Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eatonville, DC - Restaurant Week

The vegan community eagerly awaited the opening of Eatonville in the U Street Corridor back in 2009. Because Eatonville is under the same ownership as Busboys and Poets, everyone expected it to have vegan options. Not to mention that all the people who worked at Busboys at the time said it would have vegan options. So imagine my disappointment when I walked into this Southern restaurant when they first opened only to find there were no vegan options.

Then, COK stepped in and worked with them to develop some vegan options. They eventually added a griddled Gardein dish that was good, but overpriced for what it was.  But, at least they had a vegan option. Then, suddenly a few months ago, all vegan options were taken off the menu. Apparently the chef at the time believed in cooking only traditional Southern dishes, which for him meant that meat was cooked into everything.

Fast forward to today and you will see the effects of their newest chef, Oji Ashebre Jaja, who hails straight from the Ritz Carlton in Jamaica.  Oji's West African name means "The Artist," and an artist he is.  He's only been at Eatonville for a few weeks and he is already improving the menu. When I went, there were still no vegan options on the normal menu, but it is apparent they'll be coming back. During Restaurant Week in DC, most restaurants have a special menu and Eatonville was using this opportunity to test some of their new vegan cuisine.

I made reservations for lunch on Saturday with my friend, Ryan. When we sat down and asked for the Restaurant Week menu, we were immediately told me the bad news. The Restaurant Week lunch menu is only offered on weekdays as the brunch menu is offered on Saturday and Sunday. Um...this is the main reason I really dislike brunch. I want lunch at lunchtime regardless of which day it is. Brunch is the MOST annoying thing on the planet! Okay, I'm done with my rant for now. The hostess said she could ask the manager to come over and they could see what they could do. The Manager, Michael Woods, came over and was very apologetic, but offered to speak to the chef to see if they could accommodate. I really wanted the Restaurant Week menu, but I told him to go ahead and see what they could do. He came back and told me that they really value the vegan community and even though it is brunch, they were going to cook us the lunch we came for. I was so delighted!

It was a prix fixe 3-course meal that began with a black-eyed pea chowder that was just scrumptious!  It had onions, celery, carrots, corn, and, of course, black-eyed peas in this light broth -- a great start to the meal. I also had the lavender lemonade - one of my old-time favorites!

The second course was my favorite -- a shiitake lentil burger made fresh by the chef!  The burger consisted of shiitake mushrooms, lentils, and spices pressed into a patty, fried and served on multigrain bread with roasted garlic hummus, arugula, fresh shiitake mushrooms, and vine-ripened tomatoes. It was so savory and delicious.

The final course was a sweet polenta served with granny smith apple compote and fresh strawberries. This was sweet and filling -- a great end to a great meal.

There was a lot of food for a lunch so I ended up taking half of it home and eating it for lunch the next day and it was just as good as the day before. After we ate, Oji came out to talk to us. He was very interested in our thoughts about the meal and said he'd be adding some of these options to the permanent menu. I'm so happy to hear they will be serving vegan food here again as this is a great restaurant in a great location. I can't wait to post again about the new vegan menu once it is in place -- stay tuned!

2121 14th Street Northwest 
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 332-9672

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