macon bistro & larder
As the lacquer fumes had not dissipated in any meaningful way by yesterday evening and we couldn’t use our table anyway, T and I decided to go out to eat. When was the last time we did so in spontaneous fashion? Who knows!
Anyway, I decided it’d be fun to pour myself into some jeans, slip on some heels and try to find seats at the bar of macon bistro & larder, a new’ish spot in Chevy Chase, DC, that I’ve been wanting to try for some time based on my friend, Jody’s, extremely positive review. The name derives from the chef’s childhood home in Macon, Georgia, and also from his travels throughout Europe, including Mâcon, France. Honestly, I can think of few better combinations than Southern (and French) food and French wine, and I will tell you that from the moment I stepped in site of macon, I loved everything about it.
DC-area folks might be familiar with the old Chevy Chase Arcade on Connecticut Ave, NW, between Livingston and Morrison Sts, NW. It’s a Classic Revival building that was erected in 1925 and is now a member of the city’s historic register. Inside, there’s an old-fashioned barber shop whose motorized pole still spins red, white and blue candy cane stripes out front, a jewelry store and what once was the Avant Garde Gallery and Frame Shop is now macon. Avant Garde relocated to a corner property further south on Connecticut, under new name (Chevy Chase Art Gallery) but same ownership (dear Kiu Kavousi).
macon is a fantastic addition to Chevy Chase, a wonderful neighborhood that boasts many fine businesses -Child’s Play, Circle Yoga, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Periwinkle and more- but little in the way of excellent food. We secured the last spot at the bar, one stool on the corner, and a friendly face soon brought a seat for T too. The lovely woman to my left and I struck up conversation over her deviled eggs and my phone case, the bartenders were both knowledgeable and charming despite being crushingly busy, the ambiance throughout was abuzz with happy chatter and good vibes and T and I settled in quickly and easily. The aesthetics are fantastic- love the fixtures over the bar, the layout of the place, the wallpaper, the chairs. Whoever did the restaurant did a fine job.
The Martini de Lamartine quickly caught my eye as the cocktail with which I had to start my night, and it was so tasty that I ultimately had two. Vodka, St. Germain, orange, lemon and a twist, it was adult koolaid at its most sophisticated best: dangerously smooth and well-balanced. T had an unremarkable Saison beer but to be fair, the bartender told him it lacked character so he was forewarned.
People, the second thing to immediately jolt me to attention was the offering of Essie’s biscuits with honey butter and pepper jelly. No restaurant purporting to be Southern could get by without biscuits and pepper jelly on its menu so I was both relieved and thrilled to see the real deal here because, as I’ve mentioned, I was really grooving on everything about macon. Everything is made in house, and the combination of warm biscuit -tender and with a great crumb- slathered with creamy, room temp butter and perfectly seasoned, perfectly spreadable pepper jelly made me close my eyes for a moment and immediately commit to ordering biscuits from macon’s larder to go. Happiness washed over me anew with each bite, chased by liquid zen in each sip.
Whenever T tries a new restaurant, he orders either the house burger or the steak frites (if either is available). This is his standard test of quality (mine is roast chicken), and the results indicate to him whether or not a joint will last. Palena, for example, has a perfect burger in T’s opinion, and he is certain this is one of the reasons it’s been a successful staple in DC for so long. No burger at macon but, perhaps obviously with the â influence, steak frites shone from the menu light a beacon straight to T’s eyes. He handled the lack of ketchup with aplomb, not least because it was replaced by a garlic aioli, and was quite satisfied to surmise that the steak had been cooked sous vide first and then seared and then finding he was correct. Though you cannot tell from the photograph, the steak’s exterior was beautifully shellacked but its interior seemed to still quiver with life. Way too rare for moi, but T liked it.
As I am wont to do, I couldn’t decide on an entree so chose two starters instead. I like this option because it allows me to taste more of the menu and get a better feel for the place as a whole. And so, while I was tempted by the roast chicken with collards and onion confit (for reason, see above paragraph), I ultimately decided on the savory blue cheese cheesecake with a pecan crust red wine vinegar peaches and frisée and the bibb county salad which was a perfect combination of bibb lettuce, spiced pecans, shaved radishes, braised beets and a to-die-for buttermilk dressing. I could literally eat this exact salad every day.
The cheesecake was good but not memorable in any way. I loved the toast points with which it was served, and I liked the consistency of the cake, but it lacked something. I can’t put my finger on what that something is, but it needed to be lifted to more ethereal and flavorful heights.
Though peach cobbler and coconut cake were on the dessert menu, we were too stuffed to consider a final course and so called for the check and our to-cook-at-home biscuits. T’s butt had fallen asleep from sitting for so long, so I told him to go walk around the neighborhood and get a pint of ice cream at CVS because I knew he’d want it later, and I’d settle up and meet him in a few.
The meaningful interaction
He agreed, and as I walked out of macon several minutes later, floating along with plump satiety and phone in hand so that I could buzz T, a middle-aged woman approached me and asked if I could help her get something to eat. I’d been so lost in my train of thought that I didn’t see her walk up, and I’m glad because my being unaware forced me to simply respond rather than think too much about anything.
“I’d be happy to. What are you hungry for?”
“Well, Starbucks is closed but there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts.”
“Where is there a Dunkin’ Donuts around here?” I asked. “I didn’t know that.”
“Oh, we’d have to take the bus.”
Y’all, I was not going to take the bus anywhere at this point, not least because I really did not wish to abandon my husband and our date.
“Let’s not get on a bus! What about a hamburger? Do you like hamburgers?” I asked as I saw the American City Diner on the next block.
“Oh yes, I love hamburgers.”
“Great, let’s go there. Do you like cheese on your burgers?”
“OK, I can’t sit with you because I’m meeting my husband, but let’s go in and get you settled and order your burger.”
“Can I have a salad too?”
The waitress who greeted us could not have been lovelier, and I was so touched by how respectfully she covertly took my money and agreed that yes, the woman could have “so many croutons” and went to great lengths to find the ranch dressing that was MIA because the woman really preferred ranch.
At this point, T called me to inquire about my disappearance, and I told him to meet me on the corner in a few. I love T because he didn’t ask any questions and when I told him the story, he didn’t ask about what her meal had cost and he didn’t remind me that he would not have made the same decision. He simply said, “It’s really great that you provided her a good and hearty meal.” What love, huh?
Sometimes it’s nice to just say yes. I often think about this when the boys ask to do or build something that I really have zero interest in or desire to do. “Just saying yes” honors them, though. It’s a small way to show them how much I love them. To simply follow their lead, to let them decide, to not feel judged or hemmed in. To feel that someone cares about them and what they wish for in that moment.
I wished the woman a good meal and walked back out into the night. As we drove off, I could see her through the lit window, sitting comfortably inside the warm diner, and I hope she enjoyed every crouton and that big old cheeseburger.