I took Metro to Takoma Park for lunch at Republic, part of the Black Restaurant Group, which includes some of the best seafood places in Greater Washington.
I hadn’t been in Takoma Park, a small city just across the line that separates Washington from Maryland, for several years. It’s an interesting place. With its Folk Festival and farmers’ market, some people think of it as one of the last remaining vestiges of the patchouli-scented and tie-dyed 1960s.
It’s also a stronghold of progressive politics. The city declared itself a nuclear-free zone in the 1980s, and, in 2013, became the first city in the U.S. to give 16- and 17-year-olds to vote.
But I was there for the food.
Each Black Restaurant Group establishment has its own distinct menu, but it seems as if all of them offer an appetizer called “Addie’s Mussels.” The original “Addie” was founder Jeff Black’s grandmother, and the Group’s first restaurant was named after her.
The mussels at Republic were small. They came with a big portion of excellent house-made bread, to sop up the sauce, a blend of tomato, garlic, and lemon.
I’ve found that I often compare what I’m eating to specific, probably idealized versions of the dish that I’ve had in the past. Everybody does that, I suppose, but it’s really unfair, because meals improve with memory. Still, every chocolate chip cookie I eat is measured against the ones I got from the much-missed Tom’s, in San Francisco, every plate of calamari is compared to the one I had at Cafe De L’Academia, in Barcelona, and every key lime dessert is weighed against the key lime dessert at Republic’s sister restaurant, BlackSalt, here in Washington.
My standard for mussels is Café Bruant, in Paris. Since I got back from France, I’ve been unable to find anything as good.
The Republic Seafood Stew had even more mussels, along with Gulf shrimp, Virginia catfish, and bok choy, all in a tomato–garlic broth.
And finally, Carrot-Parsnip Cake with brown butter icing, Dulce de Leche ice cream, and caramel sauce.
All in all, a good, satisfying meal, with notably large portions. Nothing wrong, but not terribly memorable.