Visiting DC: African, Cuban, Caribbean, French, Seafood, Soul, Spanish, Moroccan
Hi DC Hounds!
My husband and I are soon going to DC for the first time, visiting his brother in Bethesda over Thanksgiving. We will have access to a car, should we choose, though from what I understand, we should *not* choose -- at least not for going into the city. Metro for that, I guess, which sounds easy enough.
We will be flying in Tuesday morning, out Saturday evening. Of course we want to see many of the landmarks and museums, but we would also like to EAT! We'd like to try some cuisines we don't have in our home area, and I'd love some recommendations. I've perused the boards quite a bit, but would like a few up-to-date suggestions that fit with our requirements, as follows.
*Cuisines of particular interest: African (besides Ethiopian) (yeah, I know it's a rather large continent), Cuban, Caribbean, French, Soul, Spanish, Moroccan (yes, I know that's *in* Africa). Also my husband loves seafood, and DC is a lot closer to a shore than we are here (landlocked), so some seafood recs would be nice.
*We love spicy food...hot, hot, hot
*Metro accesible, or car if necessary with not-too-expensive parking
*Budget: We probably should do only one splurge (for us) meal, where we could spend up to $120 for the two of us, including tip. We do not drink alcohol, so at least we don't have that strain on our pocketbooks. What do you recommend? Also, any recs that are really cheap - like under $10pp - would be great. Instead of a splurge, maybe we should do a couple of medium-range places instead, along with our cheapies.
*Might consider a day/evening in Baltimore, since my brother-in-law wants to go there.
*My husband really likes whole-fish entrees. And crab.
Here are a few places that sounded interesting to me (for various reasons) based on what I've read. Please enlightne me:
Chez Auntie Libe
Ras Doobies (Baltimore)
Chinatown Express (dumplings/noodles/cheap)
Oohs & Aahs
Jaleo - this one sounds really great to me. How does the Bethesda location compare to the central one in the city?
My husband is saying he wants to cook duck for Thanksgiving at his brother's house. My sister-in-law had no clue where we could buy one. Any market recommendations?
Sorry this is so long. I really appreciate any advice about your favorites in DC! I know we can't do/eat everything...but we can try!
The last three on your list would be my starting point. Some say Jaleo in DC is the best---I don't know. Oohhs and Aahhs and Pyramid are close together, and easily accessible from the "U" St. stop on the metro Green line. Jaleo isn't far away.
Roger Miller and Chez Auntie Libe are both fairly primitive, but they do serve African food.
Bethesda is closer to Rockville than downtown in terms of travel time. If you want Chinese dumplings you should try either Joe's Noodle House (full szechuan menu including some noodles) or China Bistro (just dumplings), both in Rockville.
"Steve" will reply to your OP pretty soon. Do whatever he says.
You should not have trouble finding a frozen duck in just about any market. If you insist on fresh, your best bet in the Bethesda area might be the nearest Whole Paycheck (River Road?). There is also a Balducci's (formerly Sutton Place) on Old Georgetown near Democracy which would probably have one---call first.
The Moroccan (Pyramid), Spanish (Jaleo)and Soul food (Oohs and Aahs)you have covered. For West African, I think Chez Auntie Libe (Senegalese) is way ahead of Roger Miller (Cameroonian). The food is very rich. Overorder, not because you need all that food, but to really get a feel for the cuisine. The yassa chicken and the whole fish are the best place to start, but to really get a feel for the exotic, also try the maffe lamb (very rich peanut sauce) and the manioc (cassava leaf stew- this is a real test for a Chowhound). A little goes a long way with these dishes.
Cubano's has a sampling platter (bandeja)which is excellent. This is enought to feed two people - but make sure you get both the mojo sauce AND ask for the cilantro aioli. Both are addictive. The rest of the menu has its ups and downs.
French in DC is extremely moribund. Your top choice within your budget is the lounge at Citronelle. Although this is one of the more expensive restaurants in the city, at the lounge you order as little or as much as you like, so you are in control of how much you spend. I recommend the mushroom cigars, the tuna napoleon, and the vegetable pearl pasta. Anyway, you can check out the menu at www.citronelledc.com
Nothing like Ras Doobie in Baltimore for Jamaican.
