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The Birchmere, Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray


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On a side note, my wife was jazzed about the sign for the opening of the Birchmere next door to RTC. Anyone know other details about its opening and whether they plan to have the same/similar acts to who play in Virginia?
Probably not open until late 2008, if not 2009. Knowing MoCo it may even be 2010.
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Probably not open until late 2008, if not 2009. Knowing MoCo it may even be 2010.

I would not be suprised if the county made it so difficult that they just gave up. Which would be too bad, I love going to the Birchmere, but it is too much of a trek to go during the week.

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I would not be suprised if the county made it so difficult that they just gave up. Which would be too bad, I love going to the Birchmere, but it is too much of a trek to go during the week.
I think that it will open eventually. Maryland just ponied up $2 million to make it happen.
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I think that it will open eventually. Maryland just ponied up $2 million to make it happen.

Never understimate the power of Montgomery County to screw it up in the name of protecting it's citizens from the evils of drink or merryment. It is darned difficult for any venue to have live music due to the stupid and mindboggling regulations that the county has. Much as I love living in the county, I do wish they would get their act together when it came to common sense.

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I would not be suprised if the county made it so difficult that they just gave up. Which would be too bad, I love going to the Birchmere, but it is too much of a trek to go during the week.
Looks like you were right (sort of) - according to this Post article MoCo has ended negotiations with The Birchmere folks and is talking to other operators. :angry:

Guess y'all will still have to cross the river for some good music and less than great food.

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Looks like you were right (sort of) - according to this Post article MoCo has ended negotiations with The Birchmere folks and is talking to other operators. B)

Guess y'all will still have to cross the river for some good music and less than great food.

Yeah, this stinks. I just noticed this past weekend that the sign was down announcing that the Birchmere was coming soon. I was so looking forward to not crossing the river and having the Birchmere in my backyard! There was also an article in the Gazette yesterday that did not go into as much detail. The Post is reporting that LiveNation is an interested party. I'm not familiar with them except for their "House of Blues" concept. And the fact that they are owned by Clear Channel Communications. :angry: The article says they are proposing a 2,000 seat venue, vs. the 700 seat venue from the Birchmere. Aside from MoCo wanting a larger venue (read: greedy) there were other problems with the negotiations as well.

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:angry: The article says they are proposing a 2,000 seat venue, vs. the 700 seat venue from the Birchmere.
I like the quote in the Post article from the president of Lee Development Group about the 2,000-capacity (not seat) venue:
With shows that start at 8 or 9 at night, where are all the people going to go to dinner? Across the street to restaurant row.
A crowd trying to eat (not dine) pre-show and dash to the same 2,000-capacity venue would probably crush RTC.

Yesterday's Washington Business Journal daily news had additional details not in the Post article.

The Birchmere had planned to open a $8 million 800-seat venue that would have gone into the former JC Penney department store site at 8656 Colesville Road. The site is owned by Silver Spring-based Lee Development Group.

<snip>

Instead, an unnamed stand-up nightclub is slated for the 10,000-square-feet space in the $80 million project that includes a 152-room hotel, a 183,000-square-foot office building and a 650-space parking garage, according to the Birchmere.

So, the nightclub is audience stand-up not comedy stand-up?
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Based on a news report tonight, Silver Spring's loss is College Park's gain. Doug Duncan [birchmere champion while MoCo Executive and now an Administrator at UMD] seems to have been involved in getting the Birchmere to look at a location north of the University on Paint Branch Parkway and Route One.

A WaPo article highlights the Fillmore/Silver Spring deal and briefly mentions the Birchmere/College Park agreement. On September 12th there was an interesting article in the Gazette that read like the coroner's report on the Birchmere/Silver Spring/Montgomery County deal.

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Based on a news report tonight, Silver Spring's loss is College Park's gain. Doug Duncan [birchmere champion while MoCo Executive and now an Administrator at UMD] seems to have been involved in getting the Birchmere to look at a location north of the University on Paint Branch Parkway and Route One.

