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Everybody hates it, but I love it?

Given the amazing response to the "Rave reviews, but I don't get it?" thread, I think there may be room for the inverse. How about it, 'hounds? What are the places that your fellow chowhounds (or reviewers in the media or other forums) hate, but you secretly love (or at least don't dislike)? And *why* do you love the place? Does it bring back memories? Is it the atmosphere?

If it's the food you love, this thread might be your chance to set your fellow hounds straight on what the *right* things to order are at the places that get bad reviews - the "secret" dishes that they get sublimely right in an otherwise barren menu wasteland.

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  1. Sweetwater Tavern...not that there is universal hatred for it, but I love the place for what it is. Service is typically excellent, the meats are always cooked exactly to my specifications, and in general the stuff just tastes good. The one time we had a very minor issue due to an inexperienced server and miscommunication with the kitchen...an issue we didn't even raise...the manager came by and more than made amends for the situation, which we didn't even have a real problem with.

    And the crab fritter appetizer? One of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. Seriously.

    1. I've come across some disdain for Zed's Ethiopian Restaurant on the board, but it's been a favorite of mine for many years. Maybe I always get the good, spicy stuff, because they're familiar with me...or perhaps the folks who don't like Zed's are fans of Meskerem (which I don't like very much). Who knows?

      3 Replies
      1. re: gina

        Personally, I don't dislike either Zed's or Meskerem, I just think there are better ethiopian options in DC.

        1. re: gina

          Zed's rocks, and here's why: The Tibbs Watt is balanced in its spicyness and is always tender, never too dry.

          We moved to Logan Circle and have tried the places everyone raves about on U St., but the berbere (sp?) sauce isn't as complex, and the beef can often arrive overcooked.

          1. re: Don Cornelius

            I haven't been to Zed's in a while (as with Lauriol Plaza, I went to the former location!), but I always thought the cottagey cheese atop its kitfo made the dish a cut above.

        2. Ruan Thai gets all the raves, but one block west is Dusit Thai. If Ruan didn't exist, I think people would appreciate Dusit more. I just love their seafood talay.

          1. Coyote Amigo (former Taco Amigo) in McLean
            those little "fast food" China King type places

            1 Reply
            1. re: rcheng

              Some of the BEST fried chicken wings are at the little Chinese dives. Big, meaty, simple flour dusting with salt and pepper, and deep fried in that sludge they do the eggrolls and wontons in. The chinese food is usually pretty mundane, but the chicken wings can be outstanding.

            2. Bertha's, in Fells Point. I wouldn't necessarily go as far as to say I love the food, but there are several things there I find tasty, and I love the feel and atmosphere of the bar (I almost never eat in the dining room).

              Mind you, I'm attracted to the place in good part because it was one of the first places in Fells Point (the other being the Cat's Eye Pub) where I was accepted and taken in when I first came to the area, and I now know lots of people there, including the owners (who I now play music with).

              3 Replies
              1. re: Hal Laurent

                Yes, Bertha's for the lemon chess pie. And I for one have never gotten sick after eating the mussels.

                1. re: Hal Laurent

                  Well I have avoided the food from there like the plague, but if you say it's good I will give it another shot.

                  1. re: Tugboat

                    It's not fine dining, or even close, but there's some decent bar food. I like the mussels, especially with the tomato-anchovy sauce. The shepherd's pie is usually good. The fish cakes used to be one of the real food bargains in Fells Point, but I haven't had them for a number years and don't know how they are nowadays. I secretly like the salami and onion sandwich. The crab cakes aren't bad. The paella can be quite good, although sometimes it's better than other times. It's one of the few places around where one can get a scotch egg. The beer selection is pretty good. Sadly, the bread isn't as good as it was before the demise of the old Martinelli's bakery.

                    Bertha's isn't terribly well managed, so results can be inconsistent at times.

                2. Cactus Cantina and Rio Grande Cafe. Both wonderful, if you order any of the fajitas.

                  (I haven't been to Lauriol Plaza since it was in its tiny old location, but I often puzzle at the brickbats directed its way, if the food is indeed the same as at sister restaurant Cactus Cantina. If you're criticizing the scene and the long waits, though, I'm with you.)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                    Agree that the fajitas at Rio Grande, particularly the beef, are very very good.

                    My primary issue with Lauriol Plaza aside from those you mention is pricing relative to the quality of the food. Food is average, prices are not.

                    1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                      Lauriol Plaza takes too much of a beating. It's border food people, not to be confused with Mexican! The faijitas are always buttery and succulent. The flank steak, I think it's called arrachera, is terrifically tender.

                    2. As was probably obvious from my Little Italy post a week or two ago, I totally love Little Italy and most of the restaurants in it despite the fact that it is almost universally disdained by fellow chowhounders. And at the risk of losing all credibility, I'll just go ahead and admit that of the Little Italy restaurants, I do love Sabatinos. A plate of pasta from that place -- I know it isn't gourmet or inventive, but man, it just tastes like good old fashioned comfort food to me.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: charmedgirl

                        Sabatino's still has great salad dressing.

                      2. Please keep replies focused on unique, local chow. If you'd like to discuss chow from chain restaurants, please head to the Chains board. Thanks.

                        1. Just want to add my two cents on Lauriol Plaza. I love the seafood enchiladas. The sauce is so light and you can actually enjoy the seafood in them. Totally agree about the wait and have left due to this issue but still dream about those enchiladas.