Trouble With Toast

The Tackle Box | May 8, 2008

A few Sundays ago, the boyfriend and I were strolling through Georgetown, stimulating the economy (you’re welcome), when we noticed a new storefront next to Hook–The Tackle Box.  Much to our pleasant surprise, it was the grand opening of this affordable, casual seafood restaurant (which is styled to resemble a New England “lobster shack” in both appearance and culinary offerings). We were there around 4 or 4:30, and there was plenty of staff on hand–including Chef Barton Seaver.

For $13, you can get a “Maine Meal” that includes a fish, two sides, and a sauce. I opted for fried clams, mac ‘n cheese, and grilled asparagus, and I decided to try the lemon garlic aioli (even though I don’t usually put a lot of sauce on my seafood). The clams were huge and tasty, and the breading added great flavor without being heavy or overwhelming. The mac ‘n cheese was just average and could have used a little more cheese and seasoning. The grilled asparagus were awesome–they had a wonderful char, and they were crisp but tender. The aioli was nice, but, true to form, I didn’t use much of it. Boyfriend had the fried oysters, braised greens, and french fries, and he went with the tartar sauce. The oysters were big and juicy and bursting with flavor (I actually preferred them to my clams), and the greens were salty and delicious. The fries were seasoned well, though I would have preferred them to be a bit crisper. I didn’t try the tartar, but it was gone by the end of the meal, so it must have been good.

The place is really casual, with big communal picnic tables and paper/plastic plates and forks. The quality of ingredients was apparent, and I thought the quantity of food was pretty good for the money (for example, I think boyfriend got about 8-10 oysters with his meal, and I got 5 really nice stalks of asparagus with mine). We asked about their hours, and it looks like they’ll be open till 2 AM on the weekends–freakin’ smart, considering the lack of GOOD late-night dining in this city.  They don’t have a liquor license yet, but I believe the paperwork has been filed, so to speak.

We’ll definitely try to go back before the big move–there’s plenty of variety on the menu, so there were many things I didn’t get to try that I would like to (the clam chowder being number one on that list). I think this place is going to be crazy busy once the word gets out!



  1. Do they have a lobster roll? Oh dear GOD, please tell me there is a lobster roll.

    Comment by Lemmonex — May 8, 2008 @ 6:43 pm

  2. They do indeed. Field trip? 🙂

    Comment by bettyjoan — May 8, 2008 @ 6:50 pm

  3. Sounds excellent! Thanks for the tip.

    Comment by lacochran — May 8, 2008 @ 9:20 pm

  4. You’re welcome–I only wish it was in my neighborhood instead of Georgetown!

    Comment by bettyjoan — May 9, 2008 @ 3:20 pm

  5. I had very much the same great experience. It’s good to see Barton really taking the lead on this and making sure it succeeds.

    It’s an idea that has legs too…I wouldn’t be surprised to see them open another branch up somewhere else in the area if they keep going in the current direction.

    Comment by Bananas — May 9, 2008 @ 5:06 pm

  6. I dunno about other branches–part of the beauty with the current setup is that the two restaurants are physically attached, making it easier for Chef Seaver to keep tabs on quality at both. If anyone could make The Tackle Box a successful franchise, it’s him, but I’d still worry about overexpansion.

    That said, I wouldn’t say no to one in my ‘hood! Of course, my ‘hood is about to be Atlanta, so I don’t think he’s contemplating a chain that spans quite that far from DC. 🙂

    Comment by bettyjoan — May 9, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

  7. Being born and raised in Maine, I went into TBox with a real feeling of excitement. I bellied up to the man behind the register and asked my question: “where are your shrimp from?”, my mouth salivating for real MAINE shrimp from the cold waters off the coast. “They are ‘Gulf shrimp’. Ugh!, my mouth soon dried up and went to the fish. NONE from Maine!. No scallops, no haddock, no Cutler Clams!!
    Yeah, the lobster is from Maine, but, I can get that at Black Salt Market. I was hoping for something else from New England at least!
    Then I looked at the Blueberry Pie on the counter, the crust looked amazing, but..BOO! New Jersey Blueberries, I can spot em a MILE away. Another failure.
    Then the sides, HUSH PUPPIES? HUH? In Maine, or New England for that matter? Hmmm. Greens?? Where were the Fiddleheads I was hoping for? Boo!
    It’s one thing to have the nice decor, yes, great job! I love the red benches and the lobster trap buoys, clever. I even liked the torn flag in the corner, but, I can’t eat those things from Maine.
    The food I ate on Thursday was good, not great, but good. I just wish I had eaten something from Maine.
    I was hoping for:
    Steamed Maine Clams; A fried Maine shrimp roll with endless tartar sauce, fiddleheads, and a slice of Blueberry Pie with real, Maine blueberries…oh well, it’s only 700 miles to Moody’s Diner.
    What a great idea, too bad this Maine luvva left hungry for more…

