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Cafe Deluxe, Informal, Diner-Style American Restaurant in Multiple Area Locations


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Do not eat at Cafe Deluxe or at Cactus Cantina. By all means do eat at 2 Amys. This is the easiest choice imaginable.

Welcome to the board Marty! Would you care to expand on your admonition?

Cafe Deluxe doesn't get much attention on this board, but I find it to be a perfectly acceptable, even very good lunch spot, and they serve Sunday brunch starting at 10:30 am. I particularly like their roasted tomato soup and their roasted lamb and goat cheese on sourdough sandwich. BlakeG can probably expand more on what's good there too. I really enjoy 2Amys, but it can sometimes be crazy busy on Sundays.

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I too, can't fathom Marty's admonition of Cafe Deluxe. I understand that CC isn't the best food in the world but what can really be wrong with hot, fresh tortillas? As for CD, I use to live just down the block across from St.Albans Condos and used to lunch, brunch and dinner at CD quite often. Once even got drunk enought to catch a cab home (2 blocks) :P While it isn' the most innovative, highly rated food in the world, it is solidly executed comfort food. I love the meatloaf and have had good brunch food there also. And once, I saw Barbara Bush eating lunch with some cronies.....

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Do not eat at Cafe Deluxe or at Cactus Cantina. By all means do eat at 2 Amys. This is the easiest choice imaginable.

I'm with Marty on this one.

And if this is the same Marty L from Chowhound, welcome old friend.

And if it's not, welcome NEW friend...

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Yup, it's me. Not much to say about CD -- extremely bland, cookie-cutter food every time I've been. Worst french fries ever. But folks I respect, such as Smokey, claim to have found some gems in the rough, at least at the Wisconsin Ave. location (at which I've only eaten two (dull) meals). See this thread:

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/170113?que...blah&user_name=

I don't know anyone, even those who admire CD, who think it's within the same universe as 2 Amys, which when it's on is just about the perfect neighborhood restaurant. (The little crostini are great, btw -- last night including a delicious prosciutto/parsnip combo.)

About Cactus Cantina, the less said, the better.

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Welcome to the board Marty! Would you care to expand on your admonition?

Cafe Deluxe doesn't get much attention on this board, but I find it to be a perfectly acceptable, even very good lunch spot, and they serve Sunday brunch starting at 10:30 am. I particularly like their roasted tomato soup and their roasted lamb and goat cheese on sourdough sandwich. BlakeG can probably expand more on what's good there too. I really enjoy 2Amys, but it can sometimes be crazy busy on Sundays.

I think Don and mktye would really appreciate us using the Dining Guide which they have been tirelessly updating, to help answer these "what's in the neighborhood" questions.

Well as a matter of fact, I will give you a quick rundown of the CD Wisc. and be completely objective. First of all YES Two Amy's is fantastic, I am friends with a lot of the employees, and it is one of my favorite "go-to's" in the city and I actually recommend that to people all the time over CD. However, I can't speak for the rest of you, but sometimes I am just not in the mood for it. Deluxe has some perfectly passable comfort food and on days like these I just feel like a braised lamb shank a bit more than a cockles pizza. So I think it does have a niche. And one note on Cactus, I know more than a few Egyptians/Middle-Easterners who eat there every day they have off because it reminds them most of the daily cuisine in Egypt. I am not a HUGE fan but I thought that was interesting. You really should order off the specials menu and stay away from the Tex-Mex staples like enchiladas, burrito etc.

