One of the funny side effects of restaurant reviewing is that we find ourselves going out to eat even more than we need to these days.
When I first started writing weekly reviews for the Sun, going out to dinner once a week felt like a whole lot. Now, not so much. We're in such an easy rhythm with the reviews that we often tack on one or two additional dinners out each week. And I still have a mile-long list of restaurants I want to try, but haven't gotten to yet.
Over the past month, we've had a few meals that were noticeably - sometimes surprisingly - good.
First, Birroteca. Put this one in the not-so-surprising column. Owner Robin Haas has given executive chef Cyrus Keefer pretty much free reign in this new spot and he is flourishing. Admittedly, I'm a Keefer fangirl, so it was easy for me to look past the flannel shirts (and right down the street from Woodberry, too) to really enjoy the food and drinks.
Cooper and I stopped in one Friday night a few weeks ago and got majorly lucky, as a couple got up from the bar just as we walked in. I wouldn't recommend taking that sort of chance - the restaurant side was booked solid and the bar was pretty packed all night.
But the food...it was so good. Smoked duck pizza, wild boar bolognese, fried polenta that was like the fanciest mozzarella sticks ever, boozy but carefully constructed drinks. And calamari. The calamari, sauteed with lemon and garlic, was probably the best version of squid I have ever had. In my life. No joke.
You'll have to make a reservation and it'll be a pain to get a date, but do it. Go there.
Next up, and this one was a surprise, Cooper and Dixon and I had a really solidly good lunch at CVP a few weeks ago. It was a Saturday afternoon, on the early side, and we were nearly the first people in the place. While the service was only OK, it was decent for a bar. And the homemade Old Bay chips topped with blue cheese (Bay & Blue) was super fresh and my burger was exactly right.
Speaking of places with notoriously not-so-great service, a recent brunch at Zen West also exceeded my expectations. The Bloody Marys are awesomely spicy and that day, the enchiladas verde lifted my mood considerably. Plus, our waitress was not only nice, she was available. I'm not sure why that place has such erratic service, but it does. That's a shame, too, because they've got some very decent food (the grilled wings, especially).
And finally, another brunch winner, this time at Clementine. We have been to brunch there a million times and though the service is usually on the slow side, the food is always excellent. Our brunch a few weeks ago was no exception (on either count). We sat at the bar, where I nursed a couple of Bloodies and Cooper demolished several mimosas. I had the migas, which is a frequent favorite. There's just something so good about spicy food for breakfast. And Clementine does spicy just right. Their homemade hot sauces are fantastic.
It's been a good run, this past month. My short list right now includes Corner BYOB, Thames Street Oyster House, Waterfront Kitchen, Miguel's, Jack's Bistro, and a bunch of other restaurants where I can't believe I haven't eaten.
So much good food, so little time.