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Restaurants Everyone Loves Except You

  • z

Well Washington/ Baltimore lets join Philly, Boston and MSP in copying the Manhattan topic for our restaurant scene. Mine I must sadly say is The Helmand which has deteriorated after many years of enjoying the wonderful Afghan food. But do not despair it has been replaced by Ayubi in Glen Burnie which for a much lower price delivers true to Afghan taste, flavorful dishes.

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  1. busboys and poets. i just do not get why anyone wants to go there, except for atmosphere. the two times i've been for brunch i've gotten super oily eggs and an overcooked omelette. have i just had bad luck?

    6 Replies
    1. re: poochiechow

      I don't think it's a case of bad luck - I've been to all three locations and the food has never wow'd me. Mine would be Grace's Mandarian at the National Harbor. Everyone raved about the food before I visited - SUPREMELY disappointed. The ambiance was nice, but the food did not live up to everyone's reviews.

      1. re: poochiechow

        I have had good luck at Busboys and Poets with entree salads. Nothing super creative, but nice when you want that sort of thing. But I have never had anything else.

        Mine would be 2941, the food is good, but really hasn't wowed me, especially for the price. I just don't love the new chef. But other people seem to think its just amazing.

        1. re: ktmoomau

          I thought the same thing about 2941. It's a beautiful restaurant but I wasn't impressed, even with the bread which they're so well known for. I thought it was okay, but not worth the money, and expected so much more.

          1. re: chowser

            As a note I am talking about the current chef, I didn't eat there under Krinn, and loved loved Scott Bryan. I think the bread was noted mostly under the Krinn era.

            1. re: ktmoomau

              I heard the recipes and techniques were passed on and reviews I've read have said they were just as good. I haven't eaten there under the old chef, only under the new.

              1. re: chowser

                Yeah, I didn't think the bread was incredible, I just assumed they weren't getting the same bread. I wish Scott Bryan (the temp chef in between) would have stayed there, he was great. Why oh why did he have to go back to New York.

      2. I was at Aybui Kabob about two weeks ago, noted how similar the menu was to the Helmand, mentioned that it seemed similar to nice guy behind counter, and was told that they have one of their old cooks. I meant to write a review: I though the kabobs were sort of meh, but Afghan dishes were solid. Must check it out again.

        There are several places on my list, however my most recent disappointment, despite the raves, is Mi Viejo Pueblito.

        6 Replies
        1. re: baltoellen

          Ooh, Mi Viejo Pueblito is on my short list to visit. What was off about it?

            1. re: Dennis S

              By all means: Go! I don't remember what was off since I honestly do not remember my meal. I just remember a general meh feeling, and thinking that it was a lot of food for a good price. MVP and baltoellen may just not be a match. These things happen.

            2. re: baltoellen

              Please be specific. I have found the antojitos to be uniformly excellent, which of MVP's antojitos mexicanos disappointed you, in what ways, and which local Mexican restaurants offer better antojitos. My experience is that the antojitos mexicanos are better than any restaurant in metro Balt-Wash, and I will reiterate that I find them superior to those at Dona Raquel in south Florida as they offer a much wider antojito variety. The salsa at MVP are the best I have tasted locally, DR's in spFla may get the nod on their avocado verde but MVP's red chipotle is very similar to DR. I have had chicken quarters both con mole poblano as well as salsa verde, and both are the best. I don't recall that DR even offers pollo con mole poblano. My sole disappointment there has been that they didn't sauce the chile relleno, so they aren't perfect ion my book and I would that they sauce their chiles rellenos.

              1. re: elgringoviejo

                I asked for their other salsas, was given a slightly confused look and was never given anything else. I would have asked again, but didn't see the waitress for the next 20 minutes.
                The sopes were good, but served along with the enormous entrees, so the onslaught of food (albeit a good one) was a little too much to handle.
                The staff is extremely friendly and welcoming, but not very good at all aside from that. Anyone else have a bad service experience? If not, have you been speaking Spanish?

                1. re: gregb

                  Tal vez sea una ventaja a hablar Espanol y no cabe duda que yo lo hablo alla.

                  The proprietors have done a done job IMO recreating a typical Poblana-style fonda along the lines of Puebla's Fonda de Santa Clara. The senora of the restaurant bends over backwards to assist English-speaking patrons but as MVP has gotten busier she has had to spend more time in the kitchen. The servers are doing their level best to serve English-speaking patrons, and I would urge patrons to bear with them. The best way to enjoy MVP's salsa is to order different antojitos. My experience in the Republic is that salsas are usually paired with dishes, and MVP is accustomed to operating in this fashion. One Antojito that I almost always order there isa memela bandera, a maize-based antojito served with red and green salsas as well as sour cream, hence the term bandera (flag) which represents the Republic's national colors. , and which costs a mere two dollars and fifty cents or so. MVP serves a wide and delicious array of food, with antojitos mexicanos the equal of any I have been served in the USA, and a waitstaff that striving hard to meet its customers' needs.

