For a while I had promised my daughter Chloë a day trip to Washington D.C. to see the Natural History Museum. She wanted to see their stunning collection of taxidermied animals and I was gunning to see the gems (not the Hope Diamond as much as some of the space rocks, minerals, and luminescent semi-precious stones).
Suffice it to say the museum is awesome but always way crowded. Pick a rainy, cold Tuesday in winter and get there when it opens to see anything in any reasonable amount of time and space.
While there, I also wanted to get a wonderful lunch for her 18th birthday celebration so I went on the hunt for farm-to-table restaurants in the area.
The best farm-to-table website I found was Old Town Alexandria’s farm-to-table listings. After dutifully perusing every single place listed, I chose Jackson 20 from the crowd for having the best Website (we build Websites, so this matters to us), lunch offerings, and what looked like a great menu.
And I was right.
I had a wedge salad to start and it was the best wedge that has ever passed my lips. I was taken in by the “pickled onions” listed with the wedge and had to have it (I’m a fermentation and pickling fangirl, for sure!) These onions added such piquancy, much more complex an onion flavor than your typical salad.
The thoughtful presentation was truly artful: The wedge had a notch cut on top which balanced a very crisp piece of bacon. A column of roquefort stood upright on the plate, with a spiral of beautifully pink pickled onions astride. I requested the pourable blue cheese dressing on the side since most wedges drown in the stuff, rendering them inedible. I was able to break the wedge up and indulge slowly, eating “mini wedges,” each layered with a bit of Iceburg, pickled onions, hard roquefort, bacon crumbles and the touch of added dressing. It was perfect — highly recommended.
Then I got a burger and again, top notch!
I asked for no bun or cheese but took all else, with good old fries on the side. The burger came with a perfectly achieved, soulful aoili that blew my taste buds away. I turned my burger into a lettuce sandwich and was able to apply the aoili to every bite. The sandwich was served with apple cider coleslaw on the side that possessed true tang with a zip that packed a punch — so much better than “fresh” but lifeless just-made coleslaws. And the house pickles were among the best I’ve ever tasted.
I took the fries to go because I also wanted the slaw, pickles, remaining roquefort and aoili to eat later — no way was I throwing those away!
The kid’s take
Chloë chose the build-your-own salad which she called, “the best thing I’ve ever eaten.” I tried not to overanalyze how this reflects on my cooking! But seriously folks, she raved about the “juicy and tender” chicken, and the buoyant house-made ranch dressing.
She also had mac-n-cheese, a four-cheese, nutmeg-crumble topped dish that totally said, “comfort food.” I took a bite and it rocked.
We so wanted dessert but we were stuffed so…next time. I think we got an ice cream at a roadside stop on the way back down I81.
There were a couple of disappointments — the hostess seemed miffed that we arrived hot on the heels of several other parties, even though there were probably ten other open tables. She tried to steer us to the bar but I nixed that so she squeezed us in between two other parties in a tight space when lots of more private tables were available. Her choices lacked judgment and graciousness.
It took a long time to get service at the table but I didn’t fret since the hostesses’s behavior indicated perhaps this was a busier late lunch than usual.
When a server did come a drink order was never taken. I only wanted water, but Chloë wanted a coke, so it was a strange lapse.
Our salads took about twenty minutes — not a big deal itself but my burger came hot on its heels and, as I really wanted to take my time with the wedge without my burger getting cold, it was inconvenient, overwhelming our timing and our tiny table.
I was overcharged for a side but the waitress gladly fixed it so that worked out fine.
From an aesthetics perspective the interior doesn’t exactly line up with the farm-to-table vibe. There’s nothing offensive or déclassé about the place at all, but it just sort of lacked imagination, kind of TJ Maxx decor. I’m picky that way, so don’t take that too much to heart since it was totally fine!
I’m planning a trip to Old Town next spring and I will totally go back to eat their amazing food. There’s really a top -of-the-charts chef and kitchen (except the timing problem).
I highly recommend it!
— Lindsay Curren, Girl Goes Virginia