Marvin and I had a sordid love affair. First, there was the “Ooh, look at this lovely rooftop patio with a bar! Let’s play here every Saturday night!” phase. I would squeeze in with all the other sticky bodies, drinking the Belgian suds and ruining far too many pairs of heels in the cracks of the wooden patio deck.
Then I got sick of the rooftop, plus someone decided it was a good idea to build up that open-yet-wonderfully-graffitied lot next door, sealing off an entire side of the patio. So, alas, Marvin and I moved into the second phase of our love affair: dinner.
And so I spent Friday and Saturday nights in the dark, crowded restaurant downstairs, sipping wine with friends and people-watching out the steamy windows while waiting for a table. After a four- or five-hour wait-plus-dinner under the gaze of Mr. Marvin Gaye, full on amazing wine and amazing Soul food, I would decide, yes, that was entirely worth the wait.
But now … now I think we’re moving into the final stage of our affair. And that would be brunch. Let’s Get it On …
Before I dive into the lovey-dovey, I must make a confession. Marvin is owned by Eric Hilton (and his partners), and Eric is one-half of Thievery Corporation. And, if you know me at all, you know that in my eyes, Mr. Hilton (and his co-Thieve Rob) can do no wrong. So, yes, this review might be a little biased.
If you can’t tell from Thievery’s music, Hilton is inspired by a lot of different musicians. Marvin Gaye being one of his favorites, he opened the restaurant in Gaye’s name, creating an atmosphere that married D.C. soul with Belgian café. Why the strange combination? Here’s a bit of D.C. history for you: Marvin Gaye grew up in Washington, D.C., and even dropped out of Cardozo High School right up the street from the restaurant. Later in his life, he spent two years in self-imposed exile in the Belgian town of Ostend. Hence the D.C.-Belgian thing.
But how do you combine Belgian specialties with American Southern food? Simple. Executive chef James Claudio did it by plunking fried chicken on a Belgian waffle. The rest is history.
Brunch at Marvin is seriously trendy. It’s full of beautiful people—I’m talking young parents who look like they could moonlight as Urban Outfitter models—in fedoras and sunglasses. The lighting is perfect for a hangover. You can slip into a dark booth and still enjoy your tablemates and the food. There were five of us ladies at brunch on Sunday, and I was severely hung over (read: still a little drunk), so I did the daring thing and just went for it … Country fried chicken on a Belgian waffle for me!
The chicken (Marvin’s specialty dish) was crispy and not greasy. Grease is usually the staple of fried chicken, but not in this version. And the waffle was toasted to perfection and not soggy from the chicken perched on it. It really is a perfect mix, only made better by the sweet syrup that balances the savory chicken. It’s funny because, even though we tried lots of the other entrees, my co-brunchers all went for my fried chicken. It was Just. So. Good.
The crab cakes were my second favorite. Two cakes (a little on the salty side, and not just sea salt unfortunately), perfectly poached eggs, and a rich Bearnaise sauce on an English muffin. It was a nice departure from the usual slabs of ham. They were heavy but delicious.
What else did we enjoy? The Croque Madame was an overachieving ham and cheese sandwich: smoked ham, fried egg, béchamel, and gruytere cheese. And the huevos rancheros were tasty and made with homemade tortillas, poached eggs, guacamole, chipotle, and queso blanco. The best part is that the food is not just filling, it’s inexpensive. Everything on the menu is around 10 bucks.
An affair to remember? Can I Get a Witness? What’s Going On? Can I drop any more embarrassingly cheesy Marvin Gaye references? Alas, I think I’m in love.
The Bitches say: A; a DC gem, good food (go for the chicken!), great brunch atmosphere, inexpensive.
2007 14th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20009-7562