Inauguration Weekend 2013. Political affiliation aside, the city was packed with people coming to celebrate the second Inauguration of the President. Most of Washington residents probably had no idea what they were in for Inauguration Weekend. Especially for Sunday Brunch. If you’re a DC head, you know very well that Sunday Brunch is a ritual held to the highest standard. Brunch cocktails must remain bottomless and a buffet to boot never hurts. The Sunday of Inauguration Weekend was no exception. My friends and I, weary of the inevitable crowds, decided to make a reservation on Open Table at Tabaq Bistro, excited about the beautiful day and the rooftop views.
I was the most anxious about finding parking. U Street is bad enough during Brunch and Happy Hour, but Inauguration Weekend was going to be murder. We lucked out about 30 minutes before our reservation and found a spot 4 blocks away. Our first instinct: find a pre-game cocktail to tie us over before Brunch.
Our pre-game took us to the French restaurant, Bistro La Bonne. There was zero wait, so we sat at the bar and got immediate service with a smile. My $3 Mimosa was mildly potent but my eyes were more drawn to the food surrounding me. The omelettes were filled with seafood, and were accompanied by french fries, or stuffed with veggies and a side of home fries. I was starting to regret that we were leaving for another restaurant, but remained hopeful that Tabaq would only be a better experience. I’m hopelessly hopeful that way. As I started my drink, I sparked a conversation with a lovely woman, Lisa, that had recently moved to the area. I love my Brunch with plentiful conversation. Once I told Lisa of my blog, she gave me the full run down for awesome places to Taste and See in the district (she even relinquished to let me awkwardly Instagram her meal). So, you’ll have Lisa to thank for many upcoming weeks of great food reviews! At last, it was time for us to head over to Tabaq. My friends had already left me, so I scurried over to Tabaq, making a mental note to return to Bistro La Bonne soon. In my mind’s eye, I just knew I’d be able to run next door, plop in my seat and get my next drink.
TASTE * AMBIANCE * SERVICE * THEME * EXHIBITION
Yea. About that. When I arrived (and hiked it up the 3 flights of stairs), the line to sit on the roof was flooding down the staircase. My friends, who were standing amidst the tables of people already sitting, were looking thoroughly pissed by this point and quickly explained to me that our Open Table reservation would not be honored today. Well there go about 100 points for service. The hostess, looking frantic, glanced at us and said we’d be the next table. 15 or 20 minutes later, when no tables opened, and we’d been surrounded by one too many delectable looking plates of food, we decided to just squeeze in at the bar.
Once I finally sat down, I took in everything around me. It was such a beautiful day! The warmest day of the entire weekend. The rooftop was fashioned like any other, with plenty of tables and chairs in a smallish space, but we were also blanketed by a large sheet of plastic, which wasn’t the most beautiful aesthetically, but it probably did a good job of deterring the large gusts of wind that day. I was way pleased with the ambiance. The service, however, just continued to dwindle. The bartender couldn’t take our order, so we asked the hostess, who did not write a single word down as we rattled off our orders, which came with very specific instructions. I usually have faith in service people who make it a point to not write anything down. I will be sure to be more careful next time, because 30 minutes later, my stomach was still empty. Conversation having dwindled, we turned our hunger toward the dumb waiter that was next to us, constantly bringing food up from the kitchen that did not belong to us. Long story short, our food wasn’t given to the chef until way after we ordered. The hostess was nice enough about it and comped our drinks and one meal. I mean, I guess.
At long last, the food arrived and I was plenty excited. My omelette wasn’t made as hard as I usually like it, but at this point, it could’ve had a beak and I still would’ve eaten it. In terms of taste, I loved the flavor of the lump crab meat and shrimp together. The fries were just your typical fried potatoes, not too special. My friend was underwhelmed by the exhibition of her steak and eggs with side salad and my other girlfriend shared no thoughts on her bagel and lox. Not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing.
According to Twitter, Tabaq is a Mediterranean-themed tapas restaurant. Perhaps the rest of the menu is more indicative of that, but I saw chicken and waffles and Cobb salads floating around that don’t tip the boat towards Mediterranean, if you know what I mean. Nor were the plates very small at all, not that I’m complaining. Perhaps when it comes to the theme, all bets are off on the top floor?
The ambiance of the rooftop view is what really sets this place apart. The service on big days is lacking and the theme wasn’t convincing. I may try this place again, perhaps on the first floor next time.