Three years ago, I made the adult move of transitioning out of Arlington into DC. I found a wonderful spot in a two bedroom apartment by Logan Circle, but the only issue was that my roommate was going to be a (fantastic) man. My parents are what you might refer to as….. conservative and would have strongly disapproved of my cohabitation with a person of the opposite sex, even if we have a 100% platonic relationship. So I did the completely rational thing: I completely panicked and told them I was living with my good (female) friend A. Three years later, my parents still believe I live with A and I have to frantically hide certain items (his jackets, shoes and giant whiskey collection). Yes yes yes, I am aware that I have put myself into this complicated situation, but it is pretty funny and makes a fantastic date story.
For most of September, A was travelling. After a wedding in Italy, another wedding in NYC, and a work trip to India, she was back just in time for us to celebrate our fake three year roommate anniversary! Basically, give me a reason to eat out and I will take it. We decided to try Sally’s Middle Name on H st NE, which has gotten great reviews from both food critics/bloggers and friends. Sally’s opened in June, and is named in honor of chef and co-owner Sam Adkin’s sister. While he has an impressive middle name, Ulysses, Sally was given no middle name and he promised her that he would name his first restaurant after her (okay everyone in unison now: awwwwww).
I headed to H street straight from work, and got there shortly after 6pm. The restaurant does not take reservations and I was surprised to see it completely empty of diners. It is an extremely clean space with white tile, and simple, uncomplicated decor. I decided to sit at the bar, which looks into the open kitchen, and wait for A. While I sat, I went through the roster of seasonal small plates listed on the blackboard, instead of on paper menus.
Sally’s states they are sourcing from local farms, and the constantly changing menu reflects that they are focusing on seasonal ingredients. Everything sounded delicious, and I made a mental list of my favorite options while I waited for A. Unfortunately, due to the inability of DMV drivers to function in the rain, A’s cab barely inched through downtown DC for an hour and she could not get to H street until almost 6:40pm. I am pretty sure as I sat in the empty restaurant by myself, the staff was convinced I was being stood up as I kept repeating to the bartender, “I’ll just wait a few more minutes until my friend gets here!”
Thankfully, A was still in good spirits when she arrived and, more importantly, starving and ready to eat. She quickly glanced over at the menu, and we put in an order of the the Crab and Corn Imperial and the Sautéed Scallops with brown butter and parsley. The creamy crab and corn dish was buttery and comforting, perfect for a windy, fall evening and the sweet scallops were perfectly cooked in a warm butter sauce with herb undertones. Both of these dishes were delicious. But I did think the $15 price tag for the three relatively small scallops seemed a little too high.
Next came the Roasted Amish Pumpkin, which was covered in buttermilk dressing and topped with pickled rhubard. The two slices of pumpkin were creamy (made even creamier by the buttermilk sauce), slightly smokey, and very interesting.
The Braised Rabbit Leg with madeira cream sauce arrived a few minutes later. The tender meat pretty much feel off of the bone, making it easier to share. Again, this was overall a great dish, but $13 for one leg seemed overpriced. At this point, we decided we definitely need to order a couple more dishes to fill us up adequately. This gave us the chance to try the Cavatelli with Rabbit Ragu. The pasta was al dente (the way I prefer it), with a rich, comforting sauce made of shredded rabbit. Our final savory order of the night was the Marinated Ember Roasted Eggplant with sea salt and cilantro. We were surprised (not in a bad way) that this was a cold dish, but liked the delightfully oily and salty vegetables.
For dessert, since we were still that full, we ordered both options: the Beignets with blackberry jelly, and the Chocolate semi-fredo. The light beignets were fantastic, but I found the semi-fredo a little too icy/watery and not very flavorful.
When the bill came, we realized that (as the blackboard specifies), an 18 percent “service charge” will be automatically added to every check. This money will be split evenly between front and back of the house employees. It was a little strange not adding more money before signing my name, but took away the added complication of doing any math and splitting the check.
While I appreciate that Sally’s serves very good, straightforward comfort food, it definitely was over-priced. You are served what appears like small fistfuls of food. Yes, it is thoughtful, interesting food, but it is hard to appreciate when you’re literally paying $5 per scallop and you leave dinner still feeling unsatisfied despite paying almost $60 (without drinks) per person. Despite that complaint, I enjoyed the relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere and of course, the company.