Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fringetree Food Review

Crispy Fried Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich

I love staying at hotels; but for years, I'd shy away from eating at one (with the exception of breakfast, of course.) Well those days are over, thanks to restaurants like Fringetree at the Westin Washington, DC City Center. Gone are the days of overpriced pretentiousness, blissfully replaced by affordable chic... and most importantly, delicious food.

The Westin is located smack-dab in the middle of downtown DC (1400 M Street, NW) not exactly the epicenter of calm and serenity; so imagine my surprise when I walked inside, and discovered Fringetree. Make no mistake: This isn't your parent's hotel restaurant. Fringetree is deceptively simple with an air of elegance, nestled inside the eastern corner of the Westin's spacious lobby. Its intimate 54-seat dining area is hidden... not behind walls, but rather a partition of living green. There aren't any doors either; yet to sit inside, is akin to feasting on a remote island. You have to wonder if the staff activates an invisible force field, once you slip inside. Noise levels were reduced to a literal hush. Awesome!

Cream of Crab Soup

Service was warm and attentive. Iyana (my server) was a doll throughout, offering suggestions, refilling drinks (just water, I came for the food) and treating me like I was the most important guest in the hotel... even though I wasn't staying there! The main reason I didn't like to eat in hotels, was a perceived lack of warmth. That's not the case at Fringetree, not by a long shot.

Pizza Margherita

The menu is devoid of fussiness, emphasizing familiar dishes with upscale twists. This includes hotel favorite, the Fringetree Signature Salad ($13) with sundried cranberries and an enticing white truffle vinaigrette. For my first visit, I stuck with the basics; but couldn't pass on Fringetree's Cream of Crab Soup ($9) easily one of the best soups in town. My only complaint? The bowl wasn't bigger. Lucky for me, I faced no shortage of food at this particular lunch. Burgers and pizza are what I do eat best; so I had to try the latter... Pizza Margherita ($13) which is prepared in a special "flash oven," that takes only 4-6 minutes per pie. The result is incredibly tasty, with juicy slices of tomato and to-die-for cheese. I found the crust a bit too thick for my liking (especially along the edges) but the toppings are nothing short of sensational.

Panna Cotta

Fringetree's menu features the Big City Burger Co. Bistro Burger ($14) center stage (inside its own square, no less) but I couldn't say no to the Crispy Fried Buttermilk Chicken sandwich with French fries ($14) but without provolone cheese. Thank goodness I didn't; as this sandwich (a panini, of sorts... on ciabatta bread with housemade pickle relish, lettuce and tomato) led me on a path to "tastebud Heaven." Look for tender chicken (not very thick) with a crispy exterior that oozes flavor. The pickle relish melts in with every bite; and it disappears in no time flat (at least mine did.) Fries were well-seasoned and smartly presented, but far from hot. Granted, I (literally) had a lot on my plate; but I'd love to try them again, hot from the fryer. Hmm, can you say Bistro Burger? If only it were on sale... i.e. Tuesdays for a tenner, one of five daily lunch specials available from noon to 1:00 PM, Monday - Friday (known as "Fringe on the Fly.") And no, I wasn't hinting: It is on sale, along with a Half Fried Buttermilk Chicken sandwich + soup of the day on Mondays, Pizza Margherita on Wednesday, Carved Turkey Breast sandwich + soup on Thursdays, and (cue cries of joy) Fish Tacos + Tortilla Soup on Fridays.


Save room for dessert (four choices, including a Chocolate Bundt Cake/$8.) On the heels of a BIG lunch, I decided to play it safe (and tasty) and went with Panna Cotta (raspberry flavored, for just 5 bucks.) Not only does it look gorgeous (magenta red with sprigs of mint,) it tastes light and delicious. Each bite (out of five total... told you it was delicious) was creamier than the one before it. It actually motivated me to make my own at home the next day... Good, but nowhere near as good as the one at Fringetree.

and Out!

Clearly, I enjoyed my lunch here; and can't wait to come back: The only question is when. In addition to "Fringe on the Fly," Fringetree also offers "Fringesations," weekday happy hours from 4:30 - 5:30 PM. Each day pairs a drink special ($6 Cosmo's, Margaritas and Mojitos, etc.) with tasty bites ($6 Buffalo Wings on Fridays, Calamari Friti on "Cosmo-politics" Wednesdays, and more.) Excellent service and serene surroundings round out a perfect package (well, almost perfect... you could always get a room as well.)