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Found 35 results

  1. I guess this opened: "Check Out The Filipino Menu for Bad Saint" by Jessica Sidman on washingtoncitypaper.com Looks tasty. Anyone go yet? Is it reservation or wait list like RL/LS? -S
  2. On other coffee threads, we've been talking about preferences and criteria one might use to assess or "vett" a coffee shop. Personally, I overweight coffee quality relative to pastries or food on offer, comfortable seating, free wifi or whatever. But that doesn't mean I don't care about those other things. I do. I imagine we all do to some extent. Coffy Cafe, which I checked out for the first time this weekend, helped me to refine how I think about this. Cutting to the chase, there's a minimum quality bar that, if not surpassed, I won't return a second time to a shop. That bar, for the most part, is just about having some decent beans from which coffee is brewed with extra points for all the other stuff (well trained baristas using good equipment, onsite roasting, yada, yada). HEADLINE A coffee shop with heart, soul, a real sense of community and some good joe BACKGROUND Felicia Harris (who I didn't have the privilege of meeting when I was in) is behind Coffy Cafe. This Columbia Heights blog post is one of the better sources of background that I could find but the key things are that she founded this place with a primary focus on community, reflective of her upbringing and tastes, while also providing some good quality food and drink. VENUE Coffy Cafe is pretty large with lower and upper levels. It has lots of comfortable seating (Ms. Harris told the blogger is was about 'bringing her living room to the community') that is, in part, retro 60s and 70s, colorful and reminded me some of Snooze, the Colorado breakfast spot I like. Wingback, Wassily and other funky chairs, mis-matched leather sofas and plenty of tables for cups, laptops and ipads. It's very bright thanks to the windows and lots of different lamps and lightling. As much as any other description, Coffy Cafe is just very comfortable. The place screams community as soon as you enter; a great thing IMHO as it's sometimes hard to find spots that offer very good coffee and a great comfortable place to find a seat, read or work. This is that. There's a big Marzocco espresso machine behind the counter along with a 3 or 4 station pourover rack and some large crepe flats. THE COFFEE Right now, Coffy Cafe is exclusively using Ceremony and that's a good thing. While currently no onsite roasting or choice of roasters, Ceremony is local (Annapolis) and a quality producer. According to Coffy's website, they may bring in other roasters over time. Ceremony recently won the national brewers championship and their beans are carried by Filter, Dolcezza and the Armstrongs' EatGoodFood Group (Restaurant Eve, Society Fair, etc), among many others. I think they're also the only local roaster to go regional and now national. I saw them in some better shops in Portland (OR) recently. Full slate of espresso drinks, drip coffee from pitchers or pour overs. I ordered an "Antithesis" pour over and really enjoyed it. Perfectly brewed, medium roast with all the notes easily discernable. THE PEOPLE Evidently, the owner was formerly a teacher in a DC charter school and was raised in a military family. The barista who served me, Michael, couldn't have been nicer. Ex Army and really passionate and knowledgeable about coffee. I was pretty hooked before even getting my cup. FOOD The other central thing on offer are crepes. I didn't try these but they looked good and there are several different kinds, sweet and savory, from which to choose. Also some other pastries and more typical coffee shop fare. BOTTOM LINE Pricing is all reasonable. People are wonderful. Close to metro right in the middle of Columbia Heights. Good coffee made by people who know what they're doing and are friendly and welcoming. Lots of seating, plenty of light. What's not to like? This is the kind of place that should make anyone happy just by virtue of its existence. Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks as we know it, wrote in his book "Pour Your Heart Into It" about creating a "3rd place" when he first set out to introduce premium coffee shops to America. Starbucks long ago lost any claim to that distinctive role in communities, giving way to the independents like Coffy Cafe. May it enjoy a long and very successful run as a cherished member of the Columbia Heights and DC communities.
