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Jul 7, 2010 01:02 PM

Help us find "Philly-ish" places in DC?

We are relocating from Center City Philadelphia to Northwest DC. We've lived in DC before and know the usual suspects, circa 2006, but are desperately hoping to find some places that have sprung up in DC in the last few years that recreate some of the great things about Philadelphia's food scene. Specifically:

(1) Small, chef-owned, seasonally-inspired, charming and not too expensive (I understand that without the BYOB element, the price will rise). Examples in Philadelphia: Meme, Pumpkin, Melograno, Matyson.

(2) Neighborhood ethnic fare. Examples: the Taquerias and Vietnamese fare of South Philadelphia. (We know the 9th & U area Ethiopian scene, so anything besides that).

(3) Food-oriented shops/takeout places. Examples in Philadelphia: Sue's Produce, Capogiro, Le Bus, La Colombe.

(4) "Serious" cocktail establishments or restaurant bars. Examples: Southwark, Franklin Mortgage Co., APO.

I know these are longshots, but anyone have any hidden treasures? Any neighborhood will do. Thanks in advance-

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  1. Not longshots at all actually- I don't know what you consider expensive, but you can check out menus and prices.

    For #1- the chef owned is less frequent, but Dino certainly hits that list, as well as, the Cafe at Palena, Nora (although this might be expensive), Liberty Tavern in Clarendon fits all but chef-owned category. Also definitely try to get the Lickety Split lunch at Restaurant Eve in Old Town Alexandria.

    #2 for this you might have to hit the burbs- DC is the epicenter for Vietnamese other than LA. Get yourself to the Eden Center, Present, Four Sisters or Minh's which is metro accessible, as well as, Nam viet. For Korean head out to Annandale to Honey Pig, Woo Lae Oak, Yechon or my favorite Han Gang. Taquerias are up in bladensburg although Taqueria El Charrito Camiante in Arlington is great. Also check out La Caraquena in Falls church for samosas and other fare, anything with the shredded beef is great. Ethipoic is new and supposed to be great for Ethiopian. Ruan Thai and Nava Thai for well Thai.

    #3 A Litteri, Taylor Gourmet, in Arlington the Lebanese Taverna Market, Italian Store, the Eastern Market, Le Pain Quotidien.

    #4 Restaurant Eve or PX, Gibson, Wisdom, PS7, Central, the Tabard Inn, Rasika

    Also check out the DonRockwell dining guide and Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide.

    PS7 Restaurant
    777 I Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

    Ruan Thai Restaurant
    11407 Amherst Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20902

    Restaurant Eve
    110 South Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

    3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

    Eden Center
    Falls Church, VA, USA, Falls Church, VA

    Rasika Restaurant
    633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

    2500 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

    Italian Store
    3123 Lee Hwy, Arlington, VA 22201

    Tabard Inn
    1739 N St NW, Washington, DC 20036

    A Litteri
    517 Morse St NE, Washington, DC

    Nava Thai Restaurant
    11315 Fern St, Silver Spring, MD 20902

    Woo Lae Oak
    8240 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA 22182

    Four Sisters Restaurant
    Strawberry Ln Falls Church VA, Strawberry Ln Falls Church, VA

    Lebanese Taverna Market
    4400 Old Dominion Dr, Arlington, VA 22207

    Taylor Gourmet
    1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

    The Liberty Tavern
    3195 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201

    El Charrito
    2710 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

    8 Replies
    1. re: ktmoomau

      I think these recs are exactly right.

      DC's food scene is very very different than Philly and will be quite a change for you. There really isn't a BYOB scene here like Philly and we don't really have 5 table restaurants like Philly. This is something lacking in DC but the lack of population densities and high rents make this hard for a restaurant to survive on these economics.

      2. I will add that Rockville also has a lot of asian restaurants as well depending where you end up living - could be closer than VA. But generally speaking, unlike Philly there are no ethnic sections of DC. DC didn't develop that way because of its transient population but the enclaves of ethnic food mentioned are worth a visit.

      3. I would add Lebanese Butcher for superb lamb and wonderful take out.

      Lebanese Butcher & Restaurant
      109 E Annandale Rd, Falls Church, VA 22046

      1. re: Adam23

        there also aren't BYOBs because, well, restaurants in DC can buy wine from vintners unlike places in PA that have to buy from the PLCB. I think if PA didn't have weird alcohol laws, you'd see fewer BYOBs.

        There are also more 'upscale' and tasting menu establishments here.

