When I first arrived with my friends at Ten01, the recently opened eatery located above Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street, I was doubtful. After trekking up an empty staircase and nearly missing the entrance, we finally arrived at the restaurant and bar, where the first thing the staff asked us for were our IDs.
After glancing at the menu earlier that day, I was expecting a southern, homey feel. Instead, I walked into a cramped venue with high tables shoved against the wall. With rustic wooden paneling, a tin ceiling and a bar as the focal point, the restaurant created a southwestern saloon feel.
The menu was mostly composed of small plates made to share, with college budget-friendly prices ranging from about $7 to $14. Ten01 seems to understand that D.C. has plenty of college students and young professionals who want good food, but don’t want to dish out $40 for a meal.
After searching the menu for something to eat, my friends and I decided on five different dishes: the house salad, the baked gnocchi, the whole grain risotto, the crispy pork belly and the johnnycakes (crispy pork belly fried in cornmeal batter that resembled hamburgers). Right now, everything on the menu features some sort of fall twist with roasted pumpkin butter or pumpkin barbecue sauce.
When the food arrived, every dish was slathered in sauce or cheese, an indicator of the restaurant’s connection to Ben’s Chili Bowl (they share owners, spices and the building.) The plates were almost too beautiful to eat, but of course, we ate every last bite anyway.
Almost everything was delectable, but there was clearly a fan favorite among my friends and me: the roasted pork belly. It tasted as if it had been cooking all day and it fell apart on our forks. The pumpkin barbecue sauce added a sweet, yet subtle flavor to the pork that made the dish perfect.
While I’d skip the underwhelming house salad and johnnycakes next time, my friends and I were impressed with the al dente risotto, dotted with grilled scallion pesto that complemented the sweet pumpkin butter. The sour cream-flavored gnocchi with crunchy broccoli and melted beer cheese also managed to incorporate a hated vegetable into a warm, comforting dish.
The dessert menu was limited, but we decided to sample all three items offered – the cereal milk creme brulee, the peanut butter and jelly doughnut sandwich and the pumpkin pie bread pudding. Next time, I might skip dinner at Ten01 and go straight for dessert. The doughnut sandwich and the creme brulee (with Captain Crunch at the bottom) brought me back to my childhood. And the bread pudding reigns supreme among the pumpkin-themed fall treats. Sorry, Starbucks.
While getting off to a rocky start, Ten01 ended up to be worth the trek all the way to U Street. The cooking made me feel as if I had spent the night in a southern home-cooked food wonderland, and I’m a sucker for an amazing dessert. Our waiter even informed us that they will be serving brunch starting in about two weeks. And we all know how GW students feel about brunch.