Evening Star Café By Chef Will Artley

Del Ray's dining destination is a quadruple threat

For 10 years, Evening Star Café was a reliable neighborhood standard.

But when chef Will Artley took over in 2007, he transitioned the Del Ray restaurant's multiple rooms into a quadruple threat of refined Southern flavors.

In addition to his main menu, Artley serves beer-battered fish tacos ($10) and andouille gumbo ($6) as casual dishes in the cocktail-drenched No. 9 Lounge, cooks for his nascent Farm Table in the adjoining Planet Wine showroom, and tends his new kitchen garden.

Many of the dishes emerging from Artley's kitchen honor classic comfort foods with a touch of whimsy. Caesar salad ($8) arrives draped with salty boquerones and zesty chipotle dressing. Mashed potatoes accompany a lanky strip of grilled beef tenderloin ($27) and are laced with scallions, cheddar and bacon.

Speck salad ($10) heaps tendrils of frisée in a splash of sharp red-wine vinaigrette with spiced pecans, candied rhubarb, a crumble of blue cheese and shavings of buttery Italian ham.

Evening Star's signature macaroni and cheese ($11) incorporates summer's favorite combination, the BLT. Artley's concoction bundles chewy spinach gnocchi, bites of smoky bacon, and garden tomato concassé in a blanket of truffled cream sauce.

Artley's hard work ensures that Evening Star shines brightly, even 14 years later.

Evening Star Café, 2000 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-549-5051 or eveningstarcafe.net