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In addition to Ethiopian, is there a particular cuisine that DC is known for?

c oliver Nov 7, 2010 11:03 AM

We'll be in DC proper for almost two weeks. I've gotten some great Ethiopian recs as well as others. But I'm curious if there's some other cuisine that DC is famous for. "Course the Southern influence is frequently present and that's fine but I'm from the South originally so,while good, I'm talking about some more unusual. Any recs would be appreciate. TIA.

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  1. ipsedixit RE: c oliver Nov 7, 2010 11:20 AM

    I would say seafood (e.g. crabcakes), but it really depend on where you are coming from. For crabcakes I really like Blacksalt and Hell Point (Annapolis)

    4 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit
      c oliver RE: ipsedixit Nov 7, 2010 11:25 AM

      Coming from Lake Tahoe and definitely want to get some of "those" crabs :) Bob's dad was a Marine Corps pilot and they were stationed in Annapolis when he was a kid. We're toying with going over. Thanks.

      1. re: c oliver
        ipsedixit RE: c oliver Nov 7, 2010 11:34 AM

        I had to resist the urge to initially respond that DC is known for "expense account dining" ...

        Enjoy your stay and please give my thanks to your father-in-law(?) for his service, esp. on Veteran's Day.


        1. re: ipsedixit
          c oliver RE: ipsedixit Nov 7, 2010 11:45 AM

          Our tax dollars at work ;)

          Unfortunately he died post WWII and Korea in a peace-time, at sea, helicopter rescue attempt. But I'm sure he appreciates your thanks.

          1. re: ipsedixit
            hill food RE: ipsedixit Nov 7, 2010 08:13 PM

            actually ipse, that is a valid category in DC.

      2. Veggo RE: c oliver Nov 7, 2010 11:33 AM

        Legal Sea Foods is on 7th St. NW, and while I am aware that some like to trash good restaurants, I think it is a good restaurant, and crab cakes are their signature item there.

        16 Replies
        1. re: Veggo
          c oliver RE: Veggo Nov 7, 2010 11:46 AM

          Well, the heck with them! When Veggo speaks, c oliver listens.

          1. re: c oliver
            invinotheresverde RE: c oliver Nov 8, 2010 01:13 AM

            Legal is known for keeping their wine markup super low, which is never a bad thing, but they are a pretty big chain, if that's a factor for you, c.

            1. re: invinotheresverde
              Doh RE: invinotheresverde Nov 8, 2010 07:33 AM

              Legals is a chain out of Boston, so personally I would recommend their lobster roll and clam chowder over their crabcake. There are a lot of places to get good crab cakes in DC, including Johnny's Half Shell.

              Since no one else has mentioned it, I'll point out that a lot of people consider DC's "signature' food item to be the "half smoke" which is basically a hot dog/sausage that you can get at any of the food trucks lining the mall, but I'm not actually recommending it. ;)

              Johnny's Half Shell
              400 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

              1. re: Doh
                woodleyparkhound RE: Doh Nov 8, 2010 07:39 AM

                If you are planning a trip to the Eastern Market, and you absolutely should, I think the best half smoke in town is found inside the market. They sell several kinds of sausages, hot dogs, etc. to take away. I love the "hot half smoke in natural casing" -- and I think it costs $2.00.

                Legal clam chowder is very good -- but even better is their fish chowder.

                1. re: woodleyparkhound
                  c oliver RE: woodleyparkhound Nov 8, 2010 07:45 AM

                  I hadn't heard of Eastern Market but now I have and we'll definitely go there! We're staying in an apartment and I love to cook when we travel. Gotta have those dogs too.

                  Wow, I am SO glad I started this thread. Yay for me :)

                  1. re: c oliver
                    woodleyparkhound RE: c oliver Nov 8, 2010 07:53 AM

                    There are many reasons to go to Eastern Market, as you will see when you get there, but here are a few:

                    Market Lunch - great for breakfast on Sat. You must get there early to avoid 30 mins. or so in line.

