Friday, January 30, 2015

Boss Shepherd's Food Review

Fried Chicken

Happy Birthday to Who?

I decided to celebrate ex-DC Governor Boss Shepherd's birthday (he was born 180 years ago today) with my first-ever visit to Boss Shepherd's. Tucked away at the corner of 13th & E Streets, NW, Shepherd's has the feel of a speakeasy with an emphasis on food. They're famous for their fried chicken; so I'll give you three guesses what I had...

Aside from a small, handsome green awning, it's easy to miss the main entrance. Once inside, you have to travel down a dozen or so steps before entering the simple, yet elegant dining room. Oddly enough, the host station requires effort to find. At 11:45 AM, I (and eventually two other customers) had to wait almost five awkward minutes to be seen to, as the hostess busied herself with a table of four. Perceived slight #1, with more to come.

Complimentary Pita Chips 

I announced my reservation for one, and was greeted with, "Are you just one?" Slight #2. The hostess gave me two choices of where to sit; so I chose the one closest to the main entrance. A minute later, my server came to my table with a warm greeting and a plate of complimentary pita chips with a tasty (yet unidentified, more on that later) tapenade. He wasted no time in suggesting a Pot Pie Fritter appetizer; but I declined, and told him I was here for the Fried Chicken, with a side of Yukon Gold Steak Fries and a cranberry juice $5.) At no time, did he mention Shepherd's promotion (their regular $24 Fried Chicken plate was just $18.73, in honor of the aforementioned Mr. Shepherd) nor the chance to purchase a $1 shot of whiskey (also part of the promotion.) He did however announce both promotions to the table of four next to me. He also took the time to describe the tapenade (sharp cheddar cheese with pimento & roasted red peppers) to the same table. Me? I had to ask him what it was, after the fact. Slight #3.

Cranberry Juice

The tapenade was decadent and delicious, although crispy pita chips are a curious (and noisy) companion. I say noisy, because when I tried it, the restaurant was only a quarter-full. By the time I left (more than 30 minutes later) it was packed and very, very noisy. Still, for a complimentary item... kudos. The clientele here is typical downtown DC... the kind of people who boast about having lunch out, during lunch. The dining room is relatively small, minus any cozy corners. Hence, my table for two wedged next to an especially noisy business foursome, who spent the first five minutes discussing impacted & wisdom teeth. Gross. I suppose private conversation is possible, but make sure to find a booth instead. The guy nearest me had no trouble speaking with an outdoor voice (that laugh... oh that laugh) but that's more an indictment against a lack of good manners than Shepherd's.

After waiting for approximately 15 minutes, my fried chicken arrived on a chopping block (curious.) I imagine some people think it looks nice; but it's far from functional. It comes with a gorgeous looking biscuit, three small pieces of chicken and three tiny fingerling potatoes (corn would make more sense, especially since I ordered a side of fries.) Rounding out the trio of trios... three sauces, including an egg-based option that tasted out of place. The honey sauce on the other hand... absolutely delicious.

Yukon Gold Steak Fries

Some of the chicken was quite flavorful, namely the dark meat (you get one leg, thigh and breast.) Unfortunately, the juiciest meat was in short supply: Both the leg and thigh had very little meat at all. The crust was crispy indeed; but I want to eat meat, not just skin. The breast on the other hand was chockfull of white meat, but it was overcooked and dry. What a shame. The fingerling potatoes (all three of them) were woefully under-seasoned. A few twists of a salt grinder helped, but color me disappointed. Best on the plate? The biscuit, flaky with few crumbles but cold. Even cold, it was darn tasty; but biscuits should be served hot. Period.

Speaking of hot, the small container of steak fries arrived scalding (even the holder was red hot.) I saw sprinkles of salt; but the two fries I finished were under-seasoned as well. Dig deeper and you'll find the majority of fries were way overcooked (a minute away from burnt.) For $7, I wanted deserved more.

A nice young lady came around, and asked if she could take away my plates. At this point, I had my credit card on the edge of the table. The server stopped by, noticed it and went into suggestive sell mode... Dessert? Coffee? What about, "How was your meal? I noticed you didn't eat your cup of steak fries." It was literally under his nose. Slight #whatever. I don't expect the world for $40 including tax & tip; but I seriously doubt I'd ever come back. This was one of the few times I can remember feeling "less worthy" than my fellow diners. I couldn't help but notice one of the managers stopping at various tables (there aren't many to begin with) and making a huge fuss over obviously repeat customers. He walked right by me, without even a glance. That's how you lose repeat customers, if you ask me. Good thing it wasn't my birthday (something tells me there wouldn't be any cake.)

P.S. No goodbye either (I even stopped and looked back.) Details. Details.