The Earle still anchors Washington St., with its signature burgundy awning outside and gleaming brass and etched-glass lobby within. Brightly colored marketing posters (surprisingly dissonant with the signature logo and menu script) now line the path down the staircase, ensuring that you note the food's from scratch, the mussels and wines lauded.
Who cares about marketing when you're cutting into a fork-tender gem of beef, topped with peppercorns, Roquefort, mushrooms, or wine sauce? The Earle's panzanella has a fan club for its fearless way with garlic and anchovies that invigorate cucumbers and any old tomatoes. Decent wine can be had for under $5 a glass, and no entrée hits $30. I've never been disappointed by an Earle dessert, whether it's cognac ice cream drenched in dark chocolate, fruity sorbet, or textbook crème brűlée.
Not every item on the menu hits a home run, however. A tasty duck quarter came with overly sweet cider sauce. Pillowy ravioli stuffed with eggplant had great flavor and red-peppery sauce but left me chewing overlong on purple rind.
Service at the Earle also runs the spectrum. Julie was a real pro. To the server another evening who kept touching my shoulder (once I wouldn't have noticed, twice would barely register, but three times after I started counting?): please save that attention for when I'm waiting for you to bring cream for my coffee and a pen for the bill slip.