A note from the Bitches: this restaurant is now closed. It’s now Mulebone.
The U Street corridor is one of my favorite neighborhoods in DC. But I’m usually waddling from bar to bar with a rowdy crowd, not necessarily revisiting our evening haunts for brunch the next morning.
Since Eatonville opened last year, I’ve been amazed at how lively and jam-packed it seems every night. Live music, vibrant murals, Food & Folklore events, rocking chairs … from outside the huge glass windows, it looks like a raucous Southern Disneyland that’s feeding from a steady IV of mint juleps.
So, is it just as lively the next morning? Or is it as chill as its sister restaurant across the street, Busboys & Poets? (Which is, I admit, is my preferred U Street spot for a morning combination of coffee, eggs, comfy couches and WiFi.) Before I answer that, let me give you a little background on this new DC dining spot …
We all know that Busboys & Poets is named in honor of Langston Hughes, right? Well, Eatonville is inspired by one of Hughes’ literary contemporaries, Zora Neale Hurston, whom Hughes actually collaborated with. Eatonville, Florida, is Hurston’s hometown; and she attended Howard University in DC. Hence the Florida-South-in-DC thing.
Here’s the cutesy part. While they were alive, the two famous writers got into a spat over copyright issues and broke off their friendship. So, looking for an intriguing dining story, the owner of the two restaurants thought it would be rather lovely to bring the writers back together posthumously, and placed the restaurants next to each other on 14th Street. And there you have it: DC’s little nook of literary-inspired food is born.
Now. I feel a bit silly reviewing Southern food. I’m not Southern, and I rarely have cravings for grits and gumbo. Though I do know when I like it—and when I don’t. I also know that in order to truly enjoy a Southern brunch, you have to be prepared. And by that I mean refrain from eating for 24 hours prior. The entrees are big and heavy, the appetizers filling, and the sides sound just too good not to order, um, four of them.
At Eatonville, the brunch menu is well-rounded enough to cater to everyone. You don’t have to stick with heavy entrees or fried food. In fact, my skinny-binny brunch date went with a salad with grilled shrimp, which turned out to be, in fact, massive grilled shrimp. Cori Sue, being a veggie, had the eggs, which were bland and wet. And I decided to just go for it, and ordered the shrimp and grits, which were, well, kind of blah and unappealing.
But then we all shared the gumbo, the mac n’ cheese, and the sweet potato and sausage side dish, each of which were surprisingly good. Can I just order the sides here, please? The shining star of brunch was the beer-mimosa (beermosa?) concoction that they served up in mason jars. Why didn’t I think of this sooner? Beer and mimosa? What a perfect marriage. Plus, it counteracted the bad taste the bloody mary left in our mouths (eep—not good).
And that’s how it went—like a rollercoaster brunch. Some of the drinks and dishes were great; some were a surprising letdown. The food was mighty Southern but, with a few notable exceptions, it was lacking real soul. Maybe it’s there in the evenings when the juleps are flowing and the place is packed and alive. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll pop my head in there one evening on my trek out on U Street. But I don’t think I’ll be coming back the next morning.
The bitches say: B- for blah. The food and service is too inconsistent.
2121 14th St. N.W.