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Most Controversial DC Food Opinion

Inspired by a raging debate on the Boston board, what are some of your controversial DC food opinion?

I'll start: Ben's Chili Bowl-historic, but bad food.

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  1. 2 Amy's pizza isn't that great.

    You can get a tasty breakfast at Mcdonalds.

    Small mom-and-pop coffee places can make worse coffee than Starbucks.

    Jaleo and Zatinya are boring and overpriced.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Don Cornelius

      I understand Neapolitan style pizza just fine, having worked in several pizzerias over the years. The three times I've been to 2Amys the crust has been excessively burnt, the sauce flavorless, the service sub par, and the atmosphere deafening.

      1. re: monkeyrotica

        you had bad service at 2 amys? I've been to 2 amys for countless meals on every day of the week at various times. I've never had anything but superb service, and I usually recognize most of the wait staff from previous visits. As for the noise...well, yes, it is loud, but the noise is emanating from happy families enjoying good pizza and friends laughing together...i've engaged in both activities at this place. It's boisterous. You're eating pizza. Makes sense to me. The only substantial complaints I have regarding this restaurant is that they do not take reservations, and that they do not deliver.

          1. re: monkeyrotica

            I agree with the burnt crust complaint. I've never had a properly cooked pie at 2Amys. The crust should be charred, not burnt.

          2. re: monkeyrotica

            2 Amy's: agree to an extent. very good? yes. earthshattering/worth gushing over? not at all.

            McDonald's breakfast: An Egg McMuffin at dawn is one of my favorite things (see profile).

            Starbucks: maybe. my favorite coffee right now is form Corner Bakery, another evil chain. I really do like the starbucks christmas blend or holiday blend or whatever its called.

            Jaleo: I am always talking Jaleo down when people recommend it to visitors. It is an good tapas place in my opinion, but not really better than the decent tapas offerings that are in most major and many minor US cities now.

            Zaytinya: I'm not a big fan of the place, but everyone I know likes it and I always recommend it to visitors, who also like it. I just don't like the atmosphere really. I don't really think the food is too boring, I just don't like it much.

            1. re: monkeyrotica

              2 Amy's is the best slice in DC. Much better than the Italian Store in Arlington. Cant think of any other good spots personally although been known to hit up the old Jumbo Slices for a post 3 am slice.

              Zatinya I am definitely on your side. Jaleo is overpriced but still satisfying.

              As for McD's there is no better breakfast outside of Bojangle's

              1. re: DCtoNC

                Have you had the post clubbing Adams Morgan slice? It was profiled on PBS once, and supposedly the slices are about 18" long.

                1. re: Chownut

                  Indeed, I have never busted out the ruler but 18'' seem about right. Also a late night fav is Julia's Empanada's the chileno always hits the spot.

            2. Spices has the best sushi in town.

              The Monocle serves up a great steak.

              Hard Times Cafe makes better Cincinnati chili than anybody in Cincinnati.

              A.V. Ristorante Italiano is worth saving.

              Breadline might as well be Au Bon Pain as far as I'm concerned.

              I agree on Starbucks, and I don't get the Zaytinya/Jaleo cult either.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                >Hard Times Cafe makes better Cincinnati chili than anybody in >Cincinnati.

                WHOA!!! I know this thread is all about controversial opinions, but I just can't let this one stand! :) Hard Times Cafe's "Cincinnati chili" is an abomination. I don't know *what* it is, but it ain't Cincinnati-style chili. They get it *all* wrong, from the consistency of the spaghetti to the spicing and granulation of the beef to the cheese on top. Dreadful. And so disappointing, as I really wanted it to be good - I really miss Cincinnati chili!

                1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                  Re Spices, the kitchen takes a deserved beating from chowhounds and Asian food foodies, but the sushi bar is definitely underrated.

                  1. re: Jay

                    Re spices: I tried to get them to send me a half duck on the recommendation of this board. They bounced me over to nooshi because I am too far for delivery. Nooshi's "Peking" duck was an old roast duck and I was really disappointed.

                    I only have been to Hard Times once. It was 1 AM. At that hour, it was amazing?

                  2. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                    I hope not to sound condescending, but no one who knows much about sushi would ever say that Spices has the "best sushi". This is less a dig at Spices and more a defense of establishments like Sushi Taro, Sushi-ko, Makoto and, most recently, Perry's (they have a fantastic new sushi chef there.) I have lived in Japan for an extended period of time and not only know about sushi, but have had it in some of Japan's most famous locations. Great sushi starts with the chefs' ability to select special fish for cut and freshness, and I do not believe that Spices places high regard on this step. I have personally eaten at Spices many times (it is the only delivery sushi in Adams Morgan) and while I have had some decent sushi from there, it should not even be mentioned with the places listed above. I hope that you will try one of these places and compare their sushi with Spices and, hopefully, see what a huge difference very fresh fish makes, and what truly great sushi is. Agree on A.V.'s though!