  3. After reading a short blurb in the Washing Post, we decided to try Mezcalero, the new Columbia heights Mexican restaurant. This one goes in the column of "easy to like, easy to be disappointed." We started with a round of very disappointing cocktails. For a place called Mezcalero, we had high hopes for the mezcal based cocktails on the list. Both were so sweet that we could barely get other flavors. Queso fundido was solid but undersalted. The chile relleno was quite good. We had many tacos including nopales (cactus paddles), mushrooms, salmon, and tilapia. The tacos were solid but also undersalted. Service was lackluster. For a neighborhood place, this is reasonably priced and has some authentic options. But it doesn't impress. And it's a very different experience from something like Espita.
  4. Inspired by Anne Limpert's praise of the restaurant in her chat last week and heeding her call to visit now before it gets too popular (plus, wanting to go before I move from DC in a week (!!)), we checked out Queen's English in the old KBC space last night. In what seems to be common with good restaurants these days, it is run by a man and a woman pair (ala Himitsu, Espita, Seylou, Bad Saint, Rooster & Owl, etc.). Similar to Rooster & Owl, Seylou and Espita, in this case the pair are husband and wife. We walked in at 6:05 to a mostly empty restaurant (it filled up later but was never jammed) and our party of four was seated by the gracious, knowledgeable and likable Sarah Thompson, the aforementioned front of house maven. The place is beautifully redecorated with bright colors that fit the Hong Kong theme. The wine list (available online) is replete with natural wines (a focus of Sarah's), but we went for cocktails instead. All of them were funky -- in a good way -- either bitter or brightly citrusy without being too sweet. They struck me as drinks that Tiger Fork's imo terrible drinks aspire to be, with less gimmick. I enjoyed two pours of zucca, which is one of my favorite amari. Onto the food. As you can see, there are about 16 menu items, and they recommended 3 dishes or so per person. So we decided to make it easy and order basically the entire menu, skipping only the "PB&J" and the chicken. We were then treated to a parade of deliciousness, with the cucumber/trout roe dish standing out from the first batch. The combination of roe with fresh cucumbers thinly sliced and a vinegar-based sauce hit the spot. In the next group, the twice-cooked lamb rib and daikon fritters are two of the best things I've eaten in a long time. I would highly, highly recommend these as must-orders. I liked the twice-cooked lamb rib more than the one at Tail Up Goat, though I haven't had that for more than a year. The daikon fritters have a perfect texture and a great mix of sweet and salty. The shrimp were massive and tasty, but not incredible. I don't remember much about the steam water egg and dumpling, but I'm sure I enjoyed them. For our mains, I loved the bok choy and young pea greens, which were both on the bitter-veggie side, but they are quite similar, so I'd recommend getting one or the other. The star of this course was definitely the sweet & sour branzino, which came in a sauce that reminded me of a much better version of buffalo sauce. Super tender fish and briny cabbage made it a great dish. Unsurprisingly, the crispy rice was also a hit. More than just fried rice, this is like burnt rice that hasn't been charred, so it is...crunchy, hence the name. Same flavors as fried rice, just a new texture. I liked it. Shockingly, the biggest miss of the night was the hand cut noodles, which we were all so excited for. They come buried under a mix of what seemed to be bell peppers, reminding us almost of fajitas. The flavors didn't compare to the other dishes we had. On another note, we saw the chicken when the waiter walked by with it for someone else--and it looked great. For dessert, the house treated us to the only dessert on the menu, which was a caramel custard that was incredibly sweet and caramelly--but not in a bad way. Two bites of it was plenty, as enjoyable as those bites were. Afterwards, chef Henji Cheung came out to our table to ask us how we liked everything! We almost wonder whether he thought we were professional reviewers, but our lengthy conversation likely dissuaded him of that notion. He spoke to us about his background (grew up in HK and NY) and how they found the spot here. They live around the corner and say this restaurant has been a true labor of love for them, working constantly to make it as good as they hope. Both him and Sarah were incredibly nice and appreciative of our patronage. Honestly, we were full by the end but not overly stuffed--if going with a party of four adults, I would recommend doing much as we did, but adding the chicken, dropping the noodles, and dropping one of the greens dishes. This place is going to be a hit and doesn't take reservations, so go now while you can.
