It has been way too long since we posted here. 4 years goes by quickly! A few quick updates: Brasserie closed. Umami opened. Mama Leah's moved to a new location (next to Goldbergs). Cinnabon at Towson mall is no longer kosher (sad!). We recently visited Eli's in DC and I felt that I should provide a review. Eli's is a quaint restaurant in Washington, D.C., our nation's capital, near Dupont Circle on 20th Street. There is a carry-out section immediately next to the restaurant, although we did not visit this area.
Food Quality: We ordered 1) a "New Yorker" - an overstuffed pastrami sandwich with french fries (ordinarily comes with corned beef and pastrami, but we substituted the corned beef for double pastrami), 2) one regular sized corned beef sandwich with a salad), 3) a bowl of soup of the day (tomato and rice soup), and 4) fresh potato pancakes with a salad. We were advised to avoid the steak. The tomato soup was tasty and juicy. Everyone enjoyed tasting it. The pastrami was a significant disappointment. Although we recognize that grilling pastrami often tends to dry out the meat, the pastrami was almost entirely devoid of juice. It was quite clearly overcooked and were not appealing. That's not to say they were not tasty altogether - the taste was acceptable but would have been far better had the meat been cooked properly. The bread was grilled as well and was crispy and fresh - it would have been nice to have the choice of grilled bread, as some prefer only their meat grilled. The meat came with a small container of coleslaw which was moist and tasty. Unfortunately as detailed later, we could not tell the difference in size between the "overstuffed" pastrami and the regular corned beef sandwiches. The corned beef was slightly juicier than the pastrami, but again, not extremely appetizing. The french fries were acceptable but not particularly juicy. The Old Bay seasoning on the fries (again, while a staple in the Baltimore/DC metro area, should still be provided as an option) was tasty although at times we felt as if I had bit into a red hot pepper. Do they mix the Old Bay with spices? We did not ask. The french fries felt and tasted as if they had been sitting in storage for too long. Some were cooked, some were overcooked, some were stale. Likewise, the salad that came with both meals was bland. Although it was accompanied by russian dressing, it was not particularly crisp. Aside from the tomato soup, the potato pancakes were the highlight of the meal. They tasted like fresh potatos, were juicy and perfectly cooked, and came with the option of apple sauce or sour cream. We requested both which was provided. 5 Hamburgers.
Service: We give this section the lowest rating possible. We believe there was only a single waitress on duty this day. Although one person observed two other potential waitresses, they did not serve us (or anyone for that matter). We politely informed our waitress that we were in a rush and asked her if 30 minutes was a reasonable amount of time to eat and leave. She somewhat rudely (obviously an an accurate factual statement, but not the one we were looking for) replied: "when the food is ready." Our waitress showed up three times on her own accord. Once to show us to our seat (she left immediately afterward and didnt escort us to a nicer table by the window - we took intiative and moved there on our own), once to take our order (after we waited about 15 minutes), and once to bring us the food. She didnt bother to see if we needed more water (we did), if we needed more eating utensils (we did), if we needed more napkins (we did), if she mixed up our order (she did), if we needed the bill (we did), or if we wanted take-away containers (we did). She spent most of our meal avoiding us as like the plague. As for order correctness, everyone received what they ordered, except we requested french fries in lieu of a salad for one of the sandwiches (standard choice for a pastrami sandwich at Eli's), yet we were brought a salad as if we had never ordered the fries. To correct my order, one of us had to stand up to find the waitress since she was nowhere to be seen. This waitress received no tip from me - she earned her pay (by seating us and taking our order) but did not earn a tip (generally paid for service above and beyond, not for the barest minimum service). We might get some flak for this, given that waiters and waitresses generally earn a minimum salary and subsist on tips, but given the outrageously poor service we experienced at Eli's, we felt withholding the tip to be proper in this rare and exigent situation. 1 Hamburgers.
Cleanliness: The restaurant seemed clean. We did not detect any noteworthy concerns in this area. 9 Hamburgers.
Atmosphere: By 6pm on a Sunday evening, the tiny restaurant was packed. This may be good for the owner, but not for the customers. Given that the restaurant is small to begin with, jamming customers into a tiny space is never pleasant. As for the restaurant itself, we liked the quaint feel of "authentic DC" with brick finishings (painted on!) and maple. We chose a nice seat by the window which gave us a nice and sunny view of DC. 7 Hamburgers.
Price: The prices are pretty high, even for a DC area restaurant. This may be due to Eli's near monopoly in the area. We ordered an "overstuffed" pastrami sandwich which was about $14 dollars. Normally, we would
expect to pay a premium for this, but we could not tell the difference between one sandwich and the other. Perhaps there were a few extra slices of meat - which we could not visually differentiate, nor was it worth the extra $2 surcharge in my opinion. 7 Hamburgers.
Overall, 5.8 Hamburgers. Unfortunately for denizens of the DC metro area, there are not too many options for kosher food. Evidently there are only 2 options! If you are willing to venture out to Silver Spring or larger areas of Jewish repute, such as Baltimore, you will find a lot more variety and restaurants - as always, competition usually forces restaurants to work harder to provide quality product. That appears not the case here.