Its always nice to have something new going on at the Paddock Arcade.
Johnny Ds, a popular spot for breakfast and lunch, is now serving dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Owners Dave and Robyn Bartlett have been serving the public from this small, cozy location for the past five years.
They ran Bistro 108 on Coffeen Street for a shorter period of time. That restaurant closed under their ownership in February and is now run by a former bartender there.
In addition to adding weekend dinners, Johnny Ds now has a full liquor license, serving beer, wine and spirits. Theyve done some remodeling, knocking out a wall to expand the bar area and transforming the previous breakfast/lunch counter into a full-fledged bar with bar stools.
Its a really cute little place a small space, for sure, with barely 10 tables. The walls and ceiling are filled with antiques and knickknacks, and the added Christmas decorations gave the place a pub-ish, old-time-ish, vaguely British feel. Its family-run and friendly.
While the announcement of weekend dinners came in late November, the Bartletts were still working on their printed dinner menu when we visited in mid-December. A blackboard contained five or six specials that they believed would become the basis for their dinner menu.
Of course, their daytime menu (burgers, sandwiches, pizza, soups and salads) is available into the evening, but we generally concentrated on the new dinner items.
From the regular menu, we got started with Reuben skins ($6.50) and eggplant fries ($3.99) along with a cup of the soup of the day.
The skins were a nice idea and quite good, your basic potato skins with the addition of corned beef and Thousand Island dressing. A felicitous marriage of ingredients.
Eggplant fries were different, and good (if you like eggplant). The fries were floppier than a french fry, but the coating added flavor and the side cup of marinara gave the effect of eggplant Parm without the Parm. Unfortunately, the fries were too soft to dunk into the thick sauce.
Dave brought a complimentary dish to the table for us to share, a seafood stew of sorts in a cream sauce. It needed a little work in the presentation department. The sauce oozed out to the edges of the plate, leaving the unidentifiable ground-up seafood sitting there in a somewhat unappetizing-looking pile. This will need some work if he plans to put it on the menu.
The dinner entrees come with salad or soup. Homemade soup of the day was roasted red pepper with Gouda. We expected the Gouda to be on top, but it must have sunk into the thick, chunky sweet pepper jumble below. There was a faint smoky flavor and a definite salty taste.
House salads were first rate colorful, fresh and flavorful, with a nice mix of greens and every possible veggie imaginable. We appreciated the extra effort here.
An 8-ounce strip steak ($11.99) that looked more like sirloin was fine, perfectly acceptable for the price, served on a pretty flowered china plate with a helping of sautéed mushrooms and onions. There was cheese melted on top of the steak, just a little, but the steak was still dull, requiring some salt.
We chose sweet potato fries as a side, which came with a little cup of honey, and perfectly roasted asparagus that made an appearance on many of the entrée plates.
Chicken cordon bleu ($14.95) was definitely made in-house, firm but by no means dry chicken layered with ham and Swiss cheese. It came with a wild rice mix that included some carrot bits, and the roasted asparagus spears.
A white sauce drizzled over the chicken was on the thick and heavy side, perhaps causing the distinct flavor of the Swiss cheese to be lost.
Chicken Parmesan ($14.95) was your basic chicken Parm. The sauce was decent, the thick breast of chicken moist and tender, and there was LOTS of it it could have feed our entire table of five. We took a good amount home that warmed up for a great lunch the next day.
Alaskan salmon ($14.95) consisted of several very thin tail pieces brushed with seasoning sauce. The skin was still attached to the fish totally edible but not common. Mashed potatoes were nicely done, as was the asparagus.
Lasagna ($13.95) was another humongous portion, layers of noodles and sauce and lots of ground beef and sweet sausage. Another entrée that made for a sufficient lunch the next day.
We were running late to attend a concert at the nearby Dulles State Office Building, so we took two homemade desserts to go, a pumpkin roll ($3.95) and cranberry bread pudding ($4.95).
The pumpkin roll was enjoyed for breakfast the next day, and was reportedly visually attractive, moist and delicious. The bread pudding was consumed the following day and also deemed delicious sweet and tart and firm enjoyed it more the next day than I would have after that big dinner.
Dinner for five entrees plus two appetizers and two desserts came to $96.06 before tip. Two draft beers (a seasonal Magic Hat) and Johnny Ds version of a Tom and Jerry (an egg-based foundation with brandy and rum, topped with whipped cream) added $13.50 to the total.
Considering the size of the place, our server could have been a little more responsive. We dont like to be pestered during a meal, but we do like attention when its needed. Perhaps she was new or off her mark with the new menu.
We did appreciate the fact that the owners were both there, Robyn stopping by our table several times to check on things, Dave making an occasional appearance on the floor between cooking chores.
While the prices may be a little high for evening diner dinners, the portions are incredibly large. So figure youve got a free lunch the next day (and maybe even free breakfast, if you take dessert home) and the finances come out OK.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Public Square
(in the Paddock Arcade)
The popular breakfast and lunch spot in the Paddock Arcade is now serving dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Full bar, too.
HOURS: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch, dinner until 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday
4 to 10 p.m. Saturday for dinner only
OUR PICKS: Reuben skins, house salad, chicken Parm, lasagna, cranberry bread pudding, pumpkin roll