On New Mexico Avenue, near American University, lies Chef Geoff’s: a classic American restaurant with five locations — though each has a slightly different name — in the Washington, D.C. and Maryland area.
Chef Geoff’s somewhat surprisingly combines high-quality food and an interior of white tablecloths, silverware and wineglasses with a sports-bar feel. At 6 p.m. on a Saturday evening, the restaurant was a crowded mix of people eating slow sit-down dinners and many others watching the several games being broadcast live on TVs by the bar.
This unique combination of upscale food and top-notch service with the liveliness of watching sports gives Chef Geoff’s a warm and inviting atmosphere, particularly on a cold January evening.
Luckily, I went during D.C. Restaurant Week, which allowed me to get an atypical deal — my appetizer, main course and dessert totaled a reasonable $35. However, without this discount, the price are much steeper. On a regular day, that same selection of food would have cost around $50 — obviously a very expensive dinner, especially on a college budget.
The first dish to come out was the shrimp and avocado spring rolls ($10.95) with a kimchee and ginger-chile sauce. The rolls were crispy and generously stuffed with shrimp-and-avocado. The jumbo shrimp were smoothly cooked, but the fairly greasy shell of the rolls and spicy sauce drowned out the avocado flavor. The appetizer was decent, overall, but it could have combined flavors more effectively.
For the second course, I again took advantage of the Restaurant Week deal and ordered steak frites with a 10-oz hanger steak ($26.95). This classic steak dish came with house fries, bordelaise sauce and an arugula salad. The arugula salad was just a pile of arugula leaves, which made it rather bland and a bit disappointing. However, the steak and fries could not have been any better. Neither was overly complicated, but the thick, golden, and slightly crispy fries and thick, juicy steak slices complemented each other just as they should in a classic steak-frites dish.
To top it all off was the flourless chocolate cake with milk-chocolate malt ice cream. The chocolate cake was one of the richest desserts I’ve ever had — a roundish mound of seemingly pure chocolate. Evidently, flourless chocolate cake does not have the breaded texture of typical cake, but this particular variety was almost more of a custard. The milk-chocolate ice cream was slightly less sweet. The extreme decadence of the dessert leaves one full after only a few bites.
Chef Geoff’s offers a large menu, but, overall, the best dishes seem to be the simpler, classic American ones. Just to name a couple, there are the hanger steak frites ($26.95) and the hamburger ($12.95), which the restaurant knows how to get right. There are multiple topping variations as well as a salmon burger ($15.95), a black-bean burger ($12.95) and a crab-cake burger ($19.95), which is a signature item. The macaroni and cheese and fruit-salad dessert are also recommended as two of the best items on the menu, which reaffirms Chef Geoff’s focus on serving simple American cuisine in a well-prepared, technically adept fashion.
Like the cheerful atmosphere of the restaurant, the staff members were very friendly. They pointed out the Restaurant Week deal multiple times and generously brought my guests sample glasses of their Argentinean red wine recommendation.
I went with my great aunt and uncle, who are retired D.C. restaurant frequenters. On our way to sit down, they recognized multiple customers as well as members of the wait staff, which left the impression that this restaurant has a loyal following of consistent patrons. However, many other patrons appeared to be college students — probably from AU since that part of town is mostly residential and thus has a smaller restaurant selection.
This array of seniors and college students in an upscale restaurant with a sports-bar feel may sound a bit odd, but it works well in the setting of a modern American restaurant. It may not be the best place to go for a quiet, peaceful meal, but for solid, good-quality food and a nice dining experience that can easily please a group with varying desires, Chef Geoff’s will provide a pleasant experience.