Ok back to Deluxe, I am going to write a complete review/dining guide for you. What I tell people is that we don't really have anything that falls flat on its face but we don't really reach for great culinary heights either. So I say 8.5 for execution and a 4 for level of dfifficulty. We are really good about substitutions, changes etc. More so than most any restaurant I can think of and I think one of our greatest strengths is your ability to customize a dish which I do ALL the time for myself. Add a piece of tuna steak and avacado to that salad, get the steak with sauteed spinach instead of mashed potatoes etc. That is what makes it a surprisingly great place to eat healthy. I almost always get the Tuna Mignon with no sauce no gratin potato and sauteed spinach and black bean relish on the side. Or roasted chicken with green beans and tomatoes instead of mashed pot. We are very kid friendly in my opinion. I think most of the servers are also great at spotting return business and a lot of times you will see 4 or 5 staff members stop by another servers table to have a short conversation with someone we all know.

Dish-wise my favorite right now is probably the sea-bass but I drop the corn sautee it comes with and substitute spinach and leave off the buerre blanc also. Then I just ask for some OO and drizzle it on top with some lemon. VERY good. I know that has alterations but after you have been eating there for three years you experiment a lot.

I think one thing we do better than most is pot pie. I usually get that when I come in with Beth. Again nothing fancy but good execution. I am really liking the lamb shank these days. The roast chicken is usally another staple of my meals (some days it can be a bit dry but that is the exception not the rule). Our mac and cheese and roast tomatoes are my favorite sides. Not a fan of the asparagus. Meatloaf is the most popular but I just think it is passable (nothing is better than mom's right?). The tuna and salmon are both dreal nice cuts of fish for a pretty low price. I am not a fan of the shrimp we are getting right now. We switched to american shrimp and sadly they do NOT taste as good as the foreign ones we were getting. But that could change at anytime. I love the broth we use for our mussells and we serve enough of them to keep the stock rotating frequently. But I am always leery of mussells to begin with.

I would leave the pasta dishes. They are both decent but you could make the same with one of those ready made skillet bags that you can get in the freezer section. Burgers, good. Lamb sandwich and prime rib cheddar melt real good. Tuna Steak sandwich and Nicoise salad (with salmon not tuna) good. Not a big fan of the Sunday night ribs but I am from KC so that might be skewed. A lot of people love them. The specials are all hit or miss. Some I really like usually the weekend specials are a bit less utilitarian. If I am there find me and ask me and I will let you know :P

Soups are usually real good. Dessert is nothing special I would say except for the special cheesecake which is decent and the mixed berries which always seem to be of uncannily (word?) good quality even out of season. All the appetizers are decent but my least favorite is the most popular, spinach dip. The onion strings are ADDICTIVE, the ahi tuna is my favorite but more expensive and the quesadillas are a pretty common staff purchase.

And as for brunch I am pretty blah about it. Don't get me wrong it is perfectly good but nothing I couldn't whip up at home in under a half an hour. If you do go, I recommend getting the steak frites and substituting eggs for the fries (Yes we will do that!!! No one knows it but me though).

Monday night all bottles of wine are half price. And yes Antonio you can occassionaly do some mild celebrity spotting. I have waited on the Bush twins and Gheorghe Muresan, Michael Wilbon, Bill Frist, Tim Russert and other politicos frequently stop by. I would say service is really good but it is hit or miss. We have about half of the staff who have been there for a long time, know everyone and really do care about giving good service but we also get in some seasonal and new hires from AU to fill out the schedule due to schlubs like me who only work weeknights and scattered weekends.

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Well as a matter of fact, I will give you a quick rundown of the CD Wisc. and be completely objective. First of all YES Two Amy's is fantastic, I am friends with a lot of the employees, and it is one of my favorite "go-to's" in the city and I actually recommend that to people all the time over CD. However, I can't speak for the rest of you, but sometimes I am just not in the mood for it. Deluxe has some perfectly passable comfort food and on days like these I just feel like a braised lamb shank a bit more than a cockles pizza. So I think it does have a niche. And one note on Cactus, I know more than a few Egyptians/Middle-Easterners who eat there every day they have off because it reminds them most of the daily cuisine in Egypt. I am not a HUGE fan but I thought that was interesting. You really should order off the specials menu and stay away from the Tex-Mex staples like enchiladas, burrito etc.

