It wasn’t my first time at Hard Times Café, but I wish it had been. Local to the area (with locations mostly in Maryland and Virginia), I had visited Hard Times on three or four other occasions, almost always coming away disappointed. Chili that was more oil than meat and service that left me more frustrated than satisfied kept me from going back.
However, like most things, fate and a need for a beer brought me back last Saturday night. Visiting with a couple friends who were new to the Hard Times experience, I was pleasantly surprised to see that our waitress asked if any of us had eaten with them before. Informing her that my company hadn’t, she promptly brought out a tray segmented into four sections, each section containing a couple tablespoons of the four varieties of chili they serve.
I know I’ve said this before, but for the sake of making a point, I’ll say it again: it’s the little things that sometimes make a meal. The chili I had later was good, with nice sized pieces of meat and peppers; you actually knew that you were eating something containing individual ingredients. The piece of cornbread was average, and the butter packets and tomatoes could have been defrosted a bit longer, but I came away feeling good about that meal because of what essentially amounts to a gimmick – a small chili sampler at the beginning of the meal.
It’s simple concepts such as allowing a diner to try what he’s about to eat before they spend their hard-earned money on it that make Hard Times Café a decent place to eat. Simple food, that’s simply good – something that one might not find that often in an age in which our best food tends to be more complex than advanced astrophysics, and our most simple food often isn’t fit for human consumption.
Hard Times Café provides a solid meal for a good price while keeping the customer in mind. That little dish of chili didn’t break Hard Times into top five, or even my top ten restaurants, but it’ll be the reason I bring people there next time, to sample a good bowl of chili.
T: 703 528 2233
F: 703 528 2820