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visiting DC

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hi i'm a new yorker who will be visiting dc sometime this spring. i was wondering if there are any types of food that stands out in the area. i'm pretty into whole in the wall places and small eateries. i can get a lot of the fancy shmancy dinners in ny and don't really see the point plus it's not that hard to find. any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. thank you.

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  1. There are numerous other threads on this kind of question. But the short answer will be the ethnic and other local neighborhood establishments. NYC does not have the Ethiopian and Vietnamese food that DC has, in the kind of quality and availability that we have here. I guess you'll have to stop by Ben's Chili Bowl since it's a DC landmark. I'm sure others will suggest more.

    1. Most of my favorites are holes-in-the wall, and I mean that literally they are hardly restaurants in the traditional sense.

      Oohs and Aahs has four stools in front of the kitchen. You can also take your food upstairs (kind of hidden) to a room with a few tables. Coastal Carolina Soul Food. The grilled shrimp, lemon pepper wings, and the broiled crabcake are my favorites. As sides, I recommend the greens and the rice with gravy. Not cheap plus you will have to wait for your food, but worth it.

      Thai X-ing. Like eating in someone's home. Two tables inside plus maybe a makeshift table outside. Call first to assess the situation. Red Curry Salmon, tofu soup, and pad kana are all winners. The salmon is a MUST ORDER.

      Queen Makeda. Family-run Ethiopian. In Little Ethiopia, I recommend the red lentils, tibs wat, gored gored (lightly cooked), carrots and green beans.

      Eden Center. In Arlington/Falls Church, VA a Vietnamese Shopping Center with at least 23 restaurants plus delis, cafes, etc all Vietnamese. The real hole-in-the-wall is a place called Bay Lo inside the Saigon East mall. Sign in front of the restaurant says Quan 7 Lo. No English spoken. Go for the 'miscellaneous salad' - has two kinds of vegetables I could not identify. On the menu, the 'fried goat roll' turns out to be a thick, exotic curry dish. And the Bay Lo 7 Special is shrimp, pork, and meatballs in a pungent sauce. This place is absolutely worth the metro/cab ride if you don't have a car. Some places in EdenCenter open only until 8pm.

      In the Maryland suburbs, you might be able to walk to Nava Thai in Wheaton from the Metro for their Floating Market Noodle Soup. As rich and powerful and spicy a concoction as you'll likely to come across. No punches pulled. You have been warned.

      Another major cuisine that is represented here but may not be available in NY is Bolivian. Many places in the Virginia suburbs for this. Best overall is Luzmilla's in Falls Church, but at this point you will need a car. Saltenas, humintas, great soups, and a bisteck a la pobre that is second to none. Not sure how late they stay open.

      Back in DC, Sumah's is a Sierra Leonean true HITW. I am always a sucker for Manioc (cassava leaf stew), but it is almost surely an acquired taste.

      -----
      Oohhs & Aahhs
      1005 U St NW, Washington, DC 20001

      Queen Makeda
      1917 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

      Thai X-Ing
      515 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

      Eden Center
      6763 Wilson Blvd, Falls Church, VA 22044

      4 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        Is Myyanmar still open in Falls Church? Burmese food is something you don't run across every day. You have to wait a bit longer than average for your meal, but it's worth it.

        1. re: flavrmeistr

          Yes its still open, fantastic, and cheap. I went for dinner Friday before last. It was busy even at 8. I recommend the pickled mango beef and the vegetarian dishes, even if you are an avid carnivore. The sour mustard tofu is a revelation.

        2. re: Steve

          Where is Coastal Carolina Soul Food? A google search didn't bring up any info.

          1. re: pineapple sage

            pineapple -- that's the description of Oohs and Aahs, not another restaurant, I'm pretty sure.

        3. What do you guys think of The Founding Farmers, 2 Amy, Cake Love, Marvelous Market, Baked & Wired, and Max's Best?? Do you guys know of any breakfast places? Thanks!

