My husband and I are going to the DC area from Albuquerque, NM. We have absloutely no Jamiacan or soul food places here. Does anyone know of any good Jamaican (or West Indian) or soul food places in the DC area?
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The current reigning soul food in DC can be found at Oohs and Aahs on U st, around 11th. Skip Ben's despite what you hear except for looking at it. Florida Ave Grill, also nearby on Fla and 12th(?), used to be the reigning joint, and was still good a few months ago imo, but indeed falls behind O&A.
It may be more of a drive than you'd want to consider, but many of the other customers I meet at Ras Doobie's in Baltimore drive up from DC to get their Jamaican/Caribbean fix up here. Not having tried any of the Jamaican in DC, I can't personally attest to what the differences in quality or style of cooking may be between Doobie's and the Jamaican places in DC. Eastern Jamaican vs. western Jamaican, or "country" vs. "city" Jamiacan are the "style" contrasts I've heard mentioned, but I don't know what the actual differences are, or which camp(s) which restaurants would fall into.
213 Penn Street
410 752 3896
Call first, but they are usually open Weds. - Sat. On Saturdays, they had been doing a buffet during the day (great value, based on my exeprience), and closing at night, but again, your best bet is to call and find out what their current hours are.
If there's an Oriole's game, parking can be an issue - the neighborhood goes to "residents only" parking, except at meters, though there is a parking garage a block north.
Oohs and Aahs gets near unanimous praise. This is a Chowhound-only hole-in-the-wall with 5 stools. Convenient to Metro at the U St/Cardozo stop on the Green Line. Shrimp, turkey chop, and beef short ribs. I don't like the fish so much. Another place, the Ohio Restaurant in NE DC, is deeply satisfying (I recommend the meatloaf), but is probably not as convenient for you. If you are going to do a tour of soul food hot spots, this should definitely be on your list. The food here tends toward the spicy, just how I like it.
For a slightly more upscale take (diner ambience), Colorado Kitchen is one of the best restaurants in the city. Definitely out of the way but worth it. Fried catfish (or anything else fried, for that matter) is amazing. Open for dinner, Friday lunch, and weekend brunch, but always call first.
My favorite West Indian dish (Trini)in DC is the polori with pickled tamarind sauce at Rita's on Georgia Ave. A small place with cafeteria-style service and a few tables. Also a good rendition of jerk chicken - though like everywhere else in the US it's not really bbq'd like in Boston Bay. Get the sorrel to drink.
I know you didn't ask, but if you'd consider Senegalese, then Chez Auntie Libe on Georgia Ave. makes a really great whole fish and yassa chicken. For the more adventurous, cassava leaf stew (manioc) and maffe lamb. Be careful here, because the dishes are incredibly rich. The peanut sauce for the maffe is so thick and rich, one order could feed an army.
And, if you'd like to gawk at the former Presidential Suite in Union Station, the upscale B. Smith's makes a dish called Swamp Thing (shrimp, crawfish, and scallops over greens) that is wicked. But don't stray much beyond that and the lemon pepper catfish.
It certainly is good, and yes you must go soon. The chicken is made to order, so he'll warn you about the 20 minute wait that's worth it. The pulled pork is good once the vinegar sauce at the table is added, and others have other faves. His hours are odd, though, so check those out.
But the biggest drawback is that it's not metro friendly in the least, being on the border of Falls Church and Arlington, just off Columbia Pike near Bailey's crossroads.
While I contend that the great Thai strip on the Pike is somewhat metro friendly via cab or bus from Ballston or Pentagon, Flavors is too far unless you have a car.