            3. Interesting topic! Mine would be Rays the Classics and Inn at Little Washington.

              35 Replies
              1. re: Transplanted Texan

                Have you had the hanger steak at Rays? I think it's the best in town.

                1. re: Elyssa

                  Hanger steak, in my opinion, is overrated. For whatever reason these days, people seem to be on the hangar steak bandwagon, but it's just a tough piece of meat with very little fat. Yes, it has a more "beefy" taste than other cuts, but I feel like this obsession with hangar steak in general is overdone.

                  (and yes ive had it at Ray's)

                  my $0.02

                  1. re: MarcDC

                    Amen.
                    "Hanger steak" my eye. It's another way of getting the food snobs to eat cheap tough meat.
                    I do like Rays other food though, and also the Inn, though completely different approaches.

                    1. re: a1234

                      I love hangar steak. I just don't care for what the food snobs are doing to it. I've been in two places that served hangar steak kabobs, as well as hangar steak "sliders."

                      1. re: a1234

                        That's been happening for centuries though. Look at offal....it's the odds and ends of an animal. When cooked right those "cheap cuts of meat" are sometimes the best around---it's actually an art form. I don't think it has anything to do with food snobs. In fact turning your nose up to a tougher, cheaper cut of meats is kind of the definition of snobbish.

                        1. re: Elyssa

                          yeah! My mom can turn the best cut of beef into shoe leather. if someone can take an unloved piece and treat it with care - I'm all over that.

                      2. re: MarcDC

                        I don't know if it's a bandwagon, as much of a personal taste. Some people want a filet because they don't want to give their jaw too much of a work out and want a soft piece of meat. Other's like a tougher, more meaty steak...therefore the hanger steak is perfect.

                        I personally prefer both---I just love a good piece of steak.

                        I like the hanger because as you said it tends to have a beefier taste. But also when cooked right (like at Ray's) it's a thing of pure beauty---juicy, meaty, tender in certain spots. Delicious! Mix that with the creamed spinach and mashed potatoes it's the world's perfect meal.

                        1. re: MarcDC

                          If it's overcooked then it's tough, but done right (rare to med-rare) it's actually very tender and flavorful.

                        2. re: Transplanted Texan

                          Exactly. You can have a flavorful tender cut or a flavorful tough cut. If you only wanted flavor, you could chew on a bone. Save tough meat for the dog, who will appreciate it more.

                          1. re: a1234

                            I never thought of it that way, in my experience you could have lots of flavor with a slightly tougher, slightly fattier cut, or you could have tender cuts of slightly less flavorful lean beef, but you can't have both. That is why some people like ribeye and hangar steaks for the flavor and others like filet mignon for the tenderness. My grandfather was a cattleman and he said this is why filets generally are dressed up with flavorful sauces or wrapped in bacon to prepare. The filets/tenderloins are short on fatty flavor and need a little extra help to excel.
                            I have never spent a lot of time thinking about it, or researching it, tho, so I will welcome others thoughts on this.

                            1. re: a1234

                              Speaking of chewing on a bone, ever had roasted bone marrow? Mmmmm. Beef butter.

                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                monkey: if you're ever in SF there's a place that usu. has Os a Moelle on the appetizer menu - nice grilled chunks served on large croutons. wow.

                          2. re: Transplanted Texan

                            I feel like I am taking my life in my hands saying this - as I have pointed it out before and received some spirited commentary - Rays the Steaks is mediocre

                            1. re: Fracis

                              Interesting. I would say that Rays serves a rather good steak at a very good price in an expensive neighborhood. And the sides are pretty good too. And occasionally Rays will serve a steak that is very good. I like it better than Ruths or Mortons and when you look at the whole transaction, Rays looks pretty darned good. It is easy to sneer at Rays but the reason Rays is so popular is that they do a steak better than most places do, and at a better price.

                              1. re: Fracis

                                Doing a steak well isn't rocket science- get a fresh, good cut of meat from a decent butcher (or have someone in house who knows how to carve a cow); a hot oven that you can control the heat and a few common spices and a chef that knows when a steak is done and that is it. That takes me to my issue with Ray's, and that is that Landrum has a different definition of doneness than the rest of the world. Yea, I know like getting your hair cut it it is easier to keep it longer (rarer steaks) than to cut it too short (overcook) but come on- medium rare is medium rare (pink in the middle but done all the way through) not a bloody, tough mess of a rare steak.

