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Friday, March 9, 2007

Thing 7: Tonic

Yesterday was “dine out to fight AIDS” day, with a number of participating restaurants donating anywhere from 25 – 100% of their profits for the night to Food & Friends, a very worthy cause indeed. So GFD and I gathered up various friends and significant others, and chose to spend our for-charity dollars at Tonic, a bar and restaurant in the evolving Mt. Pleasant neighborhood.

We chose Tonic for several reasons – they were donating 35% of their profits to Food & Friends, while most other places were only doing 25%, I am trying very hard to go to places I’ve never been and neighborhoods I might not normally go to, and I had heard that they made a rockin’ mac ‘n’ cheese. Also, the review in the Post had made it sound like a laid back place with dressed up comfort foods that went out of its way to cater to the locals in the community. It sounded like the kind of scene I dig.

I’m going out of my way to say that I really wanted to like Tonic. And I am really sad to report that I didn’t. I was completely underwhelmed and disappointed.

It didn’t help that I had made 9:00 reservations and that no one seemed to be ready for us and we didn’t get seated until 9:20. Then there was the debacle of our waitress spilling an entire glass of red wine and an entire vodka martini directly into the lap of one of our dining companions. She clearly felt terrible and the restaurant gave him a t-shirt to wear, offered to launder his shirt while we ate, and comped his entire meal, but he was understandably cranky after that.

Tonic's tater tots. More tot that tater, really.No, the real disappointment was the food. I concede, the tater tots were delicious, being deep fried and wonderfully crunchy (“more tot than tater”), and came with a ‘kitchen sink’ dipping sauce that we all enjoyed. But that was the highlight of the meal. And frankly, when tater tots are the highlight of your menu, there is a problem.

The mac ‘n’ cheese that I was ready to write home about? It came served in a cast iron skillet and looked promising, but the cheese sauce was runny, not thick, the Mac 'n' cheese. That's about it, really.flavor was bland instead of rich and cheesy, and the texture was grainy from some kind of cheese they use that didn’t melt smoothly.

I had a half rack of ribs, that came dry rubbed and with a sweet apricot BBQ sauce on the side to dip them in. They were fine, but not particularly memorable. My dinner included a side of baked beans, slow cooked with bacon, which were tasty. Other people ordered a chili burger (a big ol’ mess of beef, chili, cheese, bacon and sour cream), a flank steak, a strip steak, a veggie burger, and meatloaf. The meatloaf – a gargantuan slab of meatloaf with a thick mushroom gravy and a side of mashed potatoes, was the best thing anyone ordered by far.

We were all stuffed full of meat and carbs and couldn’t bear to look at a dessert menu, so we got the check. I had the beginnings of a tummy ache, and the boyfriend wasn’t doing too much better. The combination of such heavy food at such a late hour wasn’t sitting well. No one seemed thrilled with our Tonic experience, but at least our dollars went to a good cause, right?

Side note: I’m writing about the things that make DC special, so I have to write about the ducks. As I was waiting for the 42 bus to Mount Pleasant last night, at a corner of Franklin Square, there were about 50 ducks in the park! A homeless woman was feeding them stale bread, and they were all in a huge, writhing duck cluster, honking and squawking away. I have no idea where they came from – there is no body of water nearby – or if they’re there every night as I’m not usually hanging out in Franklin Square after dark. It was just this strange anomaly, fifty ducks not three blocks from the White House in the middle of downtown.

I took some pictures, but I’m limited to my Treo until I buy a digital camera, so forgive the poor quality.

The Franklin Square ducks! The Franklin Square ducks!


Jenny said...

it turns out tonic was the not the cure, but the "cause of what ailed me"... felt a little sick when i got home last night! late hour or too many carbs? who knows... i'm thrilled that the "eat out for life" project exists, and that we participated, but if we are ever tempted to go to tonic again... maybe we should just triple-fry some tater tots and drink from the box.

Jessica said...

So, we tried to do the dine out for AIDS thing last night too and all the places in VA were too crowded. So Rob was starting to get mildly angry at AIDS patients in general and to pacify him I was forced to eat at a restaurant not on the list. So, I feel your pain. I agree with Jenny-fry and drink my own next time and just send in a donation!