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Cafe Saint Ex / Gate 54, 14th & T Streets in 14UP - Owner Mike Benson and Chef Bobby Beard who Comes From The Atlas Room


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In the meantime, related bar/restaurant Saint-Ex a few doors down has a new chef, Barton Seaver (disclosure: I DJ at Saint-Ex once a month, but I'm there more often just as a patron). The menu is a bit more fishy now (pescocentric?) and I had a house cured salmon, chevre, tomato, and greens sandwich which was generous with the salmon and tasty aside from the bland roll. It looks like they're narrowing down the scope of the menu while putting a bit more thought & prep into each of the remaining & new dishes. They've also added Coniston Bluebird on draft, to my knowledge the first place in the city to carry it.

Question: Does anyone know where chef Jay Jenc went?

Comment: Bluebird is a KICKASS beer! From the Lake District in England. Won the overall grand prize at the Great British Beer Festival a number of years ago. Bottle-conditioned is found occasionally in our area, but I don't think I've seen it on draft. I know it's possible to get this cask-conditioned in the US, having had it myself in Albany, NY. If they can get it in Albany, there's no reason why they can't get it here.

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On Friday night, I ate a fun dinner at Saint Ex with a friend. We ordered a bunch of small plates:

Bruschetta (the tuna is yummy)

Grilled Calamari

Heirloom Tomato salad

Sweet potato fries

grilled asparagus

drum roll...

GRILLED PEACHES with a balsamic reduction!!!!

After dinner we ran into the Chef (Bart ________?) and thanked him for the meal. It was much better than your average "pub grub"

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GRILLED PEACHES with a balsamic reduction!!!!

I believe their pastry chef is still Lizzy Evelyn, who's been turning out better desserts (mmm honey goat cheesecake) for the last couple of years than a good number of more serious restaurants around town.

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Walking out of Bar Pilar this evening, I held the door open for a waiter holding a tray of food who was walking out onto 14th Street.

"Doing delivery now?" I asked.

He smiled and said, no, he was heading over to Café Saint-Ex for a wine tasting, before disappearing into the delivery door.

Saint-Ex was starting to get crowded, and if you wanted a drink without ordering, your only option was to stand at the bar or to head downstairs to Gate 54.

Gate 54 was virtually empty except for a couple fourtops pushed together, with a fascinating assortment of nine young, hip twenty-somethings clustered around the coolest-looking baseball-cap-wearing surfer dude I've seen since - well, since the amicable and pretty-much-perfect Burleigh waited on me at Bar Pilar a few minutes before.

The plates of food ushered into the delivery door were sitting on the fourtops, and nine wide-eyed servers were tasting a half-dozen bottles of wine, pencils and notepads in front of them, all attention focused on this surfer dude who began serving the wines in sequence, talking about each one in depth, pairing them with the food, and (as it turns out) continuing non-stop for a good thirty minutes.

After about five minutes of eavesdropping, I turned to the bartender and said, "this guy knows a lot about wine. Who is he?"

"That's the chef," she said.

"Barton Seaver?"

"Yes."

I began to listen even more closely, for a good twenty minutes, and let me tell you something: this guy does know his stuff. He understands terroir, has a good grasp of geography, can pair wines with food, is an excellent communicator, and regaled me and all nine of his students with what was surely the most in-depth staff wine tasting in the entire city this evening.

32 wines, 14 whites, 14 reds, 2 sparklers, 2 .375 stickies, 9 countries, nothing priced over $45 (ignore the throw-away Pommery Champagne at $85), the list tending towards locally ignored regions such as Saumur and Chinon, Barton Seaver earned my respect and won my heart tonight. If I were a wine, I'd let him drink me; if I were a northerly wind, I'd blow him. Barton was fabulous in his role as mentor: substantive, charismatic and passionate, and tonight was a fascinating chance to be an anonymous fly on the wall and listen to an engaging back-and-forth between chef and staff, between teacher and students, and if you, the reader, are one of those nine students with notepads, then you should remember your lesson well, because your teacher knows what he's doing.

Bravo!
Rocks.

p.s. The Po river (longest river in Italy) is another example of a west-east flowing river (like your example of the Loire).

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I'm too late, but: Sit inside.   :P    Seriously, when I passed Saint Ex on the way to Muleh, there was just one lonely party having brunch outside.  My car thermometer said 96 degrees.

