When The Cajun Experience opened for brunch a few years ago, I dragged along college friends Fontaine and Liz for a debaucherous afternoon of Abita Purple Haze and hurricanes. You see, Fontaine (real name: Scott, last name: Fontaine. Therefore, obviously, he must be called Fontaine) is from New Orleans, and his lovely wife Liz (my former college roommate) has since adopted his hometown as her own.
The pair are very particular about their Cajun cuisine, and I value their opinion a great deal. At the Cajun Experience, they were initially impressed at the authenticity of the food, but after returning for many crawfish boils and brunches, the place has since (they tell me) gone down hill. They even took Purple Haze off the taps—the horror!
So Liz suggested we trek out to discover other D.C.-based New Orleans brunch spots. First up, TruOrleans, which is right on H Street in that newly restaurant-heavy block of the Atlas District. I arrived early with my beau, and it was a beautiful day, so we sat at a patio table on the street level.
We sat there because there was, to my disappointment, a private party on the open-air upper level. I had wanted to sit upstairs. But the downstairs patio was cutesy, with strategically placed beads hanging from the lamp posts as if it were the morning after a ridiculous Mardi Gras down H Street.
We ordered bottomless mimosas. The mimosas were extremely orange juice heavy, and got more so as the brunch continued. We tried to ignore this by lapping up the sun. Liz, Fontaine and Brooke arrived shortly thereafter and were pleasantly surprised that the place had their beloved Purple Haze on draft.
But, after that, it all started going down hill quite quickly.
I think it all began when we were ordering our food, and the waiter told us, simply, “We don’t scramble eggs.” Excuse me? You don’t scramble eggs?
“A little bit of me just died inside,” my boyfriend mumbled to me. “Can you just serve me an omelet with nothing in it, then?” he cheekily asked the waiter.
We shared the Cajun wings to start, which were fine, but unfortunately ended up being the best dish that we would eat at brunch.
The French toast tasted simply like bread with egg seasoning. There was little to no batter on the dish. It was accompanied by two little plastic containers of syrup.
So the egg issues went beyond their unwillingness to scramble them. The French toast tasted like expensive toast.
My boyfriend said he could have forgiven this if he was served some booze, and not simply orange juice in a champagne flute.
The grits were uninspiring and crusted nicely in the sun. The potatoes—which were touted as hashbrowns on the menu, but what we actually got were breakfast potatoes—arrived cold.
Brooke had the veggie omelet, which was fine. Just fine. She wanted to customize it, but apparently that wasn’t allowed. And what sort of omelet doesn’t come with cheese? And why can’t you prepare scrambled eggs, again? If you make both omelets and poached eggs, I know you aren’t using egg beaters. Seriously, get a line cook and figure it out.
As for me, I ordered the eggs Benedict, which was actually the most disgusting Benny I’ve ever had. The eggs were not only undercooked, the whites were completely runny. They might as well have cracked an egg open on a stale muffin.
A couple of quick notes on the service: I know we are sitting outside, but bring things when asked. It’s not like we were making ridiculous requests or asking for things that are not standard. Coffee should come with sugar. Waffles should come with syrup. Patrons should have silverware. Those are just a few examples of the many things that went missing.
It’s not a big deal if things are forgotten and you have to ask once. But when you have to ask two or three times, it’s no longer OK.
As for Fontaine and Liz, I can do nothing except let Liz tell the story in her own words …
“The waiter brought everyone’s food except mine and didn’t say a word to me about it. Typically an ‘I’ll be right back with yours’ or ‘Sorry, your order is taking a bit longer’ is fine, but we got nothing. I did hear him mumble about a missing fruit bowl as he walked away, but no one ordered a fruit bowl.
“Then, five minutes later, he came to fill water and asked if we needed anything. I said, ‘My lunch!’ I think he was a bit surprised. I assumed he forgot to put it in, but 10 minutes later when everyone was done eating I decided I was over the wait and went to cancel the order.
“I even asked if he forgot to put in my order because at least that would make sense, but he said no, that crawfish just take a while to cook. (A) This is not true. My in-laws are from Louisiana; we know exactly how long crawfish take to cook and it’s not 20 minutes. (B) If that’s truly your stance, why didn’t you tell me that when everyone was served lunch except me?
“Of course, two minutes later my food was magically ready and he asked to box it up for me. Nope! Who wants soggy bread for $15?
“Then the bill. We were charged a 15% ‘service charge.’ It did not say tip or gratuity. Since I didn’t get to eat at this eating establishment, I did not feel a mandatory fee was acceptable. I spoke with the manager who was very taken aback. He pointed to the menu that had in small print that every patron (regardless of group size) is charged a 15% service charge. I asked what for and he could not answer.
“I offered my own answer: crappy service and not getting to eat brunch. He wasn’t amused. He said there was nothing he could do; the fee was mandatory. I said, we aren’t paying it. He said he’d give us a credit for the same amount, but not reverse the charge.”
“Low and behold, the new bill came and the charge was indeed reversed. Thankfully, we didn’t get locked in the restaurant like these people.
The Bitches say: D-. Barely edible, horrible service, and other ridiculous things such as required gratuity and the inability to scramble eggs. The only saving grace is it has a decent patio.
400 H St. N.E.
Tru Orleans serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.