A WaPo article highlights the Fillmore/Silver Spring deal and briefly mentions the Birchmere/College Park agreement. On September 12th there was an interesting article in the Gazette that read like the coroner's report on the Birchmere/Silver Spring/Montgomery County deal.

Here's a link to the SS website--no Birchmere, but at least we'll have something! Glad to hear that the Birchmere may still be close by, too!

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From a food standpoint, this place is really a disappointment and unnecessarily so. It is a fine music venue and I've seen many acts over the past couple of years. But they have a captive audience, so they decide to serve crap when they could easily upgrade the menu and the quality to something akin to a GAR or a Clyde's without a whole lot of effort.

Here's the point. Most concerts begin with an opening act at 7:30 and the main event around 8:30. But if you get there any later than about 6:00pm, your choice of seat is off in a corner or on the fringe. So you have to get there too early to have dinner at RT's or Del Merei just to get a seat, and you're sitting there for two hours with nothing to do but eat and drink! And no outside food or drink is allowed, either. Even worse, when the concert is over, the kitchens at RT's and Del Merei are closed! (Although Friday night after Delbert McClinton, girlfriend and I walked over to the bar at RT's to call a cab and have a drink, and we ordered the Cajun Popcorn (crawfish) at the bar. Yummy!)

The menu selection at the Birchmere is dreadful. The wings are passable, but the dipping sauces are out of a jar. Nachos are a pile of glop on top of flaccid chips. Beef Prison Chili came out of a can. The salads are mostly out of a bag, and feature some strange concoctions -- the King Cobb Salad has three fried-hard clumps of what appear to be chicken nuggets on top, and McDonald's actually makes these better. The Smokehouse Ribs had a little bit of flavor but were clearly prepackaged and reheated. Their pizzas appear to be pre-frozen and popped in the oven at the Birchmere.

So, in summary, the Birchmere is a great venue to catch a concert, but a horrendous waste of an opportunity to eat a good meal. Fortunately, they serve alcohol, which is why we always take the cab....

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But they have a captive audience, so they decide to serve crap when they could easily upgrade the menu and the quality to something akin to a GAR or a Clyde's without a whole lot of effort.

You must have never eaten at the original Birchmere a few blocks down the street. This menu is the upgrade. :D

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Dinner last night during the Nils Lofgren concert was almost passable. Don't get me wrong, the food here is barely edible and almost not fit for human consumption (albeit maybe a step up from Mike's), but last night was almost a meal.

I should also point out that it's a dark venue and we started drinking out in the lobby area, so there were reasons why we may have been distracted. We ordered an appetizer of chips and salsa, which are remarkably reminiscent of the Austin Grill's similarly forgetful chips and salsa. Lady Kibbee ordered her standard salmon entree, which is distinguished from canned salmon only insofar as it is actually shaped like a salmon filet and slightly, but only slightly, warmer than had it arrived directly out of a can. The dill sauce was actually not horrible, and with enough wine, it went down and stayed down.

I ordered off the little sign that was next to the menu -- Roast Beef Dinner -- and I upgraded to the "Del Ray cut" thinking that the standard cut would have 'issues' like the rest of the menu. For $19.99 I got a good quarter inch slab of beef -- glad I ordered the "Del Ray" because the regular cut must have been paper-thin -- cooked to a basic "rare" -- I ordered "medium" knowing they would bring it underdone -- along with a side of twice-baked potato and the same "vegetable medley" that came with girlfriend's salmon.

Overall, this was not a remarkable meal, but because it didn't completely and totally suck, it was worthy of a write-up.

By the way, Nils Lofgren was outstanding. I'm betting he didn't eat there last night.

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Don't get me wrong, the food here is barely edible and almost not fit for human consumption (albeit maybe a step up from Mike's), but last night was almost a meal.

