Restaurant Eve’s Lickety Split Lunch is one of the best deals in the area. Sitting inside the bar and lounge of Chef Cathal Armstrong’s beautifully restored historic townhome on S. Pitt St. in Old Town Alexandria, I feel like I’ve just hit the blue light, uh, blue plate special. Oh it’s a steal of a deal, and keep in mind the dishes are from the same award winning, 4 star kitchen which as we ate, was crafting thoughtful and seasonal creations for Eve’s Tasting Room, and would cost diners $95 for a 5 course tasting menu and $125 for a 9 course menu that evening. As in all areas of Eve’s eating areas, the food is creative yet down to earth, brilliant yet restrained and of course always seasonal and fresh.
On a recent weekday, Frank and I did a bit of Holiday shopping in Old Town and decided to have a late lunch at the bar (our bartender told us that they serve until around 3:30-4pm). I’ve been to Eve’s Licketly Split lunch before and let Frank know this would probably be more leisurely than he might expect, despite the name. Indeed, we were enjoying ourselves for well over an hour. Keep in mind, that this is a menu with a generous amount of choices and you get 2 items for the unbelievable price of $13.50. Two courses, plus bread service add up to a little bit of time and indeed, these lunches are meant to be savored, not inhaled. So, go when you have enough time to enjoy and maybe even order a dessert to boot. If you do have time restraints, I’d let them know so you can stay on schedule if you need to. This is dining in a friendly casual setting with a neighborhood feel.
The Lickety Split menu offers a few cocktails/wines, 3-4 entrees and 2 desserts. Additionally there is a soup, sandwich, salad and risotto of the day. Today the specials were butternut squash soup with pumpkin oil and toasted papitas, mushroom risotto, duck confit salad with cippolini onions, watercress and a grainy mustard sauce, and a boneless braised shortrib sandwich served with roquefort cheese and a side of fingerling potatoes. Sound good so far?
I decided on the poached mussels with merguez lamb sausage and curried carrots, and the short rib sandwich. Frank ordered the duck confit salad and the Irish BLT (a staple on the menu). Service is friendly from the bartender, to service runners to the person who greets you as you enter. White linen napkins with full silverware (which is replaced as to never have a dirty piece of flatware before your next course) and a leather placemat are nice touched. Comfortable seating makes you want to tuck in and stay for a while.
The bread at Eve absolutely rocks (I usually don’t use that word, but..). Seriously, I hope the Armstrong’s open a bakery so I can get this bread retail. The crust is etherally thin and crunchy. Sometimes when crust is too thick I feel like I have to wrestle like a dog playing with a chew toy to get a hunk to rip off. In addition to a perfect crust, the inside is soft, porous and just a tad yeasty. The room temperature Irish butter melts on contact with each piece I pinched off. Hoping for some delicious juices at the bottom of my mussel bowl, I saved most of my bread for just this task. I was glad I did.
My mussels came in a warm deep porcelein bowl with a large square rim, which was perfect to rest my utensil on. About 2 dozen plump and juicy mussels arrived, most in their shell, with small to medium chunks of merguez sausage and a golden yellow curry sauce. The sauce had a little heat and added to the dish, rather than overwhelm it. The sausage tasted of the lamb it was made with and was nice when combined with a mussel. As I’d hoped, at the bottom of my bowl was a nice puddle of sauce, sausage and mussel liquor. The sum of this sauce was even better than it’s parts.
My short rib sandwich with roquefort cheese arrived between two thick, butter slathered and browned pieces of bread. With braising sauce and melting cheese oozing out the sides, I decided the best way to eat this sandwich and maintain some level of decorum and my lady-like dignity was to open it up, spread the contents over both pieces of toast and eat it as an open faced sandwich. This proved to be a good idea and I enjoyed the moist braised beef and the sauce forked with a bit of bread in each bit.
The fingerling potatoes were seasoned perfectly and had a creamy center, while the skins were nice and crisp. Combining some potato with the gravy is highly recommended.
Frank’s lunch started with the duck confit salad. The mahagony duck confit was a generous amount of moist duck meat nestled under tender greens and surrounded by a grainy mustard sauce. The mild mustard sauce was a surprising complement to the duck; balancing, not overpowering the meat. He too took advantage of the crusty bread to sop up all of the juicy goodness.
The Irish BLT was a wonderful twist on the classic BLT. Instead of a hickory smoked bacon, the sandwich was filled with Irish bacon that reminded Frank of the many breakfast fry ups he had while living in London. The tomatoes were very meaty and the sandwich included a generous amount of mayonaise; there’s nothing worse than a BLT that goes light on the mayo. He also enjoyed the lightly salted fresh made potato chips. After finishing the sandwich, Frank commented that he could eat that for lunch every day of the week and not tire of it (Holy Cholesterol Batman!). He also thought he should take a long weekend more often so we could do this regularly. A wonderful lunch and more time with my honey. Who knew?
Restaurant Eve’s Lickety Split lunch is offered Mon-Fri in the bar and lounge.