I saw that lone party braving the heat as I walked into the restaurant. Sitting inside today was definitely a given. In fact the host asked us whether we wanted to sit inside or out. With beads of sweat dripping off our foreheads, we just stared at her until she smiled and said, "Silly question, huh?" Kudos to her for not taking my incredulous look the wrong way. :wub:

Brunch was fine. Had the smoked salmon and red onion fritatta topped with mixed greens. It was a lot thinner than I expected for a fritatta, but for $8 it tasted fine enough.

Edited by ustreetguydc
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I had brunch there today as well - had the Verdicchio, quite tasty (ok, well three glasses while I caught up with an old friend!) and the Smoked Salmon/Goat Cheese spread sandwich, and while not extraordinary, it was quite good with the wine, and the company. I left entirely satiated! The gazpacho was interesting as well -

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Some friends and I went to Saint Ex for drinks - MISGUIDEDLY - on Friday night after a housewarming party in the neighborhood.

Why "misguidedly"? Because their a/c is virtually non-existent. We didn't last 20 minutes.

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Two friends and I had an enjoyable, reasonably-priced brunch at Saint Ex yesterday. Unfortunately the online brunch menu is not up-to-date. Still, you can get the gist of the offerings and pricing.

I had French toast served with apple compote - good to above average. I judge brunch places by their bacon (seriously). Saint Ex served it up crispy, as requested, and delicious. There were probably five pieces in the side order which is a nice size (although I easily could have put away three times that :lol: ).

My friends enjoyed a burger and some variation on fried green tomatoes (not the one listed online) respectively and both cleaned their plates, complimenting both the chef and the price.

Total damage for three people with non-alcoholic beverages: about $40.

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Discussing how he had vented his smoldering anger over the indifference of white americans to the sad history of genocide against the Indians by destroying mount rushmore in his latest novel, we decided that local writer david martin was definitely in the right place in his appearance the other night at busboys and poets. But by the time we got our books signed, we were not so sure about ourselves and decided to abandon plans to have a meal there. My wife complained that the giant propaganda posters at the back of the Langston room stage were headache-inducing and reminded her of “the Manchurian candidate.” Gandhi and martin luther king were a cinch to recognize, but we were, to our shame, stumped in identifying the third larger-than-life luminary in the ongoing struggle for social justice. no, it is not jim backus, I told her. could it be desmond tutu? By the end of his presentation, the author himself seemed out of sorts, blinded by the stage lights, and not entirely up to greeting the well-wishers thronging past the owner’s peace-wall collage that dominates the room. We made a stumbling passage past the crowded dining area, the open kitchen and the lounge before reaching the front door. The premises were bustling with diners and workers, who seemed committed primarily to having a good time, including a convivial young adult who was crawling on the floor between the tables. In the eyes of survivors of the bean sprouts, brown rice and heavy wampum days of the 1960s and 70s, what is most disorienting about this thriving community gathering spot is that it gives the anti-establishment movement the appearance of having gone glam.

Our quest for something new led to café saint-ex a couple of blocks down the street and an abrupt change of scenery. Named after postal pilot and “little prince” author Antoine de saint-exupery, the restaurant is jammed with aviation-related photographs and paraphernalia and also an accumulation of trophies and other dust collectors that typify the neighborhood corner saloon. It feels more like capitol hill than 14th street, with dark and heavy wood, marble tops on the dozen or so tables and a bar that commands attention. Even when full, you can still embrace some quiet here, and the friendly servers facilitate a smooth ride.

However, there is more going on in the kitchen than you would have any right to expect in such a place, and the interior design is so successful that it takes a while for the realization that this is not a genuinely haphazard arrangement to sink in. (there are even t-shirts on the wall, one with the restaurant’s plane logo and a second with a skunk, both for sale.) as you start tasting the food, your sense that the restaurant’s theme might be a bit arbitrary is dispelled by a cooking talent that is well matched to connotations of hard landings and the mysterious disappearance that ended saint-ex’s life. It may have been a suicide, according to speculation.

Serious drinkers will find their spirits lifted by a menu devoted to an extensive selection of scotch and beer. The bartender is also expert at shaking a mean premium martini. A bit overwhelmed by the number of draft beer choices on the chalkboard, my wife does well by starting at the top of the alphabetical list with an allagash white. It’s refreshing, as is the glass of preludio no. 1 chardonnary I nurse throughout the meal.

