I love Alexandria, it’s true; I have fun every time I enter into the city. So does Dining Companion — but he does the driving. For him, the stress of what could happen on the bridge or in traffic nearly rivals the stress of what actually does happen. Are your fears of driving conditions keeping you from enjoying a tasty meal? All your worries will disappear at Clyde’s – Mark Center.
Located right off the highway, with loads of free parking, Clyde’s at Mark Center lets the meal be the focus of your outing.
Clyde’s has a lot going for it besides the location. Owned by the same folks who own the Old Ebbitt Grill, you will find many of the same gourmet attentions to detail. The ambiance for Sunday brunch is upscale casual to dressy. Clyde’s at Mark Center is decorated in an early 20th century sporting club motif, complete with antique boat house equipment and polished shotguns adorning the ceilings and walls. Light, smooth jazz plays in the background. I was in a room that had a crackling fire burning in the fireplace, a nice touch on a chilly morning. Another nice touch was the plate of little cinnamon coffee cakes that the server brings to each table. Clyde’s staff is wonderfully attentive; you don’t have to ask for or hint about anything. I loved how I didn’t have to ask for the coffee cream pitcher to be refilled.
Clyde’s is famous for their raw bar — they procure the best and freshest seafood from ports around the country. Of course, I wanted to sample the goods, so I ordered the oyster sampler as an appetizer ($9.95). This is a fantastic value appetizer. Six unique oysters are served with homemade cocktail sauce, an interesting onion-flavored vinaigrette, oyster crackers and lemon, on a bed of crushed ice. My particular sampler, fresh as could be, included Kumanatos, Raspberry Points, Tomahawks and Wellfleets. It was a great learning experience to taste the variety of flavors that oysters can be, ranging from meaty to sea-salty to sweet. We accompanied the oysters with Bloody Marys: Clyde’s adds a unique, smoky chipotle-like flavor to the classic Sunday cocktail.
We also tried the cheese sampler as an appetizer — so au currant, with Atkins, international gourmets, etc. ($9.95). Served with pecan raisin bread and apples, this plate provides new flavors, yet is accessible enough to please any palate. The cheese sampler included Vermont Shepard (a cave-aged sheep’s milk), Old Kentucky Tomme (a cooked curd goat’s milk), a buttery Camembert from Vermont and a Colby. All the cheeses, though different from each other, worked equally well with the apples. The plate also had a baby greens garnish that was thoughtfully tossed in a vinaigrette.
For brunch, you can order traditional lunch items, such as a chicken or steak salads or grilled burgers. Also, Clyde’s has a selection of entrees served specially for brunch. The “Special of the Month” when I was there was the Sautéed Sea Scallops ($14.95). Our server told us that the scallops were “dayboat,” meaning that they came in off the boat that day and were not packed in salt. They were luscious and meaty, served with firm sweet potatoes, caramelized onions, rich wild mushrooms and a thyme butter sauce. Though we did not order from the wine list, Clyde’s does list a couple of reasonably priced wine selections with each entree as a suggestion.
We also tried the apple pancakes with Clyde’s own house-smoked bacon. The pancakes were delightfully crisp, sweet and dessert-like. They reminded us of Dining Companion’s mom’s famous Jewish Apple Cake. Also, I must say, Clyde’s bacon is the best I’ve ever tasted: a perfect balance of smoke, meatiness, richness and sweetness.
Other entrees that you can order include a three-egg spinach and bacon omelet topped with Hollandaise sauce ($9.95), Nacho eggs, jumbo lump crab cakes served with Old Bay potatoes, as well as rockfish ($13.95).
A good marker for restaurant desserts is creme brulee: they have to make it in-house and it can be very easy for the brulee to be too brulee, if you catch my drift. Clyde’s creme brulee is just right, very rich and creamy, in a generous portion. They garnish it with mint and a ginger snap cookie. We also tried a dessert item that’s brand new on the menu — a Valrhona chocolate bread pudding with rum raisin sauce. What a great combo! The raisins were very plump. After this delicious brunch, that’s how we felt too: plump and contented.