Saturday, January 18, 2014

Acacia Bistro Food Review

Van Ness/UDC is where you'll find casual, rustic dining... and little else. Places that impress are few and far between. Acacia Bistro is such a place... or at least it tries to be (with varied success.) When full, it elicits envy from passersby (the word sexy leaps to mind) but other nights... You wonder, "Is it open?" I'd eaten here twice, before today's lunch (one good visit, one bad.) Time to break the tie.

Acacia Bistro is a wine & tapas bar, specializing in Italian, Spanish & Turkish cuisine. It's stylish, but a bit pricey (especially at dinner.) I've plunked down $100 for one visit, just under $30 for another. The latter was, by far the better experience... Lazy, relaxing and delicious: We sat for an hour & a half, and never felt rushed.

Today's lunch was different. I had 30 minutes in-between basketball games at nearby UDC, and couldn't drag myself to Burger King or Potbelly: I wanted something nice, but still relatively quick. I arrived just before 3:00 PM and chose a front table with a beautiful window view of Connecticut Avenue. The space is one of my favorite in the city, formerly occupied by Schlotzsky's Deli, which for years was practically a second home for me. Even during the day, it has one of the nicer atmospheres in town, surrounded by wraparound windows and outdoor dining (when the weather's nice.) Tables are well spaced, and music is cool & soothing. One negative worth mentioning - the chair backs are rather flimsy (too much give) and uncomfortable. Something worth fixing, if you ask me.

I ordered a Buffalo Burger (with fries) and a Coke, explaining I was in a slight hurry. My Coke arrived quickly, but was 98% flat & had the tint of a light beer. Oddly enough, my water glass stayed empty until about 20 minutes in (at which time, my lunch had yet to arrive.) My server (also the bartender) was polite, but almost timid: He delivered my burger more than 20 minutes after ordering it, but at least it looked good.

Fries were hot and tasty, not to mention properly seasoned. My burger was neatly stacked on a brioche bun with a mountain of greens and delectable chipotle ketchup, that's not to be missed. Unfortunately, my meat was cooked WELL-DONE despite asking for MEDIUM. Buffalo is tricky to cook: It's lean, and is best prepared by slow-cooking it (which would have explained the wait.) Well done = dry, and my burger needed a generous dash of salt & pepper too. Not ruined, mind you; but not as good as it could have been. That said, I ate every bite (UDC basketball has a way of making you hungry. Go Firebirds!)

Lunch was quite affordable ($11 + $2.50 for the Coke, $20 including tax/tip) and I'd rate it as a positive experience overall. That's important because it (A) breaks the tie, in favor of good and (B) guarantees another visit... most likely to try their Turkish Meatball Sandwich (I'm a lunch guy, what can I say?) Probably not the best place to go for something quick; but if time's on your side, and you can order two+ glasses of wine... Acacia Bistro qualifies as a glitzy step forward, in a up & coming part of town.

Atmosphere: B+ (Really sparkles at night. Chairs could/should be a lot more comfortable.)
Burger: B- (Overdone, but otherwise very good.)
Fries: B (Hot and tasty. No complaints.)
Service: C (Slow, especially considering there were only two other customers eating in. 20 minutes for water? Odd, but polite.)
Value: B- (Have to deduct a half-grade for flat Coke... Server should have noticed discoloration and checked/replaced it.)
Overall: B- (I love the space, and really want to like Acacia. I do, and look forward to coming back. Slight hiccups with time, overdone meat and flat Coke earn a B- with potential for improvement.)