  5. I grabbed lunch here for the first time today, think it's been open for a little over a month. I haven't been to every taco joint in the district yet, but the first visit here beat every visit I've made to Taqueria Distrito Federal. I had the lengua, the carnitas, and the fish taco (daily special; tilapia). The lengua had a nice crust on it, which I've not had on lengua in the past and made for more of a roast pork belly mouthfeel, and the carnitas were properly fried and chunky, not pulled pork. The fish was not overcooked, although the fish taco as a whole had more of an earthy chili funk to it than the brightness of a Baja-style fish taco. The spiciness of the base tacos was fairly mild. They have a nice selection of salsas on the table to fix that, though. I believe the tortillas were homemade, just off the griddle. A bit apt to crack but still flexible enough to do the job, great flavor, and with the correct number of two per taco. My wife's al pastor huarache was also delicious. Taqueria Habanero on Yelp Jon
  6. Of the new crop of restaurants on Columbia Heights' 11th Street strip, I've been to Kangaroo Boxing Club the most--four times. This isn't by design, but it's easy, comfortable, welcoming, and has enough high points that it's easy to look past the weak ones. The pastrami, for instance. I'm no expert, but this is by far the best I've ever had. I mean, outstanding, off-the-charts, off-the-hook terrific. The rye bread holds up to it and I don't know how it's possible, but the mustard makes it all even better. Seriously: get the pastrami. I'm not as wild about the other meats. The Smokey Joe is okay--too much, too strong, too salty sauce mixed with over-shredded beef that's only remarkable if you get a couple of the awesome smoky end pieces in the mix. The chocolate BBQ on the pulled chicken is also pretty spicy, and the chicken is fine. I don't remember much about the pulled pork (not a good sign, but it was a couple of months ago) except that I couldn't really find a sauce I liked--I think they all were too spicy for me*--and the bottom bun was soaked through with grease. I clearly need to give it another go. Those sandwich buns are good though. The beans vex me. They vex me so. The first time they were amazing; the second time they tasted like someone had spilled a bottle of vinegar on them; the third time, amazing again; the fourth time vinegar again, plus something else not so good. What the hell? Seems to me that we've got two chefs making two different recipes, and it makes me sad because I've clearly got a 50-50 chance of getting a ramekin of yuck, and those odds just aren't fair. But when they're done right, the beans are the best side on the menu, along with the johnny cakes. The mac and cheese is pretty darn good, and the greens and salad are run-of-the-mill. The garlic fries are nice, but it's the dipping sauce that makes them dangerously addictive. I think they only have three beer taps, but they're stocked with good stuff (the Redtober and Mojo are my recent faves) so I haven't explored the bottles. I stay away from the cocktails, which, even when on special, just aren't that well made. The service is across the board terrific, but the joint is seriously tiny. The bar has been full pretty much every time I've been in, and every seat in the place tends to be taken by 6:30. *Is BBQ usually this spicy? I'm sort of on the mild-to-medium end of the spectrum, but I was surprised that every sauce was so firey. Sigh. Guess I'll have to stick with the pastrami (poor me!).
  7. Am I right that no one has written about Maple? Named after the big slab of maple wood that makes up the bar (not pancakes!), this place is right on 11th st. We went for the first time last weekend and were very happy we did. It's a small space and you can tell that the same designers who did Cork did Maple (although I found Maple more comfy/cozy). Lots of wood, grey, etc. and the bar ends in one of those peninsulas that can be a table for four. Outside tables too. The menu is small, and so is the kitchen. That said, everything was delicious. To start we had a summer special cocktail -- gin with limonata, blackberry juice, and blackberries. Refreshing and I am now totally addicted to this drink. We had two of the crostini (I don't remember the price for two, four were $10) and they were tasty -- one with white beans and anchovies and one with prosciutto, fontina, and fig. I give the edge to the white bean one though. I had the short rib panini, which was delicious. Hearty, rich, and just fantastic. My partner had the lamb bolognese, which was also great -- just gamey enough, but not too ripe. We shared a bottle of forgettable Montepulciano, but at $20 for a bottle, it was fine. There were plenty of other choices that were a little more expensive, but we went with the waitresses wine recommendation. We thought it was interesting she suggested the cheapest bottle! Dessert was a special -- cobbler with peaches and blackberries from the farmer's market with dolcezza vanilla gelato. YUM! A few things I loved -- first of all, it is not small plates. I am so tired of small plates! Second, the prices were great. For two cocktails, a bottle of wine, the crostini, two entrees and a dessert our bill was $100 for two people including tax and tip. Finally, they seem to have cool special events. We signed up for an upcoming Italian rare beer tasting. Only quibble was that the wine recommendation was not great from the server, but otherwise she was super nice, efficient, and good.
