A couple of weeks ago we were invited to speak on a panel at the Social Learning Summit at American University, along with Mark Gunderson from Dunkin Donuts, the prolific D.C. food writer Nevin Martell, Alejandra Owens née Frijolita, and Tammy Gordon of Florida Girl in DC.
After yapping for an hour about food and tweeting, and tweeting while yapping, we were hungry. Famished, in fact—even after all those delicious Dunkin Donut holes put before us.
We nipped over to nearby Wisconsin Avenue, by the cathedral, to Café Deluxe, which touts itself online as Bethesda’s favorite brunch. The patio was packed, but we snagged a table inside. We were meeting with a potential web designer.
Yes, you read that right. The time has come, loves. After two years, we think we need a little touchup here and there. Perhaps a few ways to make these brunch reviews more searchable and easy for you to reference. So, we found ourselves a lovely, amazing, talented web designer. (And if you have any suggestions of how you’d like this site to work, we’d love to hear it.)
There we were, sitting at a table in the back of Café Deluxe. The tablecloths were paper and so we were scribbling away our big ideas for a fresh new Bitches look right onto the tabletop, lovely Laura patiently listening and taking notes.
We were seated right by the entrance to the kitchen, right by the servers’ computer, and there seemed to be hundreds of servers buzzing about. Sadly, our service in this pseudo-diner was slightly atrocious.
We never had the proper silverware, nor the proper plates. We got moldy fruit (yes, really, more on that later). And even though we were routinely “checked on” in passing by what we assumed were managers, they never actually bothered to stay at the table long enough to hear our complaints.
Deluxe is sort of an upscale diner. The tables are close together, so not a place for private or business conversations. The restaurant is loud and buzzing. People are reading their newspapers and doing their crosswords at tables by themselves. The place is packed, but I’m unsure why.
Where to begin? How about the bread basket, which was big hunks of bread–fluffy and fine. It came with standard butter. I should mention that they do offer Marys and mimosas, for $7 and $6.50 respectively. Not a bargain, but not extortion either. The coffee was subpar.
I ordered the Benedict, of course, which was a slice of what seemed to be deli ham on two slices of mushy toast. It was topped with a creamy Hollandaise that unfortunately crusted before I could finish the dish. One of the eggs was undercooked, the other, cooked all the way through. How does that even happen?
Might I add that this was touted as the “Deluxe Benedict” on the menu. Their signature brunch dish. The toast was sourdough and the ham, supposedly, black forest ham. The Hollandaise was meant to have a sun-dried tomato taste, but I didn’t catch it.
I also ordered a tomato soup, as I was pretty sick that day and suffering from a bad cold, but it never found its way to the table. I was disappointed, but it was one of those service situations where it would have made it painful to bring up their slip.
Laura had the omelet. The omelet was nothing to speak of, filled with spinach, feta, and tomato. There are other omelet options, too, but they’re probably just as bad. They serve these dishes with breakfast potatoes and a biscuit, so you have the carbs to fill your belly after you’re disappointed by your main dish.
My boyfriend ordered the steak and eggs, cooked medium. When he got the dish, it was a rubbery piece of meat placed on top of another soggy piece of toast. This was supposed to be a New York Strip. Instead, it was more poorly cooked fatty flank. The dish was cold—so we sent it back—and they microwaved it (seriously), making the steak even more rubbery.
Cori Sue got the scrambled eggs mixed with salmon and green onions. The onions were chopped fine and the salmon was mixed into the eggs. The eggs were cold when the dish arrived—and nobody likes cold scrambled eggs. It was supposed to be served with a toasted bagel and cream cheese, but she didn’t get that.
Instead, she got a side of fruit. And, this fruit was rather gross. She picked up a strawberry off her plate and the entire underside was moldy, as if it had been sitting on that very plate for four days. She made a face, and put it down on the table beside her plate, and then failed to get the attention of one of the rushing managers sweeping by.
Later, when they were clearing the plates, the waiter looked at the strawberry, and said “My my! What a large strawberry!” clearly perplexed as to why it would be on the table, rather than the plate, or in her stomach.
“It’s covered in MOLD,” CS replied curtly, content she’d already filled the Twitterverse with pictures of her fruit woes after failing to get managerial attention at Cafe Deluxe. (Never mess with her when she’s hungry.)
“Oh,” said the waiter, and everyone present—including the waiter himself, I’d venture—seemed shocked he showed such little concern.
I was rather disappointed with this neighborhood diner brunch (to quote my love: “That place sucked”), but we got our business done and left. In hindsight, we should have sat outside, as the patio is quite lovely. It has red umbrellas and wicker chairs, sort of like a Parisian café. It probably would have boosted my opinion of the place.
The Bitches say: D. Boring and barely edible. Don’t venture out if you’re not in the ‘hood.
3228 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20016
Brunch is Saturday and Sunday. Four locations, including Bethesda, Tyson’s Corner, and Gaithersburg, in addition to this Cleveland Park one.