Get Your Mussel Fix at Dupont Circle
My family is a huge fan of seafood … as in, if it swims or lives under the sea, I guarantee you we will eat it. I’ve been picking through crab, peeling shrimp and cracking lobster claws for as long as I can remember. As I like to say, we are “seafoodies.”
The first time I ever went to St. Arnold’s on Jefferson at 1827 Jefferson Place NW was a few years ago to meet some friends for happy hour. The basement level restaurant was packed to the gills, but we managed to squeeze into a shared table towards the end of the dining room. Their happy hour runs Monday-Friday from 3:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. and includes half priced mussels. You can’t come to a mussel bar and not order mussels, so we each ordered our own pot, and it came out with a generous side of fries and baguette slices. All of this wonderful food came at the staggering price of $9.
I thought I had just discovered the happy hour to end all happy hours. I was in love. Over the following weeks and months, I slowly introduced different family members to this mussel Mecca. This had become our little place. It may not be fancy or the coolest new spot, but each time I go, I know I’m going have a great meal.
A few weeks ago my sister and I took our younger brother here for a special dinner before he shipped back to college. It was a Friday evening and I was expecting it to be mayhem since every other time I’d been here, it was a madhouse with a bar overflowing with people and groups piled into tables. I was surprised to find just a few people on bar stools and only two other groups eating dinner. We sat down and surveyed the menu, even though I already knew I was going to order my usual: Mussels St. Arnold. I was ready for my massive kettle of mussels, simmered in beer sauce, caramelized shallots, garlic, thyme and duck fat (DUCK FAT!). With 20 different mussel variations, it’s really hard to justify getting the same order each time … that is, until I dive into my kettle and am reminded of how wonderful the Mussels St. Arnold taste.
Our pots arrived, we dug in and…
…It was just okay.
It was kind of like when you’re a kid and you remember something being so awesome you were excited for it to happen again … except it didn’t quite live up to your expectations. Either the portion size is decreasing or my mental capacity for remembering is, because I could have sworn the pots were a little bigger in times past. Additionally, the price increased to $11 and the side of fries formerly included now has to be ordered ala carte. A small plate of bread is still served as a side, but they are quite stingy with it. My side of bread never came, so I had to flag the waiter down. Only after he carefully scanned the table (come on, did he think I was hiding it in my purse or on my lap?), did he finally agree to go back and get some for me.
Is it still a good happy hour deal? Yes. Will I still stop by if I’m in the neighborhood? Sure. The experience just wasn’t quite the same as all of the past wonderful meals I’ve had here. Maybe they were just having an off day. Or maybe I should take this as an opportunity to try out their two other locations in Bethesda and Cleveland Park.