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Apr 25, 2001 06:41 PM

Best Mussels in DC, best breakfast

  • p

A man named Bob posted this week saying he will do anything I say after taking my advice on seafood udon noodle soup at Teaism. Having tasted power, I hunger for more, moRE, MORE!

So several directives for anyone with a yen to submit to the vagaries of my taste, which Bob and I agree is impeccable:

District Chophouse for the mussels appetizer. They come in a mix of two sauces -- one that seems like a chili aioli (garlic mayonnaise) with a sundried tomato kick and a pesto with two or three delightful, crisp, garlicky crostini. Unbearably good but BE WARY: the mussels almost invariably come out of the kitchen with cool spots on them. It's weirdly consistent and I always have LONG conversations with the waiters (to their delight, I'm sure) and the management about the problem and warn them in advance that I want these babies HOT. I am not normally a pest in restaurants (I am an alumni of the late lamented Pleasant Peasant wait staff at mazza gallery and put up with more than my fair share of pests, including the bulimic who flew down once a month from CT. with 2 friends, ordered 4 full dinners, threw up after every course and then took out little jars for me to fill with dessert sauces so she could go home and throw those up too I suppose...I'm sorry. I still have flash backs) but these mussels are worth it if they are hot hot hot.

The serving is generous enough to be a main dish (or what the heck, order two) and do try the char-grilled romaine salad. Sounds freakish, tastes GREAT.

Next I commend to you Market Lunch at Eastern Market for breakfast (lunches are great too. I am a true devotee of this line). If you must go on a weekend (and sometimes you must, when you hanker for blueberry buckwheat pancakes with an ICE CREAM scoop of salty melting butter sliding on top...because pancakes are only served on Saturday) show up before 9:30, earlier if possible. Otherwise it's overrun with people that seem to think it's cool to wait in line for an hour for breakfast. I do not. Be mindful that Market Lunch says they have real maple syrup, but you have to pay extra. I've never exercised this option (I bring mine from home if I feel I must).
But on Tuesday thru Saturday mornings you can have the single BEST breakfast sandwich of your life...ham, egg and cheese on freshmade, buttered bread, lightly can get it with potatoes on it in which case it is known as a Brick, but I think the pommes weigh the sandwich down. Much better to have them on the side-- fried, crisp little coins of pure potato essense. ANYWAY, the sandwich: pour a little Texas Pete hot sauce on top and dig in.
You can have it with bacon but the crispness of the thick cut makes it hard to get a neat bite. The sausage is a little too heavy. The ham is thinly sliced, griddled...and bites through cleanly. Eat it there, at the counter. It suffers from trapped steam if you wrap it to will chew, surrounded by flowers and dead and dying fish and the rhythms of merchants preparing for the day, and you will speak my name reverentially.

Be nice to the women behind the counter, Brenda and Mary especially.

For another Cap Hill taste sensation, go to Park Cafe on 13th (on Lincoln Park) and order mixed seafood fajitas, which have nothing to do with fajitas and everything to do with smoky mussels, fragrant broth and sauteed peppers and onions. They now have a liquor license but I think you can still bring your own bottle if you pay a corkage fee.

Do as I say and no one gets hurt.


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  1. I was literally drooling reading your marvelous post. You certainly have a wonderful way with words!

    I gained ten pounds just reading about those pancakes! (could just taste those mussels and everything else, too!)


    1. Oh, Pam, so great is your power that I am planning a trip to the Chophouse (which I have walked by many times, but never entered) for the mussels appetizer and charred romaine salad. They are open at lunch, right? Is there a bar at which I can eat if I am solo?

