Earlier this month, I got a call from my wife asking (telling) me to write a post reviewing a new eatery that opened in my building complex at work. I felt a slight tinge of trepidation, as I had been wanting to appear in Alexandria Stylebook for a long time. My chance had finally come; I was going to have to dig down deep and channel my inner Tom Sietsema to craft a review that would be honest, captivating, and witty and would make up for the fact that you all were wishing it were Brittany writing this review.
Full disclosure: I am not a foodie. I am not even sure what the term means. I just want good, fairly priced, thoughtfully prepared food. Café 44 on the Potomac meets that criteria.
Café 44 opened in October 2017 in North Old Town’s newly renovated, buzzworthy Canal Center Plaza. Its location on the fourth floor of Building 44 (hence the name) allows for sweeping views of the Potomac while you’re dining.
CEO Jula Jane has put her interior design skills to work, providing a European-chic setting with a contemporary design that offers a really cool vibe (am I Tom Sietsema yet?).
A food critic such as myself needs a team, so I brought my two office buds, Sophia and Derrick (squad goals), along for this culinary adventure. We had all already been to Café 44 several times, so this time we made a pact to try something new. Our plan of attack was to each order a different dish and do “tapas” style to maximize the experience.
Derrick was probably pretty nervous, so he went conservative and got the pizza. I feel like pizza can go one of two ways: really great or really bad, undercooked, greasy, pale, lifeless, etc. I am pleased to say this pizza is very good. It comes as a personal-sized pizza and has great coloring, has a snap to it, and isn’t hidden under a blanket of cheese.
Sophia is more of the fun, “clubby,” adventurous type, so she went with the exotic dish: the curry chicken salad. Once we had been doubly assured it wasn’t spicy, Derrick and I dug in. Served on a light and super flaky croissant, the chicken salad isn’t heavy and is an excellent mix of sweet and savory. It got two thumbs up from the whole group.
My wife, Brittany, calls me special, so in honor of her, I stepped out and ordered the Special of the Day: short rib ravioli in a sage-butter sauce served with a side Caesar. The sage butter sauce doesn’t overpower the dish, allowing the meat to take center stage. Many of the dishes like this one at Café 44 are on the lighter side, so as to not send you into a deep sleep during your 2:30 conference call. The ravioli gets the Geoff Hill seal of approval—and I did not fall asleep at work that day.
Big props to General Manager Joe Quintero, who patiently walked us through the menu and answered our many questions. He explained that Café 44 strives to deliver a seasonal, upscale menu that provides a wide range of options, from artisanal (a word I assumed I would never use in my life) salads to soups and light sandwiches—a breath of fresh air in the North Old Town food scene.
Café 44 also has a killer breakfast and happy hour. The breakfast menu includes everything from pancakes to biscuits. Take it from me: the bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit is the best in town! The rapidly growing Happy Hour crowd enjoys their full bar selections from 4-7pm.
While we’re on the subject, let me quickly touch on something that was a foreign concept to me prior to dining at Café 44. Has anyone heard of a Chambong? This apparatus is apparently used by adults looking to hang on to any shred of fun and excitement in their lives by funneling champagne down a glass bong in their mouth…sign me up!
But I digress…so what did I learn from this process? I learned that Café 44 is a great spot to enjoy a scenic view, great food, and excellent customer service. I’ve also learned that Derrick and Sophia are way more polished when it comes to eating; I need to eat slower and actually chew my food.