Pound the Hill

Location: Capitol Hill

Price: $$

Rating: 3 out of 5

Summary: A fantastic coffee house that still has ways to go as a restaurant

Pound the HillAlthough we had heard great things about Capitol Hill’s Pound the Hill for breakfast and coffee, our interest to visit for dinner was peaked with a Living Social coupon. Little did we know, at night the coffee house turned into a modern American restaurant. The casual, but intimate atmosphere of the cafe leant itself easily into a fantastic evening dining ambiance. However, it turned out that the restaurant’s kitchen was not able to make the transition as easily. While everything we ordered sounded great on paper, what we were served didn’t match up to our expectations.

Our first small plate was the Duck-fat Tater Tots, garlic parmesan potato tots, served with liquid horseradish and a house-madeDuck-Fat Tater Tots BBQ sauce. Despite the menu’s inflated description, these tater tots taste no different than any other that we’ve Hummus Platterordered before. Only the addition of the light sprinkle of garlic and parmesan made the tots stand out. The horseradish and BBQ dipping sauces were the real treat of the dish, the homemade BBQ sauce making the dish worth ordering again. Our second small dish was the Hummus platter, creamy chickpeas, Greek feta, Nicoise olives, and served with toasted pita. Much like the first, this plate was nothing out of the ordinary, featuring an average hummus dip and a Shrimp Platefew pitas cut into slices. Our final appetizer was the Shrimp Plate, butter-sautéed shrimp, roasted garlic olive tapenade, and basil served with truffle-oiled crostini. Following the pattern of the previous small dishes, the shrimp were unremarkable and the flavors from the add-ins did little to boost the shell fish’s character.

Our first entrée was the Farmhouse Pasta, orecchiette pasta with house-made sausage, braised kale, cubed roasted Farmhouse Pastabutternut squash, and a sprinkle of pecorino cheese. With better-than-your-average boxed pasta and slightly spicy homemade sausage, the beef broth sauce was the real star of the dish, highlighting the savory yet spicy ground sausage and the choice of shell shaped pasta. Although we are fans of butternut squash, it didn’t combine well with the other flavors in the bowl and turned into an odd addition. The cheese and braised kale were nice additions that elevated the pasta’s profile.

For our second choice, we selected the Slow-Roasted Short Rib, beef short rib sitting on top of herb garlic beef Slow-roasted Short Ribjus, red potato and saffron puree, and roasted rainbow carrots. The meat itself fell apart easily and seemed to be cooked perfectly, but the weak flavor from the roast and sloppy concoction that was billed as red potato and saffron puree took away from the dish. Where usually a rim of fat on the cut highlights the expert quality of a beef rib, it only added to the bodiless texture of the beef and brought no additional flavor to the table. Although some of the execution on the dish may need some tinkering, we doubt it would have solved the very “average” flavors we tasted.

Warm Autumn Spice DoughnutsDespite our meal’s shortcomings, we knew that Pound the Hill is best known as a coffee house so we decided to order coffee and dessert. This turned out to be the best decision we had made the entire meal. We ordered the Warm Autumn Spice Doughnuts, small balls of fried dough with a cinnamon-ginger caramel dipping sauce. Missing the typical hole in the middle of the fried dough, these doughnuts were possibly some of the best that we have had in Nutella Lattedc. The caramel sauce was more of a drizzle on the donuts, but still worked perfectly with the fried dough. We also ordered a Nutella Latte, a specialty of Pound the Hill that tasted like terrifically composed hazelnut mocha, not too sweet and not overbearing.

Despite a great atmosphere and an impressive dessert, the core of our meal never came together and left us yearning for the dishes we had read about on the menu. Everything we ordered sounded fantastic, yet the execution wasn’t there. Instead, it was a blur of mediocrity. Most of these faults are simple fixes and, with some fine tuning, Pound the Hill could be a great destination for an evening meal on Capitol Hill. Until then, we will stick to the dessert and coffee.

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Duffy’s Irish Pub

** “Need a Drink” Monday Special **

Location: U Street

Summary: With plenty of great drink specials and superb wings, the last person Duffy’s is trying to impress is you

Tucked away from the more popular area of the U Street strip, Duffy’s Irish Pub is an unassuming and uncommoningly common bar that gives you exactly what you need when you come into a bar: great drink specials and a decent menu without the hype or the pretentious atmosphere of many other bars in DC. This is not the place you bring someone to be impressed. This is the place you bring someone to have a good time with buddies.

The beer menu isn’t the most expansive in the area, but a library of brands isn’t why you walked in the door of Duffy’s. The available beers range from the lightest of light to local DC favorites, each usually with a special attached to it on one night or another. The food menu is what you would expect from most booze-focused establishments with a few notable exceptions, like the magnificent wings (the chesapeake rub and hot sauce combo is recommended) or the occasionally available Irish burrito. Although you may be tempted to try Duffy’s Monster Burger, a 1/2 lb. burger with bacon, grilled onions and two grilled cheeses serving as a bun, we suggest you save yourself the trouble, the combination of four slices of bread giving you a doughier mouthful than anyone would want in a sandwich.

While we have tried to list below all of the many different specials Duffy’s offers, your best bet is to show up on Tuesday (1/2 price wings) or any gameday. The great thing about this place is not the menu or even the specials. The reason we’ll be coming back is that once you walk through the door you might as well be in your best buddy’s garage, the casual atmosphere and take-it-for-what-it-is attitude refreshing in a city full of bars that bend over backwards to convince you on how to best enjoy yourself.

