First Taste: Terrain Cafe
Upscale, farm-friendly dining inside Bethesda’s new Anthropologie & Co. store
The interior of Terrain Cafe at Anthropologie & Co. in downtown Bethesda
Terrain Cafe opened two weeks ago inside the new Anthropologie & Co. mega-store at 4801 Bethesda Ave. on Bethesda Row (in the old Barnes & Noble space). This is the restaurant’s fifth location, all of which are connected to Anthropologie stores in upscale communities including Palo Alto, California, and Westport, Connecticut.
The restaurant is open daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch/lunch and from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday for dinner. Reservations are available through OpenTable.
The restaurant occupies a section of Anthropologie’s street level fronting Woodmont Avenue. Enter either through the separate entrance on Woodmont (by the host stand) or through the store (by the bar).
The look is industrial chic meets rustic farmhouse meets woodland reverie. Big windows, concrete floors and open ceilings are cozied up by wooden tables, weathered pink and green walls, ferns and open terrariums.
One feature that stands out is the acoustics. Even though almost all of the 60 seats were full when we visited, the room was remarkably quiet. We could talk to our tablemates without raising our voices. For those put off by the noise levels at other Bethesda dining spots such as True Food Kitchen or Kapnos Kouzina, the relative quiet will be a welcome relief.
Food and drink
The menu reads like a compendium of food trends over the past decade. Charcuterie. Toasts. Kale salad. Cauliflower. Hummus. Burrata. Harvest Bowls. You get the idea.
That Harvest Bowl ($20) turns out to be more akin to a composed salad than a melange. The vegetables, quinoa and falafel elements are all quite good. But be prepared for a bit of sticker shock.
A Harvest Bowl can run up to $30 if you order it topped with steak, $28 with salmon, $27 with blue crab and $26 with chicken.
The flank steak plate ($28) is well-cooked but short on flavor, both because the meat lacks a good sear and because flank is not a very beefy cut. The star of the plate is the perfectly cooked freekah, which adds a toothsome ancient-grain nuttiness.
Given Terrain Cafe’s healthful leanings, the surprise of the evening is the Terrain burger and fries ($18). The burger itself is lightly packed and juicy with a tasty sesame seed bun. The fries are fresh and hot. You’ll see lots of burgers leaving the kitchen for good reason.
Avoid the ricotta-squash fritters with brown butter and maple ($7), which taste more like a sweet brunch dish than a savory dinner starter.
Terrain Cafe’s drink menu is impressive, featuring several wines on tap, craft beers and garden cocktails. On the non-alcoholic side, there are abundant options for coffees, chai, organic teas, juices, and even make-your-own spritzers with 15 flavors to mix-and-match.
The waitstaff is earnest but raw, trying hard to please while still internalizing the playbook. There are lots of managers and other facilitators around to keep things moving. Sometimes they succeed, like when I told my dining companion that the steak needed salt and one of the managers swooped in with a dish seconds later. Sometimes they falter, such as the delivery of the Harvest Bowl 10 minutes after the other entrees.
Go or skip?
Go if you’re looking for a light meal before or after a movie. Go if you’re meeting someone for a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and may also want a snack or dessert. Go if you love the vibe of Anthropologie and wish it came in digestible form.