Shaw's Tavern: No Booze, No Problem

Undoubtedly D.C. is an incubator of raw political talent, a harbinger of power, fortune and fame to be made, yadda yadda yadda. But let's get to the food.

The newest entry to liven up the local foodie scene is Shaw's Tavern (520 Florida Ave. N.W.). Located a few blocks from the U Street/Shaw Metro, this simple tavern showcases a worn, rustic simplicity as it tastefully tries to evoke the reputation of Captain Robert Gould Shaw -- the namesake of the tavern -- and his 54th Massachusetts Infantry. (Just watch the movie "Glory.")

For many years I'd driven by this corner and saw it for what I thought it was, economic blight, and not for what it is: economic opportunity. Leather couches, rustic wood tables and high-back chairs gave the restaurant its well-worn, friendly look, as does the exposed kitchen. Unique? No, but it didn't lessen my appreciation of the cozy remodel.

Still, no one really comes to the restaurant for the look. That's merely a conversation piece. The food is the real point, and the drinks should be too. Unfortunately for Shaw's Tavern, a snafu with ABRA has them still waiting for their license.

Meanwhile, the food is quite good for what it's worth. Off the starters, I ordered the apricots, green olives, fennel, arugula and capers ($7). The presentation wasn't particularly riveting, but the taste and texture made up for it. All the ingredients were so fresh!

In fact, the entire evening I really marveled at the freshness and juiciness of the fruits and vegetables. "John [the chef] believes in getting food from the local markets," said our charming waiter Chris. "All the food comes from farms in Maryland and the meat is all range-grown."

The attention to the locavore movement is evidenced in the food -- and the price. Without a doubt, the best thing on the menu is what I ordered for my main dish: the three cheese and onion white pizza ($11), with the extra add-on of pepperoni ($2).

The pizza arrived piping hot from the 700 degree oven, and again the presentation wasn't beautiful, but the the taste made up for any aesthetic deficiencies.

The dough was light, smooth and rich. A little bit of olive oil helped anchor the onions and pepperoni, but they became superfluous once you tasted the cheeses.

A combination of the three cheeses -- grana and ricotta (Italy), and asadero (Mexico) thrilled the entire table.

Dessert was a delicious mistable. I ordered the peach and blackberry shortcake with buttermilk ice cream ($7), but what came out from the kitchen turned out to be the best food mistake I've had in a long time. Plated in front of me was the upside-down chocolate and caramel cupcake ($7).

The cupcake itself was perfectly amiable, but it was the liquid richness of the rich caramel oozing from the center of the cupcake that had me clearing my dessert plate in five minutes flat. I didn't share and didn't offer. I just kept my head down and ate.

There are some kinks to be fixed. The side of brick-oven spuds ($5) were slightly charred, and when the actual dessert I ordered came out, the shortbread was too soft and not sweet; however, both the peaches and blackberries were extraordinary in their natural state. Just together this dessert was lacking. Also, the free table bread was too tough to be enjoyed, but hey! It was free.

I look forward to returning when ABRA and Shaw's Tavern settle their differences so I can get the true tavern feel, but don't let the lack of booze stop you.

Check Out the Scene: Keep up with what's happening in the D.C. area anytime, anywhere. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for our e-mail newsletters, download our iPhone app or join our Flickr group.

Contact Us