                    Peregrine Espresso (you'll pass it on the way to the market) - best coffee shop in town.

                    Beautiful organic produce

                    This will be a highlight of your trip!

                    Market Lunch
                    225 7th St SE Ste 12, Washington, DC 20003

                    1. re: c oliver
                      hill food RE: c oliver Nov 8, 2010 04:14 PM

                      you'll have a kitchen? then definitely hit the Eastern Market - I lived down the street for 10 years, say Hi to Mrs. Calomiris at the vegetable stand for me! if you buy enough she'll slip you a piece of fruit in your bag.

                      Midday Saturday and Sunday are an utter nightmare in my book (although there's a kind of cool farmer's market and flea market on those days - but if that's your thing the Dupont farmer's market is better) just try buying only a pound of butter or some (phenomenal) sour cream while 20 day-trippers are tasting unusual cheeses they have no intention of buying. aaargh. Since you're on vacation, hit it either Thursday or Friday, much more laid back and freshly stocked. if you eat at the Market Lunch (closes by 3 most days) observe the scorch marks on the communal table (the place burned down a few years ago and has since been completely restored but the table and the Calomiris' cash register were saved and bear the scars) on the weekend I would ONLY go right before closing. and if you don't see something just ask, given the limited space each vendor has, a lot of things are squirreled away and hard to see. and I believe it's Union Meat that sells half-smokes to eat on the spot. but Canales does have an amazing selection of sausages mostly local although Aidell's has been creeping in. the Paiks (vegetables and poultry) have good bulgogi ready to be cooked at home. the fish counter generally starts packing away half the case (the cheaper fish) in the last half hour and if the Redskins are playing, good luck getting served at the Inman's poultry stand (HUGE fans).

                      it's fun going in the middle of the week and the middle of the day, if they're not busy carving up stuff sometimes the guys at Inman's and across the aisle at Union toss a football back and forth overhead and an Inman kid practices his skateboard tricks and and and. it's just far cooler without the weekend crowds.

                      keep your eyes open and you might see DC's shadow representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, she shops there all the time. she's a pistol.

                      for hours and a directory of vendors

                      just don't go with a preconceived idea of what you're going to cook, let the ingredients dictate that. Philly's Reading Market and Balto's Lexington are better, but it's still a great place.

                      1. re: hill food
                        c oliver RE: hill food Nov 8, 2010 04:55 PM

                        WOW. Just wow. I really think the mods ought to consider incorporating this thread into a stickie of what to do. This simple question of mine has returned just incredible information. I was telling Bob and he's pretty jazzed about it too. Thanks again and again.

                    2. re: woodleyparkhound
                      Steve RE: woodleyparkhound Nov 8, 2010 10:49 AM

                      This is a good suggestion plus Eastern Market is a fun place to be on a weekend. Canales Meats has some hot half smokes cooked (make sure you go for the hot, not the mild), or even better get a couple and fry them up yourself.

                      1. re: Steve
                        woodleyparkhound RE: Steve Nov 8, 2010 11:12 AM

                        Yes, Canales Meats is the place with the cooked half-smokes I was referring to in my post-before-last.

                      2. re: woodleyparkhound
                        c oliver RE: woodleyparkhound Nov 27, 2010 02:17 PM

                        Whoa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just had a half smoke at Eastern Market for lunch today. That's the best dog we've ever had. Got just what you like: the hot half smoke in natural casing. Is there anyplace to buy/order these from.

                        BTW, we've been eating at a number of your recs but I've been slow posting. So far just Etete. Once I've done all we can do, leaving Tues. pre-dawn, I'll link here to the posts. As usual, CHs never fail. Thanks.