                    1. re: javasarah

                      Well, there's a reason I said this in the controversy thread. Let's just say I've been to Makoto and Sushi-Ko and Sushi Taro (and Kaz Sushi Bistro) with mixed results but I'm always happy at Spices.

                      The critics I read seem to be rather down on Taro of late. I haven't tried Perry's, but I've heard good things.

                  3. Paradiso Pizzeria and 2 Amy's make equally good (or bad) pizza.

                    Certain big-name Washington chefs could show up at their restaurant occassionally at dinner time.

                    There is great Japanese food other than sushi !

                    Corduroy just isn't that good and the ambiance is strictly hotel decor.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Dakota Guy

                      Ah, c'mon, who do you think should be showing up more?

                    2. Not controversial. It's true. Ben's is overrated, but their chili/cheese fries aren't bad.

                      1. The touchiest subject I ever encroached upon was the quality of the fare/dim sum at Hollywood East on the Boulevard. To me, this place is way overrated, especially since they supposedly imported 3 master dim sum chefs from Hong Kong. Oh yeah, let's not get into discussions about authentic vs. fake chinese banquet food.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Chownut

                          99% of the restaurants in Chinatown (China-block) are terrible.

                          1. re: vb_lady

                            True, and in the near future, your 99% will only be referring to about 3 chinese restaurants. Supposedly, both Kam Fong and Lei Garden will be closing within the month, if not already.

                            1. re: Chownut

                              Lei Garden already is closed. Tried to go there this weekend. :-(

                              Had good dim sum anyway at Tony Chengs, but I liked Lei Garden better.

                              1. re: EricDC

                                If Tony's was that good, I recommend you posting this news on its own thread, since most people here poo poo on chinatown dim sum.

                        2. Which Peruvian chicken place has the best all around package.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Dennis S

                            I went out for lunch this afternoon and was sitting next to (and could overhear the conversation of) a table of somewhat bawdy gay guys, so you'll have to forgive me, Dennis, for thinking something *entirely* different than what you meant by that post.

                            1. re: weezycom

                              Keeping it in the spirit of controversy...

                              Asian food in DC-area is below par and the Mexican food's worse.

                            2. re: Dennis S

                              Senor Chicken in Wheaton/Takoma Park (not sure exactly). They have tasty yucca and excellent sauces. Better all 'round than El Pollo Rico.

                              1. re: Dennis S

                                I like El Pollo Rico in Arlington. Chicken is consistent and juicy. Slaw is ok. Fries are sometimes limp tho.
                                Edy's has the crispy orange skin and yucca fries. Chicken tends to be dry and less flavorful. Cripsy 'n Juicy is better in bethesda than arlington. At the Sterling clocktower, the chicken place is ok.
                                Pio Pio is inconsistent (salty) but can be better than Pollo Rico sometimes. Didn't like Chicken on the Run (bethesda) or Caribbean grill (arlington).
                                I have not been to Senor Chicken

                                1. re: Dennis S

                                  Pollo Rico accross from GMU Law for the best chicken (sides consist of fries and slaw neither of which appear to be made in house). Super Pollo close second cant get enough of that fried yuca. 3rd I think is referred to as Crispy and Juicy had it once didnt win me over from Pollo Rico. Pio Pio never been but i admire the zeal of the man in the chicken suit.

                                2. 6 hours and nobody has yet mentioned 5 Guys vs. Elevation Burger (or any other burger under $10)????

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: MikeR

                                    5 Guys is certainly a controversial topic, and so is Ledo's. I like Ledo's but I have to be in the mood for it.

                                  2. Okay, I've eaten at 5 Guys once. The buns were cold, the music too loud and it wasn't "burger joint" music, and where were the peanuts?

                                    I appreciate their large selection of toppings though.

                                    1. Jaleo. Tourists love it, I find it over-rated. Sangria is yesterday's wine with today's fruit.

                                      1. Minh's is better than all the Vietnamese restaurants I've tried in Eden Center (and much cleaner too).

                                        When it comes to Thai curries, the suguary sweet stuff at Tara Thai hits the spot.

                                        1. The service at minibar is terrible and the food isn't as creative as it should be. If you want to spend that much on an inventive meal get on a plane and go to Chicago and hit up Moto.