A baby spinach salad special arrives plain as can be in a light citrusy dressing with shavings of pecorino and raw squash. The latter ingredient does next to nothing for me or the salad – crunch for the sake of crunch – and even at what is usually a tender age, the spinach leaves have toughened up, inuring themselves to the cold world. I enjoyed the salad, but if I had had the ability to travel 15 minutes or so back in time I would have ordered something else. Seared endive with watercress is more noteworthy, the evening’s first hint that the chef likes to stand perilously close to the fire in his kitchen. She likes it and defends it fairly well against my fork.

Frustrated in recent attempts to procure a decent cheeseburger (and still not quite convinced that we shouldn’t have headed to palena, although by this time its front dining room must be swamped), my wife finds approximately what she has been looking for. The tomato is remarkably flavorful and ripe for this time of year. Red onions are thin and sweet. The meat, medium rare, is worthy, though considering the competition these days, it’s hard to score the blue ribbon in this event. There is a generous mound of hacked-up fries wearing crunchy, irregularly-skinned coats and they provide almost a sense of extrusion, as if they were forced through a mill, but more importantly, they taste like potatoes. These are the things she tells me. What she only reveals later, as I am discussing my theory about the kitchen, is that the bun, the most ordinary part of her sandwich, was scorched, not to a cinder, but enough to render the faint flavor of ash – what you might taste if you stuck your tongue out following an explosion?

Of course, to be honest, I have been writing backwards because none of this line of thought even occurred to me before I received my trout. I am glad I ordered it. this wood-roasted fish dish is an audacious presentation, shattering any preconception of pristine streams and a skillet over the campfire. If you were on a gourmet flight (I know there is no such thing these days, but imagine some of the special west coast trains you have seen on television where the chef is just as important as the engineer), and it crashed, this is what they would serve the survivors sitting by the wrecked fuselage. The trout has been butterflied, there’s not a bone left in it, and it is served blackened skin-side-up. As if that weren’t enough to grab your attention, it is dotted with a generous number of halved brussel sprouts, dark dots before your eyes. It is disconcerting. Someone had ordered it nearby and they were wondering about it loud enough for us to hear. The flesh of the fish tasted good, the skin was prime and the Brussels sprouts – held in the pan beyond any question that they had carmelized and with hints of vinegar – knocked me out. In fact, a more appropriate name for this recipe should be sprouts with trout, although that might discourage people from ordering it, and they should.

Desserts provided muted notes by comparison. Without its thick icing of dark chocolate (with cinnamon and something else?), I don’t know what I would have made of the bread pudding. It is certainly unconventional, basically one piece, on the dry side, but nevertheless somewhat satisfying. My wife had coffee ice cream with chocolate sauce, and that’s about all there is to say about it. she liked it. if you want to end with some espresso, there is no need to worry. They say they don’t have it, but the cup of coffee that comes your way is great, just about the same thing except you get three times as much.

Giving some more thought to this place and its nostalgic surroundings, who’s to say that the experience being evoked at saint-ex isn’t actually post-apocalyptic, in a “mad max” kind of way? In a hundred years, or some time in the future, maybe this will be the best that we can do in terms of fine dining, led by a chef who’s an excellent forager and an expert in getting the most of the fire he tends. 14th street is a virtual desert, and saint-ex is its dining oasis.

A footnote: busboys and poets gets its name from an encounter between poet vachel Lindsay and Langston Hughes, who served him when he was a guest at the wardman hotel and later showed him some of his own poems. Monday, dec. 5, will be the anniversary of lindsay’s death. He took his own life by drinking a bottle of Lysol. I wonder if they make it as strong as they used to.

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Last night started out in a way I hope most others do not. The office had called for my assistance so, I stepped out side for a quick smoke before heading in. Upon my attempt to reenter my abode, I was struck by the horrific realization that my door was locked. ;) And of course due to our spring time weather I was in not much more than my boxers. Did I mention I live in Columbia Heights? An up and coming neighborhood no less. The lock would not relent so, my frustrations were taken out on a happless pain of glass. A quick call to my understanding supervisor left me free to venture up to the hardware store for a replacement pain of glass. Its funny how they make more than one size though. Only adding to the infra dignitatem was the fact the it wasn't just ONE more trip back to the hardware store. Needless to say by 10pm I was less than at peace.

