06/24/2013 08:52 am ET Updated Aug 24, 2013

The 5 Phases of Dining at Hill Country

When I go out to eat, of course I want the food to taste good. That's the main reason I go to a restaurant, but I always find that my favorite food adventures are the ones that have been more than a meal, but also an experience. And Hill Country in Penn Quarter is definitely an experience that I can describe in 5 specific phases.

Phase 1: Confusion
I have to admit, I was a slightly confused patron at first. After waiting for a few minutes, my dining companion and I were brought to a table, fully equipped with an entire role of paper towels: the first warning of what was to come. With meal tickets in hand, we ventured to the "marketplace." Even though it seems easy enough, it took me a minute to understand what exactly I was supposed to do. The meal tickets essentially serve as your check. After you order at each counter, a sticker is placed on your ticket showing what you got, which you then give to your waiter at the end of your meal. Once I realized what I was supposed to do, I moved on to Phase 2.

Phase 2: Excitement!
Maybe I'm entertained fairly easily. I don't know. But what I do know is that I found the actual process of getting food at Hill Country to be quite fun. I enjoyed viewing the menu at each counter and deciding how many pounds of meat I wanted (something I normally don't do outside of a deli) and whether I was in the mood for a "good eatin,'" a "heapin' helpin'" or a "feed your family" portion for my sides. Which brings me to...

Phase 3: Chow time
I couldn't help but laugh as I unwrapped my chicken, sausages and white bread from the brown butcher paper all three foods had been placed in, but the laughter stopped as I began to eat. The barbecue was messy, of course (that role of paper towels really came in handy), but tasty nonetheless, and the sides of mac and cheese, cole slaw and cornbread made the meal complete. I was suddenly very happy with my choice to dine at Hill Country, so when our waiter came along and asked, of course we chose to indulge in...

Phase 4: Adorable desserts
I'm not sure if calling the desserts "adorable" puts a damper on the vibe Hill Country is going for, but I think that is the appropriate word for any dessert that is A. miniature B. in a mason jar or C. both. Case in point: the banana creme pudding. I'm a pretty big fan of both the dessert and mason jars to begin with, so once you combine them, how can I possibly resist? The pudding was delicious and the finishing touch to an enjoyable meal, leaving me at...

Phase 5: Happiness
Casual food and casual dining made a happy camper out of me. I definitely plan on stopping by Hill Country again. Maybe next time I'll make a point to go when they have live music playing, but even if I can't make it then...there's always banana creme pudding waiting for me.

Hill Country DC

Originally posted on