The Avenue, Washington, DC

The Avenue is a neighborhood place up Connecticut Avenue from us, on the same short commercial strip as Blue 44. In normal times, it’s on three levels. There’s the main floor, with a bar and tables, and upper and lower levels for overflow and various events, from alumni gatherings and preschool parent groups to charity fundraisers to sessions for young teenagers on sexual harassment issues. There are special event nights — wine specials, Bill Murray movie nights, and lots of holiday events. The Avenue is a unique resource for the community, a valuable one.

We went to the Avenue often pre-COVID, and we’ve had carry out several times during the crisis. I’ve enjoyed a lot of good food at the Avenue. The menu changes from time to time, including with their approach to their hamburgers, an item that rarely changes elsewhere. Every variation I’ve tried has been first rate. And I was recently reminded that their DC Rolls — which I initially avoided — are really good. I’m glad I tried them — more than once.

We went for dinner recently when a good friend and former neighbor, Kathy Ruckman, came over for the day from Chestertown, Maryland. We decided to head up to the Avenue for dinner. It was chilly out, but we sat outside at one of their heated tables — eating spaces arranged around small fire pits. One side of the table was further warmed by a space heater and I, with the sort of sexist gallantry that gets one in trouble these days, let Nancy and Kathy have the heater side.

We chatted for bit — I had a Hazy Little Thing IPA –and then ordered. Nancy ordered an Ensanada salad (mixed greens, salsa, queso fresco, avocado, cilantro vinaigrette) topped with the teriyaki steak, medium rare. Kathy went next and ordered the Avenue salad (mixed greens, carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, white cheddar, croutons, buttermilk dressing) topped with the teriyaki steak, medium.

Under normal circumstances, I would have ordered the item as unlike a salad topped with teriyaki steak as possible. I like to have variety on the table. As it happened, however, I was just back from a weekend barbecue-eating tour of Virginia (stay tuned!) which had produced a startling change in my weight. The confluence of events led me to order … a Caesar salad (romaine, arugula (!), parmesan, croutons, Caesar dressing) topped with teriyaki steak, cooked rare. And a glass of wine to accompany it (the Cloudline pinot noir).

Now, that sounds like a pretty sorry test of a restaurant, but consider the opportunities for a mistake. Three identical cuts of meat, each to be cooked to a different degree of doneness. Now, that’s hard, as every backyard griller has proved more than once, and that so many restaurants routinely demonstrate. And each steak is to be paired with a different salad. The test was not so much difficult as diabolical.

Here’s my salad, undressed.

The results were error-free. Each of us received exactly what we ordered — correct salad, steak cooked as requested. And what we ordered was very good. The greens were nice and fresh. In my salad, the romaine was all leaves, and none of the too-frequent bunch of heavy, flavorless stems, and the addition of peppery arugula to the Caesar was a stroke of genius. The steak was tender and the teriyaki touch was just right.

It was a very nice dinner — a very pleasant setting, good conversation, a nice glass of wine, and delicious food. I look forward to more meals there, and I hope eagerly for things to loosen up so the neighborhood can get the full benefit of their services. You should drop by the Avenue and have a lovely dinner.

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