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Jake's American Grille

16 Jun

Van Ness used to be a barren wasteland for restaurants, but with places like Comet, Acacia Bistro, and Jake’s American Grille bucking the trend, perhaps there is hope for this neighborhood after all.

Rachel and I as well as a couple of our friends went out to Jake’s for dinner last week. We had been looking forward to dining there for quite some time given the expansive menu and diverse beer list, especially in a location where it is somewhat difficult to find both of these things in one setting.

There is a relatively large bar area on the left side of the room which looks like it would be a great happy hour spot. In fact Jake’s offers two happy hours: 4pm to 7pm, Monday through Friday, and a drinks-only “reverse” happy hour from 9pm to close, Monday through Thursday.

Red Curry Yellowfin Tuna

We were able to secure a table as soon as we arrived and were seated towards the front of the house. The interior gives off somewhat of a homey, neighborhood feel to it with its brick walls, wooden floors, and dim lighting. The menu primarily consists of tavern fare which featured an array of burgers, sandwiches, chicken, and fish.

I went with the red curry yellowfin tuna while Rachel ordered the southwestern tilapia. When I ordered my tuna, the waiter didn’t ask for a cooking temperature, but assuming that the kitchen would cook it on the rare side anyway, I didn’t think much of it at the time. When the dish arrived, the tuna was definitely rare, if not a little undercooked.

The parts of the fish that were cooked at the right temperature weren’t bad, but the quality of the tuna itself was just subpar. Considering that I have had similar dishes at other restaurants, I was slightly disappointed. I did, however, enjoy the side of buckwheat soba noodles that featured baby corn, broccolini and edamame which was covered in a red curry-coconut sauce.

Southwestern Tilapia

Rachel certainly liked her tilapia, but she felt that the dish was missing something as it only came with a side of black beans. It could have been accompanied with some sort of vegetable, rice, side salad, something! She put it best when she described it as “a plate of fish and beans”. I mean, this is supposed to be an “American grille”, not a taqueria.

All and all, outside of spending some quality conversation with our friends, our meal was pretty forgettable. Nothing really stood out in regards to the food, and while the prices were rather reasonable (our two entrees combined cost us $31), everything was just average.

We’re hoping that Jake’s will improve with age as it’s a great space in a location begging for business, but until the kitchen improves, we’ll probably just stick to happy hour visits in the interim.

Jake’s American Grille is located on 5018 Connecticut Ave in the Van Ness neighborhood of DC.

Jake's American Grille on Urbanspoon

Acacia Bistro: A Bright Spot in Barren Van Ness

15 Feb

When I lived in Van Ness about five years ago, I was always perplexed that an area in Northwest DC, which was right on top of the Metro, with plenty of young people living in apartment buildings and condos, had such few dining options. It’s the reason why I have been itching to try Acacia Bistro ever since it took over the spot once occupied by Schlotzsky’s Deli.

Buffalo SlidersMy friend Erika and I decided to come here for dinner and we arrived just in time to take advantage of their fantastic happy hour. The restaurant itself was very cozy with a small bar area and tables stretching to the back.

We appreciated the fact that we didn’t have to sit at the bar in order to enjoy happy hour, and we each got a glass of wine for about $5 as well as a few small plates. I should note that they had an extensive beer list as well, and was pretty impressed that you could get beers such as Abita Amber, Troegs Hopback Amber, and Victory Prima Pils for a very reasonable $3.50.

We started with the grilled Turkish meatballs with tzatziki and buffalo sliders with blue cheese and chipotle ketchup. We liked the meatballs as the yogurt proved to be a nice complement instead of traditional tomato sauce. The sliders were decent but didn’t necessarily blow us away. They paled in comparison to the buffalo sliders I’ve had at Vinoteca.

Grilled OctopusWe ordered some more small plates off the regular menu, this time getting grilled octopus and Sicilian eggplant with tomato sauce and mozzarella. The winner here was the eggplant, but I wish there were more servings as it was the perfect comfort food on a cold night. I generally love octopus and usually order it if I see that it is grilled, but it turned out be a little too chewy for our taste that night. We also would have preferred if there was more of a char on them to bring out the flavor.

Erika decided to get an entrée too since everything looked appetizing, as she had planned to take the leftovers home for her boyfriend. She ordered the veal stew with grilled polenta, and I have to admit after seeing her plate, I wish I ordered an entrée too! I was already stuffed but made a mental note to try that particular dish if Brett and I return to Acacia.

Sicilian eggplantIt’s worth noting that Acacia Bistro offers a $25 gift certificate through You can usually find a promo code if you subscribe to their emails, so the certificate might ultimately cost $2 or $3. However, there are some restrictions and it is important to pay attention to the fine print as we learned that night.

I gave the waitress my certificate at the end of the meal, but we found out that it could only be used towards non-happy hour items. Since the certificate required a minimum of $40 ordered from the regular menu, we wound up getting some coffee to make up the difference. Also, according to the fine print, the offer cannot be used for OpenTable reservations, so keep that in mind as well. In the end it worked out, it was just a slightly confusing bill.

It was refreshing to see such an independent space in fairly dull and corporate Van Ness. For us, it’s just a few short stops on the Red Line (if it’s running on time, of course). I would definitely go there again for happy hour. With most small plates averaging around $6, along with an extensive, discounted drink list, it is rare these days to see a happy hour that runs until 8pm. It’s definitely a candidate to include in our regular happy hour rotation.

Acacia Bistro is located on 4340 Connecticut Ave NW in the Van Ness neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Acacia Bistro on Urbanspoon