The new Macon Bistro & Larder in Upper Northwest DC exemplifies fusion. The restaurant’s name is inspired by two cities named Macon, one in Georgia and one in France. The concept fuses a traditional bistro with a larder, where products can be purchased for take-home enjoyment. The decor blends vintage light fixtures with high tech industrial touches. Even the patrons represent a wide range of ages, although it skews to the gray-haired end of the spectrum, reflecting the demographics
of the neighborhood.
The menu integrates local and seasonal ingredients into traditional Southern dishes, many with a French accent. Roasted chicken breast partners with collards and onion confit. Fried green tomatoes are enhanced with pork belly, watercress, and spiced tomato aioli.
We visit early on a Sunday evening, just ahead of the roaring crowd. The first dish delivered to the table gives us pause. Niçoise salad is described as a combination of anchovies, heirloom tomatoes, grilled little gem, and hardboiled-egg vinaigrette. The salad we receive is topped with rare tuna in place of anchovies. This is acceptable, but no explanation is offered. The dressing is applied sparingly beneath the lettuce. My husband initially finds this off-putting, but after a few forkfuls he sets aside initial impressions and is satisfied.
A plate of “Essie’s Biscuits” with honey butter and pepper jelly for $7 seems over-priced, but the warm flaky biscuits provide an authentic taste of the south. Patrons don’t seem to flinch at the cost, as we see a continuous stream of deliveries to tables around us.
Shrimp and grits makes an appearance on the menu as a special. Its a hearty dish, brimming with sausage and a deep rich gravy. The heaping serving of grits makes the dish too heavy for one sitting, at least for me. I enjoy the unexpected meatiness, but the server should have mentioned the proliferation of sausage in the dish when I order it. Still, it’s a well-crafted dish so I dig in with pleasure.
Macon Bistro & Larder is a challenge for the pescatarian/vegetarian, particularly in the menu category labelled “supper.” My husband decides he wants rainbow trout with le puy green lentils and pecan persillade, but there’s pancetta in the dish and it can’t be omitted. His only option is cauliflower steak with ratatouille, spring vegetable emulsion, and thyme crumble. If he is dismayed at first, he doesn’t mind once he digs in to the “steak.” It is plentiful and unique, with the thyme crumble giving it a lovely savory and sweet finish.
I expect mason jars to make an early appearance at Macon Bistro & Larder, but they don’t show up until dessert. A delightful layered peach cobbler wouldn’t feel right served in anything else.
Macon’s Executive Chef/owner Tony Brown’s goal is to deliver to the neighborhood a place with “a fun vibe along with some seriously good food and drinks.” If the couple to our right is an example, he succeeds. They tell us with great enthusiasm that they live nearby, and this is their fourth visit. Despite some minor missteps with our meal, I’m infused with good will towards the new bistro. C’est bien, y’all.
Macon Bistro & Larder, 5520 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
Washington Post review by Tom Sietsema