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Park Cafe, Lincoln Park - Chef Gustav Marbrouk and Owner Alcione Vinet on 13th & East Capitol Street - Closed


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The sign for the Park Cafe next to Lincoln Park has disappeared. Mysterious blue accents have been added to the windows and door... I didn't get a close look yesterday, but will investigate this evening. Anyone know what's going on? Has someone finally pulled the plug on this thoroughly disappointing establishment?

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The sign for the Park Cafe next to Lincoln Park has disappeared. Mysterious blue accents have been added to the windows and door... I didn't get a close look yesterday, but will investigate this evening. Anyone know what's going on? Has someone finally pulled the plug on this thoroughly disappointing establishment?

Just called over there and they said they were just fixing the A/C. Damn.

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As long as I have lived in this area, I have to admit that I am unfamiliar with this place. Where is it?

Near the intersection of 13th St and Mass Ave NE., across from the eastern edge of Lincoln Park. There's a reason you're unfamiliar with the place. In my opinion, you'd be better off with a bag of hot fries from the corner store.

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Agreed. I've never had a good experience here and it is quite pricey.

I've had decent meals there, but it's very uneven. I'm not sure when it originally opened, but when we first bought our house (13+ years ago), it was a pretty new restaurant. We ate there the night we moved into the house, and it was fine. I remember having a great lunch there in that period as well (they've been off and on with having lunch). It's good sometimes and all over the place the rest of the time.

I haven't tried it since they switched to the new chef and menu (a couple of years ago?). The price seems too high for what I have gotten in the past. I might still try it again. They still seem to have a clientele, based on my observations walking past. Somebody is eating there.

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Thanks for getting me thinking about this, K. We just got back from dinner at Park Cafe. It was perfectly fine but not great. There was certainly nothing horribly wrong. Our waitress was excellent and could have been a waitress at one of the finest places downtown. She was very good.

For an appetizer, we had basil, tomato, mozzarella, and proscuitto. They shouldn't have cooked the proscuitto. It was too brittle. Otherwise, it was fine.

For a main, my husband had the tuna special, which came witha green veg I forget and pineapple chutney of some sort. I got a roast chicken and brought a big piece home. Both were very good.

There weren't too many people there. Al was talking to people from another table. I don't know why he's held on this long, but he has.

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Park Cafe is now sporting several signs saying that they are open for lunch. I haven't seen anyone in there for lunch when I've gone by, though.

Many years ago, they used to have a lunch service, and I've had a few good lunches there. I'm bumping the thread in hopes that someone may stop for lunch and tell us how it is :lol:

What I really wish is that they would serve breakfast/morning coffee. There is nothing near Lincoln Park for that.

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Location and ambiance would make this place the perfect neighborhood restaurant if the food didn't suck and the prices weren't usury.

I agree. But I find the mere fact that our own Mr. Boylen is even thinking about this place an encouraging sign.

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I mostly concur with what's been said about the Park Cafe, and I do so sadly. Several years ago, when it had a quasi-Peruvian menu, it was sort of a low-key charmer, and it offered an exceptional wine list, filled with interesting labels I never saw anywhere else. (Unfortunately, their by-the-glass portions/prices were laughably chintzy.) Then, in the last couple of years their efforts to be a more contemporary upscale bistro have been terribly misguided. I don't think the food sucked as much as it was never exceptional enough to justify the prices--not to mention the absurdly small portions.

In short, they're trying to be something they're not, instead of adopting a tenable concept that would really serve the neighborhood--an affordable, everyday neighborhood place emphasizng fresh, local ingredients. The Twin Cities, my old stomping grounds, is full of such places but they're a rarity here in Washington. The Park Cafe would be an ideal place for such a restaurant if they would only set their sights realistically--as it is, they seem driven by illusion, greed, or desperation to help pay the owner's mortgage (I think he lives upstairs).

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Their specials board for this evening features Halibut with cottage cheese, mango, and strawberry. Perhaps I could envison a ladies who lunch special with a salad plate of cottage cheese, mango, and strawberry and a nice piece of broiled or grilled halibut, but I don't figure that's what this dish is. I think I'ma gonna barf :)

Most of the time, the specials on the board don't thrill me, but this one just doesn't sound appetizing at all. I can't even imagine ordering this out of curiosity, and I'm pretty curious :)

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That belongs in the gallery of regrettable food.. Where on earth would they come up with such a disaster? :)
I'm still wondering how they combined the ingredients. If it's a sauce of some sort, it seems odd to advertise it as containing cottage cheese. Thinking about it, it's the cottage cheese that threw me the most. That just doesn't seem to belong with fish, and, while I use cottage cheese in a few casserole/pasta recipes, it doesn't sound like an ingredient for a chef to highlight as a prominent feature of a dish.
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I think if they turned it into an all day coffee/cafe/wine bar they would make a fortune. It is just what Lincoln Park needs.

