Food Matters, Alexandria, VA

A trusted friend of mine who has been one of Food Matters‘ biggest supporters over the years has repeatedly told me it has gone downhill. I didn’t want to believe it because I, too, have been one of their biggest supporters, so I plugged my ears and sang out loud (*).

But I went last week, and although I ordered very simply (too simply to draw any conclusions), the level of execution wasn’t up to that of numerous previous visits.

One thing’s for sure: their beer selection (and their bar) still merits a visit. A bottle of New Holland Brewing Company’s Full Circle Ale, for example, was only $4, and that’s not a discounted price.

Their menu is updated seasonally (if not monthly), and even though we only got sandwiches, there are much more interesting things on the January menu (Chicken-Fried Bison Steak, for example).

My young dining companion ordered a Roseda Farms Angus Beef Burger ($10) with Crisp Bacon ($1) and White Cheddar ($1). It was ordered medium-rare, came out medium-well, and was so distressingly like the Roseda Farms burger I recently had at EatBar that I wonder if Roseda Farms isn’t selling pre-formed patties (they were both small, dense, and perfectly formed). Note: immediately after I typed that last sentence, I checked, and they apparently are (although I’ve also found out that EatBar definitely grinds their burger in-house; not sure about Food Matters). The sandwiches here come with one side order, and the hand-cut fries were average.

I opted for the Roasted Brisket Sandwich ($11) on a whole wheat roll, provolone, and tangy red slaw. The brisket itself was good, if a touch on the skimpy side, but the roll was so darned dry that it just made eating the sandwich something of a chore. My side of mashed potatoes and gravy was, like the french fries, decent.

But the best (or, now that I just got a text message less than ten seconds ago, the second-best) was saved for last: a Vanilla Ice Cream Handwich ($4) came sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies, and was a delight not unlike something that might come from Buzz Bakery (the parallels between Food Matters and EatBar continue to grow).

We had a window table, and I looked outside and saw a car with a bumper sticker that said, “No Farms No Food.” I’m willing to bet this was the owner’s car, because very, very few restaurants have consistently (and genuinely) shown proper respect and honor toward smaller, local farms than Food Matters. If this restaurant has somehow declined, the obvious reason is lack of business (it takes a critical mass of customers for a place like this to succeed), and it’s nobody’s fault but our own if that critical mass hasn’t occurred. Please, please don’t let what happened to American Flatbread happen to Food Matters – this is a restaurant that deserves your support and business.

(*) And I’m thrilled to say that the text message I just got was from my friend mentioned in the first paragraph. I had previously asked her if she still felt Food Matters was in decline. Her response: “Actually, no. Last two visits have been stellar. Might be anomalies, but their new menu and some other changes make me guardedly optimistic.”

Support Food Matters – it matters!

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