<snip>

Nicoise salad (with salmon not tuna) good. <snip>

Hey, martyL! Welcome--I don't think I had seen you post here before, but you were the person who turned me on to DR.

I think that Blake makes a reasoned defense of CD above. There are times when, for whatever reason (let's remember, we don't all live lives surrounded by fellow food-obsessed people, sigh), we can't choose the really yummy option and have to go for something more lowest common denominator (not meant in the derogatory way it comes across, maybe I should say "broadly appealing"?). And, as Blake pointed out, one doesn't necessarily want to go to 2Amy's literally every day of the week. Change isn't bad.

CD has some perfectly passable comfort food is the perfect way of putting it. The Nicoise salad is my go-to dish there. No, it's not *great*, it won't win any awards, but I'm not asking that of CD. It's always, however, been good. Like in the link that MartyL made to chowhound, I've generally been disappointed when I've strayed away from that. But, my guess is that (as pointed out by Blake) there are other reasonable options on the menu.

As for CC, well, you would have to pay me to eat there. My one and only meal was a long time ago, so I don't remember the details, but I do remember being completely underwhelmed to the point that I was unwilling to give it another chance. I've heard that the specials are better than the Tex-Mex, so maybe that was my mistake? As somebody who travelled for 2 weeks in Egypt, I will say that I am not surprised by the statement that it reminds your mid-E/Egyptian friends of the daily food of home!

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I’ll also put in a defense of Café Deluxe. It’s a good place to take Grandmothers, or Fathers who don’t like “being in the city.” The menu is not overwhelming or “odd.”

I always get the Ahi Tuna Mignon W. Green Pepper Sauce & Potato Au Gratin. Unlike BlakeG I get the sauce and potatoes :P The tuna is always cooked how I like it (rare rare) and the potatoes are creamy and cheesy. Can’t argue with that.

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I have waited on the Bush twins and Gheorghe Muresan, Michael Wilbon, Bill Frist, Tim Russert and other politicos frequently stop by.

my mother was thrilled to see madeleine albright, ordering meat loaf in the back, when we took here there once, and i sat next to ted kennedy waiting for a table about a year ago. this is a good place to spot celebrities with political stripes and check out the drinking habits of newscasters before they go on the air (or at least used to be, i haven't really kept up.)

and what about the time monica lewinsky came in and left her celebrated lipstick stains at the bar?

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my mother was thrilled to see madeleine albright, ordering meat loaf in the back, when we took here there once, and i sat next to ted kennedy waiting for a table about a year ago. this is a good place to spot celebrities with political stripes and check out the drinking habits of newscasters before they go on the air (or at least used to be, i haven't really kept up.)

and what about the time monica lewinsky came in and left her celebrated lipstick stains at the bar?

Yeah Teddy K does come in every once and again. He had gone sober, or at least the Kennedy version of sober I guess. White wine only. There are a ton of local and some national newscasters also. Oh and by the way, Lindsay Czarniak..... WOW, 10 times hotter in person. The Bush twins were the same way. Never thought they were anything special but seeing them in person definitely changed my mind.

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I have somewhat of a soft spot for Cafe Deluxe because I had my one-and-only waitress job here one summer while in grad school. No, it is not fine dining, but there are some things the restaurant does well: the tomato bisque with grilled cheese is a comfort food favorite. My husband likes the garlicky chicken penne. And I disagree about the desserts. The cobbler of the day is generally very good.

Tim Russert used to come in all the time to drink Heinekens (sp?) and Wendy Rieger too.

Cafe Deluxe is what it is. Reasonable food, generally good service (at least I tried!).

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Hopefully, the new owners will put in noise mitigtion devices in the Tysons site. I didn't mind the expensive sandwich, and my friend raves about the Snapper Club, but I can't stand the noise in there at lunchtime. I won't go unless we can sit outside.

