Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Belga Cafe

When you live in sniffing distance of your favorite mussels and beer in town (Brasserie Beck), it's hard to get enthused about other Belgian restaurants. However, we've been to Belga Cafe probably 5 times and have left happy every time.

Belga is smaller and homier than Beck and, in our experience, has warmer service. It has a great cluster of patio tables for watching the action on Barracks Row, and boasts a beer menu nearly as thick as Beck's.

Oddly enough, at both Beck and Belga, I've had a waiter/waitress offer, unprompted, to give me the glass my beer was served in. So now I've got three Belgian beer glasses and a Beck cloth napkin at home, and I did not steal (or even ask for) a single one of them.

In our admittedly limited view of Belgian fare, the true test of a menu is the mussels and frites (which reliably photographs poorly, so we didn't even try). We've written about the bivalves at Beck, Granville Moore's, and Mussel Bar (and have been enthusiastically encouraged to go to Mannequin Pi's in Olney, but still have not mustered the motivation to drive that far).

Belga's mussels are really good, but we've got an issue with the way they are served. Instead of putting the mussels in a wide, shallow pot or pan, Belga piles them high in a deep, narrow bowl. This means that the broth (my favorite part) is buried beneath a Jenga-tower of mussels, keeping me from dipping bread into it until I've eaten so many mussels that I'm too full for bread. Since I really only order mussels so that I can eat the frites and dunk my bread in the broth, Belga's serving strategy is not my favorite.

While I won't turn down a chance to eat at Belga, and we've been happy with the non-mussel dishes we've tried, I don't think Beck and Dr. Granville Moore are in danger of losing their top tier status in my book.

Second Thoughts From B

I don't know that I've ever walked out of the house with the intention of eating at Belga Cafe. That we've ended up there as many times as we have must be more than a coincidence. I can think of 3 restaurants in the DC Metro area that serve mussels that I prefer to Belga's. So why is it that whenever I'm on Barracks Row my first instinct is to swing by Belga?

I honestly don't know the answer. Frankly, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But something does draw me there. Is it the friendly atmosphere that seems to encourage a leisurely meal rather than a mere pit stop for refueling? Is it the sophistication of a proper European-style cafe? Or is it the result of several happy memories with good food and better friends? It is a mystery.

As a scientist, it isn't in my nature to be satisfied with the unexplained. I feel like I have to be able to logically break down what it is about Belga Cafe that makes me want to keep coming back. Chalking it up to chance, voodoo, or Jedi mind tricks just doesn't satisfy me... but clearly, something about this little Belgian cafe on Capitol Hill does satisfy me, and for now, that will have to be enough.
Belga Café on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Sean said...

Yes! There is still hope for MP!