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D.C. specialty foods shops

Hey, all—

I'm looking for independent shops that carry a range of specialty foods—boutique olive oils, vinegars, cured meats, heirloom dried beans, grains, pastas, honeys, mustards, etc. If they have a knock-out cheese selection, even better.
I've done some preliminary research already, but with this lousy search function that doesn't let you search by date, it's been a little slow going.
I'll be moving to D.C. from Atlanta in August, so I'm a little ahead of the game, but I'm planning to do some food-centric research on our next visit up, so thought I would get a head start.
Coming from a town where the farmers' markets are brilliant on quality but tiny in number, I'm already psyched about those, but I haven't found much yet in the way of specialty foods. Whole Foods is my last resort , but I'd way rather give my money to local shop owners.
Many thanks for your help.

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  1. The premier cheese shops in the DC area are in the Virginia area- Cheesetique and Arrow Wine have the finest selections of cheese. Arrow Wine is also one of the finest wine markets in the area.

    1. If you have a car, you should definitely look into Arrowine in Arlington. They have an excellent selection of cheeses and cured meats, and are very generous with free samples/tastings. They also have a nice wine selection and helpful staff.

      Not sure but they might have some of the other stuff on your list (olive oil, mustard, etc.).

        1. The Uncle Brutha's store just south of Eastern Market has a great selection of hot sauces, salsas and other such things. It's a fun little place even if you're not into hot food.

          1. German Gourmet in Falls Church for German.

            Russia Gourmet has at least two outlets.

            Many asian places - try searching again on that or post again. Really same with latino.

            A few Lebanese/mediteranean/Mid-east places, including Lebanese Butcher, Medina Market, and the market behind Attilla's on Columbia Pike.

            Italian - The Italian Store, and The Deli in Herndon though I'm sure there are more.

            Probably more I'm passing over but that's a start.

            1. The answer to your question will depend a lot on where you plan to live and how much time you're willing to spend in your car driving around in the suburbs. Many of specialty shops, especially ethnic ones, are scattered all over inside and outside the Beltway. There are a lot in the city too, some accessible by Metro.
              There were two recent threads on farmers' markets and those may help you.
              I can tell you my favorites but I do most of my marketing at small shops within a mile of my home so if you're going to live in a totally different section of the metro area, it's not likely that you'll be a regular around here.
              Good for you wanting to patronize small shops! We should do more to encourage them and the local producers that they buy their stock from. Much better way to shop.

              3 Replies
              1. re: MakingSense

                I second Cheestique in Alexandria
                Daily Planet Wine and Gourmet (also in Del Ray in Alexandria)
                Kingsbury Chocolates on King Street is amazing
                La Cuisine also in Old Town has great stuff like specialty sugar for cookies and tons of cool gear and books http://www.lacuisineus.com/

                1. re: tauer

                  There don't seem to be many Old Town residents who post on this board, do there? It wouldn't surprise me if there weren't a lot of small specialty shops in the area from Del Ray down to Bel Haven. Some quietly wealthy old established neighborhoods.
                  La Cuisine is one of my favorite shops. Serious cookware for such a tiny place.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    Yup. Russian Gourmet is right next to Rustico, just across the bridge from Del Ray. And in Del Ray, there's Gold Crust Bakery.

              2. All around Alexandria --Misha's for roasted coffee, MOM (My Organic Market) for organics/groceries. Cash Grocer on King St. is my favorite Old Town hippie health food store. These last two have great bulk bins for your beans/grains needs...Not Local, but I do like the Trader Joes on St. Asaph... There's a farmers market in Market Square right in front of Alexandria City Hall, Saturdays. Arrive early (I never do and regret it) I do all my Asian grocery shopping at Eden, Grand Mart and Great Wall... These places are usually near Arabic, Indian, and Latino markets too, so you can get spices and condiments. You'll have to drive further out into NoVa though. In DC proper there's a small (tiny!) Vietnamese enclave in Mt Pleasant, and you can also find local Latino venders selling cut-up fruits and homemade snacks and drinks around that big Catholic church off of 16th and Park. Perhaps by the time you arrive, there will have been some more settling of all the Eastern Market merchants who were displaced by the fire. You will get fresh made pastas, cheeses, meats, produce etc. when that happens. For seafood, I've had mixed experiences at the wharf on the SE side/waterfront of the Potomac. It's a colorful experience night or day...
                Welcome to DC!

                1. Don't forget Vace in Cleveland Park. A small Italian shop. Good pizza dough, and especially don't forget A.Litteri in the Wholesale District. A Litteri is a hidden gem! Isles of oil, fantastic meats behind the counter, some really great wine, fabulous everything....