  8. Prompted by Tim Carman's partial rave, I checked out this tiny Vietnamese joint on Sherman Avenue. Ordered the bún riêu with shrimp and squid. Unfortunately, I can't recommend. The broth was just bland--no crab and tomato flavor, no funk at all. The noodles weren't anything notable, and the squid and shrimp were frozen and flavorless. Doesn't hold a candle to the soups at, e.g., Mi La Cay in Wheaton, esp. the similar M9 (assuming that remains its menu designation). Also, the soda chanh was meh, at best. I hope it was simply an off-day--the family who runs it seems very nice, and dedicated.
  9. I was just checking to see which restaurants are available on Reserve, and I saw Napoli Pasta Bar. The website states: First-time restaurant owner, Antonio Ferraro, came to Washington from Vico Equense, a city of Naples, Italy, in 2006. After many years managing some of the finest Italian restaurants in the District, he's now realizing his dream of opening his own to bring the flavors of the Sorrento Coast to Washington. This place is just too out of the way for me to wreck my diet for without knowing about its quality. Anyone been?
  10. When I had dinner at Al Crostino the other night, I noticed that the place next door was also new (well, at least I think so). Creme. It looks like more bar/lounge than restaurant, however our server at Al Crostino said it was in fact a restaurant. Has anyone heard anything about this place or been there?
  11. Perhaps the whole pop-up restaurant thing is precious and trendy, but having read the Mission Street Food Cookbook and story, I see the pop-up restaurant phenomenon as something very cool, opening possibilities for good cooks who live to feed people but don't have the means to open a restaurant. We went to People's Noodle Bar on the recommendation of a friend, and we liked it, although I guess it's been around for a few months with not very good reviews. It's located on the Park Road side of the DCUSA shopping center in Columbia Heights, in the Senor Chicken. Three kinds of broth (tonkotsu (pork), miso chicken and vegetarian mushroom), 7 ramen combinations mostly including pork, one duck and one vegetarian), 8 different levels of spicy, two kinds of noodles (the chewy yellow noodles or buckwheat, advertised as being imported from Japan). You go up to the counter to see a menu (the regular Senor Chicken menu is still up), you order and pay, then sit and wait for your ramen, and you pick up at the counter. I had the duck ramen in tonkotsu broth, advertised as having duck confit, crispy duck skin, egg, sesame and sprouts. The broth was fatty, cloudy and rich. About half the bowl was succulent shredded duck meat, with a soft-cooked egg (the inside was runny which was fine with me but may be off-putting to others), a piece of nori, a few leaves of spinach, shiitake mushroom, bean sprouts and green onion. The crispy duck skin was missing from my bowl, but it wasn't missed. Presentation was nice. It wasn't a huge portion, but I was satisfied. Husband had the pork People's ramen, spicy. The richness of his broth did not compare to my duck ramen broth, but his pork was delicious and the broth was red from the chili oil used to spice it up. Tasty in a different way. We love Ren's in Wheaton, and can't say this ramen is better, but it sure was different and good in its own way and closer to home in DC, although not for long. I think its last day is tomorrow from 5-9:30. It was a little sad and amusing to see people come in expecting a Latin chicken joint and finding out that Senor Chicken was just serving Japanese noodle soup, but perhaps the pop-up can also persuade people to try something different or new for the first time. I dig that something like this could lead to unexpected discovery. Not every experiment will be successful, but I am grateful to those who try.