Good seafood is never cheap. Black Salt is great if you are feeling flush, but Pesce in the Dupont Circle area is very good and is more affordable.
Here are some of the very best things you can eat in the area:
H20, Sichuan fish over vegetables at Joe's Noodle House - hot, hot, hot
Soon doo boo, Korean tofu stew at Vit Goel in Rockville. You choose the spice level and the other ingredients. Also superb bbq ribs.
The grilled shrimp and the lemon pepper wings at Oohs and Aahs. Also the rice with gravy.
Lamb tagine, seafood b'stilla at Pyramid. Call in advance and maybe they will make the seafood b'stilla expressly for you since they don't always have it.
Ginger salad at Myanmar, Burmese food in Falls Church, VA. Also, spicy whole roasted fish, tofu with tomato, mutton curry, pork with fresh mango. Well, I could go on.
Near the White House, go for sandwiches at Breadline, open for midweek lunch only. The best sandwiches include the Italian sausage sandwich and the BBQ on Fridays only (but order this on a ciabbata).
To answer your question about Jaleo...
Jaleo is a three-restaurant chain - Bethesda, Penn Quarter and Crystal City. They are all very, very good tapas bars. The food is essentially identical, the crowds vary with the neighborhoods. If your hosts are Bethesda locals, you should be just as happy in Bethesda.
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of your stay are three of the worst traffic days of the year in the DC Metro area. Try to use Metro or stay close to Betheda.
If you go to Baltimore, make that your seafood night. I can think of half a billion places for seafood. The ones that come first to mind are McCormick & Schmick's, Philips, Obrycki's, Faidley's in Lexington Market, and for crab cakes, Angelina's and G&M in Linthicum (I know a few folks are not big fans of it, and I find the folks there a little rude, but I think the crabcake IS big and tasty).
For Washington, the one non-Ethiopian African restaurant that comes to mind is Bukom Cafe, a West African restaurant near my favorite Ethiopian place in the city, Meskerem. I had jollof rice and a fish dish there once. I didn't like the spicing of the fish, but I figured it was just that one dish and I wanted to go back another time to try something else. Have not tried the others mentioned above, but will do so next time I am in town.
re: Hal Laurent
I second not going to Philips, and for the record, that and Mc & Schmicks are also in the DC area. Mc & Schmicks is good if you live around here (and your boss is taking you to lunch), but they don't show you seafood unique to this area. In DC for that type of fare, consider Hank's Oyster Bar (DuPont), Johny's Half Shell (Cap Hill) or one of the Black's restaurants, chiefly BlackSalt (requires a car).
On another note, Oohs and Aaahs now has a late night menu and is open till 4am (except Tuesdays). First on the list is Chicken and Waffles which is where I stopped and ordered.
re: Dennis S
Yeah, Phillip's wasn't my first choice, but it just popped in my mind and I had an okay dinner there once. Even though they like to use non-Chesapeake crab meat in their dishes. I do like their seafood seasoning - my (1, 2,) 3rd most favorite Chesapeake Bay or other seafood seasoning (after, of course, Old Bay, followed by Wye River).
Thank you to everyone who replied! Turns out we are actually staying in Rockville, near the end of the red line. When I asked me brother-in-law for his exact address, for the purpose of learning what restaurants are near his neighborhood, he said, "We don't have any restaurants here." Ha! He probably meant there isn't a TGI Fridays or Olive Garden right around the corner. Dang! Guess we'll have to try Vit Goel instead!
Thanks again, and I'll report back when I return.
Another suggestion: Zaytinya, tapas with a middleeastern flair. Very good and right near the Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum.
If you are in Rockville, drive out Norbeck Rd (Rt. 28 East) to the little strip mall at the corner of Norbeck and GA Ave. There is a nice little Jamacian place called Grandma's Cooking there. Authentic and cheap.
Also in Rockville (and Bethesda) are Andalucia. Both (they used to be owned by a husband and wife team and each got one in the divorce) have good Spanish food and a decent list of Spanish wine.
There is also a nice Cuban place in Burtonsville on Rt. 198 just West of Rt. 29 called Cuba de Ayer. If you can't go to Cubano's try there.
Not French, but Belgian, is a place in Olney that serves the best mussels you ever ate. It's called Mannequin Pis and is one of the best places to eat in the area.