I headed out to grab a quick bite before picking up the Misses. Cafe Saint-Ex is near her work so, I settled in on the patio. Which closed at ten. Seems that being good neighbors is important to them. Adam, the manager must have seen the fluster in my eyes. The dinning room was packed but, he quickly got a table ready in a corner. This was saturday night by the way. Adam even asked me for my drink order. Not,"I'll send someone right over" but," what can I get for you?". A real classy move. If they kept this up I might actually end up in a good mood. Which they did.

I had the tuna over rissoto with a bottle of El Chapperal old vine grenache. Tuna was top notch. Barton knows fish. Wine was good bordering on great and, a steal at @ $30. Chocolate tart for dessert rounded things up nicely.

Service was friendly and attentive.( Scarlet even ran out of the resturant after the me to return my credit card <_< )

The thing that I like most about this place is that they exceeded my expectations at every turn. I went to a bar for food and was given a meal that was better that some "fine dinning" dishes I've had. Even during a peak hour I was given personal service. The wine was very good.( I don't expect $30 to go far on a resturant wine list). The whole staff managed to work in concert to eliminate the memory of my early evening. Isn't that what dinning out is all about?

Cafe Saint-Ex has the whole package. You can even dance off those extra calories in the club downstairs! (don't tell the misses!) I will be going back at every opportunity. :)

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“That’s the chef,” she said.

“Barton Seaver?”

“Yes.”

I began to listen even more closely, for a good twenty minutes, and let me tell you something: this guy does know his stuff. He understands terroir, has a good grasp of geography, can pair wines with food, is an excellent communicator, and regaled me and all nine of his students with what was surely the most in-depth staff wine tasting in the entire city this evening.

Bravo!

Rocks.

Plus, he's dreamy.

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with the $12 hamburger on the menu here, you can see for yourself whether grass feeding makes a significant difference in taste. i only had one bite, so really couldn't tell.

i do know the pea tendril salad is worth ordering. tendrils can be on the tough side and these were tender, profiting i assume from a touch of heat from their lardon-ish dressing.

we had been walking in circles in the sun for some time, so i can only be almost certain that a rectangular piece of trout, served as the bear would eat it, skin-side up, had washed up on a substantial bed or purslane. less than okra, but still there, raw purslane opens with a slick texture, nicely dispelled here by the heat of the fish.

a plum sugar cake, baked dark and with nice texture, and peach ice cream with peach, provided further reference to local sourcing, and strong evidence that the people in the kitchen here aim to please.

of course, there are still some things worth burning large amounts of fuel to haul long distances. hendricks gin and allagash white are two of them, and this is the place to find them.

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it's 6:30 in the evening and it's still hot, and humid, with spent thunderheads drifting in from the west, but alfresco dining looks like a popular option at cafe saint-ex. we're just not languorous enough, i guess. plus, i'm the biggest sweathead since marion barry.

served at room temperature, which is in the mid to upper 70s, the corn milk soup with a purple coin of pureed beet in the center of the bowl and flecks of green oil tastes as good as it looks. you can use your spoon to paint swirls, but it is better to eat the stronger beet without letting it get too involved with the milder corn. there was something like this on the menu at palena the night before, but with lobster. my wife had it, now it is my turn.

the burger, it turns out, does not provide an undiluted taste test for grass-fed beef. it's been smoked and even your hands will smell like hickory or some other burning tree before you're done. cheese is crumbled on top at the end so some of it melts and some doesn't. this is a decent burger, with its own personality, just like all of the other cooking here, accompanied by lettuce, onion and a slice of a ripe tomato and it fills the bun (unlike a smaller burger at palena the night before, i am told.)

a roasted peach is divided into four wedges and served with faintly herbed panna cotta and a shorbread cookie, a light and summery finish.

a glass of blue franc wine from washington state somewhere was hot as a thermal pool in yellowstone, or almost.

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Lola, turn to page 97 of July's Washingtonian. It appears you're buddy is single. :)

I worked with him a little when he was helping to set up Eleventh in Clarendon while I was still at Best Cellars - he's Chef McDreamy all right - riding his bicycle all over the place....

