Like a lot of people, I research restaurants online before visiting. Looking up reviews on Yelp or reading about a place in a local newspaper or magazine can give a pretty good idea of what to expect, and if it’s worth your time (and money). There’s nothing more disappointing than anticipating a delicious meal out only to be disappointed by the food and/or service.
Such was the case with Lincoln. Located near McPherson Square, it serves seasonal American small plates with ingredients locally sourced from farms in neighboring states. Recently, Lincoln updated their menu for the spring season so I took to the Internet to see if it was worth checking out for the blog.
Lincoln has been featured on numerous lists for its food as well as its bar that comes complete with the city’s first moonshine menu and its own infusion room is run by master mixologists. Being on these lists adds to the notoriety of the establishment, and puts a stamp on the quality of the menu.
The reviews on Yelp were mixed, but I figured that was to be expected. I understand that online reviews should be taken with a grain of salt because I feel as though what one person thinks is amazing another might think of as boring or rude. Everyone has different tastes. Most of the bad reviews had some kind of complaint about the service, but all said the food and drink were good. From the reviews, the highest rated feature of Lincoln was its décor.
Another way I judge restaurants before visiting is through Facebook. How many likes does it have? If the establishment is relatively new it might not be a good indicator, but since Lincoln opened in 2011 and has over 3,000 likes – I figured they must be doing something right.
Ultimately though, hearing personal recommendations is what I listen to most. When I mentioned Lincoln to a friend who’s a self-described foodie, she said I had to try it – especially since Southern food is my favorite.
I’d enlisted my two roommates to check it out with me on a Wednesday night (got to celebrate hump day!). The dining room was full of families, couples and groups of friends, so I was glad I’d made a reservation in advance.
As the reviews had promised, the dècor was visually appealing. It’s chic while still being comfortable. Big white booths and leather chairs at wooden tables were inviting. Large, colorful paintings of Lincoln himself adorned the walls and the floor is made of shellacked pennies (cute touch), which made me feel as if this was a place ‘Ole Abe’ would have enjoyed lending his name to.
Also as promised, there were a few problems with the service. All of our food came out on time and our water glasses were refilled promptly, but the waiter was kind of pushy. When we asked for recommendations he told us that people usually order three small plates a piece, but when we’d made our selections he counted them and said we had to order two more. I wondered if the portions were small enough for us to order nine items or if the waiter assumed a bigger tab would result in a bigger tip. Either way, we ended up ordering nine plates.
Since the Cherry Blossom Festival is finally in full swing, Lincoln created some special menu items in celebration of it finally being spring in the District. As one of our many plates we decided to order the special braised short ribs that came with cherry gelèe, vanilla scented potato puree and almond crumble.
We got settled in with drinks, which all had catchy vintage names. I ordered the 1944 Mai Tai (aka the Rat Pack Mai Tai) which is made up of gold rum, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, fresh lime. It was delicious without being too strong. Then the food started coming and we had a hard time keeping up with everything we’d ordered.
First off, we got the applewood bacon deviled eggs. The presentation was really cute, and they are sold by the egg (so two deviled eggs.) This was probably the one that I judged the harshest since I feel like there is nothing better than my grandmother’s deviled eggs. I was expecting something speculator, but to me it seemed like a good deviled egg that was topped with small pieces of bacon instead of the typical relish and paprika. There wasn’t anything really special about it but again I consider myself somewhat of a deviled egg critic.
The rest of the food was a bit of a blur because we were already stuffed, with the standout being the cherry short ribs that were fork-tender and melted in your mouth. I also really enjoyed the Brussels sprouts that covered this marvelous maple syrup vinaigrette, and the zucchini hushpuppies because well, who doesn’t like hushpuppies? We also gobbled up the four Maryland crab tater tots pretty quickly too.
We also ordered the grilled asparagus which was on par, the farmhouse macaroni and cheese that was a little too cheesy for me (I never thought I’d say that, but it had smoked gouda and I’m not a big fan of that). We also ordered the pan seared salmon that came with a chickpea puree. It was an unexpected but tasty combination. I only tried a couple bites because I was already so full from the rest of the food we’d ordered.
Lastly, we got the duck sausage that was really like a duck pig-in-a-blanket (which is fine because I love pigs in a blanket) but to be honest we didn’t get around to eating any of it because I was already stuffed. They are currently in a to-go box in the fridge. If the waiter suggests ordering three plates per person – don’t do it unless you are hungry enough to eat a cow. Although the portions are pretty small, most of the dishes are rich and can fill you up on their own. Don’t let your waiter pressure you like I did.
The overall impression that I got from my online search of Lincoln was pretty spot on. It’s a small plate restaurant that’s a bit fancier than causal, but they still serve updated versions of food that reminds me of home. If you’re one of those people who is a stickler for customer service, it might not be your first choice but if you love food as much as I do, make a reservation and try it out for yourself!