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Dive, DIVE!

There is a place in the world for temples to cuisine - the sorts of places where the food, the wine, the atmosphere, the service, and all the little details add up to a culinary experience that is like a symphony of perfection.

This thread is NOT about those places. This one is about the sorts of places where the food and the value make up for whatever may be lacking in service, ambience, convenience, or any of the other niceties - the sort of place you eat at in spite of all that, not because of it. So how about it, Hounds - where's YOUR favorite dive?

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  1. I am partial to Jay's Saloon on North 10th Street in Clarendon. The food is cheap, there is no fancy beer on tap, and the clientele is a mix of neighborhood types and postal workers from the main post office a block away. It is a pleasant respite from the many places in the neighborhood that cater to 20-somethings.

    3 Replies
    1. re: BookGuy

      I've always been curious about Jay's. Is cheap the only good thing about the food? That's important, mind you, but I also would like to know if there's anything else positive about it.

      1. re: Steve

        I am attaching a brief review from the Washington Post. I tend to like the nachos and the standard sandwiches, the things that are good with a beer on the side.


        1. re: Steve

          I had a cajun burger there about two weeks ago and thought it was pretty good, nicely spiced. The crab potato skins were also tastey, but not as good as the burger. It was my first and only time there but I'll go back, probably when the temperature goes down though. It was one of those heat wave weeks, 100* outside and no a/c inside.

        1. re: hon

          Where's Enricho's? I don't think I've heard of that one. Brief details?

          1. re: Warthog

            It's actually spelled "Enrico's", and it's on Haven St. just south of Lombard.

            1. re: Hal Laurent

              oops on the spelling! The food can be hit or miss but the last time I was in there they had monster softshells for $9.95 and I mean monster! Their draft beer is ice cold and like $.85!

        2. Butts and Bettys has always had a special place in my heart. Always cheap drinks and interesting crowd. Since I moved I go to the corner bar called romans

          1. The Tune Inn on Pennsyvania SE.

            From the early morning beer drinking regulars at the bar, to the stuffed animals behinds hanging on the wall -- this place is the classic dive bar -- with a kitchen that turns out breakfast at all hours, and nothing on the menu above $5.

            what i cook -----> http://dcinsideout.blogspot.com/icook

            1 Reply
            1. re: mic9ael

              Ahhhh, The Tune Inn.. Do Bill and Ginny still run the place. I remember it being the only place to get a burger, fries and a Natty Boh for $5.00 when I worked on The Hill.

              Always a sight... Ginny yelling from the back in her West Virginia drawl "Hey Bill, draw one"... memories....

            2. The Vienna Inn. Food generally sucks--always did. Hasn't changed appreciably in the last four or five decades. Seems right, though.

              1 Reply
              1. re: flavrmeistr

                Yes, even though the current owner is a grad of the CIA (not the one in McLean).

                The old Stoney's, RIP, would've qualified.

                Probably the majority of central american places in the area, and a few asian, including Thai Square and Ruan Thai (where both make the food stand out even more).

              2. The Tune Inn is really good. However, the Ohio at the corner of 14th and H st NE. has the best southern fried chicken and Mac & cheese in the area.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sharonc

                  Is that Ohio place still open? They'll be hard pressed to beat the Levi's Port Cafe mac n cheese: creamy and crispy. I'll have to check when I get some Horace & Dickies for lunch today.

                  The whole H Street NE strip is opening wide up. Buncha new bars opening (Rock & Roll Hotel, Red & Black, The Argonaut, some kinda martini lounge), so I hope they bring some business to keep the local dives alive.

                2. Try the Sunset Grille in Annandale. They have good live music, crappy beer, and drunks all day long. But really you go there for the atmosphere.

                  The Raven in DC is another great dive. I am not certain how they did it, but for a while the ceiling leaked eventhough it was on the bottom floor.

                  Tim's River Shore in Dumfries is a great outdoor dive if they let him re-open the deck. Great place to pick crabs and watch millionaire rednecks pull up in cigarette boats.

                  In Leesburg there is Payne's Biker Bar (aka the Downtown Saloon). The food is passable but on a hot Saturday afternoon nothing beats the smell of stale beer and sweaty Biker.

                  Hey, don't knock the hotdogs at the Vienna Inn!

                  Jimmy's Old Town Tavern in Herndon has a good crowd and it seems to be acceptable to bring any number of small children to the bar for a cigarette and a shot.

                  But for the combination of crappy aesthetics and amazing food I have to agree with that guy who wrote the Crappy But Good book. Planet Wayside, a BBQ place in Hamilton with irregular hours, is the best. Not only do you get to eat the best BBQ and brisket in VA, but you do it in a former Chicken Coop. Really.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: cimabue

                    I second Jimmy's in Herndon. The entrees are definite good chow. The apps are passable. Outstanding items are the beef on weck and the fried fish on Fridays.

                    1. I thought Planet Wayside closed down. Wrong?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: johnb

                        I think wrong. But it could be closed now. I ate there about a month and a half ago. Before then, it seemed to be closed. Before then, the hours were very irregular. Days would go by when it wasn't open. I know the owner had a tragedy in the family. Nice guy. Great cook.

                      2. Eastern House on Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown (that's B'more, Hon). Kind of like a greek diner but a bit better. They've been there for 40 years, so they must be doing something right.

                        Overall, very good potato salad; french onion soup was surprisingly good; grape leaves; etc.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: atls21231

                          Ah, I'd forgotten about the Eastern House! I've only ever eaten there for breakfast. Try the Greek Village Omelet. With a bloody mary.

