Restaurant Review: B&Js

B&Js on the corner of Rhode Island and 3rd, is not a fancy place. Actually fancy doesn’t come to mind, Ben Chili Bowl looks like The Inn at Little Washington compared to this place. The food is uncomplicated and straightforward. Greens, mashed potatoes, turkey, ham, and meats between bread to make a sandwich.

It is friendly I will say. I walked in an the old guys said hello and we exchanged friendly banter. The fellow running the place has a smile that seems permanent if involuntary, it’s just there. He seemed happy to have me there and glad to show me the laser printed menu listing the various dinners at modest prices.

The decor is the big negative. It reminded me of a relative’s kitchen. Okay my grandma’s kitchen/dining room. Not the slightly out of it tumor in her head grandma, no the mean pack rat grandma. The place was cluttered, with miss-matched being the overall theme, like my grandma’s house. The counter had condiment bottles in the way, desserts wrapped in plastic and suspect Styrofoam (is it clean, is it not clean?) littered the counter. There was a table for eight taking up the rest of the floorspace. Other things like a popcorn machine and a jukebox were stuffed in the corners.

The food is average. I had crab cakes. They didn’t have a lot of filler, a good thing, as that normally makes for a good crab cake. They were made out of the stringy bits of crab meat, not lumps, which usually makes for a very mediocre crab cake. Oh, and no Old Bay seasoning, making for a less than average crab cake being served so close to Maryland. Well, the turkey dinner the fellow next to me had looked really good.

Not everything is on the menu. You could get steak, if you wanted steak. You just gotta ask what else is there. The fellow behind the counter was very patient and helpful with the suggestions of what he could prepare. You want a sandwich, he’ll make a sandwich.

Now no one else besides me and this guy was eating. One old fellow was there when I entered and he was just hanging out at the counter, watching the old TV up on the kitchen wall. Another fellow was feeding the jukebox that blasted R&B hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s, drowning out the TV. I wished the TV had closed captioning, but it was so old the volume had to be controlled with a pair of pliers. The feeling I got was that it was a neighborhood hangout for some. A little girl, about 4 or 5 wandered around the dining and kitchen area. You come, you eat, sit around, chat, listen to the music, what have you. Just like my grandma’s.

I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention a serious negative. It has been cited before for a health code violation in the past 3 years. I don’t remember what the exact violation was but I do remember seeing the blurb in the Washington Post. The clutter can give the dirty appearance and be offensive to those more accusomed to a sanitized looking dining experience. I could see where with all the things around a cite for unclean food surfaces or other such violation could be found.

Now, would I eat there again? I give you a very hesistant yes/maybe. B&J gets super duper bonus points for being friendly and homey. One or 2 points on the food itself. At least one negative for the clutter. Now I would eat there again if I had an insane desire/craving for mashed potatoes or greens.