I've wanted to try Leopold's Kafe & Konditorei for a while now, ever since Todd Kliman wrote about it in the Washington City Paper. Outside of the reports of bad service, the idea of trying their Eastern European fare sounded like it would be interesting, and it wasn't a cuisine that I'd had a lot of exposure too, outside of the perogi I used to get in my college dorm cafeteria.
Now that I'm working out of my company's Georgtown office more, Leopold's was one of the first places on my to-do list. I have a friend named Alex, who happens to be from the Ukraine, and works in Georgetown also. I figured, "Who better to go to Leopold's with than someone who would be familiar with this type of cuisine?"
When we arrived, it was interesting to see that the restaurant was buried back in an alley called Cady's Alley. When I read that the restaurant was back in an alley, I pictured something like the alley where Blues Alley is located. However, once we got back into the alley, I realized there were a whole bunch of stores there. Who knew?
The kafe was mostly empty which wasn't surprising considering the restaurants location and the fact that even Pizzeria Paradiso wasn't very full. There was only one other table with people and we had our pick of seats. The waitstaff seemed to be all huddled by the door waiting for people to come in. The overall look of the kafe is modern and sleek and reminded me of LeftBank in Adams Morgan, so it was not very welcoming.
I wonder if the reviews by Todd Kliman and Tom Sietsema that were wrought with reports of poor service kicked this place into gear. I mean, we didn't have any problems with service, but that could have just been the kafe wasn't very busy.
So onto the food. The menu is not what I expected. I mean, where were the perogi? Ha. Seriously though, there were many dishes on the menu that I wanted to try, but Alex and I decided to stick with some of the more traditional dishes of schnitzel and bratwurst. We also had a crostini ($8) topped with a cheese spread, chopped roasted red peppers, sweet peas, fava beans, shredded lettuce and pecorino shavings.
When the crostini first appeared, I didn't expect to like it based on what I saw. I've always had an aversion to peas and there were a lot of them, and this looked like a salad on top of toast. But after I bit into one, I noticed that the best thing about the crostini were the peas. They were very sweet and had a nice texture - not too soft and not too crunchy, like a ripened cherry. The sweetness, combined with the salt and pepper flavor of the cheese, tomatoes and spread was interesting, but the crostini were difficult to eat. The peas went all over the place when you lifted the bread up to your mouth so we mainly ended up eating them with our forks.
Alex had the bratwurst ($16) which had a crunchy skin, with juicy meat in the center. On the side was a heavy-handed swirl of spicy Dijon mustard, fingerling potatoes, and sauerkraut. Alex wasn't impressed with the sauerkraut. He prefers it crispier than Leopold's serves it. It's probably just a matter of taste.
My entree was pretty basic, but good. The gulyas ($19) was made with tender chunks of beef in a tomato and paprika sauce, egg noodles and a dollop of sour cream. Mixing the sour cream into the beef sauce gave the dish a completely different tangy flavor.
None of the portions were huge, but they also weren't overfilling.
There was no dessert for us. I was in a hurry to get back to the office, so there was no time, but as we walked past the dessert case on the way out (which pretty much takes up an entire wall), I saw that we were probably missing what might have been the best part of the meal.
On our way out, everyone said, "Thank you. Come again!" I responded, "Thanks, I will!"
Probably for dinner though. Our lunch for two came to $70 after tip. A pretty hefty bill. I think that Leopold's would be well-served by having a lunch menu and then they might be a little more crowded for lunch.
Now I just need to stop by for dinner and see if the service degrades when the place is more crowded.
Leopold's Kafe & Konditorei
3315 Cady's Alley, NW
Washington, DC 20007
7 am to 12 am Monday - Sunday
Dress Code: Casual (at least for lunch)
Parking: lots are your best bet - street parking is a rare in Georgetown. There seemed to be valet available. I recommend taking a cab.
Smoking: Not Allowed.
Closest Metro: Foggy Bottom (don't take Metro unless you plan to supplement with the bus)