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I have always found Cafe Deluxe (on Wisconsin, have not been to the Bethesda or Tyson's locales) to be solid, if unspectacular. I'm moved today to post because the staff working last night were truly superb, and handled the unexpected expansion of our group from 8 to 12 people graciously, quickly, and efficiently. They enabled our group to celebrate both two friends returning to DC, and send off a friend about to be deployed, who was an unexpected addition to our group, along with some of his friends. The food was fine, but the food last night wasn't really the point. Aside from being very accomodating, once we were seated service was friendly, engaging, and well-paced. We may not forgo 2 Amy's for Cafe Deluxe every time in the future, but we will certainly swing by more often when we are in the mood for basic American fare, and superb service.

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Ditto the noise at the Tysons outpost. I tend to avoid noisy restaurants because I actually have a desire to to hear the persons I'm dining with.

I recall the Tysons location being relatively noisy, but what struck me the most unusual is that this place is like that funny steak house commercial a few years ago, where a couple of old white guys in business suits went into a steak house and started looking around, and it was crawling with women. The looks on the guys' faces were priceless. I think it was National Cattleman's Association (something like "Beef. It's What's for Dinner."). Cafe Deluxe is the chick flick of restaurants.

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Ditto the noise at the Tysons outpost. I tend to avoid noisy restaurants because I actually have a desire to to hear the persons I'm dining with.

I recall the Tysons location being relatively noisy, but what struck me the most unusual is that this place is like that funny steak house commercial a few years ago, where a couple of old white guys in business suits went into a steak house and started looking around, and it was crawling with women. The looks on the guys' faces were priceless. I think it was National Cattleman's Association (something like "Beef. It's What's for Dinner."). Cafe Deluxe is the chick flick of restaurants.

Hmmm...perhaps I shouldn't be so hard on the Cafe for its noise. Maybe I should give it another chance. All restaurants deserve a second chance, right?

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Hmmm...perhaps I shouldn't be so hard on the Cafe for its noise. Maybe I should give it another chance. All restaurants deserve a second chance, right?

Yes--all restaurants deserve a second chance. Even third and fourth chances if there are clear reasons to expect something different and better from whatever drove you away.

That said, we happened to have brunch at CD this morning in Bethesda. Blah, Bleh....or is it meh? Omelets tasted like they were made from the pre-broken eggs that many fast food/chain spots use so they can just be ladled from a metal container onto a grill or into a no-stick skillet. Potatoes were greasy and clearly not made to order. Kitchen was totally backed up; we waited nearly an hour for two omelets. OJ is from a carton. Couldn't bring ourselves to order coffee with Quartermaine just a walk around the corner. Of course, brunch doesn't necessarily mean a lunch or dinner would be the same. But, whether a place is lower priced or higher priced, either they're really trying to do something special and different or they're not. This place doesn't seem to be. Maybe the comparison isn't fair but, to me, it's not that much different from a Dennys; at least on breakfast foods. Can't imagine even talking about it in the same sentence as Two Amys for pizza.

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The food was fine, but the food last night wasn't really the point.

the food should be the point, and it was recently at a real low point. my wife commented that it was too bad we didn't have a dog at home to feed the inedible, raw steak that had gone mostly uneaten. the server was a bit clueless about this as well, except for noticing that the meat was overly rare. i have eaten at this restaurant frequently over the years, and was happy to see it open. it has always been a good training ground for young people in the restaurant business, the majority of whom probably go on to other things. however, the quality of the food here has really been allowed to slip. it should be held to a much higher standard.

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About the meal I didn't have at the new Gaithersburg location:

I wanted to have dinner here tonight with my family to celebrate my birthday. Not because I am in love with their food, but because it is an easy place to make sure everyone can find something they like (with a large group there are always picky eaters and we have 4 children in my family). I also wanted to check out their newest spot.

I called about a week ago and asked if I could make a reservation. The person who answered the phone said that they are not taking reservations, but with the size of my group (14) I could call the day of in the morning and they would have no problem accommodating my group.

