Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Old Ebbitt Grill: This Aint Old. Aint Good Either.

Old Ebbitt Grill,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Old Ebbitt Grill,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Hummus,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Seafood Jambalaya,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Eggs Benedict,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Filet Mignon,Washington DC,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography
Seafood Jambalaya,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,Washington DC
Old Ebbitt Grill,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,Washington DC
Old Ebbitt Grill,Passport Foodie,Taylor Young Photography,Washington DC
Having celebrated America's Independence Day by going to a French restaurant in New York City, I thought I'd redeem myself and go to Washington D.C. for Labor Day weekend and visit a good 'ole fashion American Pub. If there is such a thing. My research started early last week when I searched for the 10 oldest pubs in the country. There was only one listed in D.C. and that was the Old Ebbitt Grill. It didn't have the word pub in the name, but it was founded in 1856 and sits across the street from the White House. So I decided to give it a try.

Prior to my visit to the Old Ebbitt I read that it had been the watering hole of many Presidents, Statesmen (isn't that politically incorrect?), Politicians of all sorts and now me, Passport Foodie. The menu is as grand as its long list of patrons. However, as I have experienced many times in the past, just because a restaurant has a lot of fancy food on the menu, does not guarantee that they do that food well. The Old Ebbitt was absolutely brimming with people. And most seemed to be genuinely enjoying their food and afternoon libations. So I was excited to try the menu out. I ordered a Newcastle Brown Ale (on tap, very cool) to drink and just as I was about to order the Petite Filet Bearnaise on an English Muffin, with Bean Sprouts, I decided on the Seafood Jambalaya. A dish I can admit, I have had way to little of this lifetime. I truly enjoy food from the South and I was drooling like a new born baby, waiting for it to come out.

Despite the crowds, the wait was actually quite brief and our starters of Hummus with Seasonal Vegetables and Pita was delivered promptly. Now, maybe my dear readers can help me with this one; is Hummus supposed to be watered down and taste like pee? If someone can help me out with that I would be extremely grateful, because that's what I felt like I was eating. The Vegetables and the Pita were fine, but the Hummus must have been placed under a faucet for a few seconds before serving it to us, because it was dripping with water.

After I washed down my watery Hummus with... well, more water, I was eagerly awaiting my Seafood Jambalaya with Shrimp, Mussels, Calamari, Scallops, Clams, Chorizo Sausage, Chicken, Vegetable Stew and Rice. I needed a new taste introduced into my palate to wash away the taste of Hummus and pee. And just as I was about to brush my tongue with my fork the waiter brought over my main course, a gorgeous looking Seafood Jambalaya. I was ready. First stop, Mussel-Ville. As I scooped the Mussel out, my mouth started moving its way towards the delectable little guy. And then it happened, I bit into a piece of sand the size of a small child... crunch! And again. And again. It was like eating a sandbox. I ate a few more bites, but nothing I ate gave me any satisfaction and eventually I had to stop. Which, if you know me, is unheard of.

I did manage to steal some of the other diners food and unfortunately it was more of the same. Simple Foodie had the Filet Mignon with Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and a Mushroom Tomato and Fresh Herb Sauce, which was decent, but I know of too many steakhouses which are cheaper and serve much better meat to give this anything but a D. It was bland, chewy and the Mashed Potatoes tasted like they came out of a can. It was no better on the other side of the table. The Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Corn, Tomato Chesapeake and Oven Roasted Potatoes was one of the worse dishes this Foodie has ever tasted. The Potatoes must have been sitting under a heat lamp since the restaurant opened in 1856. They were absolutely revolting. And the Corn clearly came from a Giant Green man who froze them prior to transporting them. The Eggs Benedict with an English Muffin, Canadian Bacon, Hollandaise Sauce and Home Fries was the only thing I'd ever eat again if I had to eat there. It had some redeeming flavors, but not enough to make me recommend the Old Ebbitt Grill.

To top off the afternoon I was given a terrible Coffee, served in a mug an Inmate at San Quentin would be ashamed to drink out of. And to say thank you for our business the waiter gave us a bill for $155. For 5 people this isn't outrageous. However, I would rather have thrown that money down the drain, or given it to the IRS, which resides just down the road, than eat that meal. This was not money well spent. But I can understand the allure. It's right near The White House, Presidents have eaten there and their Hummus tastes like pee. Well, I can almost understand the allure.

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  1. know it's bad when you'd rather give money to the IRS!

    I'm not a big fan of restaurants with lengthy menus. I've been to some good ones where they had 6 page long menus but those have been on extremely rare occasions.

    I'm quite angered to hear how the jambalaya was served. It's a delicious dish that leaves a lasting impression when done right.

    Perhaps this restaurant was a case of where the numerous patrons didn't equate to the quality of food.

  2. Sean,

    I agree. There really was no excuse for the quality of the food. It was just lazy chefs and too many people dining that the kitchen couldn't handle it. They have all the makings of brilliant restaurant if they'd just pull it together a bit more.

    I feel I was harsh with them and I was, but that's because they are so close to doing food well, if they handle their laziness they'll do great.


  3. Interesting... I live ten minutes from D.C., and I have never tried it... It sounds to ME like Clyde's! Some good resturaunts in D.C. are; Central (Michal Richard), The Source (Wolfgang Puck). These chefs are not lazy!

  4. Sam,

    Try it. Maybe you'll have a different experience. If you do, please come back and post it.

    Nice recommendations by the way. Thanks!


  5. That sounds horrid. Did you complain to the staff?

  6. Lizzie,

    Normally I would have but my lovely English wife has taught me to express my dissatisfaction with grunts and mild swear words spoken softly under my breath. I'm thinking about switching back to my old ways though.