This is all true (except for the gratuitous slam on Mike's). That said, how many venues can pump out 600 or so meals in the space of an hour and a half and maintain any type of quality?

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This is all true (except for the gratuitous slam on Mike's).

Could someone help me do a count? I think this is four non-GAR topics that now have a gratuitous slam on a GAR location, but I might have missed some.

Can we just start a separate "I hate GAR" topic and put all the posts there, so I can ignore them?

Deleted in 3....2....1....

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The "best" thing the Birchmere ever served - the bowl of rice with lots of veggies, featuring mushrooms and in a mushroom broth - was removed from the menu in the past year. When I complained to my waitress, she said many people lamented its removal.

It was the only thing to order that didn't riddle you with guilt or indigestion after you consumed it.

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By the way, Nils Lofgren was outstanding. I'm betting he didn't eat there last night.

But I bet he did, since Nils is a local boy and, frankly, remembers how shitty the food used to be at the old Birchmere.

I need to throw this out - while nobody who frequents DR would willingly go to the Birchmere for the food, as a musician you're lucky to have the club provide bottled water and a bag of chips. I was in a local band and they treat everybody with waiting hand-and-foot service backstage. Nils Lofgren, Alison Krauss, The Replacements, and dorks like us. Put this on top of most of the acts that tour typically perform 12 nights out of 14, so you could say your nutrition suffers.

Yes, the food bar is low. In this rare case, I'd argue that it's the thought that counts.

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But I bet he did, since Nils is a local boy and, frankly, remembers how shitty the food used to be at the old Birchmere.

I need to throw this out - while nobody who frequents DR would willingly go to the Birchmere for the food, as a musician you're lucky to have the club provide bottled water and a bag of chips. I was in a local band and they treat everybody with waiting hand-and-foot service backstage. Nils Lofgren, Alison Krauss, The Replacements, and dorks like us. Put this on top of most of the acts that tour typically perform 12 nights out of 14, so you could say your nutrition suffers.

Yes, the food bar is low. In this rare case, I'd argue that it's the thought that counts.

The smart ones who have been there before can send a runner across the street to RT's and have a right fine meal.

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I've been backstage with the band before the show several times and I can attest to the fact that they are very pleased to be provided with dinner (I brought the cheese, chocolate, and fine wine!) before the show. They are usually more than happy to eat grilled chicken or salmon and a salad and whatever veggies come along. When I asked about the quality I was told, hey, it's not fine dining but they try and they provide it and we are grateful.

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The smart ones who have been there before can send a runner across the street to RT's and have a right fine meal.

While that's true, it rarely works out that way in practice. It would presuppose that there were no snags in travel, and that sound check was scheduled and completed early enough to allow it. Also, while being in a touring band seems like grand living, the one thing it is not is wealthy living; for out of pocket expenses like meals, either you're footing the bill or "your label" is, which eventually comes out of your end.

The Stones' ability to snort, inhale, or swallow prodigious quantities of controlled substances notwithstanding, most artists I knew basically abstained until after the show. Then we let it rip, but only sometimes, because who knows what kind of driving we'd need to do the next day. And I wouldn't go into RT's and get a dover sole (or something) and wash it down with a Diet Coke. That's just not right.

Anyway. That world's behind me now, and I feel like a Dover Sole with a glass or two of Montrachet. And now I can have it. I rule!

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I've been with several bands at the Birchmere who were very pleased with the options, and the food, at the Birchmere. They can order from the menu which at many places is not an option (Iota serves them pasta, at least used to when I knew bands who played there). Many venues don't have food options at all and the bands are on their own which can be a hassle and lead to unhealthy food options.

Plus, the venue serves it with a smile and takes great care of thebands.