My wife called this morning and she was assured that although they do not yet take reservations, they would put a table together for us at 6 pm. My wife asked a second time: "are you sure you will have a table for us? I don't want 14 people getting there and you tell us there won't be a table." She was assured that they would accommodate us. Before heading to the restaurant we called ahead a second time, an hour before our 6 pm arrival. We were again assured there would be a table for us.

I guess you can see where this is going. We got there a little before 6 and were told that they would be unable to accommodate us in one table. The manager said that based upon the design of the seating, they are unable to seat a group of our size. Funny thing is that there was a row of tables and they had just seated a 2 top in the middle of the row. This row of tables could have easily accommodated our party. It became clear that they were unwilling to seat our party.

Someone might read this and say "hey, the place made a mistake, which happens." Well, there were two other larger groups behind us that were given the same story as above and the management wouldn't honor their reservations either.

Finally, and I know this is a bit long winded, but they have a whole room in the rear that the manager was unwilling to open. Maybe they are just new, maybe the management is bad, maybe they had miscalculated the staffing needed for tonight, but if they had just told us up front this morning that they couldn't accommodate us, we would have found somewhere else to go. Its really hard make alternate arrangements though at 6 pm for that sized group.

Furthermore, the manager was unwilling to apologize. I will never be back!

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We had lunch at the Gaithersburg location on Friday. I can't imagine we'll be back anytime soon.

Service was friendly but very slow. We cut them slack since they haven't been open long.

But the food was just lousy. The little guy and Grandma both ordered grilled cheese sandwiches. The cheese on neither one was melted and the bread was barely warm. The New England Clam Chowder was a weird amalgam of flavors and mushy. My salad was fine but not special.

I suggested that they needed to time to get their food groove but Mr. BLB dismissed that since it is chain and the food isn't something new they are inventing.

All I know is that my hopes for something semi-edible in my neck of the woods were dashed again.

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It's a shame that folks have had negative experiences there. I used to frequent their Wisconsin Ave location and enjoyed their food. I went to the Gaithersburg one yesterday and had no problems.

Since they just opened 2 weeks ago, they are probably still working out the details. Though I totally see how the "no reservation" snafu was infuriating.

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We were at their Tyson's location while Matt bought his new car.  I had a salad with a crabcake.  It was good, the crabcake wasn't Annapolis good, but it hit the spot for my craving.  Mom had a croque monsieur and I forget what Hubby ended up having.  I was bummed that their seared tuna sandwich with pickled ginger mayo continues to not come back on the menu, but my salad was fresh and the ingredients were good.  The fries I stole from Hubby were tasty, they remind me of McDonald's fries, but not quite so salty. 

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Went to the Bethesda location for lunch today for the first time in a million years.  It was decent, better than I remembered. Fries were typical shoestrings, but good crispiness on them and nice and hot. The croque monsieur was tasty, but I wished I had the option to make it a madame. That said, I see no reason to go running to the place and also, I see no reason to go an run away screaming either. It's not terribly remarkable in either direction.

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I had lunch at the Tyson's location last Thursday and I was surprised how good my meal was.  I had a very delicious salmon burger, maybe the best one I've ever had.  It came with fries, but I asked to substitute a vegetable instead.  The menu description:  Salmon Burger #3* Housemade, Seaweed Salad, Pickled Ginger, Crispy Spring Roll Strips, Wasabi Mayo, Whole Wheat Oat Bun, Shoestring Fries.  The bread for the table was from a crusty peasant loaf.  I had eaten here a couple of years ago and didn't like it, so either they have improved their cooking or I hit on their best dish.  My friend had the Cobb salad.  He is a regular here (as he works at Tyson's).

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They used to have this seared tuna sandwich with pickled ginger mayo that I would crave.  I was so sad when they took it off the menu.  This was always a good family friendly place that was affordable and easier to get into than 2Amy's up by the cathedral.

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