If they did this, I'd probably go at least once a week, and never set foot in Tunnicliff's again.

I went some time ago for Sunday brunch because they opened earlier than Montmartre or Belga Cafe, and my parents were trying to get on the road at a reasonable hour. We walked in at 10:00 on the nose, and found a three-year-old hanging out in his pj's - he immediately came up to us, and very convincingly said "we're closed." His mom, who doubled as our server (and possibly also the kitchen staff), eventually called him off. :) Anyway, the food was standard brunch fare, with the addition of some Mexican-influenced type dishes (my mother really enjoyed something that appeared to be a crispy tortilla with beans, cheese, and other accoutrements). However, three out of four dishes were stone cold. Strange, since we were the first customers of the day.

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If they did this, I'd probably go at least once a week, and never set foot in Tunnicliff's again.
Given that Park Cafe had trouble with neighbors in getting their liquor license (or that's my recollection, anyway), there might be some restriction on all-day sales, or at least a challenge if they tried it. Do they serve alcohol at brunch?

They're very close to 3 churches, and I recall that one set of neighbors in particular really went after them over the liquor license. I remember someone coming to my door trying to get me to sign a petition to keep them from getting a liquor license, which I refused to do. At that price point and with no bar, it didn't seem like the kind of place that could become a nuisance establishment.

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Do they serve alcohol at brunch?

I thought I remembered seeing mimosas on the menu, but I wouldn't swear to it.

I remember someone coming to my door trying to get me to sign a petition to keep them from getting a liquor license, which I refused to do

Not to mention, I don't think there's anything that Park Cafe could possibly do that would expand its clientele to beyond the neighborhood.

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Not to mention, I don't think there's anything that Park Cafe could possibly do that would expand its clientele to beyond the neighborhood.
They might pull people in who are headed to RFK Stadium, but probably not much otherwise.
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Not to mention, I don't think there's anything that Park Cafe could possibly do that would expand its clientele to beyond the neighborhood.
Serving better food would be a start. Dino isn't in my neighborhood, but I happily drive up to NW from Lincoln Park to eat there. Ditto Palena, etc. I have noticed that Park Cafe seems more crowded these days - sometimes even full on the weekends. Whether this has to do with the growth of our neighborhood, or the recent advertising blitz that Park Cafe has done (in print, anyway), I don't know.
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Oh, hardly. Not for this overpriced and mediocre excuse for a restaurant.

Damn! Why so much hate for the Park Cafe?

I've only eaten there once, the food was OK and the service was a little less than OK; I guess the fact that it's a 10-12 minute walk from my house and I've only eaten there once tells you about what you need to know though.

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Damn! Why so much hate for the Park Cafe?

I think the wrath comes because the space and location cries out for a charming little bistro that serves homey dishes and interesting little wines at a reasonable price and instead Park Cafe serves pricy crappy food that plain sucks

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I think the wrath comes because the space and location cries out for a charming little bistro that serves homey dishes and interesting little wines at a reasonable price and instead Park Cafe serves pricy crappy food that plain sucks

I'd settle for a decent take out joint.

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I cannot figure why the various aspects of Park Cafe don't add up to what they should add up to. I'm at the point where I am simply frustrated by it.

I stopped there for dinner tonight. I'd thought about it for the past couple of weeks, but no one was ever eating there when I went by, so I didn't take the plunge. (Bad sign, I know.) Tonight there was a couple there and they seemed to be enjoying their meal. I went in and sat at a table set with lovely plates and stemware; was served by a waiter who was skilled and could have worked at a fine dining restaurant downtown; looked at funky art on the walls and took in a beautiful view of the park; listened to cool music; and, got a mediocre meal at a fairly high price in a restaurant with a total of 3 customers.

As I sat there, I kept thinking that it was like one of those cool little places in Boston that people come from all over to go to. There was just that last little piece that didn't fit.

The wine list looked pretty good to me (not lots of things I recognized--heh), so I took that to be a good sign. All I wanted was a glass of white wine, though. A glass of pinot grigio is $9. That's about my limit per glass at Sonoma. Locanda has a wonderful pinot grigio at $8. I felt really stupid ordering wine by its price (I doubt it was really worth saving $2 to get a glass of sauvignon blanc I didn't much like), but I couldn't get my mind around the $9 price for what I wanted. I should have splurged for the $2.

I got a gazpacho special with cucumber and crab meat. It was very fresh tasting and tomato-y but otherwise had no distinctive flavor. It needed some kind of additional seasoning. Even black pepper would have been enough, but basil or fennel would have been wonderful. It was coffee cup size for $10. The risotto with scallops was gummy and had a flavor that bothered me that I couldn't identify--kind of chalky, maybe. The two caramelized scallops that came on top were very good, though. The scallops were the highlight of the meal.

