Never underestimate the power of free.
Six Burner was doing their relaunch party and since I've been a regular there for, oh, I don't know, five years, I was curious.
I wanted to see the renovation (new linoleum! new light-filled back area! new menu and price point!) and see what a new menu meant.
Gotta admit, my first surprise was that my end of the bar (under the hydrangeas) was free.
We took it.
Getting glasses of Gavi from the bartender/cabaret singer allowed for discussion of the upcoming 80s extravaganza at RTP.
He was absolutely delighted to hear that I'm already listening to the "Immaculate Collection" just to prepare myself.
I will not, despite his expectation however, be wearing a banana clip or shoulder pads.
Done it, over it.
Six Burner was busy and getting busier by the minute, so we were very fortunate to have scored any bar space at all.
Enjoying our Gavi, we were thrilled when a server placed the remains of a plate of fried oysters with spicy tartar sauce at our elbows.
And while I'm happy to eat well-prepared oysters whenever they're offered, I've had them enough at Six Burner to know that the kitchen is quite good with bi-valves.
After numerous conversational tangents and a man named Thalhimer showing up, we learned that the secret to trying the new menu was hovering around the food tables.
It wouldn't have been our choice, but it was the only way to reliably taste the food since the menu was not being served tonight.
With enough time spent near the tables, we were able to score several dishes.
Bacon-wrapped dates with bleu cheese sauce, while ubiquitous these days, were succulent and flavorful.
Sugar snaps. English cucumber, watermelon radish and Jean Marc citron vinegar delivered the appropriate crunch and freshness to accompany richer dishes.
Rustic polenta, olive oil and Parmesan was properly toothsome and cheesy.
Red quinoa tabbouleh was hearty.
Potato gnocchi and seasonal mushrooms was to-die-for rich and earthy.
Tempura-fried shrimp with spicy guacamole was unexpected but satisfying.
48-hour sous vide short rib wrapped in dandelion greens was as wonderfully fatty and slow-cooked as expected.
The problem was that there was no way the kitchen could keep up with the hungry masses.
As a friend and experienced server observed, "People are reacting to us like zombies. It's insane."
The insanity was so many eager eaters and a kitchen that couldn't begin to supply the hordes with enough food. Although they tried valiantly.
The new space does look different. The linoleum gives a more casual feel to the entryway. So much light in the back (via the new glass door) makes the restaurant seem bigger.
The removal of the side booths makes for a more open feel, even when all the center tables return from the sidewalk, where they resided tonight.
Even the back-lighting of the booze bottles on the bar was a welcome change.
Did the music alter with the decor? I have no idea, since the conversation volume negated any possibility of hearing what the musical vibe was now.
The new menu is far more extensive and this eater is very happy with the small plate focus, assuming the small plates are a portion commensurate with the price.
I wouldn't know since tonight was a sampling and not divided into portions.
After a few hours, the volume of people was feeling fire marshall-worthy, so companion and I cut bait and went our separate ways.
My final destination was Bistro 27 for a recent addition, a Portuguese wine, and dessert (as long as I was there).
The luck was in running into a friend and his new squeeze, so I got plenty of good company.
In short order we covered Charlie Palmer's in Washington, the pleasures of the National Botanical Gardens and wild sex on weekends away.
We were pleasantly interrupted by a restaurant employee who stopped in for a drink and provided endless alternate viewpoints.
Besides building a sailboat in his backyard, he was adamant about restaurant bosses making time for themselves.
His drinking was a prelude to going to a nearby club to dance to rap music, not because he liked it but because he was comfortable doing it.
Sometimes I fear future generations are already lost.
Even so, I don't hesitate to suggest that he seek out music he truly wants to dance to and stop merely "making do."
Never underestimate the power of doing exactly what you want to do.
I've been told you can know the rules and still choose not to play the game.
I do...and I don't. It's actually pretty easy.
Not to mention wildly satisfying.