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Seal of Approval 

Trident Grill goes above and beyond the usual bar fare

I told a co-worker that I was reviewing Trident Grill this week, and he chuckled. "I hope it's a good review," he said. "I think it's owned by Navy Seals, and they could kick your ass."

Thankfully, this review will be positive (for the most part), meaning the ass-kicking will have to wait for another day.

The Trident Bar décor makes it quite obvious that the owner has a Navy Seals background: Military memorabilia is everywhere, practically covering the walls. It's also apparent that management roots for the Washington Redskins, doesn't care much for smoking (it's not allowed) and has a thing for seafood (it almost dominates the menu). It's clear that the folks running Trident are striving for the place to be more than just another sports bar near the UA.

Garrett and I first visited on a weekday evening. No major sporting events were happening, and the place was fairly quiet. We sat down in a booth and stared at all the Navy stuff (with a few Redskins items mixed in) on the wood-panel walls as our charming server delivered big, laminated menus. A pool table sits near the kitchen area on the north side of the restaurant; a bar takes up much of the eastern wall, while booths line the south and east sides. Tables fill in the middle, and TVs--tuned to sports, of course--hang from some corners and line the area above the bar.

We enjoyed the lack of smoke as we pondered the menus. All the usual bar fare--appetizers, sandwiches and burgers--is present, but, as mentioned above, so is a surprising amount of seafood. You can get everything from peel-and-eat shrimp ($9 for a half pound, $16 for a full pound) to scallops ($13), from king crab to snow crab ($22 and $14 respectively) and from yellowfin tuna ($13) to blackened tilapia ($12). When you add in the four meat options (two steaks, along with a pork chop and a chicken breast) and several items for kids, it's an impressive menu, to be sure.

Garrett and I were hungry (but then again, when aren't we?). For appetizers, we ordered the canteen (filet mignon sliced and served on a soft roll with horseradish sour cream dip, $11) and a half-dozen Trident tenders ($7); a dozen tenders or wings is $12. You can get the wings/tenders (along with celery and a dipping sauce) with barbecue sauce or hot sauce, ranging from least hot ("hot") to hottest ("below hell"). We picked the second-lowest of the four levels, "blazing hot."

The appetizers were delivered promptly. The canteen was basically a roast beef sandwich cut into four pieces, with filet mignon sitting in as the beef. It tasted great--even if the thinly sliced meat was closer to medium-well than how we ordered it, medium-rare--and were especially impressed by the kick that the horseradish sour cream dip (topped with scallions) had. However, I don't think the dish was worth $11. The filet--which there was not that much of--was not so amazing as to justify that price.

The tenders, however, were worth every penny. The chicken pieces, which came without annoying breading, were juicy and delicious (if not all that hot). Our only complaint is that the accompanying bleu cheese dip was bland and weak.

For the main course, Garrett had a LaSalle burger (with grilled mushrooms, Swiss cheese and sour cream, $8), whereas I went the seafood route and ordered the Maryland blue crabcakes ($15; also available as an appetizer, $11, or in a sandwich, $8). While the red pepper aioli that topped the crabcakes was pretty weak, the cakes themselves didn't need it; they were delicious enough to stand on their own. I truly enjoyed them. The garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli that came with the dish were fine; it proved to be a satisfying meal.

Garrett's burger was also satisfying--he said it was big, juicy and tasty. However, he was extremely disappointed with the accompanying onion rings. He paid 50 cents extra to get the rings (over fries or other side options), and for the trouble, he received five, small, so-so onion rings, total. We couldn't believe we had to pay extra for such a meager side.

Despite the onion ring letdown, we were full and satisfied, and declined the two dessert options (cheesecake and carrot cake).

We returned about a week later, for lunch this time. After pondering the menu again (it's the same for lunch and dinner), I ordered the Trident B.L.T. ($7) along with a cup of the New England clam chowder ($3). Garrett selected the Wildcat burger (with barbecue sauce, cheddar, bacon and an onion ring on the burger, $8) with a salad. But first, we would split the Trident nachos ($6).

After a minor delay, we got the soup and salad first from our server, who was also friendly and helpful. The chowder was chunky yet creamy; it didn't have a lot of intense flavor, but the bacon and clams combined nicely to hit the spot. Garrett's salad featured fresh, crisp greens, so he was happy. We were still eating when she brought the huge plate full of nachos. It featured two kinds of fairly generic tortilla chips, topped with cheddar, tomatoes, onions, olives and jalapenos, with salsa on the side. There were no surprises (other than the sheer amount), and we enjoyed them.

We had barely made a dent in the nachos and were still finishing the soup and salad when the main courses arrived. Garrett's burger--much like the one he ordered on our dinner visit--was delicious. My sandwich--your typical B.L.T with a twist in the form of cream cheese--was fine, although the bacon was fairly cool by the time it arrived. My accompanying fries were standard, but that was OK with me--I was full.

The food at Trident won't knock your socks off, but it's better than your average bar food, by quite a large margin. It just goes to show that Navy Seals can kick ass--in the kitchen.

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