Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Front Page Brunch Review

Chicken and Waffles

The Cold Shoulder

To buffet or not to buffet: That is the question. Based on the food temperatures at DC's The Front Page brunch buffet, I have just three words for you... À la carte. Actually (unfortunately) I have a lot more than three words to describe the food selection at one of Dupont Circle's oldest and still popular bar & grills. Read on.

I've been coming to The Front Page for years (25+) so long in fact, I can remember when the buffet cost less than 10 bucks. It's $21 now, but that's a small price to pay if the food is top-notch. Sadly, that's no longer the case. The buffet area (just inside the 19th Street entrance) is full of choices, each one colder than the next.

Never underestimate the importance of heat. My first plate (a traditional mix of scrambled eggs, bacon, pork sausage and home fries) was a near-disaster (good appearance notwithstanding.) Eggs were overcooked, bordering on dry (and cold.) Home fries - cold and horrible: They had a zesty-looking coating, but you could no longer taste it (bummer.) Pork sausage links (normally a home run) were ice cold... The aforementioned potatoes were piping hot in comparison. The bacon was actually pretty good. Thick, well done & salty: It's also the only thing on the plate that tastes OK if cold. Just in case you weren't counting, I used the word COLD four times in one paragraph.

Undeterred (and pleased with the service provided by Brian, my waiter) I went back for plate #2 (out of 3 total.) This time out, I asked for a freshly prepared (not cold!) Belgian waffle. Here's where The Front Page's small buffet plates come into play. After waiting about four minutes (directly across from the cook, no words exchanged) the waffle literally filled my plate. After a dab of syrup and some fresh berries, I had to stack two cold (uh oh) fried chicken drumsticks on top. Holding a full plate is normally no big deal, but this one had sticky syrup on it (the food equivalent to crazy glue.)

The waffle was very good (of course, it was made to order) but the chicken had evidently been sitting for ages, dry with zero flavor. Sense a theme? Thankfully, Brian wasted little time in clearing plates and refilling my glasses of Coke and water. I sat at a table in the bar, right by the hostess stand (and New Hampshire Ave. entrance.) Temperature? Under 32° Door opens frequently. Yours truly = cold (there's that word again!) Just my luck, it was very busy (door opens more frequently.) Not a complaint, mind you... just bad luck.

Speaking of bad luck, I went back for one last plate of food... a mix of what was left (no thanks to grits, biscuits & gravy or pasta... can you imagine?) I asked for one slice of ham and roast beef (you should have seen it on the cutting board... the saddest sight ever.) Fresh melons, more fries (still bad) and a pint-sized blueberry muffin.

The ham was ice cold and had no taste (not even salt... that's a first!) Ditto for the beef, but overcooked (to death.) If you told me it was a week old, I'd believe you. Kudos for the disc-shaped muffin... easily the best thing I ate all morning. In years past, three plates would be a good start for me. Today, it was three too many.

$31 including tax & tip for a couple of Cokes and three plates of cold, bad food? Why would anyone come back? I won't (at least not for brunch.) I still have a sentimental attachment to The Front Page; but from now on, it's à la carte or nothing at all.