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Fearless Critic restaurant review
DC
Food
Feel
Price
7.6
8.0
$35
American, Pizza
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Thu 11:00am–10:30pm
Fri–Sat 11:00am–1:00am
Sun 11:00am–10:00pm

Features Outdoor dining, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.matchboxdc.com

Chinatown
713 H St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 289-4441
Matchbox
Decent but overhyped pizza and sliders in a buzzing space—not worth the long wait

Once home to little more than a cadre of sometimes legit, sometimes crappy, often grungy Chinese restaurants, DC’s Chinatown has more recently been invaded by “destination” ethnic restaurants. Nowadays, within a two-block radius, you can find variable-quality, invariably self-promoting takes on Spanish, Greek, Mexican, Thai, Irish, and Burmese cuisines.

At first, it seems like Matchbox—a casual but inordinately popular restaurant with a simple American theme of pizzas, burgers, and such—is the antithesis of these faux-ethnic hypefests. It comes off as something more honest, more real, a breath of fresh air. The result is that waits on weekends (and even some weekdays) can exceed an hour. But look closer, and you’ll find that Matchbox might just be the most overhyped kid on the block.

The pizzas—which are cooked, with great pomp and circumstance, in a legit-but-misused wood-burning brick oven that’s in intentionally obvious view of the bar—are okay, but they’re really a class below those of the top DC spots (2 Amys, for example). The problem is that the pies are piled with excessive cheese, which really takes over; the crust seems to melt away under this oily mess. Moreover, while most of the combinations (such as the classic veggie or sausage and onion options) are solid, a few choices are misguided. There’s something funny about the prosciutto white, which pairs kalamata olives and prosciutto with ricotta and mozzarella. Although the meat is thinly sliced and fresh and the ricotta has a sweet finish, the two never come together as they should.

Some of Matchbox’s non-pizza offerings are considerably better. You might try the rich burger sliders, which are served in sets of three, six, or nine as an appetizer for the table. The patties are tasty little meat bites; they’re cooked a bit more than you’d like (ask for them “very rare”), but they’re served in some of the richest, most buttery little brioches we’ve tasted. Alongside the burgers is a plate of delicate angel-hair strips of deep fried onions.

Another excellent choice is the simple salad, which pairs dried cherries, balsamic vinaigrette, pecorino romano, and parmesan crisps, all atop a big bed of drop-dead-fresh greens. The salad is a bit preposterous (who came up with “vintage pizza bistro”?), but it’s worth the trouble. We wish we could say the same for the overall concept—or for the notion of actually waiting an hour to eat here.

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