He used to have a really intense gf - I wonder if that fizzled...such is the life of a chef I guess. I'm sure he'll have an even larger crowd than Cathal at the AFM when he does the tour on 8/19 :):lol:

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I visited St. Ex earlier this week, and--except for my meal--was reminded why I used to come here often.

The service is just great. You know, customers can tell when restaurant employees genuinely like where they work, and everyone I ran across at St. Ex seemed to be personally invested in the place. That feeling tends to make the employees go the extra mile--and make the extra mile seem effortless to the guest. This is a friendly, friendly place, and the service is actually good too.

The beer and cocktails are top-notch, but I would prefer if their draught styles were more varied.

I was, however, pretty disappointed with my fried green tomato BLT. It was served on a massive, unwieldy, very stale, very dry--and yet somehow very greasy!--piece of bread. The bacon was great, the fried tomatoes were great, but the terrible bread, coupled with a shortage of greens (I added more from the nice, well-dressed side salad) and shortage of mayo really kind of ruined the whole thing for me.

The service and drinks will bring me back, but I'll probably have the burger next time...

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This morning at the Courthouse Farmers' Market I had the unexpected pleasure of joining Chef Seaver on a tour of the market. He was unfamiliar with the Courthouse Market but extremely impressed with the quality and diversity of the produce available. In fact, he had been looking for something called female fennel (huh?) and none of the 30 farmers from whom he currently sources has had it. Lo and behold a farmer at the market had it.

I am trying to figure out how to translate into words the care and respect with which Chef Seaver spoke about the produce, meats and fish he uses at both restaurants. Perhaps if I could tell you how much respect and deverence he expressed while talking about the farmers with whom he deals it would help. Or if I mentioned that there have been times farmers have called him up to ask if he would take 100 pounds of tomatoes. Instead of saying no that is more than my restaurants can use, he bought them and made tomato preserves which they used throughout the winter.

Additionally, I learned that they use very little butter at Cafe St. Ex because the wood grill imparts so much flavor to the food. In fact, the Chef thinks food should speak for itself so he does not use many spices or seasonings. As bakers cultivate the starter for sourdough bread, Cafe St. Ex has cultivated a starter that they use for homemade creme fraiche.

OH, they are also sourcing Certified Humane meats. To be certified humane, a ranch has to establish that the animals have good lives and humane deaths (yes, oxymoron). The movement is so important to Chef Seaver that on some cuts of meats they charge less than it costs to serve the dish.

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Yikes, me two times in a row... guess this place is in my rotation but how can it not be when you can get a great meal for a reasonable price. Now that I know the restaurants ethical standards and support for local farmers the food seemed even more special tonight. We had the mussels and pea shoot salad to start; the corn risotto and ribeye as our mains and for dessert caramel gelato and the peach shortcake.

It says volumes about a restaurant that takes the time to grill the fresh bread they serve even when all you really want to do is give the bread a bath in the mussels’ sauce.

The service has always been delightful, there is a great energy about the place. Oh the three course meal is $32! The ribeye and mussels alone are $32, so we really got one dessert free. :-)

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I've had several good meals at St. Ex, and it's one of my local staples. We can go on and on about the commitment to local and organic produce and the pleasures of the wood grill.

My one gripe: the menu just doesn't change. I know that Pilar recently flipped around its menu to lay low on the tater tots, but I've gone to St. Ex a dozen times in the past six months and seen nothing new at all. I've got to admit, being a New Yorker (and that's my fault, being spoiled for so long, and I acknowledge that) transplanted to DC, as much as I want to recommend St. Ex to people, I'm getting bored.

Chef Seaver - what's next for the menu?

N.

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I've had several good meals at St. Ex, and it's one of my local staples. We can go on and on about the commitment to local and organic produce and the pleasures of the wood grill.

My one gripe: the menu just doesn't change. I know that Pilar recently flipped around its menu to lay low on the tater tots, but I've gone to St. Ex a dozen times in the past six months and seen nothing new at all. I've got to admit, being a New Yorker (and that's my fault, being spoiled for so long, and I acknowledge that) transplanted to DC, as much as I want to recommend St. Ex to people, I'm getting bored.

Chef Seaver - what's next for the menu?

N.

