Down at the Bayou

My only New Year's resolution for 2011 was to check out one new restaurant a month.  I'm in a rut.  DC has wonderful restaurants and I only go to three on a regular basis.  They are my favorites and they're always good so why mess with perfection, right?  That attitude is why I made the resolution.   
My first stop on the new restaurant tour of 2011 was Bayou in Foggy Bottom.  (See?  I am leaving my four block radius on a more regular basis.  Pat on back, please.)  Formerly the Rookery, I wasn't expecting much except amazing food.  When the Rookery decided to revamp as Bayou, a New Orleans inspired bar and restaurant, they hired Rusty Holman as the chef.  (See post here about his stint on a food truck.)  I've been lucky to be a dinner guest when Rusty was cooking and he makes damn good food.
At first glance, I thought Bayou was going to be a total dive.  Latticework and clear plastic do nothing for your curbside impression.  I know it's winter so the clear plastic is a necessary evil to keep the outside area warm for the smokers.  But latticework?  
This impression is blown out of the water once you enter Bayou.  It's warm and welcoming.  There's a long bar, a few TV's and several tables on the first floor.  The bar offers a cocktail list inspired by New Orleans.
Upstairs, there's a stage for live music, a bar and lots of tables.  We sat in a curved banquette overlooking Pennsylvania Ave.  The menu has a few classic New Orleans dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and blackened catfish.  In addition to those items, there's steak, fried chicken, crawfish pasta, and salads.  Our table sampled most of the menu and every bite was delicious.  Rusty has a way with a collard green. 
The live music was a treat.  We saw two acts:   Zachary Smith and the Dixie Power Trio.  I love jazz and enjoyed the music immensely.  Although it made conversation difficult at times, it was a pleasant addition to the evening. 
There were a few kinks in the service but that's to be expected.  Bayou launched on New Year's Eve.   A new restaurant always needs a few weeks to make everything run smoothly.  Overall..Bayou was a great time and I'll be going back.
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