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Feb 12, 2007 10:24 AM

Unique in DC area?

I am looking for unique restaurants or places in the DC or College Park area. Unique to me is food that is not found elsewhere! Please, no highbrow or elite stuff... many thanks.

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  1. Hard to say what is unique. There are very few cities in the US where you can get good Ethiopian food, so that may be rare, but not unique.

    4 Replies
    1. re: dinwiddie

      Thanks. Actually, until not ago I lived in Houston, where there were Ethiopian restaurants and wouldn't mind trying some in the DC/College Park areas. Any specific recs?

      1. re: avi

        No Ethiopian in College Park, but it's a short metro ride to the U St station, where you can a few blocks to Etete for Ethiopian. Or a few blocks more to Pyramid for north African.

        I can't think of anything in CP that's not found elsewhere *at all*. But you might be interested in the Food Factory, a bare bones Afghan restaurant with very good kebabs and truly excellent naan cooked in a tandoor. The rest of the food there is hit or miss. Other CP options are Costa Alegre for decent Mexican (probably not of interest to you coming from Texas), and good pho in Beltsville at Pho Vn One.

        1. re: alopez

          So, it's not unique but Marathon Deli in CP (right off Baltimore Ave) makes an insanely good gyro & greek fries. Best in DC IMO.

          The Korean bulgogi joint in the Day's Inn hotel (I think it's Day's Inn, but may have different name) in CP, further up Baltimore closer to the IKEA, is decent.

          Food Factory is okay; quality has slipped in the past few years.

          But, alas, CP is really just an absolute culinary wasteland -- CP is generally just a waste of space.

          I second the point about Etete at 9th and U -- it's VERY good and not too far from CP.

          1. re: KendallClark

            Whatever you do, don't get the gyros at Ratsies around the corner from Marathon. I made that mistake. Three frozen strips of grey "gyro" bologna on a stale pita with nondescript yogurt sauce. Why do places insist on selling this garbage? Are their patrons so drunk they actually like this stuff?

    2. Mandalay is Burmese food. It is in Silver Spring, which is relatively close to both College Park and DC. Ethiopian at Etete on 9th and U Street in DC. Also close to College Park in Langley Park are two Indian restaurants Woodlands and Udupi Palace. There is always a heated debate about which one is better but I think both are decent.

      1 Reply
      1. re: gooseterp

        I think the sheer quantity of tasty things on the Sunday Buffet at Woodland's really seals the deal over Udupi. My Indian friend actually prefers Tiffin's to either of them; it's also in Langley Park.

        But what does *he* know? :)

      2. Rather than think of restaurants that are unique (a hard call), maybe you should consider dishes that are unique.

        The polori with pickled tamarind sauce at Rita's on Georgia Avenue is a Trini dish that I can't find easily elsewhere. These are unusual fritters made from chickpea flour. And dirt cheap to boot. Other good selections there are the jerk chicken (not bbq'd, alas, but still much better than average), the cabbage, and the mixed beans. Sorrel to drink.

        1. When I hear "non-highbrow food unique to DC" I smell halfsmokes, available at Ben's Chili Bowl and Weenie Beenie. A brief history can be found here:

          Ledo's Pizza is close to College Park, over in Langley Park. It has it's fans, but to me, they seem to combine the worst in buttery Chicago crust, cracker thin crust, and obscenely sweet sauce. I don't know if this style of pie is available outside the DC/MD area, but that might be a good thing.

          3 Replies
          1. re: monkeyrotica

            The Adelphi Ledo's near College Park (now called Ledo Restaurant to avoid a conflict with the Ledo Pizza franchisees) is decent, but I can't say it's unique to the area. I have a friend in L.A. (transplant from Md.) who can name a few places out there that have a similar thin-crust pie.

            As for the half-smoke, it may be "unique" to DC, but I think you'll find the half-smoke experience is more about the environment in which you're enjoying it (i.e. Ben's) rather than thinking you're tasting something that's all that new to your tastebuds. While it's been many years since I had a 7-Eleven Spicy Big Bite, that came to mind with my first bite into a Ben's half-smoke.

            While crabcakes are certainly not unique to the DC/Baltimore area, I will say that they're generally better in this region than others and worth a try, even if you have them at home.

            1. re: tubman

              Well, if we're going to go as far as Baltimore to find area-unique dishes, we could go with coddies and pit beef.

              And your LA friend has my condolences. I figured we limited the Ledos contagion to the DC suburbs.

              1. re: tubman

                Well, for a real gustatory challenge, a double feature of a half-smoke at Ben's and then some injeera and Yebeg Wat at Etete ( -- that's a unique *combo*...

                I just took my old college roommate to Ben's for the first time; he's not really a foodie, but does like to eat. He couldn't tell the diff between his half-smoke chili dog and the regular dog.

                Last, Florida Avenue Grill -- which is on corner of Florida and 11th (or 12th?) -- is pretty damn good soul food and pretty near Ben's.

            2. I think DC itself is a truly unique city because it offers so many different choices, not all of them good, but enough of them are good.
              Adams Morgan is a palette of colorful options. U street corridor is a young and hip area up and coming with a few options. Power is back in the K street corridor with Corduroy, and Goldoni, and Prime Rib always attracting the well dressed, and a meat lovers delight.
              Star chefs are around as well. With Olives, and Galileo's being remodeled, don't forget about Jeff Buben, and other great names in the downtown area. If we can just keep them all here. But the restaurant that comes to my mind that oozes Washington and has stood the test of time, is one that combines a great Washington style menu with fresh oysters on the half shell, a long wooden bar, and is owned by a Washington based group, the Clyde's group, and just oozes Washington power brokers and families both gathering there. Politico's and tourists as well. Have some crab cakes and a good Bloody Mary at the Old Ebbitt Grill, which is my pick as a unique Washington area Restaurant, the menu seems ordinary and very average, but it's not really about the food, it's more about the experience. Another unique pick would be more of a bar than restaurant, but the Hawk and Dove up on Capital Hill.