                                          1. Controversy, here in DC, never happens.

                                            1. The pizza at 2 Amy's isn't that great? really? It is certainly the best pizza i've had in DC (Pizzeria paradiso, the three times i went to the Dupont location, burned the crust in a thoroughly unpleasant way...and you ask, why did i got back again and again?...hope, thats why) also, the cold rapini and fried squash blossom starters are both great. the fried risotto balls, not so much.

                                              Ben's chilli bowl is crappy. I commend them on having a vegetarian chilli (it's not great, but it's not inedible, and vegetarians in DC have to take what they can get!). The real question for Ben's chilli bowl...why is the nacho cheese so sub par? while i am not a connoiseur of nacho cheese, i know a good liquid cheese when i encounter it. I do not encounter good liquid cheese at Ben's. Seems like the cheese would be a staple there, and so they should get it right. but it is a fun place to go with friends.

                                              10 Replies
                                              1. re: elizabethmmm

                                                2 Amy's is fine, but I'm not sure if I see a huge difference between them and Pizza P. I wish DC had good NY-style pizza, like on the cheap, local places, not the "I'm more original than Italy" pizza restaurants.

                                                1. re: vb_lady

                                                  There's at least one on 18th in AM, Italian Store and the Pomodorro stores. Seems to me to fit the "on the cheap, local places" aspect.

                                                  1. re: Dennis S

                                                    Neither Pomodorro nor Italian Store serve pizza which would be describe as "NY Style." Closest edible approximation I have found down here is Tony's NY Pizza in Fair Lakes.

                                                    1. re: Lowbar

                                                      You might want to try Scotto's Rigatoni Grill which opened in Westfields (Rt. 28 and Westfields Blvd) behind the Texas Road House). I had one of their plain pizzas the other day and the texture of the cheese and oil was just like I remembered from when I was growing up in NYC. The crust could be better but this was as good as I've had it here.

                                                      1. re: dpan

                                                        Promising...I'll give it a try. Thanks for the tip!

                                                  2. re: vb_lady

                                                    You asked for controversial - you might find this one useful, vb_lady. Palisades Pizza has the best NY/NJ style SLICES in the DC area, hands down. And they have Sicilian slices as well.

                                                  3. re: elizabethmmm

                                                    If Ben's didn't have the novelty of having been open for a long time, and instead, was just opened a few months ago, it'd probably be closed by now.

                                                    1. re: Chownut

                                                      I fully agree with you. Ben's is not special because of its cuisine. However, it is still open and thriving, probably due to a good vibe and a decent milkshake. In addition, the lighting in Ben's is atrocious.

                                                      1. re: elizabethmmm

                                                        There's an interesting subtext going on with all these "controversial" choices. Here are some restaurants that people think are terrible and overrated, yet here they are, some of them thriving. Why? In Ben's case, they serve chili out of a five gallon can with Cheeze Wiz food product on ordinary hotdogs, yet people keep coming back. I think it has less to do with the food or atmosphere and more with an emotional response people associate with the whole experience of chili-cheese halfsmokes at 1 a.m. As for the pizza places, people feel very strongly about their particular combination of bread, tomatoes, and cheese, such that they will almost fetishize the experience. Probably a whole separate discussion thread together, but what one person finds bad and awkward, another finds quaint and rustic. Yet they are both right.

                                                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                          The same applies to the Florida Ave Grill, I'd say.

                                                  4. 1) The supposedly "world-class" hotel-based restaurants towards which the Post's Tom Sietsema and others bow in awe and wonder are blah.
                                                    Maestro and CityZen served me two of the most expensive and uninspiring meals I've ever eaten. When you get a quarter of the way into your main course and dread having to finish it, not because it tastes bad but because of the drudgery involved, you know the meal's in trouble.

                                                    2) There is not a single place in the greater DC area to eat a real breakfast. Not a one. There is also not a bagel worthy of the name to be had for love or money anywhere in the metro area.

                                                    42 Replies
                                                    1. re: the sobsister

                                                      Amen on the bagels sobsister!

                                                      There is some consolation that the croissants you can get at Patisserie Poupon in G'town are as good as ones you'd find on the streets of Paris.

                                                      1. re: Don Cornelius

                                                        I've never been to Poupon but I hear the croissaints are v. good. I also like them from B'more's Bonaparte Bakery at the Dupont Farmers Market on Sundays and the chocolate/fruit croissants from Catania on N. Capitol.

                                                        1. re: Don Cornelius

                                                          If you really have to have a bagel, Firehook Bakery gets them from H&H in NYC. Everyday.