                                1. re: ClevelandDave

                                  Ray's menu goes to great lengths to explain EXACTLY how they cook steaks. If you're not happy with the doneness, order according to the terms clearly outlined by Ray's.
                                  I just don't get this arguement.

                                  1. re: monavano

                                    Because it is confusing. The world has one standard, Rays has another. So if you always order something medium, and you get rare, you are upset. If you order according to the chart you might feel you won't be getting what you want.

                                    I just don't get why Ray's doesn't just do what their customers want within reason (and this seems reasonable).

                                    1. re: ClevelandDave

                                      But it's totally within your power to order to your liking. The last time I went, my DH and I took his parents. His dad is very predictable with steak-he likes filet mignon, medium. NOT med rare-medium.
                                      We looked at the menu and spoke with our server to communicate his desires, and he was extremely pleased.
                                      I understand your wish to have standardized language, but unless you're from out of town, or never read about Ray's, you know how they roll.

                                      1. re: monavano

                                        Well, no you really wouldn't unless you were a regular, IMHO. It just seems uncharictaristically arrogant to go out of your way not to meet your customer's expectations, whatever they are.

                                        1. re: ClevelandDave

                                          Have you discussed or attempted to discuss with with the owner, Michael Landrum? Or, have you discussed this with a manager to give your input?
                                          Where you aware of the way steaks are cooked at Ray's before you went?
                                          Arrogant? Never a word I'd associate with any Ray's establishment.
                                          Thanks.

                                          1. re: ClevelandDave

                                            ClevelandDave, I feel your pain, but you are wrong. Medium Rare has never been pink, it has always been red in the middle. If you want Rays to make you a steak that is pink in the middle, order it "pink in the middle" or Medium, but don't say Medium Rare because that means Red, but warm, in the middle.
                                            To quote you, "but come on- medium rare is medium rare (pink in the middle but done all the way through", again, medium rare is not pink, and it is most definitely not done all the way through.
                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperat...

                                            1. re: Ziv

                                              With all due respect, while there are many more experienced people on this board, in virtually all my experience in going to steakhouses and preparing them myself for others, Ray's is out of the norm, and medium rare is pink with a slight hint of red in the middle. See: http://bbq.about.com/od/steaks/ss/aa1....

                                              Even if you don't accept that, Ray's is being stubborn (maybe arrogant isn't the right word), creates an unnecessary confusing situation, does not meet the expectations of clients and is doing something quite different than others. I rarely complain and it is very unusual for me to send a steak back. I've had to do that twice at Ray's, both for the same reason.

                                              Doing something different than others is good when you are exceeding the expectations of your customers, but not when you aren't giving them what they expect.

                                              By the way, I did mention it to the waiter and they said that is what our standard is. I'll have to remember that next time. My point is that I shouldn't have to.

                                              1. re: ClevelandDave

                                                Well, I'll argue that the text on that page is incorrect, since we quoted other pages that had a different description.

                                                The PICTURE on that page, however, is correct. Notice it shows red all the way through.

                                              2. re: Ziv

                                                I'd also note this posting by a regular chowser (Ellen 4441). I happen to think that the burgers are a lot more closely done to what customers expectations are than the steaks, particularly the thicker cuts:

                                                I visited DC from AC, and my burger was way undercooked, and I prefer a softer type roll......

                                                For what it's worth ......

                                      2. re: ClevelandDave

                                        Um, except what you just described is medium, not medium rare.

                                        Rare = cool, red center
                                        Medium-rare = warm, red center
                                        Medium = pink center

                                        Anything beyond that is dead and not worth describing. :-)

                                        1. re: DanielK

                                          Daniel, I think you nailed it, so I went to the default source for confirmation and even Wiki thinks medium-rare is warm, red center. But I have to admit that most experts don't use the old doneness description anymore, they use the temp instead.

                                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperat...
                                          http://www.goodcooking.com/steak/done...

                                          1. re: DanielK

                                            Ya these are much more the universal standards for steak that I use.

                                            1. re: Elyssa

                                              My universal standard is the question "What does medium mean here?" Then if it's not right, I can blame the waiter, not the kitchen. ;)

                                              1. re: MikeR

                                                Unless they say something like, not really rare, and not well done. But then you know you're at Outback or the like.

                                                1. re: MikeR

                                                  Seconded. Perhaps Dave has stumbled on a few places that all happen to consistently cook steaks to his definition, but in my experience definitions of doneness vary hugely from restaurant to restaurant and even chef to chef, so if you're not asking "what does X mean to whoever is cooking today?" then you're just gambling.