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: mrspvr

                    You guys are awesome! Thanks so much for all the great feedback; I will try to check out all of this eventually. I have scoured the farmers markets threads already; that was the first thing I researched when I found out we were moving. ;)
                    We do have two cars, and I have no idea where we're going to keep them, but I'm totally up for driving to check out foodstuffs, though overall I try to stay as close to home as I can for dining and shopping both. In Atl. that's not so feasible, so I've gotten used to driving for it.
                    Making Sense, we're crossing all our fingers we can find something in Dupont Circle, so I'm guessing the Dupont Circle market on Sundays will be my standby, though I'm planning to visit most of the other major markets at least once. Ideally I'd love to be able to do my shopping in the neighborhood or surrounding, but I'll travel for anything heads and above the rest. I spare little energy for great ingredients!

                    1. re: greens

                      You should have no problem eating well and eating with some elements of ethnicity living in DuPont Circle. If you want a home to a lot of great ethnic food and want to be in the city try Woodly Park or Adams Morgan as well!

                      1. re: jpschust

                        So our move is coming up, and in a week or so we should be in our new place in Logan Circle. I am truly psyched to be within walking distance of the Dupont market on Sundays (5 blocks). Also one block from WF, so not too shabby.
                        Sadly, I wasn't able to check out many of the spots you all listed earlier on our last visit, but I'll get to them in short order, I'm sure.
                        I've already fallen for Best Cellars on Connecticut—love their selection! Plus, Ga. wine distribution laws are absurd, so most wine seems remarkably affordable—the one anomaly in D.C.'s cost profile, it seems!
                        We were not thrilled with the wine selection at WF, however, so I'm sure the above suggestions will come in handy.
                        In the meantime, if anyone has any additional suggestions for shops that stock great European cheeses, nifty honeys, pastas, grains, condiments, etc., that might be within easy transit distance from our new area, I'd love to hear. Will still check out all suggestions, though—they'll make for great weekend excursions!

                        1. re: greens

                          Where did you shop in Atlanta for this kind of stuff? I lived there for 7 years so am familiar with the area...perhaps there are other suggestions to add based on what you prefer down there...

                          1. re: greens


                            As a kid my family lived in Germany for awhile and due to this I have become a big fan of German honey. Cafe Mozart doesn't have the most exotic selections, but they have a few of the better known brands.

                            Cafe Mozart
                            1331 H St NW Ste A, Washington, DC 20005

                            1. re: greens

                              I agree with the recommendations posted here, but want to add something. It's way less glamorous, but worth a stop: Rodman's, just north of Tenleytown on Wisconsin. Most of what they sell are imported ingredients. A lot can be misses, but there are also a lot of hits. It's a reliable place to buy Pomi tomatoes, for example. They have aisles for Middle-Eastern, Italian and South American groceries, for example. Their cheese selections (even pates!) are good, too.

                              Also, their basement may come in handy to you. They sell a little bit of everything you'll need for a new apartment: kitchen goods, cleaning products, etc.

                              It's a really odd store, but totally worth checking out.

                              Also, Calvery-Woodley liquor store in Van Ness, on Connecticut, has a lovely wine selection along with one of the largest cheese and pate selections in the city.

                      2. A. Litteri and Sons near Gaulladet is a great Italian store with massive wine and olive oil selections. The prices can't be beat. I believe it is on Morse Street.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: ChewFun

                          You beat me to it. A. Litteri's is a wonderful place, and it is walking distance from the NY Avenue metro stop (Red Line)


                          1. re: eam531

                            A. Litteri's sounds great, and I would love to try the German honey.
                            KWynn, Star Provisions on the Westside (off Howell Mill, owned by the guys of Bacchanalia, Floataway, etc.), is my favorite stop by far, even though it's across town. I also love Savor in Buckhead, which is a haul for me, so I don't make it there that often. It's fairly new, though, 2 years old now, I think?, so not sure if you would be familiar with that one. I will make do with Alon's, but there's so much emphasis on prepared foods there now that it's basically a cheese, bread and pastry destination for us.

                            1. re: greens

                              Ok, definitely focus on the Farmer's market. Dupont has it on Saturdays but depending on other areas you might frequent (for work, etc.) you might want to check out others. My personal favorite is in Penn Quarter (8th between D and E) on Thursday afternoons. Of course the convenience factor helps.
                              At Cowgirl Creamery, previously mentioned, (and conveniently located a couple of blocks from the PQ farmer's market) you'll find a wide variety of cheeses and other hors d'oeuvre-ish foods (olives, tapanades, etc.). I also like Best Buns Bakery in Shirlington for speccialty breads. The farmers market breads are great too.
                              LOVED Star Provisions. Not sure of any place similar in this area--not that I've found in my 3 years here at least. Never been to Savor either--I left ATL in 2004.

