Wash Park Grille
I'm tired of sliders.
Seriously, they were cool for about a minute two years ago when a few brave chefs decided to resurrect them as jewel-box examples of haute-gone-south lowbrow chic. Then they were amusing for a few months as everyone scrambled to add them. Kobe sliders. Barbecue sliders. Truffled sliders. Cooks tried everything in their not-inconsiderable arsenals to keep the trend alive by coming up with more and more outrageous ways to make it seem all right to charge folks nine bucks for a plate of little cheeseburgers. But little cheeseburgers? No way. Give me the real thing: a half-pound of cow, some bread, some cheese, maybe a little bacon. Bring me a real burger or forget it. Leave the kiddie meals to White Castle.
You know what put me over the edge? The sliders at Wash Park Grille. Wash Park's kitchen serves two sliders to a plate, with a choice between a fairly traditional beef burger and a crabcake slider or one of each. On Saturday, I went for one of each. The burger was okay, but the crabcake was just plain bad — the texture too soft, too smooth, too smooshy, like a lukewarm pâté or some kind of cheap cat food. The only contrast was from a raw brunoise of peppers thrown into the mix, the only flavor from the competing heat and acid tang of a cayenne aioli (I'm tired of aiolis of any variety, too) and the sour murk of melted Swiss cheese. When done well, crabcakes are best left alone on a plate. And even when done well, they should not be served on bread. The bun around this over-stretched cake made eating it like stuffing in a mouthful of bread on bread. And the melted Swiss cheese didn't help.
The dining room at Wash Park was comfortable enough — a nice local bistro with just enough dark wood, age and history to make it feel close and chummy. The staff was friendly when they weren't gathered in hostile little knots on the floor bitching about how slow business had been. And the rest of the menu, while far from inspired, offered enough upscaled comfort food (buffalo meatloaf with shiitake mushrooms and green peppercorn gravy), bar-room standbys (really good fries, grilled artichoke with clarified butter and simple shrimp cocktails), horribly mutated regional classics (a Philly cheesesteak made with tenderloin, sweet onions and tri-color peppers on a ciabatta roll) and tired cliches (lobster mac-and-cheese) to soothe the neighborhood palates without ever putting anyone in danger of experiencing anything extraordinary.
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