Restaurant Review: Addie’s, New and Improved
Chef Jeff Black re-creates a beloved restaurant at Park Potomac
Chef Jeff Black at the recently opened Addie’s
A server places a paper lunch bag imprinted with a bright yellow school bus and the words “You make the difference!” on the table. He takes a penknife, slits the bag and opens it to reveal two kinds of baked carb heaven: butter-drenched, feather-light dinner rolls and square biscuits whose dough has been rolled and folded four times to make them rise like delicate puff pastry. This is the bread service at the new Addie’s, the Park Potomac restaurant that replaces the original Addie’s, which chefs Jeff and Barbara Black named after Jeff’s Texan grandmother and ran for 18 years, closing it in 2013.
Local residents were sad when the Blacks shuttered the creaky but charming little yellow house on Rockville Pike, the first restaurant of what is now called the Black Restaurant Group (BRG). The company has seven eateries in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, among them Black Market Bistro in Garrett Park, Black’s Bar & Kitchen in Bethesda and Republic in Takoma Park. “The old Addie’s was falling apart,” Jeff Black says. “It was super hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. It’s nice to have a new Addie’s with everything that works.”
Almost everything does work at the new Addie’s, starting with the attractive and sizable space, designed by Boxwood Architects of Philadelphia. Addie’s seats 130 inside and 70 outside, with a double-sided bar for both the restaurant and covered patio. (Fans and heaters make the patio usable practically year-round.) The three rooms inside are meant to be as welcoming as a comfy Texas home: a “den” with walls painted in warm yellow (evocative of the old Addie’s) and outlined with crown molding; a “family room” that’s open to the 20-seat bar and features unvarnished pine board paneling and Texas memorabilia; and a more formal (and much quieter) dining room with carpeting, white tablecloths, brocade side chairs and a wall of floor-to-ceiling wine storage. Windows in the dining room and den allow you to observe the hustle-bustle going on in the kitchen, helmed by executive chef Dane Sewlall.
The “welcome to my house” theme is driven home with a wall of door knockers, a piece of hardware—such as a hinge, knob or key—that accompanies your check, and photos of Addie and her husband, C.R., including a life-size cutout of Addie fishing in high heels.
I love the details Black pays attention to, such as USB ports and plugs at many tables, white porcelain pepper shakers handmade in Pennsylvania, Garnier Thiebaut piqué cotton napkins, mismatched floral china he acquired over the years from friends, antique stores, flea markets and garage and estate sales, and cut-glass cocktail glasses.
Country bread with jars of pimento cheese, chicken liver mousse and duck rillettes
Those cocktails, created by BRG beverage director George Sault, are generous and quite tasty. I can attest to the quality of a Hendrick’s martini and a Cosmopolitan, as well as the Little House on the Pike (vodka, crème de violette, passion fruit, lemon and soda) and the Bellaire Cardinal made with gin, amaro and vermouth. Order the trio of mason jars (chicken liver mousse, duck rillettes, and pimento cheese spiked with shrimp and cayenne pepper) with cocktails to tide you over while figuring out the rest of your order—and hope your rillettes aren’t so salty you can’t eat them, as mine were. (Oversalting, including on grilled country bread that accompanies many Addie’s dishes, is a pervasive problem.)
Diners can choose from more than two dozen offerings to create seafood towers of seven, nine or 12 items.
Addie’s offers seafood towers of seven, nine or 12 items, which can be a great shared appetizer, especially for a large group, or a meal in itself. (After a seven-item tower, another appetizer and bread, my companion and I were fairly full.) You build one by choosing from more than two dozen offerings, including a bright ceviche of shrimp and scallops with corn, sweet potatoes, red onions, Fresno chilies, lime juice and milk; raw scallop slices in dashi broth (made with seaweed and bonito flakes) with seaweed salad; broiled baby octopus bites with citrusy eggplant purée; and giant grilled oysters, barely cooked and custard-like and topped with garlicky toasted breadcrumbs. Avoid the cold, mealy tuna tempura. One problem with this build-it-yourself format is that it’s difficult to keep track of the items you want to order. (Maybe there could be a separate menu to check dishes off, like at a sushi restaurant?) It would also be nice if you could order items à la carte.
An appetizer of Vietnamese caramel salmon
I love every bite of an appetizer of medium-rare Vietnamese caramel salmon topped with crushed toasted cashews and served with gingery cucumber salad. The cacio e pepe is perfectly cooked fresh tagliatelle pasta with cream, Parmesan cheese and black pepper, but I prefer my pepe more peppery.
For entrées, a fisherman’s stew of cornmeal-crusted soft-shell crab, shrimp, mussels and clams in a garlicky tomato broth dotted with diced zucchini and corn and zingy from red pepper flakes satisfies in its simplicity. Two puffy, open-faced fried tortillas piled with shrimp, corn and crab sautéed in lemon juice and butter are hard to eat, and their accompanying rice and black beans lack flavor. I suspect a perfectly cooked grilled pork chop that arrives at my table would be good if it and the spicy cheese grits it rests on aren’t too salty to eat.
Seven-layer carrot cake
Desserts at Addie’s come from the “more is more” school. Salted caramel banana cream pie trifle sounds tantalizing but winds up a disappointing hodgepodge—it’s just too much. Not so the seven-layer Smith Island carrot cake dolled up with caramel sauce, candied pecans, toffee, butter pecan ice cream and a garnish of dried carrot strips.It reminds me of the homeyness of the old Addie’s. But given the creature comforts you find at the Park Potomac iteration, I say long live the boisterous new one.
12435 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac | 301-340-0081 | addiesrestaurant.com
FAVORITE DISHES: Seafood tower items (Peruvian leche de tigre ceviche, scallop crudo, serrano-wrapped shrimp and grilled oysters); Vietnamese caramel salmon; trio of mason jars; Chesapeake fisherman’s stew
PRICES: Appetizers: $9 to $24; seafood towers: $78 (seven items), $92 (nine items) and $110 (12 items); entrées: $26 to $42; desserts: $9 to $14
LIBATIONS: Delicious, generously poured and well-balanced cocktails, vintage sodas in bottles (such as Kutztown root beer, Big Red, Nehi Grape), a nice list of local brews and a thoughtful selection of wine in a broad price range
SERVICE: A little green in the polish and menu-knowledge departments, but personable and eager to please
David Hagedorn is the restaurant critic for Bethesda Magazine.