Image: That’s one way to cook cauliflower.
Last Updated: July 2022
Current Status: Maydan is back to sit-down dining, indoor and outdoor.
Before Times Review:
Last Visited: June 2019
Maydan is a phenom. When it opened it captured something in the imagination of the public and critical world, and it hasn’t slowed down since. Part of its allure is the setting. Housed in a large converted industrial building that is located down an alley. It puts a giant wood-burning hearth at the center of an open, two-story space. It is a warm location, literally and figuratively. Food, prepared on the open flames, is also part of the allure. Finally, there is an elusive quality to restaurants that work that Maydan has. It is in the way the staff and customers pick up on the positive buzz. It is the way the setting helps slack off the outside world for an hour or so. It is hard to define, but whatever “it” is, Maydan has “it.”
The open oven is not just for show. Most of the menu touches the flames in one way or another. As a rule, it seems meats and veggies stand up better to the flames than fish. The added elements often help a dish to transcend a simple grilled skewer: the tomato vinaigrette under the squash, the saffron and turmeric on the lamb. Visiting at intervals over the last couple years, you can see the improving skill of the kitchen with a less than exact cooking process. It was cool and fun food when it opened. Now it is consistently good too.
To supplement the dishes, there are $1 small ramekins of spreads that are good with the dishes or with the constantly refreshed bread. The tomato jam is a favorite for many. Two dishes with sweetness were hits on a recent visit. The halloumi came with a little honey that balanced and elevated the dish. The “cheesecake” is labneh drained and strained until it is as dense as chevre. Served with strawberries on top, it was a dish to make you stop and appreciate what owner Rose Previte is doing.
If there is one objection to Maydan, it is summed up as, “I can’t believe you would pay that much for street food!” It is a valid complaint. There are probably places in the ‘burbs that are putting out (arguably better) versions of these dishes without the overhead, but the food here stands up well in comparison. The $12 ground lamb kebab is paying for the attentive staff, the impressive space that is vibrant without being deafening, and the talented bartenders making cocktails. The wine list is interesting with many wines by the glass. It includes “orange” wine made with skin contact that is popular in the Balkans and Caucuses, some of the same places that the cuisine comes from. Not surprisingly wine from the region goes well with food from the region.
One warning is that the stove is an open flame in the middle of the room and a few feet from the bar. In the winter it adds a coziness. In the summer, being that close to a heat source may not be as welcome. Choose your seats well. The high-top tables on the ground floor, like some of the bar seats, can get warm too and are not designed for large American men to sit shoulder-to-shoulder. If you want to avoid either of those problems ask in advance for seating upstairs.
In the end, the quibbles are minor. For both the cooking and the overall experience Maydan is worth making a trip for.
Rating: Worth the Cab Fare
Cuisine: Rest of World
Neighborhood: U Street
Address: 1346 Florida Ave NW, Washington DC 20009
Washington Post: Made Tom’s 2018 Spring Dining Guide at 2.5 stars and #6. By Fall 2018 it was #5 and 3 stars. No explanation for the bump, though he made a similar move up in that time frame from 1.5 to 2.5 for Kith and Kin.
Washingtonian: #30 in 2019; #17 in 2018.
Lori: Pretty positive.
Rick: Early, hugely positive post.
Bon Appetit: #2 Best New Restaurant 2018.
Michelin: Bib Gourmand