                                                  (FWIW, my definitions of doneness are closer to Ray's than to Dave's.)

                                                  1. re: sweth

                                                    Nope. I've really never had a problem asking for a medium well steak being delivered medium well... except at Ray's. Perhaps Ray's is right and everyplace else is just overcooking their steaks.

                                                    1. re: ClevelandDave

                                                      Medium-Well? Now this is all beginning to make sense.

                                                      1. re: monavano

                                                        My wife orders her burgers and steaks medium-well all the time. I don't think she's ever had it done the way she likes it. Mind you, she's the type that's always looking for something to complain about. :-)

                                                      2. re: ClevelandDave

                                                        But you were talking earlier about medium-rare not being to your liking, i.e. red not pink in the middle, and now you fess up to ordering good beef cooked til its grey? And it is Ray's fault? Argghhh! And I actually gave a damn, thinking that the use of thermometers, and an increased USDA presence, might have changed what medium-rare was expected to be...
                                                        Medium-well? There is so little of the great aspects of the steak left after medium that it begs the question, why order steak if you are going to cook it so much that it is tougher and nearly flavorless?

                                                        1. re: Ziv

                                                          Meant medum rare. At Rays medium well is medium rare.

                                        2. (1) The Tasting Room at Restaurant Eve. And no, it's not because I'm not 'sophisticated' enough. I love Komi and CityZen and many other fine dining experiences in DC and elsewhere around the globe.

                                          (2) 2Amys. Apparently my mistake here has been to focus on the pizza and not the other dishes. That said, the pizza has not wowed me and the ambiance is that of Romper Room. I expect Barney to show up any minute. (Yes, I know, I'm mixing children's shows and eras.)

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: foodtrip

                                            Thank you. Restaurant Eve is good but their prices are ridiculous ($17 for green beans) and the hostess' disdain for the walk-in customer is more than I can stand.

                                            -----
                                            Restaurant Eve
                                            110 South Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                            1. re: foodtrip

                                              I think you'd enjoy 2 Amys more if you thought of it as a place to go broke eating pizza soup in an authentic nursery atmosphere.

                                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                LOL! Monkey, I always enjoy your humor. You have perfectly summarized the 2 Amys experience.

                                            2. Cakelove. I am so sorry but the cupcakes are just boring as hell and overpriced. I have tried them at different temperatures and such. ick.

                                              10 Replies
                                              1. re: rHairing

                                                i do not think anyone likes cakelove after reading several comments on this board.

                                                1. re: rHairing

                                                  I don't love any place that specializes in cupcakes. I just don't get that food trend no matter how they dress it up or dress it down. Too big, too small, too gooey, too dry, too moist, too messy, too sweet, too expensive. Give me a $6 slice of a nice dense chocolate cake any time and I can make three desserts out of it. ;)

                                                  1. re: rHairing

                                                    I think the dislike for Cakelove is pretty universal. I think it coasted along because it was the only game in town. But now that there are places like Baked and Wired and Georgetown Cupcake etc there is no reason to go there.

                                                    -----
                                                    Georgetown Cupcake
                                                    1209 Potomac St NW, Washington, DC

                                                    1. re: Elyssa

                                                      Georgetown Cupcakes rule! They're the best around, IMO. I send them to my husband's office for his birthday, and everyone swoons.

                                                      -----
                                                      Georgetown Cupcake
                                                      1209 Potomac St NW, Washington, DC

                                                      1. re: Elyssa

                                                        Georgetown Cupcake is overrated, small and overpriced cupcakes that frankly are nowhear the level of the cupcakes at Baked and Wired and Furins.

                                                        -----
                                                        Georgetown Cupcake
                                                        1209 Potomac St NW, Washington, DC

                                                      2. re: rHairing

                                                        Amen to this, I thought I was the only one. I almost feel like there might be something wrong with me because EVERYONE else couldn't stop talking about how much they loved it. But Cakeloves cakes are dry, bland and their frosting would best be served as a mortar for tile bricking.

                                                        If I want decent cupcakes I would go to Red Velvet (good) or Georgetown Cupcakes (better)

                                                        -----
                                                        Georgetown Cupcake
                                                        1209 Potomac St NW, Washington, DC

                                                        1. re: tifferbe_2000

                                                          that's just a bit harsh. Mortar? I don't think so. Spackle for the drywall sure, But mortar?

                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                            besides everyone knows tile uses grout after the mudcoat, silly.

                                                        2. re: rHairing

                                                          I ate a piece of cake at Cakelove just a week ago. I even let it reach room temperature before eating (why do they serve cold cakes???) but it was less than mediocre. Not worth $7....I wish I had spent it on a bowl of pho:)