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My complaint has always been that it's simply not possible, nor practical, to score a decent meal along with the great show that the Birchmere offers. If you get to RT's or Del Merei (sadly now closed) in time for a decent meal, you arrive at the Birchmere too late to get anything other than seating in a far off corner. So if you want a good seat, you are forced to get to the Birchmere by 6:00 or 6:15, eat one of their bad meals, hopefully consume enough alcohol to compensate for it, and settle back for the warm-up show at 7:30 and the main event at 8:30. And on the other end of the evening, at say 10:00 or 10:30, there is not a good kitchen still open for anything other than a bar snack.

So....if you want good music and good seats, the Birchmere experience denies you the opportunity for a good meal. And if you want a good meal, you will end up with crappy seating at the Birchmere. The simple solution would seem to encourage the Birchmere to upgrade its food offerings, or outsource it to a decent catering source, but they seem to be indifferent with respect to their food offerings, the captive audience, the seating or the showtimes.

This rant is all about making what could be a really good experience that much better by offering restaurant quality food. That is all.

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I agree with you, but I'm not sure they could design a menu of quality that would allow them to crank out HUNDREDS of meals in less than an hour, which is what you have to do when the doors open at 6 and the show starts at 7:30.

Just for the sake of comparison, let me offer the Lazy Susan Dinner Theater down Rt. 1 in Alexandria. It's smaller than the Birchmere, and has not-very-good entertainment like "Greater Tuna" but the food is not too shabby. It is made in-house, and served up buffet style, with tables being called in groups. The salad bar items were not bad, and the general fare was a cut above Old Country Buffet. In fact, the carved beef was pretty doggone good. It could work at the Birchmere -- heck, the Carpenter's Shelter benefit earlier this year had about 30 restaurants set up buffet-style at the Birchmere, but the concept of assigned seating is something the Birchmere has not gotten its hands around, for whatever reasons. Point is, if the Lazy Susan Dinner Theater can do it, so can the Birchmere.

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I agree with you, but I'm not sure they could design a menu of quality that would allow them to crank out HUNDREDS of meals in less than an hour, which is what you have to do when the doors open at 6 and the show starts at 7:30.

I'm actually pretty sure they could do better, but it's a question of how much energy and mindspace they're going to devote to hiring, compensating and retaining higher-level kitchen staff when nothing they do is going to affect their bottom line very much at all.

And, really, who cares? It's a show. Eat afterward, when you have a buzz on and keep the party going on a little longer.

Just for the sake of comparison, let me offer the Lazy Susan Dinner Theater down Rt. 1 in Alexandria. It's smaller than the Birchmere, and has not-very-good entertainment like "Greater Tuna" but the food is not too shabby. It is made in-house, and served up buffet style, with tables being called in groups. The salad bar items were not bad, and the general fare was a cut above Old Country Buffet. In fact, the carved beef was pretty doggone good. It could work at the Birchmere -- heck, the Carpenter's Shelter benefit earlier this year had about 30 restaurants set up buffet-style at the Birchmere, but the concept of assigned seating is something the Birchmere has not gotten its hands around, for whatever reasons. Point is, if the Lazy Susan Dinner Theater can do it, so can the Birchmere.

With all due respect to Kibbee and the Lazy Susan, this whole idea strikes me as bizarrely surreal, unlees the name have been changed to the Birchmere Supper Club recently.

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I'm actually pretty sure they could do better, but it's a question of how much energy and mindspace they're going to devote to hiring, compensating and retaining higher-level kitchen staff when nothing they do is going to affect their bottom line very much at all.

Any upgrade in the menu would drive this place to Blue's Alley prices, a development that probably would not sit well with their target audiences. It's already a fairly expensive night there.

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I'm actually pretty sure they could do better, but it's a question of how much energy and mindspace they're going to devote to hiring, compensating and retaining higher-level kitchen staff when nothing they do is going to affect their bottom line very much at all.

And, really, who cares? It's a show. Eat afterward, when you have a buzz on and keep the party going on a little longer.

Gotta agree with Waitman. For heaven's sake, does every meal has to be a transporting culinary experience? Frankly, at a place like the Birchmere all I want is a cheeseburger to soak up the drinks.

