Elway's Downtown (see review, page 41) sells luxury — fat steaks and lobster tails, murderously expensive ports and oysters from the raw bar, all cloaked in the trappings of a retro-nouvelle design meant to invoke those heavy, serious steakhouses of yore while still keeping the dining room approachable enough that some lucky doofus who scored a killer Priceline deal on a room at the Ritz-Carlton won't feel completely shut out.
The Corner Office sells sex.
Elway's Downtown attempts to leaven its image (and the blunt-force trauma of its price tag) with Queen on the sound system and clouds of dry-ice smoke. The Corner Office has chicken and waffles and will serve you a bowl of breakfast cereal with a double whiskey, neat, on the side without even batting an eye.
Where Elway's Downtown tries to be fun, tries to go light and easy and even sexy in its presentation of yet another steakhouse board in a steakhouse-heavy town, the Corner Office actually succeeds. Elway's comes off like Grandpa trying to rap at the wedding reception, while the Corner Office is the cool cousin standing off in the wings mocking him, eyes closed, talking into the back end of a wineglass stem with his pants hitched up to his nipples.
During the Democratic National Convention, the Corner Office was one of the very few places in town able to not only capitalize on the event, but turn it into something cool. And on an average day (one that doesn't see the president-elect or Susan Sarandon in town), the Corner Office pulls off the same trick almost effortlessly — in a comfortable, casual room done up in Mad Men chic liberally spiced with a bang-your-secretary vibe, with a menu that shamelessly offers modern comfort food absent any concern for borders, regions or styles. Thai food and American classics exist side by side here without friction, as do Captain Crunch and fish tacos, fish and chips and grilled cheese sandwiches.
On my turn through the Corner Office last Friday, I had crab cakes (really crab croquettes) and Carolina BBQ sliders (good meat and crunchy slaw stacked on a soft brioche roll), a side of mac-and-cheese (Kraft style, with the small elbow noodles) studded with fat chunks of lobster claw and leg meat and a bowl of crab pad thai. None of these were the best version of these dishes I've ever had (except, possibly, the pad thai, which was surprisingly edible for a guy who doesn't like pad thai), but the combination of food, room, obliging service, menu and company came together in a meal I enjoyed in perfect balance.
Even without the whiskey and waffles.