America Eats

Vermicelli Prepared Like Pudding, courtesy of ThinkFoodGroup

I’ve always thought there should be an Endangered Cuisines List, where we could keep watch over old-time dishes like chopped steak, Waldorf Salad, and Lobster Newberg—items that for better or for worse are on the verge of extinction, if not already vanished from menus. Quite frankly, I like these throw-back dishes. So it was much to my delight that I recently discovered the America Eats Tavern in D.C.’s Penn Quarter, which offers the above-mentioned fare, plus Brunswick Stew, Blackened Croaker, and lots more. The drinks menu is equally impressive, with cocktails such as the Jack Rose, Vieux Carre, and the Moscow Mule. This home to classic American cuisine is run by celebrity chef-activist José Andrés in cooperation with the National Archives. Alas, it was meant to be a pop-up restaurant tied to an archives exhibit and closes this July 4 (maybe or maybe not for good). Over at the Standard I wrote about my lunch there with former Washington Post food critic Phyllis Richman (and a drop-in by José Andrés himself).

Perhaps America Eats (which gets its name from a WPA program) would’ve become a permanent fixture if more people knew it was still open—it was originally supposed to close last January. Also, there isn’t much foot traffic on this section of 8th Street, NW, which is not a through-street. And there seems to be confusion over its having taken over the space once occupied by Cafe Atlantico. In fact, the restaurant is constantly referred to as “America Eats (formerly Cafe Atlantico)” as if it were The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

Andrés had his plate full that day (so to speak), but he took some time to chat with us. He said he has the greatest respect for the chef devoted solely to his kitchen, such as sushi chef Masa Takayama, but he just could not spend all day in one place (he pretended to pull a trigger to his head). He was also excited about his latest paella, which includes Iberico short ribs—he actually splayed out across the banquette to express how good it is. Andrés was on his way to an interview with Charlie Rose at CBS. He was speaking out against the foie gras ban in California (see video below).

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