I'll be at Fountains of Wayne on Tuesday 10/5, and promise an exhaustive writeup of the menu items and the wine list.

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Lisa went to the Fountains of Wayne show last night at the Birchmere. They no longer serve water at the tables (they used to provide pitchers of water). Now you MUST pay $3.50 for a 16oz bottle of water. I believe there is a water fountain somewhere so they don't have to provide free water at the tables.

Yeah, there's an establishment that REALLY cares about their customers. Blow me, Birchmere. We won't be going again.

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Lisa went to the Fountains of Wayne show last night at the Birchmere. They no longer serve water at the tables (they used to provide pitchers of water). Now you MUST pay $3.50 for a 16oz bottle of water. I believe there is a water fountain somewhere so they don't have to provide free water at the tables.

Yeah, there's an establishment that REALLY cares about their customers. Blow me, Birchmere. We won't be going again.

I love the Birchmere as a music provider, and am reconciled to their menu (the red beans and rice and cornbread make for a fairly decent dinner), but as a non-drinker, this really pisses me off.

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OK, here's the plan....

You and your date arrive at 6:00pm to score a good pair of seats.

You duck out at 6:15 and run across the street to RT's for some good Louisiana fare. Your date hangs back at the Birchmere to protect your seats. You start with the Crawfish and Shrimp Beignet, followed by the Death by Gumbo, or something like that. About the time your food arrives, and after about your second Dixie Beer, you order your date's meal. She'll want the House Salad with Shrimp Diane, or something like that. As her meal arrives, say 7:00pm, you run across the street to save your excellent seats and send her over to RT's to enjoy her meal. By 7:30, the two of you are sitting together for the warm-up act, with bellies full of good food and drink.

You have also deftly cached a plastic flask of bourbon in your jacket's breast pocket, so that you can order a few glasses of Coke throughout the performance and lay on a nice buzz for the cost of a few Cokes.

After the show, you head back to RT's and go to the bar to await your cab, ordering some drinks and Cajun Popcorn to finish off the evening.

It's all about teamwork.

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Gotta agree with Waitman. For heaven's sake, does every meal has to be a transporting culinary experience? Frankly, at a place like the Birchmere all I want is a cheeseburger to soak up the drinks.

I'll be at Fountains of Wayne on Tuesday 10/5, and promise an exhaustive writeup of the menu items and the wine list.

My feelings exactly, I'm not there for the food, I'm there to see and hear a performer in a place that has a great sound system while enjoying a somewhat higher level of comfort than most other venues the performer might appear in.

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Was there Tuesday night and was grateful for the upgrade since the last time I had been -- it has risen from below-school-cafeteria quality to food that is edible and even has some texture and flavor (other than cardboard and rubber -- anyone else remember their old-menu hamburger? shudder). One pal got the chili, another got the roast beef dip sandwich, and I got the chicken fried steak. Don't pick anything fancy; stay to the basics and enjoy the beer and the music.

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When the "new" birchmere opened, we were happy with the food. Much better than the old one up Mt Vernon AND the previous Birchmere. ( newcomers, you might not realize this is the 3rd incarnation of the club.) That said, it's slipped in the ensuing years---and the recent change to get rid of the pitchers of water is a move in the wrong direction. And if I'm not mistaken, they're no longer brewing beer in the brewery, either. I used to visit 3 or 4 times a month, but that's dropped off in the last year or two.

I was last there a few weeks ago, and saw a few more menu changes, none terribly positive. However, if you walk out to the bar, you can get a free glass of water. (oops, maybe we need to keep that our little secret).

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I admit it had been a while since I had been to the Birchmere (having a baby & being a single mom definitely impedes on my social life) but I went on Tuesday night for the Voices of the Wetlands All Stars show - which was great - and was disgusted by the "no, you can't have a glass of water" policy. The waitress surreptitiously got us empty glasses which we filled up in the bathroom. We drank beer, ate food and contributed to their coffers, but I can't have a glass of water???