  12. On the very-contentious topic of donuts: I have now gotten them a couple of times from Zombie Coffee and Donuts (address 3100 14th St., but really it's on Irving Street between 14th and 15th). The first time I was amazed at how good they were. The second time they were nearly as good. What is especially good about them is that, unlike so many donuts, they have the crunch of having been fried. (I would call them, basically, "cake" donuts rather than "yeasted" though I am not an expert.) They have that good crisp exterior and a nice greasiness. They offer various "glazes" (including none, basic sugar glaze, chocolate, vanilla, maple, strawberry, lemon) and various "toppings" (including shredded coconut, cereals, candies, and even the absurd bacon). Then they are fabricated to order. Even with those additions they are not as absurdly cloyingly sweet as some (I'm looking at you, Fractured Prune). Check it out.
  13. Opened July 30th, Acre 121 has been very well received by its neighbors and the news of this low country, BBQ has been spreading. The space is the old Commonwealth but it has been transformed. The wood floors and high ceilings open floor plan make this a very popular spot for dinner and a great spot to watch some local performers in an intimate setting. Join us at 1400 Irving Street, Washington, DC 20010. Reservations Suggested 202 328-0121. www.acre121.com
  14. I was born in Philly, but I grew up in South Florida. I may have been weaned on cheesesteaks and hoagies, but when I learned about food, it was cubanos, lechon asado, and tostones. So, like all other ex-pats, I am always in search of a cubano, with that perfect blend of crusty grilled bread, ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard. Cuban Corner in Rockville does fine in a pinch, as does Cubano's in Silver Spring and Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville. Amateurs, all of them. Mi Cuba has been open since January, and I'm sorry that I took this long to stop in. The space is painted bright and cheery, which matches the staff - at least three of whom greeted us within our first minute in the door. And though I was ready to use my "menu Spanish", all of the staff were fully bi-lingual. Definitely seems like a family operation - though I didn't clarify, looks like "Dad" cooking in the back from "Mom's" recipes and "Grandma" helping out. The menu has all of the Cuban standards - it's a small place, so it's not as extensive as the others mentioned above. With only two of us dining, we decided to stick with the classics to give the place a run. Empanadas de Carne ($2.50) were a spectacular start. The turnovers were crispy in every bite but slightly chewy in the center, just the right ratio of a tangy shredded beef stuffing in the center, and unbelievably two of them on the plate for that price. Papa Rellena con Pollo ($2.95) also had two of the larger-than-golf-ball appetizers on the plate. Crusty on the outside hiding pillow-soft mashed potatoes surrounding a flavorful center of shredded chicken and vegetables. Lechon Asado ($9.95) was glorious - a heaping pile of roasted pork, onions and spices, served with a pile of tostones (deep fried plantains), a mound of white rice, and a side bowl of black beans. And yes, there was a Cubano ($7.95). And it was gorgeous. And it was huge. And it was the best cubano I have had in many, many years. Most cubano sandwiches fall down in two places - they use a baguette or some crappy bread, and they use plain sliced roast pork. This bread was perfect - exactly as I remember from my years in Miami. And I think the roast pork was the same pork from the Lechon Asado. Do the math - for $23 + tax/tip, two of us had an authentic Cuban lunch in the middle of the skyrocketing rent area of Columbia Heights - and we had enough leftovers for lunch for one the next day. They could have served only one empanada and papa rellena for that price, a third less food on the lechon plate, and a much smaller cubano, and at those prices, I still would have considered it a deal. Run, don't walk, to Mi Cuba Cafe, sez I. Two side notes: When I told the chef on our way out where I was from and what I thought of the food, she came very close to crying while thanking me. In the middle of our meal, someone came in for a takeout order by bike. Stupidly, he left it sitting against the parking meter in front of the store, not chained up. The chef saw someone grab it while the bike's owner was in the restroom, went tearing out of the restaurant to grab the bike back from the thief, and brought it around through the back door of the restaurant. But given this imgur post, that seems like par for the course for them.