Hey I have to apologize for the lack of menu change recently. My attentions have been turned to Pilar and so the creativity of Saint-Ex has slumped a little. The trials of a restaurant also put me in a position of training a chef at Saint-Ex which is easier to do with a more static menu. But Wait- this coming Monday we are going to begin to change the menu on a daily basis which will provide lots of new choices and flavors. I am going to be drawing on my recent experiences cooking in Italy where I was in Piedmonte for 16 days. So you will have your NY slew of options. Thanks for supporting our food, I really appreciate guests who know our food so well that they demand that i keep growing. It is fun to cook for people like you.

Cheers, barton (chef)

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Welcome, Chef. Can't wait to check out the new menu. Something about Saint Ex makes me order beer usually. Do you have any plans to add new and interesting varieties?

<Note: we probably have to stop saying how handsome he is now, people. If Chef Monis from Komi starts posting, then we are really screwed.>

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barreling sunday night away from college park on the metro, with carniverous appetites stoked by a blood-bath climax to the two-man and one-woman 500 clown macbeth (a send-up of steppenwolf's spattering production of streamers?), we were heading for bistrot du coin, but the train brought us into the vicinity of this place first, so we jumped off, and i landed fish.

the calamari here is consistently excellent, smoky, and i don't know exactly how it's prepared, but roasted?, tender on the outside with a crunch at the center of the bodies, served intact, with the severed tentacles mimicking their bed of frisee, a generous fistful dressed in a dash too salty pesto, with some green beans and a few small chunks of potato to help alleviate the incorrect seasoning. it has always been just about exactly this way the three or so times i have ordered it.

i also don't know where the wine is stored, but for a glass of beaujolais, it was another hot night, a foretaste of all-out global warming just when the outdoors temperature seemed to be turning seasonally autumnal. glasses of viognier and winter solstice were exemplary, crisp and bright.

mahi, okay, a little dry, about what you would expect for a fish forced to swim so far to your table, your futile attempt to capture a fast-fading memory of the sweet and tender mahi by a river in kauai as the sun dies and the clouds strain the light.

the squirt bottle action cleaning vacated tables will bring you back down to earth, and it doesn't exactly go with the food, but it does honor the bar. we are just about the last ones remaining, and there is a whisper of vamoose.

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Tonight I introduced St. Ex to two friends and we had a relative feast. First before I forget, the chocolate pot de creme with ancho chile for dessert was a perfect ending to my meal. There was a nice layer of homemade whipped cream (or some similar concontion) on top of the dark, spicy chocolate creme. While it was undoubtably rich in flavor and cream, it did not seem heavy.

For my main I had quail! I enjoyed St. Ex's take on quail but it seemed different than I remember. There was plenty of meat on the little bird, and not overly gamey. It rested on a bed of really yummy dressing.

Thing I realized tonight without the patio, St. Ex is a really small restaurant. Seems the popularity of the place keeps rising which means waits even on holiday weekends and Sunday nights!

BTW, the menu is changing on a regular basis these days. Plus, we had drinks and roasted olives at Bar Pilar pre-dinner and that menu rocks. Seriously, Bar Pilar should satisfy the adventurous tastes of many on this board.

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Am a St. Ex frequenter. Friday night, arrived at 8:30 and it was 90 minute wait to sit upstairs. Gate 54 downstairs wasn't crazy crowded, and we got drinks to wait (what's the beer that sounds like "The Chronic"? Its like "de Kronit" or something... good stuff, plenty of wheat).

Scored a table (thanks to the 2 guys who shared the space) and ordered food from bartender. Same menu downstairs as up. And with new smoke free, the downstairs air is very clear these days. (Used to be non- upstairs, with smoking down only.)

My mozzarella and proscuito sandwich was quite good and came with their standard green salad on the side. My partner's fries were nicely made as usual and her burger was just right.

This place is doing good things on 14th St. Certainly not hurting for business, which is a tribute to the food, prices, friendly staff, good service, fun atmosphere (unpretentious but trendy enough), and prime location.

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Am a St. Ex frequenter. Friday night, arrived at 8:30 and it was 90 minute wait to sit upstairs. Gate 54 downstairs wasn't crazy crowded, and we got drinks to wait (what's the beer that sounds like "The Chronic"? Its like "de Kronit" or something... good stuff, plenty of wheat).

Scored a table (thanks to the 2 guys who shared the space) and ordered food from bartender. Same menu downstairs as up. And with new smoke free, the downstairs air is very clear these days. (Used to be non- upstairs, with smoking down only.)

