With a 10-month-old at home and full-time+ jobs, my wife and I don't get out as much as we used to. We'd almost forgotten we had a babysitter for Saturday night when a friend emailed about his birthday celebration at Barca, also planned for Saturday.
Sensing an opportunity for a proper night on the town, we headed off in search of a good restaurant within easy walking distance of Barca -- meaning somewhere in the Pike/Pine corridor of south Capitol Hill. Our pick -- based on a brief visit for drinks late last year -- was 1200, located on the corner of 12th and Pike.
1200 is really two establishments in one: a small but stylish cafe/bar located directly on the corner, with a quieter and more private bistro-style dining room in "back" (actually in the the next-door storefront, but without a separate entrance). We walked in around 8:30 without a reservation and, after scanning the menus in both rooms, opted for a table in the bar (in part for the livelier setting, but also because I'd heard the bar-only steak frites was excellent).
The night we visited, the bar crowd offered a fascinating cross-section of Capitol Hill scenes: stylish, middle-aged gay men and women; a smattering of legit urban hipsters; and a handful of square couples (like us) rounding things out. No group seemed to dominate, and the overall vibe was comfortable and relaxed, with very little see-and-be-seen posturing going on.
In addition to a closely-spaced row of barstools, the bar offers seating at six or eight small dinner tables, plus a few high stools and cocktail tables tucked against the windows. The entire area is served by one waiter, covering both drinks and dinner orders with remarkable efficiency and poise. We selected an open table against the far wall (perfectly positioned for people-watching), ordered our first round of drinks and took a closer look at the menu.
The bar menu offers a subset of the main dining room options, plus a few bar-only items. Pricing seemed fair in both rooms, but the bar menu offers some notable bargains. My wife and I split a house salad ($6), a half-dozen Hamma Hamma oysters (a $10 special that night, not on the regular menu), my anticipated steak frites (just $13) and the burger with goat cheese ($9?, and another bar-only offering).
Everything arrived quickly, in the correct sequence, and with little delay from plating to serving (the fries accompanying both the burger and steak were piping hot - a winning sign). The salad was very good, the oysters excellent, the steak and burger both solidly respectable, and the fries very good (if a little thickly cut for my tastes). Our total bill for dinner, several drinks, and a tip reflecting the excellent service came to well under $100 - a welcome surprise when compared to similar places elsewhere in town.
Based on our experience, I highly recommend 1200 for its winning combination of well-executed food and drink, inviting atmosphere, enjoyable people-watching, and proximity to other notable Pike/Pine watering holes. Next time you head out for a night on the town, give them a try and let me know if you agree.