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DC – Where to Feast

August 24, 2011

Since I have hopped around to a variety of different cities in the last few weeks – and eaten incredibly well while doing so – I thought I would step outside the bounds of St. Louis and provide some dining commentary for the traveler.  I think I will work backwards and lead off with Washington, DC.

I lived in DC for a handful of years and it was probably in this city where I came into my foodie-own.  Lots of great feasting opportunities in D.C., and unlike other large cities, there isn’t a whole lot of turnover or change in the restaurant/bar scene.  To long-time residents, that probably stinks.  Works just fine for me though since I would have been (unnecessarily) heartbroken if some of my favorites had disappeared during the last two years.  I will say though that in revisiting some of my faves, I may have built them up just a wee bit much.  Nothing disappointed, but it was clear that some things weren’t quite at the mythic level I had thought.

Matchbox:  First stop of the trip.  It’s in Chinatown and in perfect position for a post- Portrait Gallery bite.  The headliner is pizza – the restaurant’s tagline is  ‘vintage pizza bistro’ (vintage? never quite got that).  My pizza selection, time-and-again = the prosciutto white.  Thin crust, prosciutto, kalamata olives, white sauce – magnifico.  Their mini-burger appetizer is also well worth a try.

Breadline:  Really cannot go wrong here.  It’s on Pennsylvania Avenue, very close to the White House.  My suggestion- grab a turkey sandwich, go sit in Lafayette Park, and watch the crazies protest in front of the White House.  Oh, and we’re not talking deli turkey here.  We’re talking Thanksgiving style, fresh roasted-that-morning, white meat/dark meat, deliciousness.  Comes on ciabatta with spicy mustard and arugula.  Again, you really can’t go wrong with anything.  PS Be wary of the fact that stuff can/does run out throughout the lunch-hour.  PPS I once saw George Stephanopoulos there. (I’m a pretty big deal).

Ben’s Chili Bowl: Got some press due to some Obama visits.  Although, this U Street institution was doing just fine before him and will continue to do just fine after him.  I have eaten there during the day.  Buttttt, it is a typically a late night spot.  Been out getting your party on?  Nothing will taste finer (at least if you’re human) than a half-smoke with cheese and chili.  Maybe some fries.  Maybe a shake.

Lauriol Plaza: I may or may not have celebrated four consecutive birthdays at this three-story building of Mexican food delights.  It has a going-out vibe and, on weekend nights, you will probably face at least an hour wait.  So what – grab some margaritas and some salsa (LACED WITH PORK ESSENCE) and gab with friends.  Love me some Guadalajara plate (beef taco, cheese enchilada, chicken tamale + fixins).  Their sister restaurant, Cactus Cantina, is near the National Cathedral and may give you a shot a shorter wait time.

Churchkey: I visited for the first time this trip.  Not particularly special.  Just a well-done bar, with an excellent beer list.  Tasty snacks.  And they carry Schlafly.

Luna: So, you’re in DC and you’ve given in to vacation excess, but it occurs to you, it might be nice to go someplace on the more…economical side.  Luna is a well-done, reasonably priced cafe near Dupont Circle.  Love their brunch (usually a wait, but not too painful).  Tasty lasagna.  Overall, just lots of basic, delicious fare at (dare I say it) midwestern prices.    Stumbled on the place in 2005 and I’ve been going there/recommending it ever since.

Dr. Granville Moore’s: Huge bowls of mussels and lots of belgian beer – need I say….moore?  Ha.  Sorry.  Love Granville Moore’s top to bottom.  It’s in an out of the way area of D.C., so when you suggest it, you’ll seem in the know.  Downside, you’ll also seem like you just volunteered to pay the cab fare.  It’s in an old building that was once the home of an African-American doctor during the mid/latish 19th century.  Excellent music selection.  Great vibe.  Oh, and a new bar across the way seems decent.

Kramerbooks: Dupont Circle restaurant/bookstore combo.  Large pie selection that is..ok.  Pie is pie though.  Especially when accompanied with the ability to browse a really well put together, independent bookstore.

A selection of other great DC eating options, while I’m on the topic.  

Maine Street Seafood: Seafood Market that also sells brown bags of steamed grab covered in Old Bay that you can take to the nearby dock, demolish, and devour.

Georgia Browns: Southern comfort food.  Incredible brunch (full buffet and an entrée to take home, woof).

Rosa Mexicana:  More Mexican food!!!!!  More expensive than Lauriol.  More gourmet than Lauriol.

Proof: In the pricier range.  Well worth it though for a splurge.  If they are serving confit (fill in blank, whatever), they do it really well.

Brasserie Beck: In the super-duper pricy range.  But also well worth it for a super splurge.

Old Ebbitt: Kind of old school.  Potentially kind of tired.  Feels like a traditional power player’s go-to spot.

GW Deli:  Breakfast sandwiches and bagels.

Saloon:  Another solid bar.  And has a prime location right next door to Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Eighteenth Street Lounge:  I’ve heard it’s not quite as “cool” as it once was.  Whatever, it used to be Teddy Roosevelt’s house.  It was founded by Thievery Corporation.  Grab a drink on a patio or something at time they don’t have a cover (boo covers).

Good Stuff Eatery:  Tasty burgers.  Spike of Top Chef fame runs it.  Wander over after seeing the Library of Congress.

Cafe Berlin:  German food. Capital Hill.

Meiwah: Good Chinese food near Washington Circle.

Ledo Pizza:  If you want delivery pizza.  This was my go-to. Usual order: the Hawaiian

[My not-so-favorite list: Art & Soul, Founding Farmers, BLT Steak.  Why?  Over-priced/unimpressive.]

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