                                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                                            before you completely abandon bagels in the DC area, you should check out capitol bagel bakery in the bradlee shopping center on King St. These almost always have the right chewy/crusty marriage that you are looking for, and if you hit it at the right time you can usually get hot ones

                                                            1. re: elhofbergo

                                                              Other good bagels can be had at:

                                                              So's Your Mom on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan
                                                              Old Ebbitt Express, the takeout place that is a part of Old Ebbitt.
                                                              And the ones at the place on M st and 33rd or so in G'town, though not great are OK.

                                                              1. re: EricDC

                                                                I heartily second the bagels comment by sobsister, although I will give some of the places mentioned above a shot before giving u0p entirely. Every time I see or hear the word "bagel", I reminisce fondly about my Sunday morning bagel and baked salmon from Ess A Bagel in NYC.

                                                                1. re: EricDC

                                                                  Sadly, seems So's Your Mom has changed their bagel supplier. They used to be pretty good and now they are that dreaded bread-shaped-like-a-bagel thing (i.e., haven't been boiled which gives that hard outside and chewy inside). :(

                                                                  Pumpernickles has good bagels, as does Goldberg's Bagel in Rockville.

                                                          2. re: the sobsister

                                                            Without knowing what you mean by "real breakfast" (I'd say it was pizza, usually), I must speak up in defense of Bob and Edith's Diner(s) on Columbia Pike in Arlington. The real deal, and their breakfasts are terrific.

                                                            There is also a place out in Falls Church that is so strange and wonderful, I hesitate to post it here, but, ah, why not?


                                                            1. re: Atlantis

                                                              Sorry. I should've been more precise in my rant.

                                                              "Real breakfast" = well-made eggs, bacon/sausage, pancakes, waffles, French toast, homefries, hash, biscuits (w/. or w/out gravy), fresh-squeezed OJ, good coffee, available 24/7 at a fair price.

                                                              B&E's is only okay, in my opinion. And the quality really varies with the hour.

                                                              1. re: the sobsister

                                                                "Real breakfast" has to include grits. And in much of this Metro area, it should include scrapple and fried fish.
                                                                The places that have real breakfast don't have bagels or croissants.

                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                  Point taken. Good grits should be a staple. Scrapple not so much.
                                                                  And, sorry, as a bred New Yorker, a "real breakfast" without bagels is like dinner without carbs.

                                                                  1. re: the sobsister

                                                                    Aha! There's the problem. You're applying your NYC standards to Washington breakfasts. I wouldn't demand grits, scrapple or fried fish on a New York menu but those are traditional items locally, especially in black neighborhood breakfast joints.
                                                                    I could go the rest of my life without Cream of Wheat or bagels which are staples in NYC and places North. I'm just not sure you should apply that standard here when looking for "real" breakfast.

                                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                                      I agree that I shouldn't expect DC countermen, were there any, to respond appropriately to a request for a bagel with a schmear. But regional specialties aside, there's still a core mid-Atlantic? East Coast? breakfast menu that is not being served or served well in the DC area. We can debate the prominence of fried fish and scrapple on that menu but, for me, the basic items remain those I noted in my earlier post.

                                                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                                                        Glad to find another person who dislikes Cream of Wheat and bagels. For a real breakfast im Maryland, go to Frank's Diner on Route One just south of Route 175 in Jessup. I recommend in particular the blueberry waffles and pancakes and chicken-fried steak, tender and melts in your mouth.

                                                                        1. re: elgringoviejo

                                                                          I was reluctant to mention Frank's because they're crowded enough already :-) But yeah, their breakfasts are terrific, and they even fry scrapple nice and hard the way it should be. I agree that this isn't a big "breakfast" region, not like PA or Mass. where you can find dozens of diners and greasy spoons everywhere serving sit-down breakfasts.

                                                                          1. re: little audrey

                                                                            You can head 40 miles north up to Frederick and find about 7 or 8 honest to God diners (Barbara Fritchie, Mountainview, Village Diner, etc.) and at least one excellent bagel bakery (Market Street Bagels). With a few notable exceptions, breakfast is probably the best meal you can get up here. Or, you could just go to Steak and Egg Kitchen up on Wisconsin. No bagels, but a fine greasy breakfast that hits the spot.

                                                                  2. re: the sobsister

                                                                    Well, sure the quality varies. It's a diner, and that's how diners are mostly defined, by their transient qualities - at least that's how I've always regarded them, having known some really interesting and footloose countermen in my day.

                                                                    If you want consistent, you'll find it at McDonald's <shudder>.

                                                                    But, I've never had a breakfast, or any other meal, at Bob & Edith's that wasn't really, really good, and just what I wanted. They now are the only diner around NOVA that I regard as authentic these days. There used to be some dandies, though, in the old days.

