Moving to a new neighborhood with new local restaurants is always difficult. One of the challenges that I actually like best about moving is having an entirely new set of restaurants and shops that need to be visited and tried out in an effort to really get to know my neighborhood. You know – for science! Somebody will eventually need to know which restaurant is best to take kids to, or where to go for the best brunch on weekends, so it’s my duty to help figure that out and have an opinion. But trying all the restaurants takes time. Especially if, like us, you tend to go to the places that you know first because they are known quantities.
So recently for the Boy’s birthday, we stepped out of our current comfort zone, and tried a restaurant that was somehow new to both of us, even though we’ve both walked past it many times before. This was the first occasion that felt special enough (it’s probably one of the nicer restaurants in the neighborhood), but also had availability. A birthday seemed right, and they had time for us, so we walked over one evening during Alexandria Restaurant Week, and checked it out. It’s a fun space – open ceiling areas, vintage advertising, old science-y type decor, and even the lights are hung from the ceiling along an erector set. We wondered how long it must have taken to put together, and how much fun it would have been for that to be your job!
One thing to note – they don’t have a very long menu. That’s par for the course with many of these farm-to-table type places, but what Evening Star lacked in length, it made up for with variety. I tend to be a picky eater, so it’s nice to know that while the menu is short, there will still likely be something I want to eat. It also helped that they had a terrific beer list, and I got to try a few new brews that were fun and different. Having an interesting beer menu is a great way to get me interested in a restaurant.
I love restaurant week because it’s a good opportunity (or excuse) to try more things from a menu. We each had an appetizer, entree and dessert. For that first course, I went with one of my favorite trendy vegetables in the form of fried cauliflower. Those bites were amazing, because if you didn’t know that they were vegetables on the inside, you might think they were spicy popcorn chicken. But they were delicious and a fun new way to eat cauliflower I hadn’t tried before. The boy had a gazpacho soup special…but it wasn’t tomatoes. Something green – perhaps even avocado? All I know is that it was cool and delicious, and he loved it.
For the entree, I chose another spicy dish (what was I thinking?) in the form of jerk pork chop, and the boy had the salmon. The chop itself was ridiculously, fall-off-the-bone tender, and had an amazing sweet and crunchy crust that contrasted nicely with the tender meat inside. There were also plantains and peppers on the plate, and I gobbled them all up. The Boy’s salmon was so flaky and tender, and covered in green – from sauce to the veg that were sprinkled on top.
Dessert was a chocolate semifreddo for him (he loves chocolate), and a panna cotta for me. I’m definitely a fan of the smaller dessert portions, because too often you go someplace and order dessert thinking you just want a little something sweet to cap things off. But the dessert brought to your table ends up being enormous, and becomes a hassle to try and finish and put into your already full tummy. Finding a place that does perfect proportions is amazing, and Evening Star did that very well.
Can I take one moment and brag about this fancy beer that we had as an “end of the evening” beverage? It’s from 2013, a sour ale (one of my favorite styles), and is no longer in production. We just felt so fancy ordering it and then enjoying it thoroughly. It paired nicely with our dessert, and I was nearly tempted to ask to take the bottle home for bragging rights.
Overall, we had a wonderful time. As I said above, it’s one of the nicer places in our little neighborhood, so not necessarily an every-week type of place. But for a date or special occasion, it would be fantastic. I’m sure we’ll be back again, and I am positive that the menu for non-Restaurant Weeks are just as good as the one that we got to enjoy.
Details: Evening Star Cafe, 2000 Mount Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22301; Reservations online.