Johnny’s Half Cocked
As the nation’s capital and her immense array of bureaucrats, lobbyists, lawyers, and others steeled itself for the shutdown of the federal government a few weeks ago (which never transpired), the topic of conversation on everyone’s lips was how the failure to shovel more taxpayer money into the maw of the beast would have devastating—simply devastating!—effects on everything from trash collection to the Cherry Blossom Parade.
While the prospect of trash piling up in the alley is horrifying to your humble correspondent, I was somewhat surprised by the relative lack of attention given to the potential benefits of derailing the federal gravy train. No parking enforcement, a vacation of indeterminate length for “non-essential” government employees (98%?—just an educated guess.) And, if this feared interruption of Subsidized Malfeasance on the Potomac were to last long enough, there is the most tantalizing prospect of all: the potential shutdown of overpriced DC restaurants that have only stayed in business because of the distorted economic imperatives of a city that makes its living off the taxpayer teet.
In DC, you see, lobbyists, activists, and other assorted peoples are paid Big Bucks to Entertain and Influence. If they don’t spend their full entertainment budget, it may be cut next year. It’s common knowledge that recent revisions of ethics laws in Congress have only made it more difficult for lowly staffers to partake of the free buffet at some swanky lobbyist event, without curbing entertainment budgets in the least (I’ll explain the myriad ways around these window-dressing laws if you’re interested—for a modest fee).
As a result, you have a whole class of restaurants in DC that cater to a rather odd clientele: people who happen to have unlimited lunchtime expense accounts and seem more interested in the bells and whistles than getting a good value."
Which brings us to Johnny’s Half Shell, which might be considered Exhibit A of the genre. Don’t get me wrong; when they originally opened five years ago, literally in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol Dome, no one was more excited than Crispin of Capitol Hill. A New Orleans-themed seafood place in the ‘hood? I’m there. Then I saw the menu. The inflated prices. The unimpressive entrees served by faux-New Orleans waiters in white coats. The bad attempt at a Southern vibe. One of those places.
In my book, crab cakes are a real test of any restaurant, especially one that claims to serve good seafood. These crab cakes were like the ones I once inexplicably ordered at an Irish bar after one too many; greasy, not much in the way of discernable crab meat, and lukewarm. Might as well have served them smothered in ketchup. Since they were over 30 bucks, they served them with something purporting to be tartar sauce.
I could go on, but I won’t. In short, don’t bother, unless you’re entertaining on someone else’s dime and your clients are more impressed by the Capitol Dome and waiters in white coats than they are in good food. They do have a fine jazz band, however. I might advise them to find a new gig, perhaps on H Street.
Johnny's Half Shell
400 N Capitol St NW
Ste 175, Washington, DC
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