Monday, October 2, 2017

Wagshal's Restaurant Food Review

Fish & Chips at Wagshal's Restaurant

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." Expectations were high for my first visit to Wagshal's Restaurant. After all, the Wagshal's umbrella covers Pitmasters Back Alley BBQ, quite possibly my favorite place to eat in the entire DMV. Their Delicatessen is top notch too, so it stands to reason... I was in store for a great lunch. Although it wasn't terrible (far from it) I walked away feeling disappointed.

Timing is everything, and I missed Sunday brunch by about 10 minutes. No worries, as I was handed a lunch menu after a warm greeting by a friendly hostess/server. I thought about pizza, but 16" is a lot to devour by one's self, especially since I planned on having two entrees (more food = longer review.) I also wanted to try something different (no barbecue, no meat.) Fish & Chips, off Wagshal's Lickety Split menu (15 minutes or less, no substitutions) seemed a logical choice, especially at a wallet-friendly $10. I also ordered a trio of Fish Tacos, from their Mexican section (more on that, later.)

20 minutes later (so much for "lickety split") I received both orders, two generously-sized plates that had me shaking in my boots (it's not easy finishing one big lunch, yet alone two.) First up, Fish Tacos, which at $11 easily out-value the pricier alternatives at nearby Millie's. Unfortunately, the plate looked... manufactured. A few sliced jalapeƱos on the side, with two tiny dollops of creamy avocado, spicy salsa and southwestern rice (presented in a dated mold.) The rice included black beans & corn, and tasted quite nice. The tacos? Not so much. They were mini in size, with thin strips of fried cod, but slathered in aioli, atop a bed of cabbage. Each bite resulted in a liquidy mess, which required extra napkins (supplied by polite server Cody.) The fish featured more batter than flesh, but was also quite tasty. Too bad it was so messy.

Fish Tacos

Next up, Fish & Chips, which easily won the day (at least the fish.) Said fish, all three pieces, was expertly prepared (hot, perfect ratio of batter to fish) and packed with flaky cod. The housemade tartar sauce? Even better. Sadly, the same can't be said for the cole slaw (dry, flavorless) and Wagshal's fries, which were handcut but void of seasoning (and a little cold for my taste.) My server asked if I wanted salt or pepper before I ate; but if you're not going to season some items, it makes sense to already have it on each table. A mixed plate, but the fish alone is worth a tenner.

As for atmosphere, dated leaps to mind again. For starters, the average customer skewed older (much older) save for a screaming kid on the other side of the dining room. There's great natural light from the beautiful Yuma Street windows, but no music. That means you're able to overhear several simultaneous conversations from the aforementioned retiree-heavy clientele. The A/C works great, and the wood tables/burgundy metallic finish chairs... solid. Unfinished floors wouldn't be my choice, but overall it's clean and comfortable.

Service was pretty good, although I wasn't offered a refill on my empty glass of water until after I finished my meal (about 40 minutes later.) I sure can't complain about the price, but there's clearly room for improvement. Perhaps next time, I'll arrive early for brunch, or better yet, Wagshal's Happy Hour (4-9 PM daily) which features $4.99 burgers and 10" pizzas with three toppings for a head-turning $8. To be continued...

Atmosphere: B- (Clean & comfortable, but dated. Needs music.)
Food: C+ (Good rice, superb Fish & Chips, messy tacos + bland slaw.)
Service: C+ (20 minute wait for food + no water refill, but friendly.)
Value: B (You get lots of food for your dollar.)
Overall: C+ (I bet my next visit will be much better.)