Marvin is #100 on Washingtonian’s Best Of list. I thought I should put it out there in front, just because in my mind, it sums up Marvin. It’s not #10 and it’s not even in the top 50, but it’s still a choice pick. Plus, people’s opinions of it, even on our We Love DC authors list serve, vary considerably. Some people believe it to be a hidden gem (not so much on the hidden part any more) and some people consider it totally crap. Me? Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s #100. A neighborhood joint with above-average food, a rooftop deck, and some excellent fried chicken.
Marvin, named after DC native Marvin Gaye, is at the intersection of 14th and U. Thanks to the savvy folks behind Eighteenth Street Lounge, The Gibson and Local 16, Marvin is both a bar hot spot and a tasty evening dining destination. The menu pairs southern with Belgian, and has a little something for everyone. On a recent pilgrimage to The Gibson for an after-work drink, a friend and I stopped by Marvin for dinner and had a mostly pleasant experience.
I had heard everything, from Tim Carman saying Marvin “can’t seem to produce a single thing that pleases me these days” from Ashley at From Komi to Marvin saying “I love Marvin and will continue to eat and drink there on a pretty regular basis,” It was time to go make my assessment.
Somehow, these days, I am on a terribly crappy streak of being put in a corner, right near the waiters station. A commenter once said “Nobody puts Katie in a corner” and to that I say, oh yes they do. At least Marvin sure does. And so does Firefly. And so does Cafe Asia. In fact, EVERYONE these days puts Katie in a corner. But anyways, this is about Marvin, not about where people like to seat me recently. But Marvin’s corner actually sucked because the wall juts out into the bench in this particular corner and it’s quite uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, that they should probably not have a seat there. But they do. And I sat in it.
We were able to waltz right in, and the dining room never filled quite to the brim. This could be because it was a Tuesday night. Or because it is August. Whatever the reason, I had heard things about rushed service, and we were relaxed and happy the entire time. Our server was intimately familiar with the menu, she knew all the ingredients, and was able to answer our questions and describe the food as if she’s eaten it before, including the daily specials. Which is more than I can say for some service staff around DC. The wines by the glass list is smart, and the beer tap is heavy on the Belgian, and who can argue with that?
We ordered all kinds of things – the goat cheese salad, the scallops, the fried chicken and waffles. I adored the fried chicken and waffles, the dish that Marvin is known for. The waffles itself were a bit eggy, and soft to the fork. I’m always impressed with the flavor pairing of sweet, sticky maple syrup and salty fried chicken. The collard greens were nicely done, a bit of a bite to them, but not drowning in vinegar. They a more vivid green color, less murkey grey, than most collard greens I come across, and a bit firmer. I was a big fan. I’ve heard fabulous things about the shrimp and grits, as well.
The goat cheese croquettes were warm, and the scallops were perfectly done, with a nice red wine butter sauce (beurre rouge). The scallops weren’t too raw, but also not overdone, with a nice seared finish. The beurre rouge allowed the sweetness of the scallop to surface, and I was a happy camper.
For dessert we decided on the Apple Cheddar Gallette with creme anglaise and salted carmel ice cream. Doesn’t that sound fun? The cheddar was nowhere to be found, the waitress swore it was in there, and I think I saw it (or I’m making stuff up) but um, nice joke, Marvin, there’s no cheddar in there. The back of the house said it was a mild white cheddar from Vermont, but if it was, in fact, in there, it was drown out by the crispy apples and salted carmel ice cream. But you know what? Cheddar or no cheddar, it was a darn good thick apple pie. Plus, I like your salted carmel, Marvin, again with the sweet and salty, good for you. The salt was prevalent, but I enjoyed it. I was looking for a nontraditional dessert, and although the cheddar pulled a houdini, I still would give that a solid A.
My only complaint was that the check was brought before our dishes were cleared. I hate thinking about paying while I’m still sitting around in my own mess. I don’t want to pay you while there’s ice cream melting and there’s nowhere to put the check down on and open it flat. It’s a pet peeve of mine, and bad form on the coordination of service. It was the only time I felt rushed. We just waited to open it until our plates were off the table.
All in all, I’m diggin’ on Marvin. As #100 on the list, I’m thinking DC’s got a pretty outstandingly tasty 99. (Which I could have told you, but this is for dramatic effect here.) So, cheers to Marvin. What are your favorite dishes at the 14th street eat place? What did I miss?
Marvin is located at 2007 14th St. NW. Closest Metro stop: U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo Station (Green line). For more information, call (202) 797-7171.