Tuesday, July 17, 2012

dining out: hard times cafe

If you find yourself in suburban D.C. and are hungry, let me recommend finding a Hard Times Cafe. Tony and I were in Northern Virginia on Friday evening for a happy hour, and beforehand we stopped to eat at the Hard Times in Springfield. The restaurants are meant to be reminiscent of cowboy chili parlors of the American West, which is a fun concept.

It's a local chain with restaurants mostly in suburban Virginia and Maryland. The Springfield location is in an unassuming strip mall.

I ate the vegetarian chili, which had a lot of flavor.

The atmosphere and service were nice, overall. Except for the smell. I'd forgotten just how gross it is to eat in a restaurant that still allows smoking. A law banned smoking in Virginia restaurants after 2009 -- with a few exceptions. A restaurant may have a smoking section if it has separate ventilation systems and if a door separates the two sections. So you can smoke at the Hard Times in Springfield. There's definitely a door between the two sections, but the entire restaurant still smells like stale cigarettes.

I can't remember the last time I ate in a smoking restaurant, and it made me really appreciate the laws banning it. It took me back to college, when we'd get home from the smoky bars and immediately stuff every pungent article of clothing into a laundry bag and tuck the bag into the back of the closet until laundry day.

I'm sure I'd go back to a Hard Times someday. But I'd definitely choose one of the non-smoking locations.

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