  15. I have an affinity for inexpensive rye whiskey. Especially Old Overholt. So when I read that a new bar called The Airedale was going to serve Old Overholt soft serve ice cream I knew I had to try it. Eatruneat and I made our way up there around four in the afternoon on Saturday to find the place almost completely empty. Our friends met us soon after and were terribly disappointed to find that they were not serving food at the moment. Eatruneat and her friend had just run almost twenty miles and were in a 'caloric deficit'. But the kitchen was transitioning from the brunch to regular menu wouldn't be ready until 5. Eatruneat and her friend sucked it up and just ordered beers after our bartender and bar manager promised to take their order as soon as possible. At 4:57 one the cooks popped his head out of the kitchen and gave our bartender the nod. Eatruneat ordered the la mitraillette and her friend got the Royale with cheese sans cheese. Eatruneat's friend said that her burger was cooked to a perfect medium rare and the veggies on top tasted really fresh. As for Eatruneat's dish, I don't know where to begin...and I don't think she did either. Her 'sandwich' was insane. Imagine an open faced baguette with a butterflied half smoke topped with pieces of ground chuck topped with onions topped with french fries with mayo and ketchup topping it all off. It was truly a sight. After they finished their dishes it was time for the reason we went there in the first place, the ice cream. Eatruneat and her friend thought it tasted a lot like Old Overholt where as my friend and I though you could really only taste the whiskey during the finish of the ice cream; however we did find a winning combo. When paired with a 'hard' root beer the ice cream really shines. We will be back for that combo - and maybe that crazy 'sandwich' again - as well as the friendly staff and nice atmosphere. On a side note, Eatruneat's friend noticed that the stairs going to the upstairs, where the bathrooms and outdoor deck are located, are floating and she was pretty sure 'flashed half of the bar' when walking up them in her dress. Be careful, ladies!
  16. Surprised no one has yet opened a thread on Bistro La Bonne. It recently opened in the nondescript place at 1340 U st where Axis was formerly. There has been practically no press on this, so it looks like they are trying to slide into their opening. Looking forward to having another French bistro near my place, we tried it out last weekend. We had heard the chef had been previously at Tabaq (negative points) and Bistrot du Coin (positive points). It was full at 8:30 on Saturday night (a good sign) so we sat at the bar and had a drink while we waited for a table. The bartenders and staff seem to be the same as from Axis. They always had a good bartender, so I am glad to see he is still there. They also still have a pretty good beer list (I settled for a Leffe Brun on tap) and they said they expect to get even more (mainly Belgians) in the coming months. After about 10 minutes a table opened up and we sat. The interior has changed a bit - some French posters and signs on the walls - but that's about it. Even though the menu had a number of really good sounding plates, the three of us were feeling like traditionalists, I guess, as one person got the house salad as a starter and the other two of us had the bibb salad. Both were very large for the price and for an appetizer and very good. Good quality produce and nice dressing. Both of us with the bibb salad thought it was one of the best in town (and definintely better than the bibb salad at Marvin, which usually comes out with no bibb lettuce and mesclun instead). The house salad was pronounced good by my friend. All of us had the steak frite for an entree. And, again, we all liked it. Two of them came out just barely above the ordered level of done-ness. My medium rare was not very red in the center and my +1s Medium was a bit gray, but flavorwise they were spot on. Great seasonings, a large piece of good quality meat, and a bargain at $15.95. The bernaise and the fries were also very good. All in all, we thought the salad and steak was a tad better than Bistrot du Coin (our favorite local hangout) and the fries and bernaise were just as good. We did not order dessert, but they looked to be a mixed bag of very good looking tarts and leaden looking mousses. Our main quibble would be with the obviously overworked and distracted service. It's their first month, so maybe it will get better. It wasn't awful, but could have been a touch more attentive. It wouldn't keep us away. The general sentiment was that this is a good to very good place for french staples. The atmosphere is not the convivial fun one you get at Bistrot du Coin but the food was as good if not better. I think I'd hit La Bonne if I wanted a good, quieter calmer meal with my +1 or another couple, and Bistrot du Coin would remain my favorite for a loud, racuous, night on the town.
