Clyde’s of Gallery Place, Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

“Did you have some place in mind for dinner tonight,” asked my boss. Silly question, of course, particularly since she already knew the answer.

“Yeah, I think I can one up with something.”

I’ve referenced my obsessive travel planning in the past. I don’t just find out where our hotel is…I find out every restaurant, bar and Starbucks in a 10-block radius. It’s a distinction that earned me the title of social director on our staff, and one that I take seriously as a control freak. My constant lunch companion Toni puts it like this: He knows where we are going. I just follow. If we get lost, we will get a cab and leave him behind.

As a regular listener of the Tony Kornheiser Show since the late 1990s, I’ve become acquainted with the Washington, DC dining scene. It’s one of the reasons why I would rather eat at The Palm of any other restaurant. It is also the reason why we landed at Clyde’s of Gallery Place. The chain of eateries have been referenced ad infinitum on his show over the years, even employing his daughter at one point. And, it was a short five-block walk from our hotel.

Concerned about dinner time traffic, I made a reservation using OpenTable for the three of us heading to the restaurant. The gigantic facade facing 7th Street NW greeted us as we approached, followed by a grand staircase and Victorian styling. Opened in 2005, this outlet has two floor, five dining spaces and four bars in its space adjacent to the Verizon Center.

The three of us were seated in a greenhouse enclosure off the second floor, giving us a scenic view of Gallery Place’s North side. Our waitress was either very new or very bad. I can’t tell which wins out. She missed my glass more than once while pouring water and the only description she could give about the day’s soup (vegetable) was that it was very good, vegan and very yummy. She forgot to place the order for one of the Maryland Crab soups that we did order. Served piping hot, the soup was densely loaded with crabmeat and vegetables, with only a hint of Old Bay. On an ugly, old, rainy day like today, it was the best elixir short of something homemade.

The featured dinner special was a New York strip steak, of which no one knew the weight, served with roasted fingerling potatoes, Vidalia onions and asparagus, for $19.95. I opted for the beef brisket. Slow roasted and fork tender, the brisket was finished in the barbecue sauce and served with homemade potato salad, baked beans and collard greens. The potato salad was fine and the beans were ordinary. The collard greens, however, stood out. Sautéed with bacon and red bell pepper, the greens were delicious and lacked the bitterness found with recipes like this. The beef had the requisite amount of fat that you would expect with brisket, but not enough to turn you off. The meat was tender and flavorful. It was exactly as expected. Neither of my dining companions complained about their (rather large) grilled chicken salad or grilled salmon. I didn’t think it was right to take any photos of their meals.

No one had room for dessert.

Was it the best meal I’ve had in Washington? No, but it was exactly what we were looking for: a casual, affordable meal without pressure or pretension.

Clyde’s of Gallery Place is one of seven restaurants in the Greater D.C. area flying the Clyde’s flag. The Clyde’s group owns 14 establishments, including the Old Ebbitt Grill and The Tombs. Dinner and a round of beers was $93 before tip. It is located at 707 7th St. NW in Chinatown near the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro station.

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