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Mar 26, 2000 01:42 AM

Rosslyn within walking distance

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I'll be visiting a friend in Rosslyn, Va., near the Newseum in June and hope to scope out early the good places to eat in that area across the river from Georgetown.

Inexpensive is a plus, takeout is fine -- we can't afford chic -- but midpriced meals once in a while we can handle. I love to try different ethnic foods, but my friend is less adventuresome. (He's learning.)

I'm hoping to find some good restaurants within walking distance in Rosslyn between the Potomac and Arlington Cemetery, then increase the radius and perhaps fan out to eateries close to some nearby Metro stops or right across the river in Georgetown.

I'll be making several trips to D.C. this summer and hope to eat my way -- gradually -- down any list of suggestions.

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  1. Go have lunch at Jaleo in downtown DC. It's on seventh street. Outrageously good tapas (small plates) priced from $3 to $9. Order a couple of meat/seafood dishes & go for the tortillas (baked omelettes). A very nice beer & wine list. WARNING: It's really easy--but not necessary--to run up a large tab if you order all meat/seafood. The only thing I had that was disappointing were the shrimp, which were overcooked. The calamari, on the other hand were sublime. Enjoy

    3 Replies
    1. re: Doug Porter

      I haven't done DC tapas in about three years, but, according to my memory from last time, Jaleo is a nice zippy place with fun food, but I found the tapas a bit flat-tasting (and pretty darned inauthentic, for those who care about that).

      Much dowdier, but better and much more authentic is La Taberna Del Alabardero. It's a formal sit-down, but there is a small bar you can do tapas in. The best stuff must be ordered from a menu...don't miss garlic shrimp. Sorry, I don't have the address handy.

      also, I wonder if Yannick Cam is still cooking at Coco Loco (810 7th Street, NW, 202/289-2626), a VERY weird hybrid of mexican tapas (sic) and Brazilian rodizio cooked by one of America's most highly regarded French chefs. Never tried it, but have always wondered...


      1. re: Jim Leff

        We ate at Coco Loco close to five years ago;probably not long after they had opened. We did just Tapas and as I recall they were all wonderfully tasty little plates. I remember a scallop seviche so fresh and light that it seemed prepared too order and not overly marinated and being surprised by a chicken breast tapa ordered by another with how NOT dry and tasteless we had expected it to be. This was definitely a night out type of ambience with everyone dressed pretty well, I wonder if it has developed into something more casual and if the food it just as good.

        1. re: Jim Leff

          I think Coco Loco ia still around. But I'm pretty sure that Yannick is no longer involved in that place.

      2. You must try Pho 75 on Wilson Boulevard, about 10 minutes walk up the street from the Newseum. It serves only pho (vietnamese beef noodle soup) only stays open till 8pm (though it opens at 9 am), and has less than no atmosphere, but it is unforgettable. The pho is the greatest of all phos, spectacularly full of flavor. The meat is fabulous, the sprouts, basil, lime garnishes are crispy fresh. And it's incredibly cheap--5 bucks for a dinner sized bowl.
        Plus amazing vietnamese iced coffee

        2 Replies
        1. re: David Plotz

          David--are they still in biz? Their Arlington branch closed this year.

          Agreed on the quality though...a healthy amount of star anise is one of their secrets.


          1. re: Jim Leff

            the rosslyn just recently reopened, which means there is great pho to be had really close to the district once again...

        2. If you're willing to cross over into Arlington, see my Northern Virginia tip sheet, just uploaded to the link below


          12 Replies
          1. re: Jim Leff

            Jim is almost always on the mark, but AVOID "Five Guys"! Service sets new heights for surly, and the burgers barely beat Wendy's (which is pathetic, if chowhounds hear me). Don't be fooled by the "Fries of the Day" boast, either; an acquaintance who worked there tells me that all the potatoes are your basic Idaho/Maines, but that Phyllis Richman (former WashPost food critic, who would announce her arrival everywhere: "you don't know who I am?") was . . . fooled. They don't understand Vlaamse Vrites double frying, either; limp, pale, and boring. Kind of like the burgers. A waste of a fiver. Which says something. If you're that desperate, head for BK.