                                                                    1. re: Atlantis

                                                                      Not to give you the wrong impression, I've been to B&E's a bunch of times. It's just that the food was always, as I noted, just okay. Never so bad I wouldn't return, never so good that I'd make it a destination. They never quite got "eggs over medium" right and their homefries were bland. In my opinion, a diner breakfast is made or broken in the details and, I'd argue, in the consistency. A great diner can nail "eggs over medium" or your benchmark of choice time and again without being a robotic fastfood hell.

                                                                      All that said, I'd agree that if I had to have breakfast in NOVA, I'd go to B&E's.

                                                                    2. re: the sobsister

                                                                      The 3 critical factors you mentioned are eggs, OJ, and hours. Nobody makes properly scrambled eggs (low heat or double boiler, light curds, creamy); what you get is cracked eggs scrambled on the griddle, essentially a chopped up omlette.

                                                                      Few places have fresh-squeezed OJ. Those that do, you will pay dearly for the privelege.

                                                                      The only 24/7 places worth going to that I can think of are the Tastee Diners and the kebob place in Crystal City. The former has some of what you want, but can be really hit or miss.

                                                                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                        The best breakfast in town is at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. The scrambled eggs and croissant are perfect. Expensive, though.

                                                                    3. re: Atlantis

                                                                      Why do you find the Original Pancake House strange? I thought it seemed like a regular place, nothing out of the ordinary. We'd go more often because as sobsister said, there aren't many great breakfast places here, but it's a hike. They have the best whole wheat pancakes I've ever had (though that's not saying very much...).

                                                                      As recommended by many CHers, I did like Chutzpah Deli. All the breakfasts we had were very good, loved the hashbrowns. But, supposedly they have their bagels brought in from NY. Maybe I've had too many chain bagels but I didn't like them as much--they didn't have the chewiness I like on the crust. I'd love to find some great chewy bagels that are soft on the inside.

                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                        I said "strange" because we drove past the Falls Church place for years, and the marquee in a strip mall just looked so odd. Never bothered investigating it because we're not pancake eaters, but one day, I found the chain's website, and was quite surprised to realize it was part of a chain.

                                                                        That was what I found strange.

                                                                        If you find their hash and eggs ordinary, you've been dining in places that I need to know about. First time I was presented with that huge dome covering the rest of the food, I flipped. Fabulous presentation, and really good hash, not to mention they do grand things with their potato pancakes that even I would never try at home.

                                                                        It looks too much, though, like a section of a school cafeteria for me to be a regular there. Fortunately for us - but not a big deal for you, thankfully - it's not a hike, and I'm always entertained by the people cruising for parking spaces, the lines to get in, and the absolute sweetness of the staff. The food, though, is really what gets us there.

                                                                        Whole wheat pancakes? WHY? (This from someone who finds the whole floury concept of pancakes just second to making paste and cooking it.)

                                                                        If you find a good bagel around here, PLEASE ANNOUNCE IT.

                                                                        1. re: Atlantis

                                                                          There's a whole 'nother thread to be started regarding own-made corned beef hash and why so few places--around here, at least--trouble themselves to make it. I used to go to Eastern Market for breakfast some years ago just because they made their own cbh.
                                                                          There's a subcircle of Hell reserved for servers who claim their hash is "home-made" when it very clearly just plopped out of the can onto the griddle.

                                                                          1. re: the sobsister

                                                                            You got that right. How many times have you asked, "Is the hash made here?" and gotten an "Oh, yeah," only to have something resembling Alpo show up on your plate? (My apologies to Alpo, which is probably tastier.)

                                                                            At The Pancake House, the hash is made on the premises. I asked, and scoffed first time there, and the waitress (who is also one of the owners, I later found out) took me into the kitchen and showed me the post where a batch was being mixed up. I became a True Believer then and there. And, incidentally, was able to walk without crutches from then on. (OK, that last part was a joke.)

                                                                            You're far too kind in your judgment and recommended punishment for those who lie about corned beef hash. I'd say the Khmer Rouge had the right idea ---------> summary execution.

                                                                          2. re: Atlantis

                                                                            The bagels at Bagel Buddies in Fair Lakes are very respectable. The proprietor is an ex-New Yorker. He knows how to boil and bake bagels. Bialys too.

                                                                            If your idea of a bagel is a monster the size of one from Ess-A-Bagel, you won't find that around here.

                                                                            As for shipped H&H bagels, OVERRATED.

                                                                            1. re: Atlantis

                                                                              I meant the place seemed ordinary not the food (in response to when you said it was strange). I can't remember what everyone else got but I did sample it and it was good. It did bother me that my 7 year old ordered chocolate chip pancakes off the kids menu and the waitress automtically brought her the adult size but no biggie. I do prefer the eggs and hash at Chutzpah.