  17. Anyone been to Morgan's Seafood in Petworth - or is it Columbia Heights? - (3200 Georgia Ave. at Kenyon) since it reopened this summer? Family owned, home-cooked soul food and steamed crabs. It is open until midnight, Mon- Thurs., and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. No website but they are "working on it." Apparently they had closed many years ago because cars were crashing through though the storefront at the busy intersection. The insurance company dropped coverage and when there was another crash during a police chase, with no insurance coverage, the restaurant closed. [so...if you go? watch your back!]
  18. DCist posted this article about the soon to open Columbia Heights eatery. Many know that I fawned endlessly over Sidebar (while never having eaten at Jackie's - what's up with that?). And I consider Gordon a friend. So take this with whatever grain of salt you feel necessary. But I think these guys are going to open a kick ass neighbourhood joint. Please - if you live in the area - give these guys your business. I cannot imagine that you'll be sorry. Please post reviews, pictures, and any other food porn you can imagine once this place opens up. I will enjoy it vicariously through y'all. Now....back to eating stale Zingerman's bagels with bologna and processed cheese slices.
  19. No word on this place? It was on Kliman's short list a month or so ago but feedback/reviews other than that have been few and far between. What I've heard from friends has been very good but I know the bar isn't exactly high when it comes to Mexican food in DC. Anyone been?
  20. Just had a wonderful goat roti yesterday at the DC outpost of Rita's West Indian Carryout on Georgia Avenue (I hear the original is in Tortola, BVI). Roti, curried potato, pepper sauce and goat curry.... aaaah! I also tried a drink called mauby (described to me as Trinidadian iced tea), which tasted somewhat like I imagine a cinnamon RedHot would if it was made into a cold drink; stimulating yet refreshing. According to my Trinidadian friend, mauby is a plant native to the West Indies that is said to be beneficial to the circulation. The 'Carryout' in the name is somewhat misleading; there is a seating area in a room up a few steps from where you order and pay. Quite plain (upon entering I had a flashback to Zorba's upstairs room from many years ago), but very serviceable and immaculate. (Since we drove by the Islander on the way to Rita's, I asked my friend how the two compare. She said that the Islander serves Americanized versions of Caribbean food, but Rita's is the real thing.)
  21. I've eaten at several Salvadoran-Mexican places in DC, but El Rinconcito is the best, and I had to give it some props after a great meal there recently. (I'm surprised it's not already on this board.) Located on Park Road off 14th Street, across from the new Giant/Tivoli Theater complex, El Rinconcito is a neighborhood gem. It's got the usual Mexican fare (tacos, nachos, quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas and fajitas), and even a selection of hamburgers and subs, but the real draw is the Salvadoran food. The pupusas can be had a la carte for $1.75 each or as a combo meal (Choice of pupusas with a choice of Tamal with rice and beans ($5.95-$7.25)). The pupusas are large, and a couple of these served with cabbage salad can make a great cheap meal. The Tamales de Elote (made with fresh corn) is excellent. My favorite beef dishes are the Carne Deshilada (shredded beef with an egg on top with Salvadoran cheese, avocado, rice and black beans for $10.50) and the Milanesa de Carne (thin breaded beef cutlet with black beans and rice, plantain and fresh pico de gallo for $10.50). There are a wide selection of beef, chicken and seafood choices (ceviche, whole rock fish, shrimp). The specialties of the house are 12 oz. steaks prepared in a couple different ways with rice, salad and tortillas for under $18 (the most expensive items on the menu). Everything tastes freshly made, and they serve real crema instead of sour cream. The fried yucca and plantains are cooked just right, over-fried, soggy or overly oily or mushy like I've had it at other places. Entree portions are generous. I'm still eating my way through their menu, but for next time: Sopa de Mondongo (beef tripe soup), Carne de Salpicon (round eye mixed with cilantro, oregano, red onion, relish, mint leaf), and the plaintain empanadas with vanilla ice cream for dessert. I had a bottle of Dos Equis with my meal for $3.60 (same price for other Mexican beers). They also serve horchata and tamarind juice. Complimentary homemade tortilla chips are served with a peppery, mild pureed salsa. The restaurant is entered from the ground floor, and has seating on this floor and upstairs. The upstairs has a larger bar and a nicer dining room, so head upstairs for better ambience and a view of Park Road from the window. Service is friendly, and we didn't have to wait long for our food. I'm not Salvadoran, so I can't vouch for authenticity, but judging from the largely Hispanic clientele, I believe it's the real deal. Finding places like El Rinconcito is one of the best things about living in this diverse, immigrant-populated city.