          7 Replies
          1. re: mochikpl

            I wholeheartedly recommend 2 Amy's (authentic Neapolitan style pizza & good appetizers); just try not to go on a weekend as it gets mobbed. Haven't been to Founding Fathers but have heard good things about it (good comfort food like chicken and waffles and mac n'cheese). Baked and Wired is a place for desserts, sweets & coffee. Good place to get a cupcake and coffee; on a nice day, sit outside the restaurant by the canal.

            For breakfast or brunch, I like Open City and the Peacock Cafe. Both are moderately priced and have lots of menu options.

            1. re: mochikpl

              Cake Love is not very good.

              Cashion's Eat Place has a wonderful Sunday brunch. I second Open City for breakfast and you might like Teaism, also. The best breakfast by far, however, and must-visit for DC, is the Market Lunch counter in Eastern Market.

              But where will you be? There might be other good recommendations convenient to where you're staying.

              1. re: mochikpl

                Given your OP, I would not recommend Founding Farmers to you. It is good comfort food in trendy surroundings, downtown but not very expensive, so it serves a purpose.

                2 Amys is considered to be the best pizza in the area and great in absolute terms as well. Go for a margherita. Other Italian small pates as well such as polete, suppli, and rapini.

                You''ll have a hard time finding a Chowhound who likes Cake Love.

                Marvelous Market is a local chain bakery / prepared snacks shop. Good, but not better.

                Baked & Wired is a tiny bakery for brownies, cupcakes, and the like. Carry out only. Good.

                Max'sBest is an Ice Cream place on Wisconsin Ave. N of Georgetown. They have some flavors like pumpkin pie or key lime pie or white chocolate blueberry which are quite good, maybe the best in DC proper, but nothing special for out of towners.

                .If you want great food downtown, then go to Jaleo for Spanish tapas. Get the oxtail and the patatas bravas. The olives at the table alone are worth going for.

                1. re: Steve

                  Baked and Wired is actually not only take-out, they do have some tables, and it's a nice place to linger for a coffee and cupcake break (I've been told one of the best cappuccinos in DC, but that's second-hand) -- but true that it's not big (and not sit-down service).

                2. re: mochikpl

                  2 Amys is great, but like everyone says there's usually a bit of a wait. I still think it's worth it for the pizza and calzone. It's not Metro (subway) accessible, though -- don't know if that will be a problem for you.

                  I just went to Founding Farmers for the first time about a week ago, and really enjoyed it. The staff were unusually friendly, and the large menu had a lot of interesting things. I recommend the friend green tomatoes appetizer, which was nicely breaded and seasoned, and served with two interesting dipping sauces. I had the butternut squash ravioli entree, which was also quite tasty.

                  -----
                  Two Amys
                  3715 Macomb St NW, Washington, DC 20016

                  Founding Farmers
                  1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006

                  1. re: mochikpl

                    Actually I quite like Founding Farmers and it is kind of unique. I haven't had their breakfast, but the menu sure does look good, so you could do that for breakfast if you had another spot for something else.

                    For cupcakes I like Georgetown Cupcake the best, I think it is far superior to the other places, especially cakelove, other hounds of course disagree I am sure.

                    For ice cream in Georgetown I really like Dolcezza which is actually gelato, but they have great flavors, the cinnamon is great, marscapone very good, and honey lemon cardamon was excellent and pistachio is good too.

                    2Amys is excellent.

                    Will you be doing brunch or breakfast? DC isn't a huge breakfast city so options will be limited on that? A lot of people really like Teaism for breakfast, if you were here for brunch I would suggest Cafe Atlantico or Bistro Bis.

