever had, plump, juicy, lightly briny, perfectly shucked.  Damn good.  The squid puppies ($8), pieces of chopped up squid mixed with hush puppy batter made for tasty fried bites.  I couldn't resist ordering the 18 Month Broadbent's Country Ham biscuit ($12), this is some beautiful cured ham, not the greatest biscuit I've had but solidly good, light and fluffy...but that ham, delicious.

In between these courses, a plate of grilled ciabatta was served with a little pot of honey butter.  I'm assuming it was made in house and this was some really good bread.  We hoarded the last crumbs and nubs, our server (who was excellent by the way, in fact the whole staff was very good) even joked with us about the bread hoarding and the loss of limbs he might have faced if he took away the plate.     

We then had a round of salad courses:  Maryland Crab Salad, apple, brown butter vinaigrette, and walnuts ($16) makes the case for Maryland crab, beautiful lumps perfectly cooked.  It's clear chef is working with some really high quality products.  The Hearth Roasted Vegetables farro, ricotta, and herbs ($15) made the case for why small plates that are served "when they are ready" is such a folly.  This was a nicely composed plate of roasted vegetables, including beets, broccoli, cauliflower, but as a stand-alone dish it didn't really work...it needed a partner.  It also needed to be seasoned better, a little more salt, a hit of acid.   

The Seared Scallops butternut squash, chestnut, sorrel, maple ($17) was probably the miss of the night.  It featured two scallops, which looked like they had been sliced in half and seared.  The butternut squash was almost a liquid and it was topped with a white foam (I'm guessing the chestnuts).  The maple made everything much too sweet.  And the paltry little scallops did not add up to the price of the dish.  I would put this on the avoid list. 

The Fried Catfish, hot honey, buttermilk dressing, greens, and radish ($16) was delicious with a crunchy batter.  Its main flaw:  again too sweet.  The honey and buttermilk dressing pooled at the bottom of the bowl, not really dressing the fried fish, nor serving as a dipping sauce, just a pool of sweetness.  The greens and radish were fine but didn't really add anything.  We loved the catfish, but the rest needs to be re-worked.  

The Ember-Roasted Sweet Potatoes benne, lime, chili ($8) was the least expensive item we ordered, and it was the largest food portion.  The sweet potatoes were served as chunks, the skins blackened, tasting of smoke and hearth.  Yet again, a dish that was way too sweet (yeah I know, sweet potatoes).  But served with the scallops and catfish we had three dishes that were sweet on sweet on sweet.

My overall impression is that Chef should trust the excellent products he is cooking.  The more simple preparations were by far the best dishes.  The more complex dishes try to pull together disparate flavors and they don't always work, with a tendency to be overpowered by the sweet elements.  The maple, the honey, it's too much.

This is certainly not a cheap place to dine, with most dishes in the mid-teens, the bill quickly adds up. The food is good, but little nits and picks keep it from being great.  The Dabney is a lovely space, clearly a labor of love.  I look forward to seeing Chef Langhorne grow in to it. 

 

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I've gone back and forth on this place a bunch, but my one opinion that hasn't changed is how highly I think of the bar here.  They make some of the best drinks in the city, in a great space, with friendly bartenders, at below-market prices considering the quality of ingredients and craftsmanship.  Their on-menu drinks are fantastic, but they're also more than happy to make you something off-menu.  Their take on the Penicillin is one of the best i've had.

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3 hours ago, funkyfood said:

They make some of the best drinks in the city, in a great space, with friendly bartenders, at below-market prices considering the quality of ingredients and craftsmanship.  

You're not alone in praising their bar set up

City Paper Best of D.C.
Best Bartender
Tyler Hudgens

We really enjoyed her cocktails and company during our 10th anniversary dinner there earlier this year. Wonderful bar.

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3 hours ago, funkyfood said:

I've gone back and forth on this place a bunch, but my one opinion that hasn't changed is how highly I think of the bar here.  

6 minutes ago, Kev29 said:

Wonderful bar.

Thirded.

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On 5/24/2017 at 0:13 AM, funkyfood said:

$48 for a half chicken, salad and potatoes...

GRILLED RETTLAND FARMS CHICKEN half chicken, confit potatoes, summer salad, spicy schmaltz vinaigrette — $48

At a glance from the picture of the clucker on their webpage, and according to a CSA, they grow Cornish Cross. That’s pricey for CC, but maybe the staff is paid well, the schmaltz supply is tight and the landlord is fleecing Mr. Langhorne in return. Either way, if people are willing to pay for that before seeing the Eagles downtown, god bless Mr. Langhorne and special tip of the hat to Rettland for taking advantage of free market capitalism, though if they are using organic (certified) feed that would be a selling point onto which they can charge even more.

 

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51 minutes ago, funkyfood said:

I must have not been the only one offended by that price, as it's now $10 cheaper.  No more potatoes though!

GRILLED RETTLAND FARMS CHICKEN half chicken, charred bok choy, summer salad, spicy schmaltz vinaigrette — $38

$38 for a half-chicken with no starch?

Thanks for the low-carb diet, Mr. Barnum.

