27 Aug 2009

Things We Take for Granted – Banana Cafe

Originally Uploaded by Mr. T in DC

Originally Uploaded by Mr. T in DC

This may or may not become a regular feature that takes a look at some of our neighborhood’s more established spots.  I’d like to shine a light on some Hill institutions (for better or worse) that we’re lucky enough to take for granted.

Banana Cafe has been a Barracks Row mainstay since before we called 8th St. SE “Barracks Row.”  I feel like every Hill resident has paid it a visit within their first few weeks living over here.  (I went through a particularly long relationship with their seafood fajitas when I first moved to the Hill eight years ago.)

Here’s the thing about Banana Cafe:  It’s great and awful, all at once.

I defy you to find a better piano bar host than Gordon (AKA “the White Ray Charles”).  There is no superior mango margarita or mojito in the city.  The banana daiquiri is delicious, made with actual bananas and doesn’t forget the booze.  The patio is a wonderful place to spend a pleasant evening or afternoon sipping a cocktail and people watching.

But the food.  Oh, my.

I used to say that it was “hit or miss.”  As I said above, the seafood fajitas were (it’s been a long time) a reliable “hit.”  But generally speaking, “meh” is the best I can muster when offering a review of the food.  The frozen veggies, evidenced by the telltale square carrots, tip Banana Cafe’s hand and indicate that the food that’s just arrived is unlikely to be better than mediocre.

BC’s defenders say that it’s one of the only spots in the city that takes a stab at “authentic” (a word that gets thrown around far too much in my opinion) Latin/Cuban cuisine.  I just don’t know about that.  They may make an attempt, but I’m just not sure it’s a very good one.  (I’ve had some excellent Cuban food in my time, and while it’s fair to say that DC is lacking in that arena, being the only game in town doesn’t automatically make what you’re offering good.)  I often wonder, with so many better “Latin” establishments in the neighborhood, how BC has kept its doors open all these years.  And then I hear the smooth sounds of Gordon and I have a sip of my cocktail and I know.

I would be incredibly sad to see it leave our neighborhood, but wouldn’t mind an upgrade in the food area.  Just please, please don’t monkey with those amazing drinks.

What does everyone else think of Banana Cafe?

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One response to “Things We Take for Granted – Banana Cafe”

  1. Hill Guy says:

    Banana Cafe has terrible food because it is a cover for something else. Have you ever seen the traffic going in and out of their guarded back door? I dont think that clientele is there for the margaritas.

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