So my friend was pissed too, and she contacted the Alexandria City Council and received the reply below. On a side note, the food was okay and they had Stella on tap. But I firmly believe in keeping landfills clear and providing patrons with water FREE if they ask for it. It chaps me, especially when you consider that you may need to sober up before you hit the road.

So I'm open to suggestions on this - not going to the Birchmere anymore isn't an option - I like the acts they get. Thoughts?

Good evening, Ms. xxxx:

The 2009 FDA Food Code (which we have adopted here in Alexandria) requires that any water used in the restaurant must be safe and from an approved source. It also requires that the restaurant provide bathrooms, toilets and sinks as required by the Uniform Statewide Building Code. It does not, however, require that the establishment operator provide either a water fountain or free water by the glass or bottle on request.

Most restaurants without a water fountain provide water to their patrons without charge, upon request. However, I don't believe a business owner can normally be compelled to provide a free product or service to the public. Most choose to provide free water as a courtesy to their patrons.

I certainly understand your concern and am sorry the restaurant owner was not more receptive to your request.

Sincerely,

Bob Custard, REHS, CP-FS

Environmental Health Manager

Environmental Health Division

Alexandria Health Department

4480 King Street, Suite 360

Alexandria, VA 22302

(703) 746-4970 (desk phone)

(703) 746-4919 (fax)

www.alexandriava.gov/EnvironmentalHealth

WORKING TOGETHER ? IMPROVING CONTINUOUSLY ? MAKING A DIFFERENCE

? Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.

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It takes a lot for me to travel across the river to Virginia but the right music at the Birchmere can do it. However, the one thing I really hate is that I have to eat there. If you want a decent seat, you need to pick up a line number right after 5 and they let people into the room at 6. Since the show doesn't usually start until 7:30, you are stuck there and have to eat there if you want any dinner.

On Sunday I saw a wonderful show, and had a meal that aspired to be mundane and ordinary and didn't come close to succeeding. The only thing I can say good about it was that the lettuce in my wife's salad was fresh and crisp and the mango salsa was good. Otherwise, everything else was either bland or bad. The chicken in her Margarita Salad was very salty. The salmon appetizer special was very fishy tasting, almost metallic, and very salty. The pulled pork was bland and there was very little BBQ sauce to punch it up (what little there was didn't do a very good job), the basket of onion "tangle" was greasy, and the ranch dressing to dip them in was thin and watery. The only good thing I can say was that the portions were ample, too bad I didn't want to even think about finishing any of them.

On the plus side, service was efficient and polite. And the music was fantastic.

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OK, here's the plan....

You and your date arrive at 6:00pm to score a good pair of seats.

You duck out at 6:15 and run across the street to RT's for some good Louisiana fare. Your date hangs back at the Birchmere to protect your seats. You start with the Crawfish and Shrimp Beignet, followed by the Death by Gumbo, or something like that. About the time your food arrives, and after about your second Dixie Beer, you order your date's meal. She'll want the House Salad with Shrimp Diane, or something like that. As her meal arrives, say 7:00pm, you run across the street to save your excellent seats and send her over to RT's to enjoy her meal. By 7:30, the two of you are sitting together for the warm-up act, with bellies full of good food and drink.

You have also deftly cached a plastic flask of bourbon in your jacket's breast pocket, so that you can order a few glasses of Coke throughout the performance and lay on a nice buzz for the cost of a few Cokes.

After the show, you head back to RT's and go to the bar to await your cab, ordering some drinks and Cajun Popcorn to finish off the evening.

It's all about teamwork.

Haven't been to the Birchmere in a few years and just got some tix for this week. On a hunch, I did a google search and found this topic.

Totally and unequivocally get that some folks don't give a hoot about the food on offer there given the music and acts while others really hate the feeling of being trapped with mediocre (at best) food and the insane water policy.