        1. re: Jeserf

          Agree with all these. Took a recently displaced Philadelphian to Bloomingdale Sunday. Coffee (and breakfast if you want) at Big Bear, hit the farmer's market, then walk up second to Timor Market, the best organic and import bodega you'll ever see, with the best affordable wine selection you can find.

          1. re: Jeserf

            Actually the reason there are no BYOBs in DC is because unlike PA where BYOBs are permitted in restaurants without alcohol licenses, in DC only a resturant with an alcohol license and a trained alcohol manager can permit corkage. There are lots of restaurants in DC where BYOB is permitted however for a corkage fee. At last count there were over 100.

            You might also try Manequin Pis in Olney. It was started by the owner of Zot in Phila. and he sold it when he moved to Phila. to open Zot. Great Belgian food, especially the mussels that you can get about 20 different ways.

            1. re: dinwiddie

              The owner/chef of Manequin Pis who later was chef (but no longer) at Zot in Philadelphia is Bernard Damme. Rumor has it that he is trying to reopen a mussel bistro in either DC or Baltimore. Manequin Pis has excellent Belgian food including 15 styles of mussels in a quaint bistro like setting in Olney.

              1. re: dining with doc

                The last time I talked to Bernard (the last time I was in Phila we sat down for a bottle or two of wine at Zot) he said that he definitely wanted to come back to DC. He'd love to open something in Dupont Circle area if possible.

                1. re: dinwiddie

                  the bottle or 2 or 3 or 5 was his downfall in Olney. There was too much drama. Food is still good and I believe his former kitchen staff is still cooking for the new owner

        2. re: ktmoomau

          In regards to DC being the epicenter for Vietnamese outside of LA - I feel the need to state that Houston, TX is a lot larger than DC. Houston has two very large Little Saigon neighborhoods filled with great grocery, hundreds of restaurants and service oriented shops (travel agencies, insurance, jewelers) catering to their own people. Very interesting place that I just visited this week.

          Just saying...

          Little Saigon Restaurant
          6218 Wilson Blvd, Falls Church, VA 22044

        3. I have lived in both places
          Washington cuisine is so diverse. You have a range from the primitive asian, latin , ethiopian to local chesapeake seafood, to expensive world class restaurants, to fantastic ethnic diversity with every cuisine repetitively represented. In addition you have Steven Starr like groups (Jeff Tunks Acadiana (cajun), DC Coast (seafood), Cieba (latin fusion), Tenh Penn (Asian fusion), to world recognized chefs (jose andres with Jaleo (tapas), Zaytynia (Meeze), Cafe Atlantic (latin/carribean), Minibar (24 tablespoon sized chemistry lesson in cooking) to Michelle Richard with Citronelle and with Centrale to so many other famous chefs. There are great destinations such as Baltimore with its seafood and ethnic restaurants, or St Michaels, Solomons, Annapolis, all on the Chesapeake, or NOVA and Wheaton and now Rockville with very ethnic food to Bethesda with a very diverse and high quality representation of restaurants. DC can hold its own
          So, my advice is to read this board frequently, post questions which are specific such as where should I go for a great burger, or the best pizza etc, and finally do searches since these subjects come up over and over and you don't always need to recreate the wheel.
          by the way, KTMOONAU gave great choices but she is just barely telling you the tip of a very huge icegberg of DC area dining

          HAPPY EATING.......

          3000 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007

          DC Coast Restaurant
          1401 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

          901 New York Ave NW Ste 200A, Washington, DC 20001

          2 Replies
          1. re: dining with doc


            To the recs you've gotten so far, I would only add Vace (Cleveland Park and Bethesda). Great take-out pizza, plus lots of Italian items.

            3315 Connecticut Avenue NW, DC 20008

            1. re: woodleyparkhound

              Litteri's swamps Vace and The Italian Store in terms of imports, so if it's oil, vinegar, pasta, sauce, etc. you're looking for -- even "00" flour -- Litteri's is your place. I'm not sure how you can do much worse than a Litteri sandwich, though, so Vace might have the edge on that fare. (The only good thing about Litteri's soggy sandwiches is their price.)

              My suggestion: shop at Litteri's but get your sandwiches a few blocks away at Tyler Gourmet.

              We don't have an Italian market 'hood like Philly, nor do we have those excellent breakfast places like Honey's Sit n Eat, Sabrina's, Carmans, Morning Glory, etc., so set your bar a little lower there.

