Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cafe X-Press Food Review

Angus Hamburger with Potato Wedges

Bethesda has changed quite a bit over the past decade, not so quietly morphing into the quintessential dining neighborhood in the DC Metropolitan area. Some old-school institutions remain (Old Georgetown Grille, Tastee Diner) but for the most part, almost every restaurant in town has had some kind of update. Well, not quite everyone: There's still Cafe X-Press at the corner of Del Ray and Norfolk Avenues. Around since 1994, this place still microwaves french fries... What could possibly go wrong with this review?

I'm guilty of avoiding the Norfolk Avenue corridor more than I'd like to... so much so, that this was my first visit to Cafe X-Press. I knew of it of course: It has a pretty good reputation with the locals, although I can't for the life of me understand why. That's right folks, this isn't going to be a nice review.

I walked in around 1:00, and the restaurant was about 20% full... but still felt crowded. The cashier/order taker/enforcer cut me off ("No!") when I asked if they were still serving breakfast. I ordered my back-up plan, one of their "Fresh" Angus Hamburgers for $4.95, potato wedges ($2.49... $.50 more than advertised on their website) and a small fountain drink. Total with tax? $9.57 I took a seat at one of several dirty tables, and waited for my food.

In between microwave beeps, I got a chance to admire the aforementioned cashier yelling at the cook, and some poor soul in a back room. The latter earned a visit (and assumed wrath) as the cashier (owner?) left her post (and the next customer) to dispense some retail justice. How "welcoming." I took stock of the dirt around me, including the series of crumbs on my table. Gross. Speaking of, my order arrived (announced in broken English) more than five minutes later, and I reluctantly took it back to my table.

I say reluctantly, because the fries looked soggy and inedible. Who microwaves fries for goodness sake? Without a doubt, they look and taste worse than anywhere else in DC, Maryland and Virginia. Congratulations. Their burger isn't far behind, although its housed in an extraordinary grilled bun. Advertised as fresh, and mysteriously sliced in half, this burger was little more than a frozen disc cooked to Hell and back. I barely finished half of the sandwich, and just one fry to confirm my darkest fears: Cafe X-Press is pretty awful. Surly staff, dirty interior... Why would anyone come here, outside of pure desperation? I'm sure some people justify the dirtiness and poor quality of food as charming and so on; but places like this, are why corporate cookie cutters exist in the first place... They have standards. I didn't see any here.

Atmosphere: D- (Normally I like these type of places... at least a little bit.)
Burger: D (Great bun... totally out of place, on an otherwise disastrous plate of food.)
Fries: 0 (Our first zero... way to go!)
Service: D (She gave me correct change, and I didn't have long to wait. That's about it.)
Value: F ($2.49 for soggy, microwaved potato wedges? They should be ashamed.)
Overall: F (Hmm... I wonder if I'll be back for breakfast?)