Review: America Eats Tavern - Washington D.C.

After two full days of sightseeing in the 100 degree heat of D.C., my wife and I decided that we were in need of an exceptional meal. Nothing against the previous day's lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl and late night pizza delivery, it's just that our palettes have grown accustomed to great dining while on vacation, and the lack of such had our stomachs pondering revolution. While reading the Delta In-Flight magazine on our way to the city, I came across an article on a restaurant that Mary at Girl Meets Food had also suggested we check out. Assuming that two suggestions couldn't possibly both be wrong, we decided to silence the revolt with lunch at America Eats Tavern.
America Eats Tavern
The concept behind America Eats is perhaps the most interesting of any restaurant I've visited to date. The Tavern is a six month partnership between James Beard Award winning chef Jose Andres, and the Foundation for the National Archives (For you fans of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, Jose Andres was Tony's hilarious sidekick on last week's episode which chronicled the closing of famed El Bulli in Spain...re-runs tonight at 8pm). The restaurant is being done in conjunction with the Archives program "What's Cooking Uncle Sam?" with many of the dishes on the menu being inspired by items featured in the exhibit. From President Eisenhower's recipe for beef stew, to Arnold Reuben's take on the corned beef sandwich, the nostalgia of the menu was not only fun, but also enhanced our visit to the National Archives.
America Eats Tavern
Each item on the menu at America Eats has a story, the idea being that your meal is a trip through American history, and our journey began with the Shrimp Remoulade and Fried Green Tomatoes. The shrimp were a bit small and somewhat unimpressive, however the tomatoes were a different story. Sometimes the taste of fried green tomatoes is lost in a sea of breading and sauce, however these were served quartered, which really brought out their flavor. The history lesson from the menu was the chef for Napoleon III came to the States and adapted remoulade sauce to American cuisine. I took that to mean he found remoulade was good on just about anything, to which I'd absolutely agree.
America Eats Tavern
After re-hydrating with about 11 glasses of water, we decided it was time to examine the beverage menu. America Eats features several craft brews, some from the D.C. area, and in keeping with the overall theme of the meal I opted for the Elliot Ness Lager. The beer was great, but what caught my eye was the passing tray of glasses with an odd lime green liquid inside. Yup....it was absinthe. I thought about it and thought about it, but alas, I regretfully passed on giving it a try. I was afraid that the statue of Thomas Jefferson might start talking to me later on.
America Eats Tavern
Back to the food...For our mains I went with the Hamburg Steak, while my wife opted for the Reuben Sandwich. OK OK, so mine was actually two slider hamburgers, but my goodness were they good. The patties were lightly compacted, which allowed all the flavors of the beef to simply explode. What I also loved about the plate was the total lack of condiments; our server didn't even offer them. Unlike most hamburgers where ketchup and mustard are essential to mask the lousy beef, here they would have had the opposite effect and destroyed the heart of the sandwich. Our history lesson was that Hamburg Steak became hugely popular after it's appearance at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, and first appeared on a restaurant menu in 1926 at famed Delmonico's. I'm always baffled why St. Louis gets recognition for the World's Fair, but never the Olympics, which took place as part of the exhibition. I mean, the World's Fair lost it's allure right about the time they decided Knoxville was a proper host...It's time St. Louis get their due! But I digress...
America Eats Tavern
After hearing odd noises of satisfaction from my wife, I decided it was probably a good idea to ask for a bite of her Rueben. Granted, I'm not much of a Rueben fan, but to quote the ladies from "Coffee Talk," this one was like butter. Both of our meals were accompanied by a bag of homemade potato chips, which were some of the best I've ever had...and trust me, I've had my share. The back story to the sandwich is Arthur Rueben was attempting to humor actress Anna Seelos by serving here a one foot tall sandwich. When it became popular among other Hollywood legends, the Rueben sandwich was born.
America Eats Tavern
America Eat's is not only a great concept, the food and service are exceptional also. If you plan to visit, I highly suggest stopping in the National Archives and check out the "What's Cooking Uncle Sam?" exhibit, either before or after your meal. It was a great tie-in seeing the history behind the various dishes, such as the original menu from Delmonico's featuring my Hamburg Steak. It's a shame that when the 6 month exhibition is over, so too is America Eats, but I'm thankful for our lucky timing, and that for once the Delta In-Flight magazine was worth something...

Enjoy Your Stay

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