It was no coincidence that America Eats opened last year on July 4. Yet another culinary creation of José Andrés (Jaleo, Cafe Atlantico), this eatery offers diners a modern take on fine dining from America in the 1930s. Coinciding with the opening of the exhibit at the National Archives of the same name, the restaurant was only supposed to open for a few months, but it lured too much business to close.
America Eats was bustling when my date and I arrived. It was so busy, in fact, that though we were on time we had to wait 20 minutes before our table was ready.
But we were happy to wait — the ground level is a contemporary bar with chic white tiles and an impressive collection of vintage whiskeys adorning the walls.
Once our table was ready, we passed blown-up black and white photographs and ads of Uncle Sam reminding us to buy American-grown produce. Quotes from famous Americans adorn the walls, like Mark Twain’s “When one has tasted watermelons, he knows what angels eat.”
As we took our seats, we had a full view of the menu’s preparation in the open kitchen. The menu offers several classic “American” options, ranging from macaroni and cheese and peanut butter and jelly tocrabcakes and chicken potpie. The menu was a history lesson in and of itself. We held on to a menu to read about all the options, including descriptions of the food, background information and any other interesting facts about the options available.
Even with these items, our friendly waitress said, “You have to try the oysters. It was once said that a meal can’t be started without oysters.” Unfortunately, the extensive oyster selection didn’t do it for us, but we did try the buttermilk biscuits with blackberry jam and butter. They tasted like everything we like to think this country was founded on — solid morals, hard work and a mother’s love.
When my chicken potpie arrived, it was more of a performance than your typical meal: The waiter lifted the buttery crust out and put it on the plate, then ladled the entire contents of warm, steamy goodness on top.
It was delicious. Between the chicken potpie and the crabcakes my date ordered, we cleaned our plates. It was an enjoyable experience, but definitely not a casual meal. Our suspicions were confirmed when we received the check. Ladies, this place is definitely somewhere to go if you want to make sure he’s a keeper. Though the food was amazing, it’s not within range of your typical collegiate budget. We ordered off the regular menu in an attempt to be somewhat economical, but there were fixed menus ranging from $35 to $200. At the end of the day, we may have been better off getting a fixed menu that included a dessert option.
We certainly ate our fill at America Eats, but it’s not a place to go for your typical night out. It’s a celebratory venue, or at least the kind of place to take your parents, show off your history skills and flavors of D.C. while leaving the bill to them.