By Torey Van Oot
While there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post launches a new weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new. It's been cross-posted on sister blog Capitol Alert.
First up in our new Capitol Alert/State Worker blog series of state building restaurant reviews is CafÃ© 744, located on the first floor of the Department of Social Services building.
The spot: As the name suggests, the exact address of this venue is 744 P St., a brisk, nine-minute walk from the intersection of 10th and L streets. While it's a bit off the beaten path for those used to sticking close to the Capitol for lunch, the selection and outdoor seating were worth the trek. It's open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., except on state and federal holidays.
The grub: Cafe 744 is a good spot to go for an array of sandwich and grilled panini options. The panini selection includes several Capitol-themed options, like the "Assembly" (fillet of chicken breast, Cajun sauce and pepper jack cheese) and the "Senate" (turkey, Swiss cheese, tomato and grilled onions). The grill also features daily specials, like fish and chips for $5.49 ("served with cole slaw and a smile" on the day we dined). Picky eaters can opt for build-your-own burgers and sandwiches, which start at $3.79 and $4.49 respectively. Pre-made sandwiches and salads are available for those in a rush, and there's a salad bar for diners seeking healthier fare (though some of the options, such as bacon crumbles, could torpedo a diet-friendly lunch rather quickly). The breakfast menu includes pancakes, omelets, breakfast burritos and other morning eats, all under $5.
On our plates: My guest and I split two sandwiches and a cup of chili. My pick was the "Capitol" panini, a generous stack of grilled roast beef oozing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, Monterey Jack cheese, tomatoes and onions on sourdough. My dining companion had the "Turkeycado," featuring turkey, avocado, lettuce, onion and tomatoes on a French roll.
The bill: The total for two sandwiches, a cup of chili and drinks came to $15.18. You can grab a grilled cheese for as low as $2.99 (fries are $1 extra for all sandwiches and burgers). The most expensive item on the menu is $4.99.
The good: In the mood for dining al fresco without Ambrosia's crowds? Cafe 744 features a spacious patio for diners looking to spend their lunch break getting some fresh air. The prices are hard to beat, especially compared to forking over $8 or more for a sandwich at any number of nearby restaurants. Bacon makes a cameo in several of the sandwich and burger combos and can be added to the build-your-own sandwiches at no cost (always a plus in our book).
The bad: The wait for our sandwiches seemed long, even though there wasn't much of a line the day we visited. The walk can be tough if you're in a rush, so we suggest heading here on a day you have time to enjoy a stroll and some sun.
The grade: 4 out of 5 Sporks
Have you been to CafÃ© 744? Share your experiences in the comments field below. Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state-run restaurants to try. Send your picks to email@example.com and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.
PHOTO CREDITS: The outdoor seating at CafÃ© 744 (top right) and cross-sections of the sandwiches ordered by Torey Van Oot and her dining companion. Photos by Torey Van Oot, Bee Capitol Bureau.