              Italian Store
              3123 Lee Hwy, Arlington, VA 22201

              3315 Connecticut Avenue NW, DC 20008

          2. Here are my recs:

            1. Palena (try to cafe for more affordable prices, the back dining room for special occasions), Corduroy, PS7, and Eve. On the higher end--Komi and Equinox.

            2. Ethiopian is really what we do best here for ethnic food. I like Etete. For Chinese food I love Sichuan Pavilion on 18th and K. For Indian I like Heritage in Dupont Circle. Rasika is good for high end, stylized Indian.

            3. There is a Dean and Deluca in Georgetown. Cork Market is also great.

            4. Your first stop should be PS7, then try Farmers and Fishers. I also like the drinks at Coco Sala...especially if you want to do cocktails and dessert after dinner. I haven't been to a lot of the newer places in town but I hear good things.

            1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

            PS7 Restaurant
            777 I Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

            3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

            Rasika Restaurant
            633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

            1. If you're a roast pork sandwich fan, you will be happy to learn about Taylor Gourmet (two locations and counting, one on H St NE, one at 5th and K NW). Supposedly their roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich with aged provolone on a roll from Sarcone's (trucked down daily) rivals the best of Philly.

              Taylor Gourmet
              1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bob W

                It does not rival the best of Philly. But it's a damn good substitute!

              2. 1. I'm sorry, but I have yet to find anything in DC that rivals Philly's good (not even best) BYOBs. What we could have done with a Chloe...sigh. Places here are too commercial, IMO, too chef-oriented and/or gimmicky. When DC has seized on a market/idea -- e.g., Belgian -- we don't do it nearly as well as, say, Monk's. And if the restaurant is really good, they're prohibitively expensive. I know I'll get flak for this, but I find the DC market a little too easy to please; that, or living in Philly set my restaurant bar too high.

                2. Mt. Pleasant and 14th Street north of Columbia Heights is known for El Salvadoran food. Some good pho places are cropping up in DC, though (in that same neighborhood, coincidentally): Pho 14, Pho Viet. Pho 75 in Arlington is a sister to the Pho 75 in Chinatown on Race.

                3. Philly's Le Bus = DC's Firehook or Le Pain Quotidien, in several neighborhoods like Dupont, Cleveland Park, etc. You'll find some excellent breadmakers at our farmer's markets though.

                La Colombe = M.E. Swing's, if you're referring to a city's local brand. Most coffeehouses serve the same area roasters. Our coffeehouse scene is not as crunchy as Philly's. The ones that do approach that level (e.g. Tryst in Adams Morgan) are woefully crowded. Big Bear is close, though. I'd call it a smaller, cleaner Last Drop.

                4. Damn, you're making me miss Southwark. I've actually recommended that DC bartenders go to Philly see how Kip does it. Sorry, but you'll get "mixologists" down here, not that swanky, long-apron-wearing throwback to the time when drinking was an art, not a reason for a 12-step program.

                6 Replies
                1. re: kelly5612

                  "Sorry, but you'll get "mixologists" down here, not that swanky, long-apron-wearing throwback to the time when drinking was an art, not a reason for a 12-step program."

                  I don't understand this comment at all. Are you saying people like Gina Chersevani and Todd Thrasher's work is not considered "art" like in the "old days"?

                  1. re: reiflame

                    I guess we're probably guilty of the same thing: trying to compare two types of bars with moderate (or little or no) experience of one of them. (I don't know if you've been to the Philly bars they mention.)

                    I'm acutely aware of what they're referring to, having spent much time in Southwark, and I have to say, IMO, that I haven't seen anything similar to it in DC. Of course, I haven't been to all the bars in DC.

                    1. re: kelly5612

                      Have you been to PX, because it is swanky and a throwback to old days. If you haven't been to a place, don't talk about it negatively. It doesn't sound like you have been.

                      They wear shirt garters for heavens sake.

                      1. re: ktmoomau

                        I think this was a reply to me. Can I restate something that might help you?

                        "I haven't seen anything similar to [Southwark] in DC. Of course, I haven't been to all the bars in DC."

                        No, I haven't been to PX...I'll have to try it. But I'm not sure how I could have spoken negatively about it if I didn't mention it.

                      2. re: kelly5612

                        No, I just have no idea what you're trying to say. It makes no sense to me.

                    2. re: kelly5612

                      For your #2 question - neighborhoods: Check out Wheaton.

                      Here's a thread where most all the responses to my first post are about Wheaton. It's very current.