                    1. re: ktmoomau

                      I really like Founding Farmers, too! And I agree it is slightly unique-and delicious.
                      Also, Granville Moore's is an AMAZING turn-of-the century gastropub in capitol hill. They are known for mussels & frites- THE BEST I have ever had. It is sort of edgy and cool for lack of better words. They are getting a lot of attention these days! Also, Eastern Market for bluebucks and bacon/sausage was recommended to me by fellow chowhounders- and I LOVED it. It is communal seating. Go on Sat for the pancakes (no pancakes on sunday) and on Saturdays there are craft vendors outside-fun to walk around after breakfast. I agree Cake Love is very bad. I prefer Georgetown Cupcake myself. And Tacklebox (around the corner from G. Cupcake) is communal seating, good for lunch, great fried clams and sides. Also agree w/ the recs for 2 Amy's and Teasim!

                  2. My Chinese friends from NYC always want us to go to Seven Seas for chinese seafood in Rockville, MD. They order for us from the Chinese menu. Need a car, tho. Unlike NYC , our best small, ethnic places tend to be in the suburbs.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: keithdcil

                      Actually, it looks as if this is walkable from the Twinbrook metro stop.

                      Also walkable from the Twinbrook metro is Joe's Noodle House. Notable for Sichuan food, not noodles. Maybe not worth the trek from DC since you're from NYC, but it is one of the best Chinese restaurants the DC area has to offer.

                      I would second Eden Center. I don't think it's something you can duplicate in the NYC area.

                    2. we're actually staying at a friend's place in germantown, md which is about 30 miles away. we don't know the area at all and our friends make it sound as if there's nothing interesting around. we'll be in dc sight seeing and what not because my bf has never been. we'll have a car unless taking public transportation is a better idea.

                      market lunch at eastern market looks really interesting and a lot of good reviews. 2 amy sounds like a winner .. i hate waiting and since we'll be there on a weekend i'm sure it's an even longer wait time... i remember waiting for grimaldis and lombardi's in nyc .. had them both once and never went back. it might be worth it for comparison.

                      the idea behind founding farmers seem pretty unique and kind of reminds me of blue hill at stone barns but not as pricey and exquiste. if the food tastes good i think it's worth trying.

                      i guess i'm looking more for brunch considering my bf isn't a morning person. you guys have given me so many suggestions! thank you

                      also .. has anyone heard of ray's hell burger?? what is there to do at night? any unique bars/lounges? i think someone mentioned granville moore's.

                      i'm not too into the asian food scene as i get a lot of those in flushing/chinatown and at home. thanks for the suggestions though!

                      thank you all for everything!!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mochikpl

                        Ray's Hellburger is awesome, so good.

                        At night Penn Quarter is a fun area to bar hop. Georgetown has more traditional old school bars, capitol hill has some great downscale bar.

                        Granville Moore's is nice, in a kind of hood area of town which is becoming more popular, but it is fine if you are careful. I think it's a fun place.

                        1. re: mochikpl

                          For a unique lounge, if you can head out to Old Town Alexandria, I would highly recommend PX. It is modeled as a speakeasy and the cocktails are incredible. There is also the Gibson right off of U Street, which has a nice atmosphere, but I wasn't quite as impressed by the drinks there. Both of these are on the more 'fancy' side, but are pretty unique IMO.

                        2. brunch at cafe atlantico, jose andres' place, is one of the better ways to while away a sunday in washington. the tasting menu is unlike anything you've had before. drinks are expertly prepared. make a reservation and insist on the top floor, overlooking the action. price is very reasonable, almost cheap.

                          1. My favorite cheap DC-unique holes-in-the-wall:

                            -Henry's on U Street (soul food and sweet potato pie)
                            -Torrie's at Wilson (even better soul food)
                            -Levi's Port Cafe (smothered pork chops and the best mac n cheese in DC)
                            -Horance & Dickies (carryout only 4-piece fish sammtich)

                            -----
                            Horace & Dickie's Seafood
                            809 12th St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                            Levis Port Cafe
                            1102 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

                            Henry's Delicatessen Carry Out
                            1704 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                            Torries@Wilsons Restaurant
                            700 V St NW, Washington, DC 20001