Feb. 11, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Trail Blazin’ Sixth Engine

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Sixth Engine was once a firehouse, and the owners worked hard to preserve some history. Exposed brick walls and reclaimed wood add to the atmosphere.

Madrid is the primary force behind the mealtime magic. Although, to hear him tell it, whimsy and the changing seasons play their part as well. 

“It really is a little bit ‘as the mood strikes,’” he said of his penchant for rewriting menus (he’s already retooled the compact but eclectic carte three times since opening day).  

Figuring Out the Favorites

The first overhaul was done out of necessity. 

Madrid pieced together the opening menu during the dead of winter and quickly realized that the featured selections were too “heavy and hearty” for those walking in the door several months later. 

We’d have to agree, given that orders of spaetzle (a dry, colorless starch fest) and seafood-studded linguine (too much vermouth, not enough chorizo) left much to be desired. 

Things have improved steadily since then. 

“We’re still trying to figure out what the favorites are,” Madrid said, billing a luxurious red snapper creation as the only real runaway hit. 

Allow us to spread the love around. 

Gratis mounds of hand-cut potato chips flanked by house-made French onion dip never cease to amaze. The chips are paper thin yet extra crispy and the flavorful dip — extra thick and clingy — is a whirlwind of diced onions, sour cream and mayonnaise. 

The ham and cheese beignets blow fried dough out of the water. The savory morsels resemble mini crab cakes more than beignets, each patty of minced country ham and extra salty Gruyere unencumbered by much in the way of binder. They are perfectly complemented by glassy slices of crisp cucumber and a refreshing dill-spiked chaser. 

“It’s just a steak and cheese with a higher quality meat,” one barkeep said of the signature duck and cheese sandwich. 

He’s being modest. The sandwich would be grand if it included the standard shaved rib eye, but substituting fat-enrobed duck meat makes it nothing short of sublime. The fork-tender fowl melts in your mouth. But the real stars are the sautéed onions and sliced shiitakes enmeshed within. We didn’t taste much of the promised Manchego (pity). 

The marquee cheeseburger is totally toppings driven; yellow mustard is the predominant spice, tangy pickles the wild card. All in all, we prefer the Dubliner’s burger — a totally stripped down, but irrefutably beefier experience — over this well-manicured effort.

The fabled red snapper lives up to hype. The incredibly succulent fish is dappled with piquant chili butter, decorated with lightly charred greens and laid to rest on a luxurious bed of Andouille-flavored
risotto and sweet golden corn. 

Madrid is already hard at work on his next-generation temptations. He anticipates switching over to “light summer” fare by the end of this month and is mulling updating the brunch offerings (the only thing that’s remained static since opening day) in the near future. 

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