            1. re: john


              I was actually waiting for someone to write something like this. I've always had the feeling that if I lived in DC, 5 Guys would be the equivalent of New York's Ray's Pizza for me--the place clueless tourists go without thinking, and sometimes even "buy" the story.

              I admit it...I go out of tourist caprice. And though I've only tried the fries twice (so I couldn't test their "potato of the week" story), I do believe you that that's a ruse (though the death of this legend leaves me just a tiny bit less happy to be alive).

              But while I admit this is no great burger, I do insist that it is a a LOT better than Burger King. And I've had no trouble with the staff. And I'd no more expect Belgian double fried frites in a place like this than I'd expect Chateau Latour at a book release party. And I think therein lies the problem.

              Mind you, I like big, meaty, manly, serious burgers as much as the next hound. And I live to go to Belgian for serious frites. But there's a use for best-of-type fast food style stuff, too. It's a matter of adjusting one's expectations. I don't look for risotto with my red beans in Dominican luncheonettes, y'know?


              1. re: Jim Leff

                Huh? Jim, in your "Arlington and Northern Virginia Tip Sheet," your description of Five Guys is "GREAT burgers and french fries." (Your upper-case emphasis.) Now, it's "while I admit this is no great burger . . . ." Mixed messages, no?

                Jim, what's your degree of confidence/reliability regarding the "Tip Sheet"? Most of us D.C.-area 'hounds have little else to go on, in light of the infrequent traffic on this board. I did drag a group of reluctant No. Virginians to Thai Square on your recommendation. All agreed it was worth the detour/risk -- while somewhat uneven, certain dishes were scrumptious, and (almost as important), it wasn't your everyday, indistinguishable D.C. Thai.

                What about Edy's? Chamdo? Worth driving out of one's way for? Any other No. Va. sure things?

                Marty L.

                1. re: Marty L.

                  Totally fair.

                  1. I screwed up in my word selection. The word "great" is a word many excitable people (including me) use casually in general conversation, but critics must reserve like atomic weaponry. But I have a very serious schizo problem with my work here on the site; some of my writing is formal, considered criticism, and some is chatty quick stuff. I'm absolutely certain this isn't the only unfortunate use of the word "great" in my more quick, seat-of-pants writings. In fact, maybe I'll go through the site and pick 'em out right now!

                  2. I changed my mind. A little. I'll admit it; I liked the place just a bit from romanticism. I allowed myself that because I had a feeling other hounds might share this romanticism (Jim Dorsch and Dave Sit, two serious DC chowhounds, also like the stuff there just fine, so it's not just my personal caprice!). But then I sort of resonated a bit with new chowhound John (though I think his diss of the place did go too far), sobered up slightly, and realized that it's not REALLY sooooo wonderful. Though I do like it and would/will go back.

                  That's as honest an answer as I can possibly give. Frankly, being only human, and finding myself in this very very divided "sometimes a critic, sometimes your buddy" position on Chowhound, I'm sure there are other imprecisions in my writing here (I'll try harder). And I'm sure my opinions will continue to be changeable via persuasive argument from knowledgable hounds (especially from smart local hounds in regions outside my home area).

                  One final note of discouragement, regarding your "should I go out of my way?" book (covering restaurants I was SURE about at deadline and written with very precise language) carries a Guarantee of Dissatisfaction. I'll repeat it here, because it applies to ANY meal eaten on a recommendation, even from someone very trustworthy:

                  It took much passionate investigation to track down the Big Apple's rarest, tastiest, and most evocative restaurants and determine the best things to order in them all. Herculean efforts were expended in checking and rechecking to ensure timely, fresh observations. Nonetheless, if you faithfully visit every establishent reviewed in these pages you'll have some mediocre--even bad--meals. Each passing day since research was completed has introduced uncertainty; chef changes, general decline, and plain old off days are all part of the deal with dining out. So rather than curse me and chuck this tome down the nearest storm drain after a disappointing dinner, just remember: a restaurant is an ever-changing, organic thing, and the only judgement that's guaranteed timely is the one you have of your own meal as you eat it. If you'll allow me to be your guide, though, you'll make out far, far better than you would on your own in this town of a jillion bites, and that's a promise.

                  ok, me again...the solution to this problem is Ask around on the boards before you go. Find out how places are doing right now from the local hounds. You still won't have a Sure Thing, but it helps your odds. We've got some great DC users right now, and we're working to get lots more. We'll cover the country with people just like us, and we'll all always be able to ask someone smart.


                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    Stephen Beaumont once wrote a column about how an ordinary wine tasted like just the right thing in the atmosphere in which it was presented. Well, whatever one thinks of a Five Guys burger (and I happen to like them), it's going to taste better because you hang and eat peanuts out of the shell while waiting. The fries come in a styrofoam drink cup. I don't think any of the packaging says anything on it. The seating area -- now that they finally have one -- has plastic lawn chairs.

                    I think we need to support these great local businesses and enjoy them for what they are. It's fun, for me at least, to eat at a place that wasn't stamped out of a cookie cutter.

                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                      This year Five Guys broke into the Washingtonian's list of 100 best bargain restaurants.

              2. re: john

                I don't think you understand the point behind the "potatoe of the day" sign. Of course the potatoes are all the same. The sign is to tell what town the potatoes came from. The fries taste the best when they are eaten at the resturant. If you drive 15 minutes down the road and then eat them, they will not be as good.

                What makes Five Guys good is the fact that everything is fresh. The rolls come fresh from a local bakery. The meat patties are made by hand, and the fries, tomatoes, peppers, etc. are cut by hand. Their food runs circles around Burger King!!

                If you have had a bad experience with the service or the food, you should call the owners and let them know. Each location has a sign with a phone # to call with questions or comments.

              3. re: Jim Leff

                A word to the wise: although the Washingtonian top 100 list is useful for ideas, keep in mind -- as Washingtonian has freely acknowledged -- that many, maybe most, of the restaurants are also advertisers. Conflict of interest, anyone? And the problem is especially acute for smaller and more downscale jernts, which can afford the ad rates and wouldn't otherwise get noticed. Consider: "Red, Hot, and Blue" is distinctly mediocre (except for the potato salad, which is still very nice), but it's always listed: and (what a surprise!) about a page away is a biggie ad! A friend who writes copy there told me that the underlings always wonder about the next theme issue, which is usually something like "100 Best Restaurants Near the Editor's New House in Cleveland Park."

                As for "Five Guys," I adhere to my "avoid" recommendation. Better a burger at Union Street by the river (seasoned with carraway and served on toasted rye - nice). If it's peanuts you want, they are also available at Rocklands in Glover Park, which has the added advantage of decent BBQ.

                1. re: John

                  "I adhere to my "avoid" recommendation. Better a burger at Union Street by the river (seasoned with carraway and served on toasted rye - nice). "

                  Ok, but I adhere to my opinion that you're spurning apples for oranges. You're talking about two completely different types of foods, both called hamburgers. A really good drive-in hamburger isn't trying to be a really good "gourmet" hamburger any more than a comfortable, attractive pullover shirt is trying to be an Italian linen dress shirt. Both are shirts, but they serve different needs. One isn't "better". You can't say that the pullover is somehow less worthy because it's not made of linen and doesn't have buttons and it's made of less expensive materials. They're different, and either can be great (or lousy) on its own terms.

                  That's the very gist of what this whole Chowhound thing is all about.

                  Now, my contention that Five Guys is a real good drive-in style burger can certainly be argued with. But I don't see any logic whatsoever in denigrating a simple food in comparison to a fancier food. Of course, such denigration is rampant. Which is one reason why I started this site!

