So I’ll let you in on a little secret, new restaurants. Sometimes two of the blonde single lady authors of We Love DC hit the town together, and judge you. You can spot us, cause we ask a bunch of questions, giggle to ourselves, and take tons of pictures of our food and drinks. One of us is southern, the other northern. One twentysomething, one thirtysomething. We try and represent all demographics. We also try not to make a scene. Maybe one day we’ll get fabulous enough to don disguises Ruth Reichl-style, but for now, we aren’t particularly incognito. I’m pretty sure our server last week at Eatonville knew something was up, but he was a good sport, as we grilled him all about the menu, the best picks, and even the decor. He wound up asking us a bunch of questions back to our questions about the restaurant. Bending over our table, conspiritorially, he asked us “do you twitter?” (Yup.) “Will you tweet about this?” (Sure will.) “Even if you don’t like it?” (Uh huh.) Luckily for him, we liked it just fine.
Eatonville had come up with mixed reviews from my foodie crowd, but ever the southerner, I was excited. Jenn was ready to judge with me, and she’s always good to have around to bounce thoughts off of. We dived into the menu headfirst, ordering the two most popular appetizers, the Hushpuppy (singular, that’s right, find out why after the break) and the Fried Green Tomatoes. (I don’t think it’s in my genetics to say no to a fried green tomato!)
While we were waiting on our apps, Jenn sampled the drinks. I had a nice Riesling, the wine list is nicely done. Jenn ordered the Georgia Peach, peach vodka mixed with sweet tea. Jenn thought it got high marks for presentation in the cute Mason Jar, “but I could barely taste any peach and it was just “eh” really”. I felt that way about all the drinks that came to our table. They accidentally brought us a cocktail called The Muck (terrible drink name) that was sweet enough for me, but wayyyy too sweet for Jenn. (This is why I am the food writer, people, give me your sweetest drink and I’m a happy girl.) Jenn also asked me to note that she was seriously impressed to see they have Perrier Jouet available by the glass. Perrier Jouet is one of Jenn’s favorite champagnes, “that fact alone will bring me back to the bar”.
So after settling the fact that wine is the thing to order at Eatonville, at least until they work out their list for good or bring in a mixologist, I was happy to snack on our two apps. The hushpuppy will bring me back for more. But let me just show you what we were working with here:
Now, see, the hushpuppy is one big lump of deliciousness. When I heard it was going to be one big hushpuppy singular, I was thrown off. I don’t like it when people mess withhushpuppies. They are classic. You can’t get it any better if you get fancy with it, so don’t try. This is how I feel. It just is. But this twist on the classic actually won me over. Stuffed with rock shrimp and leek fondue with creole sauce, the breading was EXACTLY right. It wasn’t any of this fake hushpuppy cornmeal stuff some chefs in this city try and pass as a hushpuppy, this WAS a hushpuppy. Just, you know, bigger, with some tasty condiments. Sold.
The fried green tomatoes were fussy, with a little bit much going on. Topped with a roasted corn salsa, red pepper aioli, goat cheese and arugula, the corn salsa was probably the part that tipped it over the “dressed” to “overdressed” edge. There were tomatoes on my tomato. Unnecessary, right? But the goat cheese was nice, and I liked the aioli. The outer crips wasn’t quite what I was expecting, a bit thin, really, but I think I’m spoiled by Georgia Brown’s.
Then there was dinner. I ordered wonderful crispy chicken. I find fried chicken irresistable. There are so many ways you can do it – it can have a kick, it can be with corn flakes, it can be too plain. Eatonvilles was warm, with perfect breading, over some good mashed potatoes and some lovely collard greens. The collard greens were tangy and well done, in my opinion. I even loved the mushroom gravy that came with, and I don’t tend to care for mushrooms much. Texture thing.
Jenn was disappointed in her Etoufee. She said it was was good, but not spectacular, definitely lacking in heat. The crawfish was generously piled in, but Jenn got worried about some slightly undercooked shrimp in her dish. I’d say pass that dish, and maybe aim for the fish and grits or the trout, the dishes our waiter bragged on.
So here’s the deal. You shouldn’t skip dessert. No way! Jenn had the Peach Berry Cobbler layered with fresh biscuits and topped with vanilla ice cream, it was the perfect balance of tart and sweet. I tried it and loved it. I had mediocre lemon pound cake with ice cream. Nothing to write home about, and not as dense as I tend to like my pound cakes to be. It was fine. I had food envy of Jenn’s cobbler, it was the perfect down-home dessert to round out the meal.
All in all, I left feeling really affectionate for Eatonville. I loved the bright interior with the high ceilings. I loved that we used dish towels for napkins. I adored the hushpuppy and would eat that fried chicken again any day. The crowd was the best 14th street has to offer, young, old, hip, hipster. The prices are great for a casual dinner out with friends, even on a weekday. Jenn said it best when she said “bottom line, it’s promising.” They’ll work out the kinks in the drink menu, they may even unfuss the fried green tomato, but even if they don’t, order the wine! And then dig into a big hushpuppy of happiness.
Eatonville is located at at 2121 14th St. NW. Closest Metro stop: U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo Station. For more information, call (202) 332-9672.