                                                                              Oh, I just reread the thread--I mean hash browns when I say hash, not corned beef hash.

                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                When you say "hash," child, you are talking about corned beef hash.

                                                                                When you want to talk about potatoes, you say "hash browns."

                                                                                Otherwise, we're all roaming out here, alone, isolated, unable to communicate, unable to get a good breakfast with hash and hash browns and big pancakes and eggs any way you want them and ..........
                                                                                sorry, I'm losing it.

                                                                                1. re: Atlantis

                                                                                  Consider myself reprimanded.;-) And, I'd hate to have someone think I meant another kind of hash...

                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                    Haven't seen any in years. Seems like all the money is in poppies nowadays.

                                                                                  2. re: Atlantis

                                                                                    Found this out by chance and I wouldn't have thought it otherwise, but the Woodley park Marriott makes real hash. Nice big chunks in there with the potatoes.

                                                                                2. re: Atlantis

                                                                                  "Around here" meaning different things for different people... IMHO, Bagel City in Rockville is one of the two best bagel shops in Maryland. The other is Royal Bagel Bakery in Germantown. Handmade, shiny-crusty-chewiness on the outside and soft on the inside.
                                                                                  Bagel City
                                                                                  Royal Bagel Bakery


                                                                            2. re: the sobsister

                                                                              I haven't been to CityZen, but don't you almost get annoyed at Sietsema for the go to recommendation of the insanely expensive places? Is that all there really is?

                                                                              1. re: vb_lady

                                                                                but as the food critic for the Washington Post - he would not be doing his job if he did not review a restaurant of this caliber and chef - whether or not it turned out to excellent or not. It would be like the movie critic not reviewing Borat or Apocalypto

                                                                              2. re: the sobsister

                                                                                Not sure if it would meet your standards, but everyone I know (including former NYers!!) seems to enjoy the bagels from the Royal Bakery in Germantown. http://www.royalbagelbakery.com/

                                                                                1. re: wookyluvr

                                                                                  Hi wookyluvr--Have you ever tried neals bagels at the intersection of 28 and... (argh, can't remember)? It's in the same strip mall as the Italian Gourmet place that makes sandwiches, just west of Kentlands development. Although I don't like them as much as I used to (not sure if they've gone downhill or if it's my imagination) but I think they're reasonable. I'll have to give royal bagal bakery a try...

                                                                                  1. re: Smokey

                                                                                    Yeah, you know I haven't been to Neal's for a while. It's right by my house (Quince ORchard and 28... the Fuddruckers shopping center for anyone else interested)... maybe I'll head over there tomorrow. It's closer than Royal Bakery to me, but once I got in the RB mode... we've just gone there. I don't eat bagels that often anyway, and I'm not from NYC so I always hesitate to add my 2 cents to these conversations about bagels! :) BTW Royal Bakery has a lot of other good stuff, too.

                                                                                2. re: the sobsister

                                                                                  Maestro and CitiZen ...uninspired? I find that difficult to swallow. Can you give some specifics what it was about your experience that you found to be drudgery? Both restaurants are expensive, particularly if wine pairings are involved, but I have found each to be superlative.

                                                                                  Would you bitch about not getting good New York bagels in London or Singapore? If you are looking for authentic New York bagels, you likely are not going to find anything that pleases you, so suck it up or go home.

                                                                                  For breakfast, I'd recommend Colorado Kitchen for a wonderful DC (not NYC) experience. When in Rome...

                                                                                  1. re: galleycat

                                                                                    a) Maestro and CityZen were uninspired, the latter in the wine pairings _and_ the meal. And I found the meals more difficult to swallow than you appear to find my assertion. I won't bore you with the details. Just a tidbit from each.
                                                                                    CityZen: oriented toward the expense-account traveller who wants to _see_ the value on his/her plate. So, bring on the lobster and the heavy cuts of meat. Also, a wine pairing menu that features three off-dry white wines in a row is begging for palate fatigue. Unimaginative cuisine, unimaginative pairings, and a server who couldn't be more supercilious or bored.
                                                                                    Maestro: "pleasant" appetizers, my main course: five or so thin glasses filled with fish in a sauce. No sides worth mentioning. Ate one glass-worth. Okay. Sort-of tasty, not that complex. Halfway through my second glass, I thought, Damn, three-and-a-half more glasses to go. Actually unique in my restaurant-going experience.

