I realize that I am somewhat inconsistent when it comes to my ratings and reviews. Sometimes I like the food but the service or some other element is off, which lowers my opinion. Occasionally I can’t make up my mind based on one dining experience, so I don’t even attempt a numeric rating. There are times when the food is good but not everything is consistently great, yet the overall experience leaves me with a high opinion. The actions or inactions of a server can definitely make a difference, and the reactions of my companions can sway me to the negative or the positive. You see where I’m going with this? It just depends.
I am at District Commons for a holiday party. We are with a group of twenty-seven people, so there is plenty of opportunity to take the reactions of others into consideration when forming my impression. It also affords me the chance to sample more dishes than I normally would, which is always a good thing.
District Commons is an American tavern brought to Foggy Bottom by Jeff Tunks of Passion Food Group (Acadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, Burger, Tap & Shake, and PassionFish). The ambiance is a mix of dark wood with modern touches and airy wide open spaces. Specialties include the raw bar, flatbreads, and 99 bottles of beer on the wall.
We begin with hot pretzel baguettes with beer mustard butter. It’s a nice start. The pretzels are slightly crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, with just the right amount of salt on top. I’m pacing myself so I only have a small taste of the butter. It is difficult to resist going back for thirds. (I go back for seconds immediately).
Two types of flatbreads are delivered to the table. One is Benton smoked bacon, vidalia onions, and Vermont creamery fromage blanc. The second flatbread is smoked salmon with lemon and dill mascarpone. It’s a toss up in terms of what I like best. You can’t go wrong with some good smoked bacon. But the smoked salmon flatbread has a cracker-thin crust and some flecks of hard-boiled egg on top that makes this a perfect breakfast for dinner dish. There are also oysters and two servings of “The Pig Board.” I am not an expert on ham. I take a taste and am sure that as ham goes this is good stuff.
The server for our table of thirteen is highly competent. He has a reverence for the food which I find endearing. The food is not complicated, but there are some inventive twists and it is helpful to get some advice. Someone at the table refers to the server as “appropriately anticipatory.” What a great term. I wish I had thought of it.
I order roasted duck “Low & Slow” with wild rice-sweet potato hash, and sorghum chili glaze. I must admit that this is one of those occasions when I love the starters but my main course falls a little flat. The duck is a tad overcooked and the flavor of the chili glaze is difficult to detect. Two other guests are expressing similar sentiments.
|District Commons roasted duck|
Why is this not phasing me? I am surrounded by happy diners. My husband has North Carolina mountain trout with broccolini, pine nuts, and citrus burnt butter. He likes that the citrus doesn’t overpower the flavor of the fish. He also admires the varying textures of the dish- the firm broccolini paired with the crunchy pinenuts.
|District Commons mountain trout|
There are heaps of praise and smiles all around for the pork chop and the shrimp and grits.
|District Commons pork chop|
At some point during the meal the server is told that we have a time constraint. We are heading to see Jersey Boys at the National Theatre. He tells us that the cast regularly dines at District Commons before their performances. Moments later two cast members are saying hello to our group, including one of the leads. He is adorable. He asks where we are sitting and says he’ll be singing to us. Count me in as charmed!
We all become a bit frantic towards the end of the meal, as we realize we have to scramble to get to the theatre on time. The server is right there with us, helping us gather our things so we don’t miss a beat.
Another perceptive comment by a fellow guest praising the service: “You can’t make crappy food good. But you can make good food ordinary with bad service.”
The server has connected with us in a way that brings the experience up a notch. The satisfaction of the other guests at the dinner underscore the importance of not judging an entire restaurant on a single dish. So, I leave District Commons feeling like I have had a great meal.
I have seen the original Broadway cast in “Jersey Boys.” I liked the show but hadn’t necessarily related to the music, and so it isn’t one of my favorite musicals of all time. But somehow now there is a difference.
The quick interaction with “Bob Gaudio” has somehow given me a new connection to the show. I find myself smiling through every song and loving every second of it. I can’t get over how much I have enjoyed myself.
It really shouldn’t be so hard to figure out, because it really is similar to what can happen in a restaurant. The smallest interaction – positive or negative- can make a significant impact on a final impression. The positive aspects of this particular evening leave me humming…”oh what a night.”
District Commons, 2200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 3.9