The menu currently has 6 apps and 6 entrees, and there were 2 apps and 2 entrees on the specials. I felt like it was too hot to order a heavy meal, and the entrees all seemed expensive to me anyway. ($35 for the hangar steak special?) There was a poblano stuffed with wild boar and something else that almost got me, but I decided to go with lighter food. (Both items I got were appetizers.)

I'm not sure why I keep trying. The thing that really gets me is that when we first went in there in 1992, the food was pretty good. It was kind of pricey, but it was good. In that era, I think the food may have been at its best. Perhaps that's a subjective bias. I used to love the quesadillas they had. It's just a puzzle to me. (And, btw, the one thing that has always been consistent about the place in my experience is excellent service.)

ETA: One thing that slipped my mind last night was an amuse at the start of the meal: two crostini topped with with a puree of snow pea, zucchini, and garlic. This was excellent. When I first saw it, I was unsure what it was and guessed tapenade. When I asked, the waiter described the components. The flavor of the puree was strong enough to be distinctive but subtle enough not to be overpowering. It would have been very nice served atop the scallops.

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Over heard on the Hill...as in my neighbors talking outside my apartment building:

"Over on the other side of Lincoln Park is Park Cafe, one of the best gourmet restaurants in DC"

Wasn't sure if I should have gagged or fallen over laughing.

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Over heard on the Hill...as in my neighbors talking outside my apartment building:

"Over on the other side of Lincoln Park is Park Cafe, one of the best gourmet restaurants in DC"

Wasn't sure if I should have gagged or fallen over laughing.

ROTFLMAO!

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I've lived in DC for about fifteen years, and I've lived on Capitol Hill for that entire time (or essentially Capitol Hill, I never know what to call where I live now near H Street). Until this past weekend I had always been meaning to eat at Park Cafe, but had never actually pulled the trigger. This past Saturday my wife and I ventured the couple of blocks from our house with another couple who have also been on the Hill for more than ten years and who also had never been there. Our expectations were extremely low (by the way, at this point you might be right to question the entire logic behind our selection of restaurants for the night).

Short verdict? The food wasn't terrible, but it was expensive. It also wasn't particularly good. Proteins were coooked properly (boar, steak, lamb chops). Everybody got the same relatively tasteless vegetables as sides, and the same sauce. The risotto for my appetizer was pretty horrible, although the scallop with it was cooked well. For some reason there was a tomato/basil/mozz salad on the menu, and my friend reported that it tasted as good as you'd expect tomatoes in January to taste. Our server was attentive, if unknowledgeable about the menu and the wine list. There were two other tables seated in the restaurant, and two dudes sitting at the bar while we were there.

At this point I'd say my curiosity has been satisfied. I wish I'd simply remained curious rather than spent the money to investigate. The place looks great, they're very friendly, I'd really like to love the restaurant, but, particularly given the price, I see no reason why I would ever go back.

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Early last week the Park Cafe put up some hastily scrawled signs saying "Closed for today," and a few days later the windows were covered over with paper. Does anyone know what's going on there? Remodeling? Closed for good? Something else?

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I've been asking around but haven't found out anything, except that one person reported seeing furniture being carried into the space after the closed sign went up but before the paper went over the windows. Taking furniture in would seem more consistent with remodeling than with shutting down, but who knows.

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Out of curiosity, I looked at the yelp reviews for Park Cafe :o

http://www.yelp.com/biz/park-cafe-washington?sort_by=date_desc

I sorted them by date, and the most recent accounts are pretty horrible. I find the one- and two-star reviews much more believable than the 4- and 5-star ones. The glowing reviews, especially from people from out-of-town, are pretty hard to swallow :wacko: . The assortment of reviews is quite dizzying, but the inconsistency and high prices certainly come through.

A number of the accounts mention the owner being surly and aloof, which was never my experience in the past, and several people mention that he is now the only server working in the place.

A comment back in late 2009, says that the owner is looking to sell the place, or was then.

I decided to check yelp to see if there was any mention of it closing, since a posting on a local listserv mentioned in passing that it had closed. That's the only place I've seen anyone state that directly. Their website is still up and the phone goes to voice mail.

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I saw Al outside last week and said "Hi," to to which he replied in a perfunctory way. When I asked when they would be reopening, he ignored me and walked into the restaurant.

Today I noticed an orange stop work order on the front window, dated today at 12:13 (?) PM. The reason for the stop work was not having proper permits.

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It's been over a month - are there any updates on Park Cafe?

The last I checked, the stop work order was gone and there was a demolition permit in the door window. Whoever currently owns it is clearly doing work on the interior.

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There is a new permit affixed to the door, this one issued to something called "Lincoln Development Group." The principal agent for this entity is someone based in Hyattsville who appears to be an architect. The permit is for replacing plumbing and lighting fixtures.

Currently, there are people working inside but the windows are still papered over. The "Closed for Today" sign is back in the front window.

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