  22. Mad Momos opened not too long ago in northern Columbia Heights and we went up last Friday to check it out. It's a few blocks up from the main section of 14th St, so it wasn't too crowded when we were there. I'm not sure if it was an owner or manager that greeted us upon arrival, but from then until when we left, everyone was extremely nice and accommodating. It was too cold to take advantage, but they also have a very large and nice roof deck, a smaller front balcony, and a front patio that will all be very nice once spring rolls back around. One thing folks may like is that they offer a number of vegetarian and vegan options. And in case you're wondering, here is their definition of a "momo": "A momo is a tasty dumpling native to the Himalayan region. Almost all cultures have some variation of a momo "“ a savory or sweet stuffing wrapped in a sheet of pasta. Our unique artisanal momos are made on premise. We offer a fun, new, "mad" twist on the traditional momo with creative fillings, pasta and our dipping sauces complement each momo meal. Our pasta is made daily from scratch and our meats are all house-ground." Apparently they will be expanding their menu soon, but there were a decent number of options to choose from. As a group we shared two of the appetizers: mad wings (our signature mad bite - juicy tender chicken wings in our special sweet and smoky glaze sprinkled with toasted cumin seeds 6 for $9 | 12 for $15): Definitely more tangy and sweet than hot, but certainly a good flavor and decent-sized wings. pita and dal (whole-wheat pita bread, dal (lentils) accompanied with fresh garden veggies regular $6 | share $9): We all liked this a lot as a nice alternative to hummus or other dips. The dal is served warm and is quite a large serving (we had to ask for extra pita and veggies to finish it off). My +1 and I shared two servings of momos: the demazong (classic Himalayan momos with house-ground beef and sweet onions pairing sauce: fire-roasted tomatoes, fresh cilantro and green chili $14): This was our favorite of the two dumplings, but wasn't anything extraordinary. You can get them steamed or pan fried, and we had pan fried for both. compassionate vegan (full of flavor and packed with plant-based proteins | mushrooms, carrots, kale, lentils, sweet corn and nutty brown rice | pairing sauces: nutty lime $13): I liked these dumplings by themselves, but wasn't enamored with the sauce. However, if you like peanut sauces, you'd probably like it more than I did. I think more than the dumplings we actually really liked the sides. The tater tots, though somewhat trite these days, were cooked perfectly - crisp and perfectly salted without having any sogginess that some other places have. The slaw was also nice with red and white cabbage, dried cranberries, and it was very light on the mayo. With the awesome outdoor space and the decent prices, I think we'll plan to head back when it's a bit warmer out.
  23. This weekend is my birthday, and I am convening a bunch of friends, who will come and go over time, Saturday afternoon. My initial thought was Wonderland's patio - I like the vibe, it's easy for people to come and go, and if the weather turns there is an indoors area. I've been out of the bar world for a bit due to a number of life circumstances, so I am not super-up on all the new places. Any other ideas out there? I've been to Dickson Wine Bar's patio, and liked it, so that is an option. Intrigued by Dacha beergarden, but think it might be packed and chaotic on Saturday afternoon. Other ideas have been Red Derby's patio. Am I forgetting some gem of a place? Prefer Columbia Heights, U st. 14th, Adams Morgan, Park View.
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