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Unusual Food in DC / MD / VA

Anyone know of any restaurants in DC / MD / VA that serve bizarre or unusual foods? And I don't mean anything like authentic chinese. And I also already know about the grasshoppers at Cafe Oaxaca (a pretty bland, overpriced restaurant). The most unusual I could find on this board is a Senagelese restaurant in MD, but the review for it made it sound not very interesting. I don't know if anyone saw the No Reservations done in NY, but if so, I would love to find something along the lines of the Egyptian restaurant in Queens that was featured.

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  1. I heard they also serve grasshoppers at Oyamel.

    In all honesty I don't know if DC is at the level of NYC or some other cities in terms of bizare/No Reservations worthy food. But I would be interested in hearing if there is anything out there.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Elyssa

      A cheap beer and a decent breakfast are pretty unusual these days.

      1. re: Elyssa

        Yes, there are grasshoppers at Oyamel. Not that I've had them.

      2. There are some unusual breakfast items at La Cabana, a Peruvian place in S. Arlington. Same for the Ethiopian breakfast served at Dama, also S. Arlington.

        Polori, a Trinidadian specialty, is fritters served with pickled tamarind sauce at Rita's in DC.

        If you think the idea of Senegalese food is 'unusual,' by all means go to Chez Auntie Libe in DC, or Akosombo for Gahnaian food or Sumah for Sierra Leonian (all in DC) or Roger Miller in Silver Spring, MD for Cameroonian. El Khartoum for Sudanese in DC. My recommendations are in that order, especially start with the manioc (cassava leaf stew) at Chez Auntie Libe.
        Myanmar for Burmese in Falls Church, VA is one of the area's best restaurants. Many recs on this board, please do a search.

        Perhaps the most exotic cuisine I've encountered, though, is Bolivian. Definitely go to Llajtaymanta in Falls Church, VA and you will be faced with a menu as challenging as the name of the restaurant. Especially the beef jerky and the pickled pork roll. Read the report below:


        1. I have not been, but they say at the Peruvian place in Fells Point, they serve Guinea Pig on Sundays

          1. Ordering a side of small intestine or "tripe stuff" at Victor's in Falls Church - does that qualify?

            I'll vouch heavily for the Argentinean steak and El Inca beer, to be sure.


            1. This is great, guys. Thanks very much!

              1. One more unusual food place is the Korean bakery with the french name, Le Matin de Paris, 4217 Annandale Center Drive, and their larger location with seating at 7326-A Little River Turnpike, Annandale. I can't say I liked everything, but they certainly have an unusual selection of things. I liked some of the fillings such as chestnut, but thought a lot of things tasted greasy.

                BTW, I've been to the city of Oaxaca and saw lots of women walking around with baskets of fried grasshoppers. Not once did I see anyone, neither local nor tourist, buying any.

                I second the recommendation of Llajtaymanta. Very interesting place and the food wasn't bad at all.

                1. Actually his restaurant Les Halles used to serve pigeon, at least they did on a July 4th when I was there. They call it something French. That is different for Americans.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: ktmoomau

                    The French for squab is pigeon.

                    1. re: Steve

                      I've always heard that it's squab if it's on your plate and pigeon if it's s******** on your car.

                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                        I don't know much about birds, or cars for that matter, but I am under the impression that the culinary (or sport) pigeon is different than the car-splattering pigeon. Can't imagine taking a gun to the squawkers pecking around DC's finest outdoor sculptuures.

                        However, I do believe you are right that squab is a type of pigeon and/or the other way around.

                        1. re: Steve

                          I googled plain domestic pigeon- Encyclopedia Britannica.

                          1. re: Steve

                            Homing pigeons and the feral ones all over cities are the same species, rock doves. Don't think it answers any cooking questions (perhaps squab is a different dove species?), but as pets/pests (an unfair attitude, he shows), this book sounds really fun and interesting:

                            Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird
                            by Andrew D. Blechman

                            1. re: Steve

                              Pigeons were brought from Europe as game birds, where they've been shot at and eaten for centuries. They're the same-old same-old. The ones here in town, as with most city-dwelling species, tend to be fatter and dumber, but were brought here originally for the same purpose. Despite their reputation as "flying rats", they might well be delicious. The local Hmong population thought so, at least, and used to dry the meat on the porch railings of the apartment complex where I lived in Arlington back in the 70's.

                      2. Several Chinese restaurants (notably the current favorite Hong Kong Palace) serve dishes of beef penis (listed on the menu as "p with [whatever preparation]".

                        Hong Kong Palace (to a certain extent) and Peking Village in Merrifield have dishes of blood and other unusual main ingredients (memory fails me, sorry) - you have to ask for the Chinese menu.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: wayne keyser

                          Along those same lines, I was at Bob's Noodle 66 last night in Rockville, and they have a healthy menu of kidneys, tripe, and all kinds of fun organ meats. Although I haven't tried them yet (haven't been there with the right crowd that would go for it), everything else I've had on the menu has been awesome. I think they turn out consistently good food up there. Its Taiwanese food...

                        2. I have to contest your opinion of Casa Oaxaca (not cafe oaxaca, as you said). I had a fantastic (and very romantic) dinner there less than a month ago. The jicama amuse bouche was simple and delicious, our red snapper ceviche with pineapple was wonderful, and the squash blossom taco was also quite good. what did you have that gave you such a bad opinion of the place??

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tastytamarind

                            I wasn't the person who made the original comment about Casa Oaxaca, but I completely agree with it. I had the mole amarillo with masa dumplings. The mole tasted like canned chicken gravy with cayenne pepper added. I've had mole amarillo in Oaxaca, Mexico, and it's nothing like this. My dish came with just 2 very small masa dumplings. The food arrived in less than 3 minutes after we ordered, always a bad sign. My friend's mole poblano was good, however. When our server asked how everything was, I told her. She offered to bring me a small bowl of mole poblano, which I readily accepted. I also thought the food was overpriced. I'll stick to Bladensburg for authentic Mexican food.

                          2. Most pho places serve a version with tripe and/or tendon.