What’s the deal?

Weekly Specials

  • Tuesday – 1/2 price wings
  • Wednesday – Trivia Night
  • Thursday – 1/2 price fried pickles
  • Sunday – $2 tall boys after 10pm

Mon – Fri, 4pm – 7pm

  • House Wines by the Glass $3
  • $3 Tall Boys PBR | Schlitz | High Life
  • $3 16oz Draft Miller Lite
  • $4 16oz Draft Sam and Sam Seasonal
  • $3 Bottles of Miller Lite | Budweiser
  • $10 Pitchers Miller Lite and PBR
  • $5 Jim Beam and coke
  • $5 16oz Hurricanes
  • $4 Rail Drinks
  • 1/2 Price Chicken or Veggie Quesadillas

All Night

  • $10 Pitchers of Miller Lite and PBR
  • $16 Buckets of PBR and Schlitz Tall Boys (5)
  • $3 Natty Boh
  • $20 Pitchers of Sam Seasonal or Boston Lager
  • $20 Pitchers of Chocolate City Copper or ESB

NFL Specials every Sunday, Monday and Thursday During Games

  • $18 Heineken Pitchers
  • $18 Blue Moon Pitchers
  • $10 Miller Lite Pitchers
  • $16 Buckets (5) of 16oz aluminum bottles of Miller lite or Coors Light

College football Specials All Day Saturday

  • $18 Heineken Pitchers
  • $18 Blue Moon Pitchers
  • $10 Miller Lite Pitchers

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The Chesapeake Room

Location: Eastern Market

Price: $$$$

Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: A superb showcase of the area’s best seasonal flavors with minor mis-steps in execution 

As the blue crab season winds down, we were glad to have finally made our way to The Chesapeake Room, one of few restaurants we hadn’t sampled on Barrack’s Row. Usually when we’re on 8th St, we have a different restaurant in mind or look at the menu and opt for a cheaper option (there are plenty around). Yet, the open-aired seating at the bar and cozy atmosphere of the back patio complimented the night’s weather so well that we couldn’t resist. In hindsight, we can’t imagine why it took us so long to make the trip.

Before we had even started our dining experience, it was obvious that one of the highlights of The Chesapeake Room was the ambiance. The open air seating was lovely, the deep, atlantic blue walls and rich wood moulding offset by the candles. The atmosphere was casual, but refined. We sat on the patio, complete with ceiling fans and rolling upholstered arm chairs. Our server bent over backwards to find the right bottle of wine to match our first thoughts for entrees and sold us on more than one of our ultimate selections.

Our first order was the Cucumber soup, freshly pureed cucumber with sour cream and parsley. Crisp and light, the soup had a surprisingly full body for that with a cucumber-base. This was thanks in part to the addition of sour cream that also lent some pleasant tang without dominating the cucumber flavor. The aftertaste had a slight spice and brought out a great finish on the soup. If you usually don’t partake in sour cream, we recommend you simply ignore the fact that it’s there and enjoy the combination, only a slight tang from the cream catching on our tongues. Besides enjoying the soup itself, it was refreshing to have a chilled soup that didn’t have a tomato base and reminded us what we loved best about summer.

For our second order, we chose the Cream of crap soup, a creamy mix of lump crab and cayenne pepper. While there wasn’t a large amount of actual crab in the soup, the crustacean’s flavor shown through brightly and what crab we did enjoy was wonderfully delicate. WIth a full body that didn’t weigh down our palate, this was one of the better versions of this classic dish that we have encountered this summer.

With the name Chesapeake Room, we would have been remised not to have ordered the Maryland crab cakes, two cakes of lump crab topped with a small amount of whole grain mustard creme and served with a watercress salad, house slaw and house mac-n-cheese. The crab cakes had little filler and were bound by a a black pepper and mayo combination, allowing the succulent flavor of the  quality crab to boldly shine through without any extras getting in the way. The mustard creme topping the cakes complimented the crab well and thankfully the amount of sauce didn’t drown out the fresh crustacean.  Unfortunately, everything else of the plate seemed like a throw-away after thought, the mac-n-cheese having a grainy texture and very thin body. While we appreciated the attention given to the crab, too often restaurants follow this pattern of serving two crab cakes and leaving you with nothing else on the plate to look forward to.

For our final plate, we decided on the Eastern shore bourbon & honey glazed farmhouse chicken, served with a mix of jasmine rice, sautéed green apples, white raisins, arugula and topped with a honey curry sauce. Served bone-in, the chicken was tender and a joy to eat, the glazing on the skin highlighting the sweetness of the chicken with notes of honey. The honey curry sauce covering the bird seemed like a forced combination and, while the chicken tasted well enough with the it, each aspect of the sauce seemed to compete with each other. The jasmine rice mixed with small pieces of green apple and red onion gave the dish a soft, sweet/tart mixed character that we had seen attempted before, but not successfully executed until now.

The Chesapeake Room prides itself on bringing an organic, sustainable & free range dining experience while bringing to life the natural & fresh taste of each season. Everything we were served whole-heartily supported their boast and, combined with on of the most inviting atmospheres in the area, put it in our minds as one of the better restaurants available on Barracks row. Although some items on the plates could be improved or given more attention, the meal overall sold us on the idea of coming back again before the end of the blue crab season. It may not be the cheapest option on 8th St, but it’s hard to argue that you don’t get your money’s worth.

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