FWIW, I'm in the latter camp. And, Kibbee Nayee, you deserve some love for the above advice. Brilliant plan we will be following despite the obvious tradeoffs. Thank you.

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Haven't been to the Birchmere in a few years and just got some tix for this week. On a hunch, I did a google search and found this topic.

Totally and unequivocally get that some folks don't give a hoot about the food on offer there given the music and acts while others really hate the feeling of being trapped with mediocre (at best) food and the insane water policy.

FWIW, I'm in the latter camp. And, Kibbee Nayee, you deserve some love for the above advice. Brilliant plan we will be following despite the obvious tradeoffs. Thank you.

I have April 2 all planned out for Three Dog Night.

Enjoy your concert!

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I haven't eaten there so I have nothing to contribute on that front. Plus the place isn't terribly huge so I don't really care where I sit and would rather have a good meal elsewhere. But many people don't know that you can sit outside the main room at the bar for free. We have gone a few times to sold out shows and been the only ones out there. There are live tv feeds and the music sounds pretty much exactly the same as it does on the other side of the wall. So if you want to hear a live show for free (and watch it on the tv) and want to also have a good meal elsewhere, that is my recommendation.

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Not to pile on, but agree with all that has come before re avoiding the food at Birchmere at all costs. The "comfort food" menu that they launched when they opened in the new location actually was pretty well-prepared in the beginning but it has descended to the absolute depths. And the bottled water policy really honestly needs to be re-thought. The servers now come prepared with a discourse on how much it costs for them to provide free water and ICE for the free water and wash the glassware, etc. etc. but it all rings so unbelievably false. I do believe they permit outside water to be brought in (which is a silly thing to have to think about doing), but in any case it's all a distraction from what you're there for, which is good music in what is otherwise a great venue. Is funny, have had multiple artists at shows there comment on the fact that it just feels ODD to be performing while peopl are chowing down in the audience. Yet another reason to vote with your feet and get your food (and water) elsewhere. So many good places in Del Ray these days that they need to feel some competitive pressure to re-think the water policy and come up with an improved dinner service.

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Not to pile on, but agree with all that has come before re avoiding the food at Birchmere at all costs. The "comfort food" menu that they launched when they opened in the new location actually was pretty well-prepared in the beginning but it has descended to the absolute depths. And the bottled water policy really honestly needs to be re-thought. The servers now come prepared with a discourse on how much it costs for them to provide free water and ICE for the free water and wash the glassware, etc. etc. but it all rings so unbelievably false. I do believe they permit outside water to be brought in (which is a silly thing to have to think about doing), but in any case it's all a distraction from what you're there for, which is good music in what is otherwise a great venue. Is funny, have had multiple artists at shows there comment on the fact that it just feels ODD to be performing while peopl are chowing down in the audience. Yet another reason to vote with your feet and get your food (and water) elsewhere. So many good places in Del Ray these days that they need to feel some competitive pressure to re-think the water policy and come up with an improved dinner service.

Exactly on all counts (except about the outside water policy). I phoned them yesterday to ask a couple of admin questions about our upcoming show since has been a few years, etc, etc. The young voice on the other end of the phone was actually friendly and helpful. So, as a final question, I asked:

me: "hey, one other thing if okay. I've heard from some others that you guys don't serve tap water if requested. Is that really true?"

staffer: "yeah, water only in bottles [for sale]"

me: "really? that's extremely unusual for any restaurant or food-service place I'm aware of. No tap water?!"

staffer: "yeah--it's a big debated point here...internally"

me: "can people bring a water bottle in?"

staffer: "nah, can't even do that. it's a problem."