                        2. Dude, rotisserie chicken at the Crisp and Juicy on Lee Highway in Arlington!!! Order it with what they call the "hot sauce" ... it's actually a spiced aoli that will change your life. Just had some last night ... 17 bucks buys dinner for 3 (whole chicken, side of rice and beans, two orders yucca fries for dipping in the "hot sauce.") Unreal.

                          1. I would have to say Martick's in Baltimore, without question. From the sketchy neighborhood to the missing doorbell with exposed wires, from the Barton Fink-esque snakeskin wallpaper to the riveted metal paneled walls, from the dim lighting to the occasional scurrying rodent, from Martick himself greeting you in his bathrobe to waiting a minimum of 45 minutes for your order when the place is empty (which is always), this place says dive. Even so, Martick serves the most wonderful French cuisine this side of the Seine.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Lettuce Eat

                              I don't know if you've been back to Martick's recently; was just there a couple of weeks ago and had a great time. Service is a bit better, and while Morris will open the door in his t-shirt, I think he put his bathrobe away for company.

                              There was a Baltimore Sun article on him about a month ago that was really interesting; can't find it on the interweb right now but I'll keep looking.

                              1. re: atls21231

                                The bathrobe was a step up from Maurice's underwear, so a t-shirt is real progress. Perhaps you are thinking of an article that appeared in the Urbanite. It included his recipe for bouillabaisse, but I feel sure he left out a few steps.

                                1. re: Lettuce Eat

                                  Actually, didn't see that one. It was in the B'more sun on May 17th, here's the thread I posted back when it came out: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                            2. I love the sandwiches/subs at Sports in the Occoquan/Woodbridge area. It's been a while since I've been, so honestly I don't know if they are still open. It's a dive next to the 7-11 and some dry cleaner on Rt.123.

                              I love their Philly Cheese Steak, and they make other great subs too.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Lonewolfcub

                                I totally agree about the Philly Cheese Steak. So yummy (and so bad for you!). As far as I know (from this past December), the place is still there but I think it's closed on Wednesdays.

                              2. Is the Friendly Inn still open? Good food (if you asked the chef/owner/bartender what is good) and great value. Lacking in service (VERY slow as there is only two employees total), ambience, and convenience. The location in the Cheverly Industrial Park didn't help either...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Rosco1

                                  OMG! The Friedly Inn is an amazing example of this genre. When my friend first took me there (middle of the evening), I thought he was kidding. Good food? Here?

                                  Looks can be VERY deceiving!

                                2. Cowboy Cafe, Arlington

                                  1. I forgot to mention Stan's, a legendary downtown subterranean stronghold at the corner of Vermont and L. Food is surprisingly decent, drinks are copious, the booze and mixers served separately with a glass of ice. A dank, gloomy pit of a place where the bartender will direct you to another seat and offer you a free drink if you should happen to park yourself in a favored regular's spot. The entrance is a big hole in the sidewalk, more like for the New York subway than a bar, with an easily forgettable sign over the top. The stairs are steep and treacherous, especially when trying to make your way back up to the street after a brace of their deadly pour-your-own cocktails. The prices are not cheap, but not especially expensive either. Great place to while away an afternoon when going back to work doesn't seem like the most viable option.

                                    1. Bangkok Kitchen in Odenton

                                      1. my downtown baltimore dive lunch place is shane's sandwich shack. it's on the corner of fayette and cathedral, i think.

                                        pretty good fried chicken and well above average cheesesteaks. you just have to trust that the people understand what you are saying b/c from their responses, you cannot really tell

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: mr_henry

                                          Thanks for the tip, Mr. Henry. I work downtown and am always on the look out for new lunch places. I'll give the cheesesteak a try and report back.

                                          1. re: mr_henry

                                            hhmmm. I went to Shane's for lunch today. The cheesesteak was certainly not well above average. In fact, I would say it was very typical of corner shops around Baltimore. Crumbyly, awful H&S roll, flavorless cheese, paucity of meat. All in all, very little flavor or anything that would make me return. The cheesesteak atleast is not 'hound worthy.

                                            1. re: KAZ

                                              > Crumbyly, awful H&S roll

                                              I've had rolls that I think were H&S that weren't bad at all (at Theresa's in Broadway Market). I have a feeling that the lousy ones just aren't fresh.

                                              1. re: KAZ

                                                yeah, one time (out of three) i got a cheesesteak there, the bread disappointed me, as well. i definitely didn't get skimped on the meat, though. that sucks. sorry the rec. didn't work out. "not 'hound worthy" lol. this is a thread about dives.

                                            2. Caribbean Grill on Lee Hwy in Arlington. I wouldn't really think of Carib Grill as a "dive" at all but with where the bar is set by other places listed in this thread (and in the highly affluent north Arlington area in general, where a place like Jay's would certainly be a dive relative to the general "scene") I think it qualifies.

                                              1. I pretty much enjoy all of the little local Pho places available in the area. You know what I'm talking about, particularly the best Pho places where all they serve is Pho.

                                                1. Several places on the Route 1 corridor south of the Beltway in Alexandria come to mind. I really like Great Wall, which really is a Korean restaurant despite the name (wonderful, numerous small side dishes with your meals; anything in a hot pot is fabulous). El Puerto has good cheap Mexican food. Taco Lucas has lots of really cheap Mexican and Central American food. Head down the corridor and you'll bump into a couple of decent pollo ala brasa places. Thai Herbs is decent if you live in the neighborhood but there are many better thai restaurants around. Ernie's has good crabs and a variety of other cheap seafood offerings.

                                                  Keep heading south, toward Richmond, and you'll run into places like Dixie Bones in Woodbridge and one of my favorite places anywhere, Tim's Rivershore in Dumfries (if you can find it).

                                                  1. Bob and Edith's in Arlington!!! They are the best for breakfast or a late night/after the bar munch. Greasy, yummy diner food is their specialty.