We're told that alleys are places to avoid. If you enter an alley in video game, expect to see the "game over" screen soon. Alleys are where you go to get robbed or stabbed. In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne's parents are gunned down in an alley. You might be surprised then if I suggested an alley is the perfect place to go for a delicious meal served in an inviting setting with friendly service.
|The Dabney, located in Blagden Alley|
The open-concept kitchen is the focal point of the otherwise simply adorned dining room. The beautiful wooden tables are nicely spaced to allow easy movement through the restaurant. The lights are romantically low--but not so low you can't see the menu. Instead, let your eyes wander over to the kitchen where Langhorne and crew work around a massive wood-burning hearth, using its smoke, flame and embers to do the restaurant's cooking.
|Celery root baked in the embers|
Perhaps we just devoured these starters too quickly, but at this point in the meal, there was a rather long pause before our order of cornbread arrived. For those accustomed to a sweeter cornbread, be prepared for this more savory Southern rendition, nicely browned by that wood-burning hearth. A meal here wouldn't be complete without this--be sure to save some for mopping up the sauces that come with your entrees. Also, if you can save a little of that sorghum butter, it would be really good on the cornbread too.
|Autumn olive pork in the style of bacon|
Sorghum returns for dessert in the sorghum custard, a decadent treat of brûléed custard topped with brown butter and peanut brittle crumbles, milk ice cream and a drizzle of peanut butter sauce. That's my kind of dessert, another highlight of the night. Along with the bad news (i.e., the bill), comes more good news: tasty little pecan-sorghum and ginger cookies.
I have no doubt that Chef Langhorne's name will be rolling off the tongues of D.C.-area restaurant aficionados in no time. In fact, the accolades for The Dabney are already rolling in. Zagat listed The Dabney among eight hard-to-get-into establishments along with Little Serow and Rose's Luxury (fortunately, unlike those establishments, The Dabney takes reservations).
If you're still apprehensive about wandering down an urban alley to find dinner, keep in mind that Diagon Alley is where you go to find all the best magic shops in the Harry Potter world. And in Blagden Alley, you'll find The Dabney brings a touch of magic to the real world.
The Dabney, 122 Blagden Alley NW (between M and N and 9th and 10th Streets NW), Washington, D.C. (Shaw, just west of the convention center). (202) 450-1015. Reservations: Open Table.