So, they're "debating" whether refusing requests for tap water is a good policy? Sorry, but this really smacks of the worst kind of leadership for an organization. It's so blatantly a "let's squeeze our customers in any way imaginable to goose a bit more profit" strategy. It's short-sighted. It's the kind of policy that drives people to figure all manner of workarounds and ways to cheat their "system" or avoid the place altogether while also driving however much ill will. Such a small thing--tap water. Such a foolish move compounded by the script they've given their servers to lie about it when asked. I was lucky to at least speak with someone willing to explain it somewhat honestly.

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"let's squeeze our customers in any way imaginable to goose a bit more profit"

Maybe they're trying to eek out any profit at all since the food is so bad and so many people go elsewhere to eat! B)

Ha! No doubt. The thing is--that kind of seriously myopic attempt to boost profit in the very near terms usually drives failure in the medium-to-longer term for the overall business. That's true well beyond restaurants or concert halls. It wouldn't be too hard to build a reasonably accurate guesstimate financial model for Birchmere based on the limited stuff known in the public domain. And that model would likely show a business in a bit of trouble. Really a shame because, as is often the case, they could likely be doing so much better with better operations and customer focus. Oh well.

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A meal is a terrible thing to waste (with apologies to the UNCF)....jeesh, how can you screw up fried chicken wings? They tasted like cardboard tonight, which is exaclty how the accompanying fries tasted....thank goodness for the wretched "Sysco's Finest" sauce that accompanied both for dipping, I presume....yukh!

Three Dog Night saved the evening, thankfully!

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On 10/1/2010 at 4:30 PM, Kibbee Nayee said:

My complaint has always been that it's simply not possible, nor practical, to score a decent meal along with the great show that the Birchmere offers. If you get to RT's or Del Merei (sadly now closed) in time for a decent meal, you arrive at the Birchmere too late to get anything other than seating in a far off corner. So if you want a good seat, you are forced to get to the Birchmere by 6:00 or 6:15, eat one of their bad meals, hopefully consume enough alcohol to compensate for it, and settle back for the warm-up show at 7:30 and the main event at 8:30. And on the other end of the evening, at say 10:00 or 10:30, there is not a good kitchen still open for anything other than a bar snack.

So....if you want good music and good seats, the Birchmere experience denies you the opportunity for a good meal. And if you want a good meal, you will end up with crappy seating at the Birchmere. The simple solution would seem to encourage the Birchmere to upgrade its food offerings, or outsource it to a decent catering source, but they seem to be indifferent with respect to their food offerings, the captive audience, the seating or the showtimes.

This rant is all about making what could be a really good experience that much better by offering restaurant quality food. That is all.

About 5-7 years ago, this was my experience at the Birchmere -- good music, bad food.

Until last night, when Lady KN and I were attending the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The food was actually...not bad. Somebody must have upgraded the food program here. If anyone knows any details, please share.

Let's start on the low note - Round Hill Chardonnay, which I can get for $7.99 at the local Giant, sells for $29 at the Birchmere. Nice markup. There certainly weren't any better choices on the wine list.

But the appetizers on the new menu -- I don't know when the menu changed -- were very good. We had the Greek stuffed mushrooms, and the 'devilish' eggs, and neither one disappointed. Both appear to have been made fresh from a local kitchen. 

We grazed throughout the evening on the Cuban sandwich, the orange-glazed salmon, and the margherita flatbread. I actually tasted fresh basil in the flatbread, and nice flavor and texture from the 36-hour braised pork in the Cuban. (I prefer a nice slab of roasted pork with a nice slab of ham, but this version of braised pork with the requisite slab of ham was nicely done.) The attempt at pressing the sandwich was competent, but the bread's flakiness indicated it wasn't an actual Cubano bun. Nonetheless, the sandwich, the salmon, and the flatbread were good enough to be re-ordered. I was surprised by the green beans that accompanied the salmon -- they had just the right crunch, appeared to be fresh, and were seasonally appropriate.

The Hamilton still has the edge in terms of quality food and drink, and downright beautiful venue, but the Birchmere has greatly improved its food program. 

 

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