Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Restaurant Review: Justin's Cafe

Photo courtesy of Thrillist.com
I'd never been to the Navy Yard neighborhood outside of a ballgame, but a recent Groupon (and sold out movie) prompted me to go outside of my comfort zone. In a way, this part of SE reminds me a lot of NOMA...plenty of highrises, but fairly empty streets. It didn't feel sketchy so much as...just....empty.

I've heard Half Street referred to as the developer's walk of shame, with signs advertising coming attractions that have been indefinitely delayed. Certainly, the dining options in this part of SE (or, SE in general) are fairly limited. With talk of condos laying dormant and little new residential growth, I was worried that Justin's Cafe would be virtually empty. Even the management of Justin's had recently been quoted as expressing concerns about their post-baseball season profitability.

View Larger Map

So I was pleasantly surprised to find that, on this random Sunday night, Justin's had a decent crowd. 3 tables, and maybe 8 bar patrons...not bad, considering their occupancy must be, like, 30. The small size of the restaurant came as a surprise to me as well...I'd bet the developers originally intended it for a fast-casual lunch concept to service the nearby office buildings. But most of those buildings are empty and, well, the developers need a place to drink.

Speaking of drinks, I had heard that Justin's had a good beer selection, and the bar definitely didn't disappoint. Their drink menu (here) features beers from Oscar Blues, Oberon and Racer 5--to name a few. Happy hour runs from 4-7, with progressive pricing (4-6 $3 draft beers; 6-7 draft beers increase to $4, etc). The bar also features a weekly wing eating contest, and a Tuesday trivia night.

The food menu is very reasonably priced. Salads and sandwiches are all less than $10, and most of the pizza's are in the $10-$13 range. Almost all the menu items are named after streets in Justin's hometown of Charleston, So my bison burger? We OK, that was just called Bison Burger. But you want a white pizza? No no, that's a "Wentworth." You'll order at the register (it's the future of foodservice, I'm telling you!) and fill your own soda cup, but the waitress will bring out your order and clear your table. After a Nat's game I could see this being a hectic system, but Sunday night it worked out just fine.

We went the bar-food-ish route, and ordered the Bison Burger with fries and 'The Bull" (Italian sausage and pepper sandwich) with sweet potato fries. The sandwiches were good, but next time I'd try one of their salads or pizzas that seem a little more exciting (full food menu with prices is here). The fries were all house-cut, which lent some nice character to an otherwise standard side. And a few extras (ciabatta bread, speciality horseradish cheddar, etc) helped elevate the meal somewhat above that of a standard neighborhood bar.

All in all though, I wouldn't make a special trip to Justin's. It makes me feel bad to say it, because I think they're such a boon to the neighborhood and I don't want to see them go under...but there's just not enough nearby to draw me there. Next baseball season though, I definitely plan on some pre or post game action there. Justin's is half as expensive and twice as good as anything you'll find in the ballpark!

Justin's Cafe on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment