Hot Plate: Good Eating at Eatonville

Posted June 19, 2009 at 2:35pm

Eatonville, the latest offering from the guys who gave us Busboys and Poets, may not be an ideal place to take a date, but it’s the perfect place to taste some Southern cooking and catch up with friends. From cozy booths to rocking chairs to large high-topped tables, the restaurant invites guests to get comfortable and kick back.

[IMGCAP(1)]Named for the Florida hometown of author Zora Neale Hurston, the restaurant pays homage to the author of “Their Eyes Were Watching God— with a mural depicting her. The colorful painting also lists various facts about Hurston, such as her date of birth and her role in the Harlem Renaissance. But the mural of Hurston isn’t the only piece of art to grace the restaurant. Colorful paintings adorn the walls and five crystal chandeliers dangle from the high tin ceiling.

Eatonville (2121 14th St. NW) offers the same menu for lunch and dinner and a separate brunch menu. The choices include a nice smattering of meat, fish and vegetarian options. When it comes to appetizers, the cheddar tart appetizer is not to be missed. To start, it smells delicious. Served as a circular tart in a pie-like crust, the dish is packed with Vidalia onions, tomatoes and white cheddar. The tart is more onion than cheddar and is surrounded by a delicious parsley puree. The balance between the onion

and cheddar is key and keeps each flavor from overpowering the dish.

Eatonville continues this practice of not using too much cheese in its side dish of macaroni and cheese. The portion is large enough to be a lunch entree and really hits the spot. When it comes to the frisee, arugula and fried goat cheese salad, much to my delight, Eatonville did not skimp on the cheese. A large ball of fried goat cheese complements the small serving of greens. Upon cutting into the thin fried layer, the diner is greeted by smooth, creamy goat cheese.

Fried chicken is all the rage in D.C. these days, but Eatonville’s dish is a welcome respite from grease. Served with mashed potatoes, collard greens and mushroom gravy, the dish is extremely tasty and very filling.

The pork chops — another Southern favorite — do not disappoint. The massive piece of meat is served in a peach chutney that adds a wonderfully sweet element to the dish.

Vegetarians will appreciate the attention that Eatonville pays to their needs. From the cheddar tart to several salads and the fried green tomato po’ boy, the restaurant offers many choices. The standout dish — which will certainly be enjoyed by meat-eaters and vegetarians — is the Cajun mushroom loaf. This flavorful dish gives diners two slices of faux meatloaf served over a bed of creamy, buttery garlic mashed potatoes and succotash.

Eatonville offers two bars, an intimate one upstairs and a larger one in the main dining room that has a much more hustle-and-bustle feel to it. Several beers — including Pabst Blue Ribbon, the hipster drink of choice — are on tap, and Eatonville offers an extensive and moderately priced wine list. Most bottles of wine fall between $20 and $40, and the bar offers over 25 wines by the glass.

The restaurant is also in the midst of perfecting a cocktail list. Don’t miss the mint julep — it was the best I’ve ever had. Served on the rocks, the drink was perfectly sweet without tasting too boozy. The list features other Southern staples like the mojito as well as original cocktails like the Georgia Peach (peach corn whiskey, lemonade and sweet tea) and the Icepick (vodka and sweet tea). The peach corn whiskey is stored in a Mason jar and smells of summer; it’s so sweet it can be drunk on its own with ice. Though beware: At 80 proof, the whiskey on its own may prove to be lethal.