Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Social

True to its theme, Social invites diners to stay awhile, relax and make dining more than a meal — it’s a conversation. And whether it’s chit chat or food, there’s plenty to share over drinks at this aptly-named hot spot. spotlight

True to its theme, Social invites diners to stay awhile, relax and make dining more than a meal — it’s a conversation. And whether it’s chit chat or food, there’s plenty to share over drinks at this aptly-named hot spot.

spotlight

Social (Photo: News-Press)

New to the D.C. restaurant scene since last summer, Social plays on the concept of “micro-dining.” Menu items ranging from Baby Lamb Lollipops to Vegetable Crudités can be ordered in three sizes: intimate, social or gala. While an intimate portion is comparable to an appetizer, gala-sized plates are said to feed up to nine people. Yes, there’s even entrées, or “self-indulgence” menu items, for the anti-Social.

Even with a packed house this New Year’s Eve, Social’s staff still managed to stay on top of everyone, seat diners quickly and return often enough to take additional orders. Customers are left with their menus and encouraged to order more while they stick around. And though not an everyday occasion, the Columbia Heights newbie celebrated its first NYE last Thursday with a sans-cover-charge countdown trifecta of sorts — free Brazilian beer at 10 p.m., free Puerto Rican rum punch at 11 p.m. and, of course, free champagne at midnight as it celebrated the arrival of 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, San Juan and the District.

However, the horns and party hats didn’t detract from the food or, better yet, the flavor.

The standout dish had to be the “Big Easy” BBQ Shrimp ($7/13/18). While two diners will definitely want three to four intimate-sized picks, the flavor here is heavy enough to fulfill an appetite more than an average tapas-style plate would. The sautéed wild gulf shrimp, deglazed with cognac and simmered in a zesty cream reduction, are served with slices of crusty ciabatta bread that come in handy when diners want to soak up the leftover sauce. Coming in at a close second was a tie between the Sonoran Mahi Mahi Tacos ($9/15/20) and Vietnamese Pulled Pork Sliders ($8/14/19) — both of which are served in portions of three at the intimate level.

Stuffed in a soft corn tortilla is grilled tropical white fish seasoned with citrus, chili and herbs, paired with jalapeño cabbage, topped with a roasted jalapeño-mango salsa and finished with a smoked tomato aioli. Talk about flavor. And not in that overdone, “calm down” sort of way. All of these accents surprisingly complemented each other in a hands-down, gimme-more sense. Equally pleasing were the miniature pork sandwiches, with meat braised in lemongrass and caramel and packed with hao long dragon slaw into small rolls.

A return trip is inevitable for the trying of the dessert alone. From Blueberry Pot Pie ($8) to — wait for it — Warm Cookies & Milk ($8), Social strikes a childlike cord in anyone’s sweet-tooth.

Above the cuisine kudos, the best thing about Social is the eradication of the all-too-familiar rush in an area where rushing around is, well, all too familiar. Instead of a waiter presenting an unannounced check face down with a polite grin to signal “get moving,” Social’s staff returns to see what else you’d like to try off its menu. Seating suited for groups provides couches over chairs around tables in the center, while dining for couples is strategically placed with a street view overlooking 14th street from the upstairs dining room. Below on the first floor, a fully-stocked bar draws the nightlife into its lounge-like set-up. And if the staff upstairs wasn’t friendly enough, a bartender downstairs actually apologized for being “busy” before quickly handing over champagne one minute shy of midnight.

Let’s just say what Social fails to lack in its welcoming environment, it more than compensates for in its class.

Social

1400 Meridian Place NW, Washington, D.C.

www.social14.com • 202-797-1100

Hours:

Open Daily 4 p.m. – 2 a.m.

 

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