If there's any reason for me to consider moving to Del Ray, it's Evening Star Café. If you live in Del Ray, then you probably don't consider this news, as you've been there several times, but for those of us that don't, well....we're all secretly hating you.
Evening Star Café is my perfect neighborhood restaurant, and it's not in my neighborhood...yet. Both times we've eaten there, we order a very nice bottle of wine, whatever entrees, appetizers, and desserts we want, and the bill is less than $100. From a value perspective, Evening Star Café can't be beat.
To continue with the value theme, the best thing about Evening Star Café is the inexpensive wine list. With a standard policy of charging $10 over retail and Planet Wine (which is owned by the same restaurant group) next door, you can get a huge wide variety of wines for good prices. For instance, one of my favorite Cabernets is produced by Avalon, which retails at anywhere from $13 to $16 a bottle. At Evening Star Café, it's $23 so the $10 above retail is actually true retail pricing.
Food-wise, we've had good luck with the appetizers we've ordered. The smoked duck spring rolls are to die for. That's all I have to say -- just do yourself a favor and try them. A hearty chicken and andouille sausage gumbo contains just enough heat to sneak up on you. I'd make it spicier myself, but then again, I like my food a bit spicier than most.
Bored of fried calamari with your typical marinara sauce? Then try the fresh fried squid with a spicy chipotle honey sauce, which reminds me of a similar dish I had at Restaurant Eve, but at $7 probably costs half the price.
The roasted duck breast outshines the other entrees on the menu. It's the obvious choice if you're a duck fiend like me. You could serve this with unbuttered mashed potatoes and it'd still be good, but instead it's served with a sour cherry bread pudding and a port reduction sauce. It's not quite what you expect from the corner café. Following a close second to the duck breast as best entree is the brined chicken. Even though it's brined, it's not overly salty and is probably the juiciest chicken I've eaten at a restaurant.
Amy loves the wasabi-pea-crusted salmon so much, she ordered it both times we ate at Evening Star Café. The cooks do fish very well, especially if you let them serve your fish at the recommended medium rare. The salmon is served with a cold buckwheat noodle salad with cucumber relish and has a nice Asian flare.
The one drawback I've noticed is the inconsistent desserts. In my trips there, we've managed to sample all five of the desserts. Two are good and the other three you're better off skipping. Let's start with the good.
The lemon chess pie is heaven and I really enjoyed the tart flavor of the pie combined with the sweet blueberry sauce. As well, the chocolate chip cannoli, with filling that doesn't blow you away with its sweetness, is a fun treat to mix with the Illy coffee.
However, the runny crème brulee was a huge disappointment to Amy, who is a crème brulee addict. The first night we dined at Evening Star Café, our friends ordered the brownies and ice cream which was like eating a chocolate brick with really good ice cream. We finished the ice cream -- left most of the brownie. The same night, I ordered the strawberry shortcake hoping to relive memories of eating fresh picked strawberries with my mother's homemade shortcake, but it fell way short.
Our service has always been consistently friendly. During both of our visits, the restaurant was bustling with people busy. While our waiters were probably loaded with work, they still managed to maintain her composure and clear our plates with speed and efficiency. Our waiter the first night, was very helpful and helped us navigate the menu, making suggestions for what was good, and what he thought was only so-so.
After two trips to Evening Star Café, I'm convinced that this is the start of another beautiful restaurant relationship and I know I'll be returning. The question is...how often?
Evening Star Café
2000 Mount Vernon Avenue
Corkage: Not allowed, but you can purchase wine at Planet Wine and have it sent to your table.
Dress Code: Business casual but jeans are common.
Parking: Street: Street Parking and very limited parking in the restaurant's own lot.
Smoking: Allowed only at the bar/lounge.
Closest Metro: Probably Braddock Rd. It's a hike.
Reservations: Taken. Friday evenings no reservations are taken from 6 to 10 PM and they only accept walk-ins.
Baby friendly rating: 3 Diapers. The atmosphere is loud, which makes for child-friendly dining. Plus there are tons of people there with their children (particularly on the early side), so you wont feel out of place.