Still, I'd much rather see this, coupled with a fairly priced wine list, than seeing $22 for the chicken, and triple-retail for the wines. Sell me a good Coteaux d'Aix Rosé, Beaujolais Village, or Chinon, at retail - or charge $20 per bottle, PER PERSON <lightbulb goes on in people's heads> corkage (*) - and I'll be the first one to buy that chicken.

(*) Yes, a table of three, nursing one bottle of wine will pay $60 to drink during that meal; a solo diner at the bar - who will probably take half the bottle home - will pay $20 (the money being 100% profit for the restaurant, as there's no inventory cost). It's a workable idea, and one that you'll be seeing in restaurants within 1-2 years, all because someone put a psychedelic in my couscous tonight.

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Went last Thursday for our annual trip to The Dabney specifically for the soft shell crab. Don't remember all the details now, but overall we really enjoyed our meal. Food was very very good and the plating was really lovely. Part of me wanted to take pictures, but (for one night only) I decided not to be that person. A few other notes:

  • The bar had plenty of seats when we walked in around 7pm, which was surprising but it filled up quickly closer to 8pm
  • Favorite dish was the country pate on toast with a half of a farm egg and herbs
  • Soft shell crab was really good, but I think I prefer more simple preparations
  • @MichaelBDC had the grilled mahi mahi on a bed of mixed greens dressed in a green goddess dressing. He really liked the salad, especially the dressing. Fish was cooked well
  • Split the hearth roasted vegetables with a smattering of farro and a few dots of ricotta. Good dish but for what was basically a side dish, not sure it was worth $15, two dollars less than the mahi mahi
  • Bartender was great, but there was an unusually long wait for our entrees, for which we received a top-off on our wine

I really like The Dabney and have always enjoyed my meals there but for reasons I can't pinpoint, I don't love it. If it weren't for my love of soft shell crabs, I am not sure I'd ever think to go there.

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I’ve had a gift certificate for the Dabney for over 18 months that I have not been able to use because I have NEVER been able to get a reservation for two people, even a couple of weeks out. Friday is our anniversary. No reservations available, obviously (even when I checked a couple weeks back when the period opened). What do people think the chances are of getting a table if we walk in around 6:30/7?

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25 minutes ago, Rieux said:

I’ve had a gift certificate for the Dabney for over 18 months that I have not been able to use because I have NEVER been able to get a reservation for two people, even a couple of weeks out. Friday is our anniversary. No reservations available, obviously (even when I checked a couple weeks back when the period opened). What do people think the chances are of getting a table if we walk in around 6:30/7?

I read the following on the website exploring the reservation pages:

Quote

Non reservable seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis at our 16-seat bar, bar tables, and, if weather permits, our courtyard.

 

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43 minutes ago, Rieux said:

I have NEVER been able to get a reservation for two people, even a couple of weeks out.

They only take reservations two weeks out; is it possible that you're checking too early?  (For what it's worth, they've currently got a 9:45 for two this Friday, if you don't mind a late celebration.)  

If you go at 6:30, you might be okay; I've definitely gotten bar seats at around 6:00 on a Friday, but I can't recall how quickly everything else filled up.  

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Arrived at 6:30, put names on list, got a table 45 minutes later, more or less. It was a really enjoyable meal for a December 5th anniversary dinner.

We ate a wide path through the menu. Everything was good, but a couple of dishes were too sweet.  That said, we would go back, and the drinks, service, and ambience  were top-notch. Standouts were the oysters, carrots, short rib, and chicken and dumplings.  Ricotta toast was good. The sugar toads and foie gras biscuit were a touch too sweet. 

Oh, and it was expensive. For two people, with two cocktails (me) and two non- alcoholic drinks (husband), the food above, a coffee, and an amaro it was $240. Glad we had a gift certificate for $150 from a friend. 

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2 hours ago, Rieux said:

Arrived at 6:30, put names on list, got a table 45 minutes later, more or less. It was a really enjoyable meal for a December 5th anniversary dinner.

We ate a wide path through the menu. Everything was good, but a couple of dishes were too sweet.  That said, we would go back, and the drinks, service, and ambience  were top-notch. Standouts were the oysters, carrots, short rib, and chicken and dumplings.  Ricotta toast was good. The sugar toads and foie gras biscuit were a touch too sweet. 

Oh, and it was expensive. For two people, with two cocktails (me) and two non- alcoholic drinks (husband), the food above, a coffee, and an amaro it was $240. Glad we had a gift certificate for $150 from a friend. 

Funny, perhaps I have a sweet tooth, but the sugar toads and foie gras biscuit are two of my favorite dishes there!  The Dabney is a terrific place, but you've put your finger on the principal downside:  It seems significantly overpriced for what you get.  That's true, of course, of many places these days, and I'm sure it's a result of extremely high rent and other overhead--I'm not saying they're gouging anyone.  Even so, and although I do like both the food and the staff, I've walked out each time I've been there thinking that it (probably) wasn't worth the cost.

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3 hours ago, Marty L. said:

Even so, and although I do like both the food and the staff, I've walked out each time I've been there thinking that it (probably) wasn't worth the cost.

I have that reaction too often at too many places these days

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