Hear ye, hear ye: Food Court is now back in session.
Our latest case: the thoroughly sanitized Hawk ‘n’ Dove.
As far as general hygiene and structural integrity are concerned, the recently renovated Hawk ‘n’ Dove has to be considered a resounding success.
The previous iteration of the establishment — which shuttered in late 2011, changed ownership and lay dormant for 15 months before returning to operation this January — was about as dank and lived-in as they come. Natural light (the so-called disinfectant, not the economy brew) was virtually nonexistent, malodorous scents waylaid the uninitiated at every turn and the intentionally greasy grub was best categorized as “edible.”
Yet for all its faults, the place had character. And one could forgive certain quirks in return for knowing that each visit (beers: cheap, cold, domestic; food: deep-fried, messy, fattening; service: gruff but dependable) would play out exactly like the last.
Fast forward to today, when absolutely everything is a tossup.
We’ve heard rumblings of issues with staff retention, not the least of which was the sudden departure of opening chef Jeremy Magnanelli. The Capitol Hill vet, having come up through the ranks of restaurateur Xavier Cervera’s onetime network of local eateries, lasted just a month at the reconditioned restaurant.
“I worked very hard and am very proud of the kitchen and the menu I opened the Hawk with … but I'm afraid that the food just isn't the same,” Magnanelli suggested.
Whether it’s the same as or worse than he left it, the bigger question is who, exactly, is the Hawk ‘n’ Dove kitchen trying to appeal to?
Guilty pleasures abound (short rib-topped poutine married meat and potatoes for easy snacking; fried chicken wings are fine).
But the tilt toward gourmet flourishes puts the restaurant at a distinct disadvantage compared with neighboring properties.
Take the house cheeseburger:
The tower of triply bolstered beef (patties are forged from select cuts of chuck, short rib and brisket) looks really great. But two bites in we were still waiting for something, anything, to make a favorable impression. That carefully sourced meat was much too dry. The accompanying bacon ho-hum. And the cheese merely present. None if which is acceptable for a $14 investment. Good Stuff Eatery, which is just a few doors down, serves a wider selection and, frankly, produces reliably better options at budget-friendlier prices.
But the real poison pill is the service. Or incredible lack thereof.
"I'm still hungry. You know why? Because a third of my meal was basically inedible," one companion understandably griped after suffering through a two-hour ordeal marred by never-delivered dishes, out-of-sequence orders and terribly underdone accompaniments.
Another encounter proved equally maddening, what with the poorly trained server having to double-check every facet of our order with management AND somehow still punching the wrong dish into the computer system. The food, though completely wrong, at least made it out of the kitchen that time.
"I haven't been here since you all changed," a longtime supporter announced upon setting foot into his onetime haunt.
Buddy, you aren't missing out on anything.
Hawk ‘n’ Dove: 329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 202-547-0030; www.hawkndovedc.com. Open for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner daily, brunch Saturday and Sunday.