      However, your power is not so great as to get me to Eastern Market on a Saturday morning, for I live in Arlington and have two small children. If you can do something about that, you are truly all powerful.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Bob

        Bob, bob, bob: Don't make me organize your life too. Eastern Market breakfast is open on weekdays -- just not for the pancakes. And they are not open on Monday. And no breakfasts are served on Sunday. Here's the plan:
        pack the kids up for school. Call your job, tell them you are stuck in traffic. You live in Northern Virginia so they will believe you. Hop on the metro -- you don't even have to change trains. Blue or Orange line will take you within 2 blocks of breakfast nirvana. Walk to the market -- 7th and C, go to the northern end (not the gallery space, but inside the market). Get on line. Order as follows, probably from Brenda whom you will recognize because she sings like an angel. "Orange juice, small coffee and a ham,egg and cheese sandwich please, plus a side of potatoes. THank you." If it is Brenda she will tell you it costs $20, you will laugh, tip at LEAST a dollar, get your change and move down to the left. Here's where things take a turn for the soup Nazi. You have to pay attention because when your sandwich is up it is UP and they expect you to claim it. You'll have to make sure they give you your side dishes but for god's sake don't be a pest.
        Get some Texas Pete and a little ketchup for the potatos, sit down and eat...the reverential recitation of my name will come unbidden.

        With regard to the pancakes, get the kids out of bed early on a saturday and haul 'em over with you. It will be a great education as the moppets will learn both a)what a proper pancake breakfast tastes like and b) what a farmer is and how much better asparagus tastes when it is picked just the day before. Look for the guy from Marshall Farms. Glasses, big apron and a squat container full of fat, pale green and lavender stalks in cool water. Be there before 9 for the most trouble free eating/parking/shopping. While you are there go to the cheese shop and get a wedge of parmesan gouda, a slice of truffled pate and a cup of heavy cream from the Lewes's like drinking velvet. But don't drink it! Whip it by hand -- it will take less than a minute with a proper whisk -- and spoon it on gingerbread cake. Or just pour it unmolested in any way over a bowl of cleaned, hulled strawberries...Then walk across the street (C) to Capitol Hill books and buy many inexpensive and wonderful volumes from Jim and tell him Pam and John sent you.
        Thank you for your avowed obedience. My reign of terror begins...
        (For a great belgian waffle and chocolate malt, go to Jimmy's at 5th and East Capitol, a few blocks away. Definiely eschew this neighborhood joint on weekends but weekedays are great and not crowded at all. I went there on a saturday with my big sister. We sat for 45 minutes without service. Finally she got up and went to the counter and related as to how we'd been sitting for 45 minutes and the woman said, very sweetly becasue she is genuinely sweet, "Oh, is this your first time here?")

      2. Where is the District Chophouse (sorry if I missed a mention of its location in any of the posts)? The mussels sound wonderful!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Annova

          indeed they are -- slightly spicy, rich, smoky...but make sure they are HOT HOT HOT.

          District Chophouse is on 7th NW just below the MCI Center, just north of Jaleo on the opposite side of the street.

        2. Walking back from the Gallery Place metro station I stopped in to have a look at the menu. 509 7th St., between E and F. Are you recommending:

          1. Prince Edward Island Roasted Mussels with fresh herb-tomato vermouth sauce ($9.95), and

          2. Chicken Caesar Salad with Grilled Romaine ($9.95)?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Bob

            yes on the mussels, maybe on the salad -- I remember it being a side salad... perhaps I had it with an entree?

            I hope the herb vermouth etc. sauce is the same one I love so much...I'd be inconsolable if they changed the recipe. It should have 2 sauces on the plate - a green and pinkish...

            If you try the mussels, let me know how they are. And please promise to remain my devoted servant if they suck.

            1. re: pam

              The Teaism seafood udon noodle soup still wafts into my olefactory memory, and I remain your devoted servant.

              If the mussels suck, there will be ample room for you to blame the restaurant for being unable to maintain the quality of the mussels.

          2. Pam, I used to live at 13th and A and Park Cafe opened just as I moved there, in 1991. I LOVED that place and am really happy to know that it's still there and still doing things right. They used to do a fab brunch also, with home fried potatoes that were full of hot peppers. Yum! I also heartily second the Market Lunch breakfast recommendation, although you really can't do it more than once a month unless you want to have bypass surgery.