                  Really good pommes Anna is not "better" than really good home fries. A well-made Valhrona chocolate souffle is not "better" than a well-made brownie. Chateau Lafite is not "better" than a truly great banana milkshake.

                  Different things serve different needs. A best-of-type drive-in burger (on plain fluffy white roll with plain old ketchup and no caraway or brie or sun-dried boysenberries) can't be outranked by all the foie gras in France. Deliciousness is deliciousness, and I love it and seek it out in all its manifestations (so I also love foie gras...and your Union Street burger...and Ch. Lafite...etc)


                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    Once again, I find myself agreeing with Jim Leff -- up to a point, of course, or I wouldn't be writing. The diff between burgers and burgers, it seeems to me, is not at all like the diff between a Chateau Lafitte and a banana milkshake (see Jim's post). *Those* are some apples and oranges (grapes and bananas), but ground beef is ground beef, and the twain shall meet. When I'm in a burger mood, I consider quality, price, atmosphere, and service, and I choose accordingly. If I'm feeling cheap, I might forgo "21"'s $17.95 ground sirloin -- actually, I *always* forgo it -- or Smith and Wollensky's, etc.; but the price goes into the mix. And 5 Guys is no less competing with Union Street or Sign of the Whale than it is with Burger King and McDonald's -- and tell the truth, my calculus tells me that I'd rather have a $1.99 'mac than a 5 Guys at twice the price, and a Union Street special at 3.5 times the price than either.

                    As for Chateau Lafitte and a 'shake, those are grapes and bananas.

                  2. re: John

                    At least we agree on Rocklands.

                    BTW, when Five Guys starts to bring in the rye bread, I'm looking for a new hamburger stand.

                    1. re: John

                      Just for the record, Five Guys has never advertised in the Washingtonian Magazine.

                  3. If you're willing to cross over into Arlington, see my Northern Virginia tip sheet, just uploaded to the link below


                    1. Thanks very much for all the suggestions so far, especially the list, Jim.

                      If anyone else has inspirations, I'll continue to monitor because it still is a couple of months before I hit the humidity of the Capital city.

                      Generally, are restaurants near the Metro stops overpriced and unmemorable or are there some good finds near Rosslyn, Courthouse or Claredon?

                      Now I'll give you all a tip (which you might want to transfer into the "Elsewhere in America" section). Anyone who decides to hit Lake Tahoe should make a trip down to nearby Gardnerville, Nev., to JT Basque Bar and Dining Room.

                      It started out as a rooming house/restaurant for Basque sheepherders, but now it's only the restaurant. JT's serves a virtual groaning board of food family style.

                      I live in Reno. My finicky friend and I made the trek three weeks ago 40 miles south, and he loved every bit of it -- from the potato leek soup (and he hates onions), to the fresh green salad, to the chicken and rice casserole, to the beans, to the tender steak that may have been mooing in the area at one point. They have a choice of entrees depending on the day and the rest of the meal -- $16 per person -- is fixed price. Red wine and a light ice cream for dessert are included.

                      Come hungry. We practically waddled out of the place afterward and already are plotting to go again. It was wonderful.

                      The town, too, is cute -- about 10,000 people in the shadow of the eastern Sierra. The adjoining town, Minden, has a gazebo and park that makes me think of "Music Man" every time I see it. And because we're all almost a mile high in altitude, we're just now getting springtime with all the flowers blooming.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Linda

                        Argh, Linda, I'll do it this once, but PLEASE EVERYBODY put tips where they belong. Everyone who posts also presumably reads...and it's in EVERYONE's self-interest to see that info goes where it belongs.

                        Linda, if you want to find other Reno chowhounds (and cultivate discussion about the area, to your mutual betterment), discussing Reno/Tahoe chow on the DC/Baltimore board isn't an effective way to do it!

                        We don't have the manpower to move and repost stuff (especially with Trisha out of town for these couple of weeks), but I'll go manually repost the second half of your message to the Southwestern Board.