3714 Macomb St. NW | Cuisine: Asian | $ | ★★★★★
A self-described “Traveler’s Bar” serving an ever-changing variety of Thai-inspired grub, Alfie’s is an overlooked gem in the D.C. food scene. Located in Park View, the locally uthwurced restaurant conceals delectable dishes and a charming atmosphere behind a nondescript brick exterior and unadorned olive-colored awnings. With experienced staff and a reasonably priced yet mouthwatering menu that changes weekly, Alfie’s is well worth the Uber ride from the Georgetown campus.
Alfie’s was founded by chef Alex McCoy, who drew inspiration for the restaurant’s base concept from the food he ate during his numerous visits to Southeast Asia. After visiting the region many times on his own, twice for research and once with his Alfie’s team, McCoy used his knowledge to breed a dining concept that conflates the authenticity of Thai food with the dynamic experience of a traveler eating it. The result is a unique, charming restaurant serving passion-infused dishes reflecting Thai culture with a tourist’s twist.
When my party visited Alfie’s for Sunday brunch, which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., we stepped through the door and were greeted by a sweet yet enthralling rustic design: bright blue walls, wooden tables and chairs, chalkboard menus and a modern bar area with silver bar stools, low hanging lights and decorative plants. The ventilation pipes hang from the ceiling and, along with the chalked menus and bar refrigerator, are strung with colorful lights.
My party ordered at the bar. Here, the scribbled chalkboard hanging next to the counter showed that the day’s offerings featured five entrees, four drinks and the weekend special — Tuna Poke by Adam Greenberg, Food Network “Chopped” grand champion and former head chef of Barcelona Wine Bar.
The most thrilling part of the Alfie’s experience is that early birds can often serve as spectators to some of the behind-the-scenes restaurant prep, from staff members standing on a stool and scribbling the “Catch of the Day” on the menu to McCoy working on his laptop at the bar to Greenberg setting up for a day of cooking. The only downfall to our early visit was that we were the only patrons, so the restaurant was devoid of the characteristic chatter that really completes the traveler’s experience.
The first thing we were served was Thai iced coffee ($3), which had the perfect touch of sweetness from condensed milk. Hitting the perfect balance between tartness and sweetness, the cold beverage paved the taste buds for a refreshing culinary journey. Tuna Poke ($11) and the Spam Fried Rice ($8) followed. The former is a special of Greenberg’s, who brings a splash of Hawaii to Alfie’s each weekend.
The dishes were served in a timely manner and by the chef himself. The food was presented beautifully; the poke was artfully arranged in a small bowl, and the Spam Fried Rice had a perfectly soft egg set atop it. Described on the menu as containing sushi rice, yellowtail, tobiko, soy, pineapple and nori, with the option of adding uni for an additional $6, the poke proved a dynamic selection and had a wonderful combination of flavors and textures. The soft rice contrasted the crispness of the nori as well as the crunch of green pepper. The soy sauce was flavorful but not overpowering, the vegetables were fresh and light, and the chipotle mayonnaise provided a sweet-and-sour kick. Each bite was a different and enjoyable combination of flavors.
The Spam Fried Rice — featuring slow-cooked egg, pineapple and soy — was full-bodied, mouth-watering and hearty without being heavy. The rich flavors achieved an admirable cohesion throughout the dish’s different components. Although there was a diversity of flavor and sensation, the tastes completed rather than combatted one another, deliciously interacting. The rice was crunchy, and the sweetness of the pineapple supplemented the saltiness of the spam. Although the fried rice proved delicious on its own, the icing on the cake , so to speak, was the soft egg placed atop it. Not only did it provide the dish with a sense of authenticity, but the smooth runniness of the yolk enhanced the flavors of the rice.
Although Alfie’s is a little bit of a hike from campus — a 15-minute drive, requiring approximately $5 for Uber pool and $10 for Uber X — the food is undoubtedly worth it, especially considering the quality offered for such a low price. Arguably, the only concrete downfall is that Alfie’s does not offer a dessert menu, but, ultimately, the food is so delicious and reasonably priced that diners will not have any room left for dessert anyway.