                                                                                    b) Your analogy is faulty regarding the lack of good bagels in DC. New York to London or Singapore: many thousands of miles, different cultures, different land masses. New York to DC: 200 miles down 95, same culture, same coast. Yes? Shouldn't be that hard. Will it be _exactly_ the same? No. To begin with, the water's different in DC. But, again, it shouldn't be that hard to produce a decent bagel. Now, helpful 'Hounds have suggested a number of places that produce bagels to their liking which I'll gratefully try. But you missed my point.

                                                                                    1. re: galleycat

                                                                                      Whenever my wife and I visit New York, where we lived for twelve years, she insists on bringing back a dozen bagels for herself and others. But I don't see the point anymore. There was a time when the New York bagel was distinctly superior and you couldn't find it down here. It's still superior to a monstrosity like Einstein. But I've never had any trouble finding bagels at Mel Krupin's place or even Whole Foods that are just as good as any in New York.

                                                                                    2. re: the sobsister

                                                                                      You are wrong.

                                                                                      The Waffle Shop. 10th st near E across from Ford's Theater.

                                                                                      If that's not a real breakfast.... well, then you probably are deed!

                                                                                      1. re: the sobsister

                                                                                        Brooklyn Bro's Bagels in Courthouse on Wilson Blvd. bagels from scratch are some of the best I ever had.

                                                                                        1. re: the sobsister

                                                                                          sobsister Neal's bagels in Gaithersburg where rt 28 and 124 intersect makes the best bagels in the area. They close early 4 PM but there is a reason the line is out the door on weekends.

                                                                                        2. Here's one. Red Sage (now closing) had TERRIBLE margaritas. Really, like no tequila in them.

                                                                                          1. Cintronelle is good, but not great.

                                                                                            1. I'm preaching to the choir here but it seems like most people I know here only consider chain restaurants. Want a nice restaurant--Ruths Chris or M&S; seafood--Legal Seafood; Italian--Maggiano's; coffee--Starbucks and so forth. Other than ethnic restaurants, most people seem only to consider chains and don't seem to think about it.

                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                                I never realized Maggiano's was a chain. That would go a long way towards explaining the popularity of so-so food.

                                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                                  Chains and restaurant groups are hard to avoid.
                                                                                                  Rasika/701/Bombay Club/Oval Room/Ardeo/Bardeo = One group. TenPenh/Ceiba/Acadiana/DC Coast = One group.
                                                                                                  Jose Andres is a mini empire with 3 Jaleos, Zaytinya, Cafe Atlantico/Matchbox. Most of the steakhouses in town are parts of chains - Smith and Wollensky, Morton's, Charlie Palmer, et al. Oceanaire is a chain. Clyde's restaurant/bar group includes Old Ebbitt. Ray the Steak now has two places.
                                                                                                  Love 'em or hate 'em, 5 Guys is now a pretty big franchise operation.
                                                                                                  How many of the ethnic places have more than one restaurant in the family?
                                                                                                  Several of the city's top chef's aren't here because they're off tending their restaurants in other cities.

                                                                                                  You have to read DCist every day to find out where the chefs have shuffled to. They trade more often than NFL running backs.
                                                                                                  Have the days of an owner/chef who is devoted to a quality restaurant passed on into history? Is it all just marketing?

                                                                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                    LOL, maybe they'll start offering chefs salary caps. There was a thread a few weeks back on the Chains board about when a restaurant becomes a "chain" when the owners expand. I thought the best response was when the accountants make the decisions and not the chefs/owner. As you're saying, it's having the owner/chef devoted to the quality. There are some smaller "chains" I go to regularly--GARs, Aladdins, Anita's. But, a lot of people I know automatically head for the big chains when they go out and they don't think twice about it. It's not something CHers here do, but the general population.

                                                                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                      Ray's the Steaks does *NOT* have "two places." Michael Landrum opened up a completely new bar and restaurant in style, ambience and menu: Ray's the Classics and Ray's the Bar. That is hardly a "chain" or "group." Michael Landrum remains very much a presence at both restaurants, and can be seen at the grill at either one or the other six nights a week.

                                                                                                      This thread has definitely jumped the shark.

                                                                                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                        I don't think Matchbox is part of the Jose Andres "empire." Did you mean Cafe Atlantico/Minibar?

                                                                                                        And don't forget the soon to be re-opened Oyamel in its new location in the old Andale space on 7th Street N.W.

                                                                                                        1. re: BrianD

                                                                                                          Good catch! Cafe Atlantico/Minibar.
                                                                                                          And, yes! Oyamel. Pretty soon he'll get his own zip code.

                                                                                                    2. I'm not a lover of chains, in general, but what's the real issue? Jose Andres owns a few restaurants, but for the most part they are unique and interesting in their own right. When I think if chains, I think of Chili's, Ruby Tuesdays, that kind of place and the problem is not so much that there are so many of them, but that they are really unadventerous food options and that there is something strange about traveling to a different city (or country) and having the exact same restaurant options as where you came from.