My mozzarella and proscuito sandwich was quite good and came with their standard green salad on the side. My partner's fries were nicely made as usual and her burger was just right.

This place is doing good things on 14th St. Certainly not hurting for business, which is a tribute to the food, prices, friendly staff, good service, fun atmosphere (unpretentious but trendy enough), and prime location.

dekonick. It's one of the best beers ever. I highly suggest going over to the Reef to try it- it will taste different. The main difference is that the Reef cleans its tap lines with great frequency, leading to a cleaner pour. They also have the Dekonick Winter which no other bar in the United States has.

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So in honor of tonight's true winter weather, I thought I'd post about the meal I had last Saturday where at this point we were just finishing on the patio!

We started with the roasted olives and cheese plate from the bar menu. The cheese plate at St. Ex is designed to go with beer so there was a blue, a chedder and another hearty cheese. We paired it with a scotch and amaretto cocktail and it worked nicely.

There were pea shoots on the menu again last week, so the pea shoot salad I did have. It was a delicious mess of pea shoots, fennel slices and delicate parmesean slices. While the salad came dressed, it was light enough not to bother me (I don't like salad dressing generally).

For my main I had mackrel and holy mackrel it was good! It was served on a mound of spiced beets which were perfect for an early fall night (even though it was mid-January). One friend had the trout which looked really good (I did not get a taste), the other had the always reliable gnocchi which were served with chesnuts (I did get a taste and it was mighty tasty).

Even with drinks and appetizers our bill including a nice tip came to $60 a person. Generally, I don't order appetizers at Cafe St. Ex but we were hungry and enjoying sitting outside in D.C. in January! Without appetizers it would have been closer to $45-$50 a person. Seems like a bargain for the quality of food and service you get at a neighborhood joint.

P.S. Dr. No, try Bar Pilar for brunch. It's great!

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I love Saint Ex, so it’s with a heavy heart that I report on tonight’s decidedly subpar experience. I’d like to think it’s a total aberration and, of all my visits, this has been the singular largely negative experience.

The service was good – of course, I don’t expect fine dining there. All I want is a timely water refill and a smile. In fact, I expect a level of informality and am generally pleased with the expertise of the waitstaff. I’m as young as any of the people waiting on me, I’m not uptight or demanding and, frankly, when I get a little attitude, I appreciate it. It’s a neighborhood joint for me.

The food disappointed tonight, and they were all dishes I’ve had and enjoyed many times before. We showed up around 8 PM and the three of us ordered three things – two burgers med-rare (one bacon/cheddar, one mushrooms) and a grilled calamari over greens. The calamari was well-cooked, but the frisee was so heavily salted that it was barely edible, and the med-rare burgers were brown and juiceless.

We sent the burgers back. Our waiter (also the Gate 54 bartender) was apologetic and understanding. We had full beers and nothing to do, so waiting for a cooked-to-order Saint Ex burger sounded much better than eating the stepped-on burgers we sent back… and far, far better than a slice from Manny & Olga’s.

Here’s the pisser – the second round of burgers were cooked as poorly as the first. Rather than send them back again, we picked at them, paid our check and left, disappointed. One of the burgers was comped, which was much appreciated but only somewhat mollifying.

After we sent the first burger back, I asked if Bart was there and was told that he wasn’t – I was unsurprised to hear it, but it’s no real excuse. I was there on Thursday and we were served a few burgers, a grilled calamari and a bowl of mussels with no complaints. This isn’t an endemic issue but, at the least, it’s an occasional one.

Saint Ex is a restaurant that has been around long enough and under the same chef long enough that Sunday night malaise simply shouldn’t be an issue, and a med-rare burger should be cooked to order the first time, let alone the second. I’d have never brought this up if I didn’t consider Saint Ex way, way better than this.

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:lol:

i actually had the same experience with the calamari and the burger last night which was a Sunday. I noticed the table next to me also had the same issue with the calamari. The wines by the glass were also mostly 86ed. The servers were rude however. The [place is cool though and I really like te table we had. I have had some good food there, but this was horrible.

