Its disappointing when a restaurant is trying to do too much and can't seem to get it together. Today, my co-workers and I went to lunch at The Reserve near McPherson Square. We chose this place because we wanted a sit down lunch that wasn't going to cost us more than $15 or so. The Reserve had a pretty good lunch menu with sandwiches and salads costing from $8 to $15.
Once we entered the restaurant, I knew this was not going to be a relaxing lunch. The restaurant is dim, there were lounge couches and tables pushed to the side, there were two big screen TVs that had ESPN playing, and the music was techno music that was turned up too loud. This is not the kind of lunch atmosphere I was looking for. My understanding is that the restaurant turns into a club at night. The decor makes sense for a club, not lunch.
Strangely enough, the food was pretty good. This review gets a star for food and a star for a nice waiter (even though he wasn't that great at making sure our drinks were full.) I had the prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato, and pesto panini. The bread was tasty and not too greasy (as most paninis are), the mozzerella was fresh tasting, the sandwich as a whole was satisfying. The french fries that accompanied the sandwich were also pretty good. All of this for $9. Not bad for a sit down restaurant if only the restaurant created the right lunch mood.
Here are a couple of observations that I would suggest to the restaurant:
1. Only have an open kitchen if the kitchen is clean and organized and your wait staff actually look like real cooks or chefs. Nothing is more unappetizing than seeing plain clothed people cook in an unorganized kitchen.
2. The hostess should not be serving drinks if she doesn't know what she is doing. A pretty girl in a short black dress doesn't do anything for a lunch crowd if she is fumbling around with full glasses of water. Also, anyone who works in a restaurant shouldn't have hair long enough to dip into the food and drinks when they are carrying them to our table.
3. People need to be able to see their food. From my understanding, the Reserve turns into a club at night. Thats fine but if you are serving a lunch menu, some simple steps will make the experience a lot better. Turn up the lights and change your dark red table cloths to white table cloths. This will lighten up the restaurant and make eating there more appealing.
4. The music needs to be turned down and should be relaxing during the day. Again, a lunch crowd is much different then a clubbing night crowd. Plus, the restaurant is surrounded by businesses that are looking for a good lunch place to talk business. They can't talk over thumping techno music.
5. TVs in the dining room make restaurants look tacky.
6. If there is a hostess table outside, someone should be there. If its too hot for someone to be outside, bring the table in.
The consensus of the lunch party was that we liked the food but the atmosphere was so unappealing that we would never go back to eat there again. I think this restaurant has the potential to be a great lunch and dinner spot if they can get their act together.
1426 L Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20005-3503