The rebirth of the commercial area around Logan Circle has been brisk in the last few years. Following the path cleared by the opening of Whole Foods and the rapid appearance of luxury lofts and specialty stores, Logan Tavern, a fine new neighborhood restaurant and bar, has taken its place in the mix.
Logan Tavern is at once sophisticated and casual with its mixture of industrial chic, stylish lighting, and giant architectural prints of Logan Circle statuary. With a young and trendy staff, it has a cutting edge feel without the pretension.
The menu's starters don't seem to have been given the same level of thought and care in preparation as the entrées. A promising fried ginger calamari comes off as oil-laden and nearly devoid of ginger flavor. Lump crab and avocado is fresh but so very boring. Only when we tried the hoisin ribs did we get a reading on the flavor meter. The succulent short ribs come drenched in Logan's version of this garlicky and spicy sauce.
A salad of seared tuna, tropical fruit and baby spinach is a refreshing opening course, but even better is endive with walnuts and crumbled blue cheese. Both fit nicely into the low-carb regimes that many of us are following these days.
The entrée items are best described as contemporary American with an emphasis on comfort food. Sturdy offerings of meat loaf and southern fried chicken are given new currency here with caramelized onion gravy. A wasabi crusting on the meatloaf offers an unexpected bit of pizzazz. The two-slab portion is so large you may want to share it or take one home for another meal.
Perhaps the most accomplished item on the menu is roasted pork loin in a rich brown sauce enlivened with sweet Asian mustard. The pork is tender, lean and bursting with flavor. However, the jasmine rice, which accompanies this and several other of the entrees, is often too dried out.
Pan sautéed lump crab cakes are quite good but could use a bit less vegetable filling. They're served with a delicious lime-cilantro tarter sauce and a hearty mound of mashed potatoes, offering further fortification against the winter cold.
Sautéed spinach and red pepper coulis lend just the right accents for pan-sautéed rockfish and portabellas. The fish is as fresh and light as you'll find and the meaty mushroom provides a nice textural contrast.
A welcome feature of dining at Logan Tavern is the inclusion with all entrées of a mixed green salad, here studded with slices of red beets and jicama, a South American root vegetable with a white, crunchy flesh. If you're not ravenous, the salad (served as a separate course) easily takes the place of an appetizer.
Under the heading "Other Fare" reside a fine grilled burger, Greek spinach pie, and a couple of pasta dishes that are every bit as deserving of entrée billing as the ones mentioned above. Pappardelle in a sauce of wild mushrooms and cream is a favorite.
Desserts stake out their territory with aplomb. Mango-Key Lime pie is remarkable. Even those who've given up on this tart sweet should try this one. Apple crisp with vanilla ice cream will warm your heart. Missing from the winter dessert menu is the fabulous banana cream pie -- it should be brought back immediately, a refrain that Logan's servers hear many times a day, and deservedly so.
Daytime dining on Friday, Saturday and Sunday is well provided for with an assortment of lunch specials, a full list of sandwiches, and on Saturday and Sunday a selection of brunchables including omelets, steak and eggs, and French toast.
Quickly earning a reputation for good food, reasonable prices, and an inviting atmosphere, this new kid on the block is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. It's time you got acquainted.