This is certainly not news to anyone familiar with D.C.’s food scene, Sietsema notes; it’s the oldest-running bar in the city, and, located across the street from the Treasury Department, the 567-seater consistently pulls in enormous crowds. But its mass appeal is not a turnoff to the critic — rather, it’s an impressive feat, accomplished in part through excellent service:
“What pulls in the crowds? A menu with mass appeal helps ...Old Ebbitt Grill excels at hospitality, too. This is a place where diners come for the relationships they’ve made with their minders and the minders go the extra mile to satisfy customers.”
Sietsema was enamored with the restaurant’s seafood selection — in particular, the oysters, and the intricate fuss the restaurant makes in delivering them. “If a menu selection originated in the water, chances are you want to order it,” he advises. He also recommends the fried calamari (it’s “grand” and “jazzed up”) and the crab cake (it’s “fine” and “crusty”). He awarded the restaurant two stars (good).
Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Tim Carman felt inspired by the meditative atmosphere and approach to cooking at Alexandria’s Yunnan by Potomac.
“The place doesn’t travel the high seas, offering an experience that trades on intensity and adrenaline,” Carman writes. “Yunnan by Potomac prefers to navigate a course through calm waters, under ideal conditions, as serene as the pale blue walls inside this narrow space.”
If this seems vague and difficult to interpret, well, it is. But he also gives the noodle house more concrete feedback, applauding it for being one of “precious few” serving authentic Yunnan cuisine in the D.C. area, amid a sea of Chinese-American spots doling out orange chicken. Carman is as impressed with the quality of the food at Yunnan by Potomac, even if some dishes are more difficult to eat than others:
“The soft noodles tend to be bashful. They frequently refuse to pick up the other ingredients, which mingle and concentrate at the base of the bowl. Your wooden spoon then becomes your friend. You’ll need it to suck down the bottom-dwelling broths, where the pickled mustard stems will really start to pop and the chile oil will finally ignite.”
Washingtonian columnist Ann Limpert visited Alexandra’s Urbano 116 last week, and has slightly kinder things to say than Sietsema, who stopped by in March. The contemporary Mexican restaurant, with notably vibrant and trendy decor, was only worth a single star in Sietsema’s book, Limpert awarded it two, giving props for “utterly unique creations” and an ability to toe the line between serving Mexican-American (chips and guac) and traditional Oaxacan (Mole and corn tortillas). She had equal respect for both influences on the menu:
“Those fried-chicken tacos are fabulous, spiffed up with black beans and grilled onions. That queso is dreamy. The guacamole, heavy on the lime, is as good as you’ll find in these parts ... But man, those moles. Follow them wherever the menu goes.”