    Comment by maine luvva — May 10, 2008 @ 4:13 am

  8. While you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, Maine Luvva, I’m inclined to think you’re being a bit harsh. If you read a little more about Chef Seaver and what he envisioned for The Tackle Box, I think you’ll see that it was never supposed to be a place to eat all of the foods you remember from your childhood in Maine. He may call a combo a “Maine Meal,” but I think the vision is a more all-encompassing one: to provide affordable yet sustainable seafood, making sure to support suppliers who advocate responsibility in their local fishing communities.

    Of course, if you thought the food was good but not great, that’s 100% valid. But for you to expect the meal to be EXACTLY what you get at home in Maine? To me, that’s being a bit unrealistic in your expectations.

    Out of curiosity, did you try the blueberry pie? I was too full to order it, but I’ve heard really good things–Heather Chittum is one of this city’s great pastry talents, regardless of where she sources her blueberries.

    Comment by bettyjoan — May 11, 2008 @ 2:14 am

  9. oh Betty Joan, Betty Joan…I think it’s wonderful Mr. Seaver is doing the sustainable fish thing. Awesome! I walked into the restaurant last Thursday and saw a menu clearly stating..”Maine Meal”. Other than the lobster roll, I couldn’t find one thing from Maine. Was that asking too much?
    Are Maine clams not sustainable? Are Maine shrimp not sustainable? I don’t know the answers to this, I was hoping Seaver would have asked up in Maine when he did his research. The seafood industry up there could really use the business.
    So, basically, what your saying is, it’s ok to use any old blueberry in a pie? Or any old sustainable shrimp in a Maine inspired restaraunt?
    I did have the blueberry pie and it was nice. It just was not made with a low bush blueberry which makes an amazing pie, thats all. Have YOU ever tried a blueberry pie made with low-bush blueberries from Maine? The blueberry flavor explodes in your mouth. The tiny, pearl-like blueberries hold together nicely and make a great pie.
    I know my review sounded a bit snobbish, or pretentious, thats not my intent. My intent was to have maybe just a few Maine items on the menu in addition to the Lobster Roll.
    I love a few of the Maine things I miss because they are delicious. Have you ever had steamed fiddleheads with fresh butter and a little vinegar? Whole foods should be getting some in soon, please try them. I think you’d LOVE them.
    Have you ever had fried Maine shrimp? It’s a totally different experience than the Gulf Shrimp.
    I wasn’t claiming to have had these at home. I had these foods at ANY so called lobster shack in Maine. Any.
    I will go back to the Tackle Shack again, and probably again. I don’t give up that easy and it’s a new place and I LOVE the idea. I’m sorry if i sounded harsh. What a great thing he’s doing to only use sustainable resources, kudos to him. My request is maybe, just maybe he could put a few more things on the menu from Maine, or use some of the resources up there for his dishes. The economy up there could really use it.
    Now, down to the tackle box…craving some oysters.

    Comment by maine luvva — May 11, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

  10. It think we’re just misunderstanding each other a bit (admittedly, blog comments aren’t the best way to carry on a conversation). I guess I just didn’t interpret The Tackle Box as a “Maine inspired restaurant”–instead, as it mentions on its website, I just took it as a little bit of the beach in the middle of the city. Certainly, there are great seafood shacks up and down the East Coast, and I imagine that Chef Seaver takes inspiration from a lot of different regional cuisines. Perhaps calling the combo a “Maine Meal” gave the wrong impression to those, like you, who were really excited about some Maine-specific food items. I know I’m excited to visit Maine after reading your comments!

    And I’m definitely not saying that one should use “any old” anything in one’s cooking–I’m all for utilizing high quality ingredients that stir up one’s individual passions for food and eating. I just think that, knowing what I know about this particular chef’s leanings, there’s GOT to be a good reason for why he uses the ingredients he does. If you ever talk to Chef Seaver about this issue (and I think that you should), I’d definitely be interested in hearing what you learn!

    Comment by bettyjoan — May 12, 2008 @ 12:24 am

  11. Don’t you dare go back without me!

    Comment by freckledk — May 12, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

  12. Tackle Box in Georgetown is unsustainable to families. After working 6 months for Barton Seaver and giving him every recipie for tackle box, I was let go for asking about the pay for my staff. If any press would like to know the truth about Chef Barton Seaver or Pure hospitality(what a joke) please contact ex chef of tackle box georgetown Robert Bechtold. 703 254 7110

    Comment by rob — June 3, 2008 @ 1:06 am

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