                              1. re: KWynn

                                Thanks, K. I was pleased with the Dupont market last visit—I go to Morningside here on Saturdays, and while we have beautiful, beautiful produce, there's an enormous scarcity of meats, dairy, breads.
                                Def. will check out Penn Quarter and Cowgirl, too. I love the cheeses of theirs I've had, which is just a few.
                                Star Provisions is an amazing store. One of our local farmers operates a farm stand there a few days a week now, so it's feasible to shop for everything you need in one place. Your bill, of course, would be through the roof, but everything is so incredible, and there are always so many marvelous things to try.

                        2. Just a bit report: During the hell that was our move, we stayed in Alexandria for a couple of days, so we swung by Cheesetique, which made my day. I was thrilled with the cheese selection, but I'm so sad it's too far away to visit weekly. Also checked out the market at Lebanese Butcher where we ate dinner one night and saw some pretty cool goods. Hoping to squeeze in some more shopping this weekend in between tearing boxes open.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: greens

                            One more update, since y'all were so kind in offering so many suggestions.
                            A. Litteri is a gem, I agree. Diamond in the rough, even more appropriately. Kind of refreshing that it's so no-nonsense.
                            Cowgirl Creamery is sublime. I have not made it out of that store without spending $75+ . How can a person eat that much cheese (and salami and crackers and olives and...)? It takes a lot of running, I tell you. I am simultaneously disappointed and relieved that it is out of my way. Going back this weekend. ;)
                            I take back any derogatory comments about WF's wine selection. It's just space-efficient, and since wine distributors are all different here, I've had a lot to explore. Prices also seem pretty competitive. Still love Best Cellars.
                            What I am at a loss for is great bread. I was just in San Francisco for one week after a looooong absence, and everywhere I turned there was killer bread (all hail Tartine). I've found some good bread here (vendor at Dupont, so embarrassed I can't remember their name), but not stellar.
                            I've had an even harder time finding really good-quality salumi. Who here slices their own pancetta, soppressata, bresaola, etc.? A. Litteri is sufficient, but not quite the quality I'm after. Cowgirl has some from Fra'Mani, but selection is limited. Any ideas?
                            However, I've had much fun exploring, and thanks again for all the advice.

                            1. re: greens

                              Vace and the Italian Store, which are both mentioned above, slice their own salumi. I'm not sure about the quality (and don't know A. Litteri, so can't compare), but I do love the sandwiches at the Italian Store. Vace is in Cleveland Park, and the Italian Store is in Arlington at the corner of Lee Highway and Spout Run Parkway.

                              1. re: mbpalaver

                                Love A. Litteri, Rodmans and Vace!

                                1. re: mbpalaver

                                  Arrowine, mentioned above for cheese and, of course, wine, also has salumi and slices it on order. They have things that are not available at the Italian Store down the street, such as cinghiale (wild boar) prosciutto and salami. They also have some higher-end salamis, possibly the Fra'Mani, but I'm not sure. They'll order cinghiale legs, shoulder, rib rack, etc., for you too, and it doesn't really cost any more than ordering it yourself from D'artagnan, since they have orders coming in from them all the time. The shipping kills you if you order it yourself.

                                2. re: greens

                                  For great bread, try Bread Line on Pennsylvania Ave and approx. 18th St. Hours are, unfortunately, limited, but it is worth going out of your way for.

                                  1. re: greens

                                    Cornucopia in Bethesda has great quality, slices their own meats.

                                    1. re: thatswhatiwant

                                      They also will special order sheep milk ricotta as well, and you don't have to buy the entire package. It is the only thing that makes authentic spinach and cheese ravioli. Good place for bufala mozzarella and burrata, too.

                                    2. re: greens

                                      post-SF here,
                                      you just aren't going to find bread so good. sorry. Marvelous Mkt. comes close but still still doesn't match up. Since you're in the district, do check the Eastern Market for cheese and dairy (best sour cream you'll ever find) and interesting cuts of meat, sausage and deli types, my favorite time is on a weekday or about 40 minutes before closing on a Saturday. totally packed after 11 or before 5 on Sat. closes at 4 on Sun..

                                  2. One option -- though it is a small chain -- is Dean & Deluca. Though it is outrageously expensive. DuPont market is great on Sundays but they don't have a good cheese selection. Surprised that DuPont doesn't have any small gourmet shops like Dean & DeLuca or a cheese shop.