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i actually had the same experience with the calamari and the burger last night which was a Sunday. I noticed the table next to me also had the same issue with the calamari. The wines by the glass were also mostly 86ed. The servers were rude however. The [place is cool though and I really like te table we had. I have had some good food there, but this was horrible.

they must have been running low on blood that night, because the same thing happened to me and even the beets were missing red (although i still had to admire them, not just the sweet beet flavor but the way they mound them like a puzzle). mussels seemed to be good as always and desserts were good as always: grapefruit creme broulee and a fig spice cake. we tossed down some mean hendrick's martinis, rushed home and warched dracula vs. billy the kid on television (my wife saves them on the tivo we never to this day would have ever heard of, except our son insisted we should have it), and guess what: hardly a drop of blood in that either, even following the confrontation in the silver mine, just the usual fang marks on the neck. even the humor was bone dry, but there is nothing bluer than those oater skies, and this one had them, in abundance.

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Had dinner with a friend here on Friday night. We split a bottle of negrette-syrah (I think) and each had the prix-fixe (which, I think someone above mentioned, is a fantastic deal at $28 before 7pm/$32 after). Both of us started with the onion soup, topped with croutons and pecorino cheese. Really good soup, based on a caramelized onion puree, rather than the more traditional onions cooked in stock and left intact -- perfect for such a cold night. She had the mahi with smoky lentils, which were both nice; the fish seemed to be perfectly cooked. I really liked the smoky lentils. I had the roast chicken with mashed potatoes and minced lemon, which was good, if not spectacular. We shared the honey goat cheesecake and the ginger bread pudding with mango. The cheesecake was the hands-down favorite -- creamy, not too sweet, not overly goaty, and perfectly matched with crumbled gingerbread bits. Ginger bread pudding was meh; it seemed much too bouncy and gelatinous for pudding and didn't have much ginger flavor (or detectable bread, for that matter). Service was good, attentive but not cloying, and definitely not rude.

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Had a similar experience to that of AlexC last night.

I ordered the burger med-rare, kind of excited about the Virginia-raised, grass-fed beef- I almost never eat beef.

The sweet potato fries it came with were delicious, soft without being mealy and were nicely seasoned.

The burger, unfortunately, was overdone and not at all juicy. It would have been fantastic; the bread was wonderful and would have been great with a bit of juice sopping into it...

I didn't sent it back as I can't stand wasting food, meat in particular, so in fairness they could well have gotten it perfect the second time around.

The friend I went with had the wood-grilled tuna which was just about perfectly rare but lacked a little something in flavor; haricots verts were a very good side dish.

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this remains a relaxing spot where you can tether your dog to the railing adjacent to an outside table on a nice day and enjoy the neighborhood scene and friendly service. however, if a sunday evening is indicative of the cooking you can expect now that barton seaver has departed, the kitchen has clearly unhitched itself from a rising star. pale beets still taste fine but they are assembled awkwardly. lemon in the milky broth accompanying mussels is too pronounced. a burger is simultaneously dry and greasy with bacon and cheese that don't seem to be the prime ingredients they once were. salmon is gloriously golden and beach dry, plunked on an unadorned lentil gravel soured with lemon. a pistachio tart is interesting, at a halfway crossing between cake and pie, with a stripe of apricot traversing the bottom crust, the highpoint of the meal. the food isn't completely terrible, but it has become orindary by comparison with its former self, an ongoing challenge for the cooks who have been left behind to emulate it.

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that there is some world class food writing, I don't care who you are.

Without raising his voice or even being very mean, ol' giant shrimp has removed any desire I had to do anything-- but drink-- in Cafe St Ex. Fortunately it remains an extremely pleasant place in and outside of which to engage in THAT activity....

& they'll probably get the kitchen straightened out toot sweet (as they spell it out here on the Great High Plains....)

"gloriously golden and beach dry", I'm rememberin' that one...

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this remains a relaxing spot where you can tether your dog to the railing adjacent to an outside table on a nice day and enjoy the neighborhood scene and friendly service. however, if a sunday evening is indicative of the cooking you can expect now that barton seaver has departed, the kitchen has clearly unhitched itself from a rising star. pale beets still taste fine but they are assembled awkwardly. lemon in the milky broth accompanying mussels is too pronounced.

I can't agree more. I ordered the exact same two dishes Monday night (Golden Beet Salad and P.E.I Mussels) and couldn't believe I was at the same restaurant. It makes me sad, but the patio truly is a pleasant place to shoot the breeze and knock back a couple of drinks with friends.

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