I’ve gotten a lot of sun this summer. While I don’t condone getting painfully burnt every weekend (which seems to be my 2013 M.O.), I do condone the ridiculous fun that is usually coupled with–oops!–forgetting to reapply your sunblock.
Exhibit A: A few weekends ago, when a close friend of mine invited a few of us to her house in Denton, near the beach. Half of the party arrived Saturday afternoon to find the rest of the pool contingent already tipsy and bobbing, burnt in the pool.
But before we embarked on our journey to said pool and beaches and fun, we stopped for sustenance along the way. We brunched at a little Virginia spot, the Del Ray Cafe, swimsuits under our brunch outfits, sunglasses ready to go.
The Del Ray Cafe is a neighborhood gem. It’s in two-story white house just off Mount Vernon (Del Ray’s Main Street). It looks like a house that Grandma converted into a restaurant 50 years ago but kept in impeccable shape. It’s got a screened-in porch, window boxes full of pretty flowers, a lovely garden, even a Christmas tree in the front yard.
Inside, it’s all wooden floors and wooden tables, kitchen tchotkes on the walls. You feel like you’re walking into someone’s house, only to be seated upstairs at a big table by the window and handed a menu that is decidedly French.
Also resembling Grandma’s house: The food is all natural and organic. Oh, and the restaurant is completely peanut-free, for you allergic folks. Nuts or not, I was in a chocolate mood. So I ordered the chocolate croissant to start. It arrived hot and flakey; the bread melted in my mouth. It was a perfectly sweet way to get me excited for the rest of the brunch.
In addition to the starters on the menu, there are organic egg dishes, some specialities, and sides. It’s a perfectly sized menu, and definitely has plenty of dishes that are unique to the restaurant. For instance, nearly everything comes with a mini croissant and fruit. Gosh, those croissants, perfection.
Liz ordered an omelet with spinach, tomato, and feta. The feta was fresh and strong; she said it was the best part. The small, side croissant was soft, buttery, and not too flaky. The itty bitty side of fruit was cut into itty bitty pieces and served with an itty bitty spoon, which was very odd. Also, it was almost all cantaloupe. Yawn.
Joanna ordered the Maryland lump crabmeat eggs Benedict. Being on her usual ridiculous diet (honestly, Joanna), she ordered the hollandaise sauce on the side, and the kitchen compiled without question. In the end, Joanna didn’t smother her crabmeat benny with the sauce, but instead handed it over to Brooke (fresh off another of her many Crossfit classes) who doused her post-workout steak in it.
The lovely part about the Bennys at Del Ray Cafe is that they come on a croissant instead of an English muffin. All of the bread is clearly very fresh and made in house (or at least nearby). Those types of carbs are the best kind of carbs.
Catherine, new to the Bitching, ordered the salmon eggs Benedict. The yoke was perfectly poached–not too hard and not underdone. The smoked salmon was just OK. It could have been fresher. The Hollandaise could have been more flavorful.
When you order a side of bacon, they give you a big pile, not the typical two pieces for $5. Plus, it was thick and crispy, which I like. Catherine was opposed. “As someone who received 25 lbs of bacon for my birthday one year, and has killed my own, I humbly consider myself something of an aficionado,” Catherine declared. “I’m in the not-too-crispy camp.”
But back to Brooke and her steak. Brooke arrived and declared she needed protein (and coffee, obvi). So, steak and eggs it was. I think it was actually the side of french fries that sold it. Also, there were no frills about it. It was a solidly cooked steak, scrumptious fries, and, well, a scrambled egg. And let’s not forget Joanna’s Hollandaise sauce.
But Brooke, in an effort to pretend to be a bit healthy, did also order the Parfait. It was meant to be an appetizer so she didn’t pig out on her decidedly unhealthy entree. But the restaurant seemed to forget the order brought it out after she finished her steak. At that point she didn’t want it anymore.
Someone absolutely had to get the Brioche French toast tossed in a tequila and lime batter. How can you say no to tequila French toast?! I insisted. Derek took the plunge. The dish actually turned out to be not as tasty as we were hoping for, and it came with an awkward dollop of mango. But the serving size was big and there was plenty of bacon on the side.
I strayed from my usual Benny order and went for the French country bread with Bûcheron goat cheese and rotisserie ham, topped with two eggs. It was difficult to eat, albeit tasty. The bread underneath was a touch burnt, and the ham a touch tough, but I was hungry enough to tear into it regardless.
The Bitches say: B. Some menu items were a bit of a miss, but for the most part this organic, all-natural brunch is a winner.
Del Ray Cafe
205 E. Howell Ave.