                                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: vb_lady

                                                                                                        Andres' chains are just an expanding zip code of mediocrity complete with arrogance to match.

                                                                                                        1. re: jpschust

                                                                                                          Where's the arrogance? I see ambition but not arrogance.

                                                                                                          Sure, Jaleo is uneven, but you have to admit that he's been the main purveyor of tapas in this country. We have him to thank for popularizing the small plates idea across a variety of cusines and that's not a bad thing.

                                                                                                          Plus, aren't you glad that all those people from Rocket-ville and Gaithersburg don't clog Wisconsin & Connecticut Avenues trying to get into Jaleo downtown???

                                                                                                          1. re: Don Cornelius

                                                                                                            you don't see the attitude of minibar as arrogant? it's about as sickeningly pretentious as they come. that said, it's barely even good, certainly not wonderful or great.

                                                                                                            1. re: Don Cornelius

                                                                                                              Andres can hardly be credited for popularizing tapas when NYC, SF, LA, MSP and lots of other larger metro areas led the way in borrowing an international style. The Washington area is rarely the pace-setter.
                                                                                                              Tapas are snacks albeit with a foreign name. The "main purveyors in this country" are probably 7-11s, truck stops and the Dollar Menus at places like McDonald's. Even in Spain, that's all tapas are - snacks as a light meal to tide you over until a late supper.
                                                                                                              I agree with you about Andres' ambition. He sells trendy, instant gratification of the MTV, Bold-Name, see-and-be-seen type. He's a marketing genius.
                                                                                                              He doesn't have a single fine dining establishment. I wonder if he can.

                                                                                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                Don't forget that he's popularizing the holy grail of restaurant institutions: selling less food for more money.

                                                                                                                At this rate, they'll have "restaurants" where you pay exhorbitant prices just to smell food aromas. Like those oxygen bars.

                                                                                                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                                  when some friends ate at Minibar, they had one "course" in which they sprayed something into the diners' mouths.
                                                                                                                  People complain all the time that they don't change the flatware for each course. They serve some things on sticks - no plates. Saves on dishwashing...
                                                                                                                  Maybe he can use scratch and sniff technology. Or that new edible paper that someone is trying to copyright or patent.
                                                                                                                  If it's trendy, they will go!

                                                                                                        2. Citronelle is mediocre at best. Only the desserts truly shine.

                                                                                                          Pepito's is better than El Charrito.

                                                                                                          Equinox is one of the top 5 restos in DC.

                                                                                                          Colorado Kitchen is ordinary, except for the donut holes, which are sublime.

                                                                                                          1. I have to say, it seems as though being pro-Ben's is the controversial opinion on Chowhound, not the other way around, and frankly, I don't mind taking the contrary opinion in this case.

                                                                                                            I love Ben's. I love the half-smokes, which are made just for Ben's. I love the chili - no, it's not a bowl of "Texas red" or some redolent stew of grond beef out of Cincinatti. It's its own thing - and no, it's not out of a 5-gallon can.

                                                                                                            And I love it on fries with a mess of out-of-the-can melted cheese.

                                                                                                            No, I'm not someone who was first introduced to Ben's in a post-club stupor at some late night past 2AM. I started as a lunch-goer, and have been going at various times outside of the 11pm to 6am realm ever since.

                                                                                                            - Andrew Langer

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Langrrr

                                                                                                              Thank you Langrrr

                                                                                                              The first time I ate at Ben's I was 15 years old and long haired white kids didn't normally eat there (it was 1968, just before the riots) The last time I ate there I ran into Jim Vance of Channel 4 News. I love the half-smokes, spicy and just the right crunch and snap to the skin, and the chili is perfect for what it is for, topping the sandwichs and fries. Is it haute cusine, no way, but it is a DC institution that I'm proud to drop into once in a while and indulge in a meal that both my wife and doctor say will end up killing me. But what a way to go.

                                                                                                              1. re: Langrrr

                                                                                                                I love Ben's. Have to admit the first time I wasn't too impressed, but the second time I was sold. The dogs rock. I like them even better than the famous Pink's in L.A. now.

                                                                                                              2. The Prime Rib's prime rib is tasteless mush. A beef marshmallow.

                                                                                                                1. I have only ben to Ben's once but I did like the half smoked with chili. I only don't go back because the wonderfulness of the food doesnt match up to the cholesterol load it imposes... there are other splurges I'd rather take like a plate of roast duck from Chinatown express drenched in the garlic and leek sauces on the table.