                        1. re: c oliver
                          sweth RE: c oliver Nov 27, 2010 03:24 PM

                          Other than Ben's and the occasional street vendor that still uses Mangers, Canales is the only place I know of in DC proper to buy Manger's half-smokes; you can also buy them in bulk at BK Millers in the MD 'burbs. I don't think you can order them, but if you can, Mangers Packing Corp (in Baltimore) is the company that makes them, so you can try calling them and seeing. There are also other brands that you can find in grocery stores in the area, like Capitol or Briggs, but IMHO those aren't nearly as good as Mangers.

                      3. re: Doh
                        Ziv RE: Doh Nov 9, 2010 06:43 AM

                        On the subject of half-smokes, what happened to the street vendor half-smoke over the past 10 years? It used to be a skinny, dark reddish/brown natural casing dog with a snap when you bit into it. Now it is a fat, tannish non-casing dog that has very little flavor. I know that all the vendors park their vans/carts at the same place at night and get the same material from same, but when did they dumb down the dogs? It is a pity that I have to go to Eastern Market to get the old half-smoke, even street vendors used to have a fair iteration of it, but no more.

                  2. re: Veggo
                    c oliver RE: Veggo Dec 2, 2010 01:51 PM

                    Despite my entreaty asking the moderators to leave this review of Legal Seafood on the DC board since it was specific to the DC area, they of course moved it to Chains. So here's the friggin' link :)


                    It was allowed to be discussed here but only up to a point, I suppose. I really wish I could figure it out also.

                    1. re: c oliver
                      chowser RE: c oliver Dec 2, 2010 03:28 PM

                      Legal Seafood was good in Boston in the mid-80's but it doesn't compare anymore since it's become a chain. Or, I'm remembering differently. I'm dating myself.

                      1. re: chowser
                        c oliver RE: chowser Dec 2, 2010 03:36 PM

                        I can only comment on the outstanding soup and crabcake we had there last week. OUTSTANDING. If that's a decline, then, boy, I can't even imagine what it used to be like.

                  3. s
                    Steve RE: c oliver Nov 7, 2010 11:44 AM

                    There are large communities of Korean, Afghan, Bolivian, Salvadoran, Lebanese, and Vietnamese in the area, but they are centered in the suburbs. All of the Chow-worthy spots are located outside of DC proper. Furthermore, the best Thai, Chinese, Peruvian, Burmese, etc are also located outside DC. Now, some of those spots are 'sort of' easy to get to via Metro and a bit of walking, but more and more DC is becoming a place for high end eating or more approachable, dumbed-down versions of what is available in the suburbs.

                    For example, there are at least 30 Korean restaurants in Annandale, VA. In Falls Church, VA there is a Vietnamese shopping center with over 23 vietnamese restaurants, and other stores. Eden Center is a worthwhile trip from DC, and you could get there via Metro and a very short cab ride (it's a mile walk). The place is really hopping on a Fri/Saturday night around 7:00pm, so it might be worth it to see the place and stroll around - there are three 'hidden' interior corridors with more restaurants and shops. Bolivian food is in Northern Virginia suburbs, mostly Falls Church. It can be very different from anything else you may be used to.

                    Arlington, VA is practically in DC (and was supposed to originally be part of DC), so it is very close to downtown DC and has several Metro stops. Probably the best Lebanese restaurant right now is Me Jana. It is a nice place, pricier than it should be, but a quick stroll form the Courthouse Metro. their platter of mezza (appetizers) is impressive. Also near Courthouse Metro is Chez Manelle, a tiny Tunisian spot.

                    In Rockville, MD you can take Metro to explore two great Sichuan places: Joe's Noodle House and Sichuan Pavillion. But there is at least a bit of walking involved. In Wheaton, same thing goes for Ruan Thai. Many metro stations will have cabs waiting outside which could help you get to more far-flung places.

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

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

                    Me Jana
                    2300 Wilson Blvd., Suite 140, Arlington, VA 22201

                    Joe's Noodle House
                    1488 Rockville Pike Ste C, Rockville, MD 20852

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: Steve
                      c oliver RE: Steve Nov 7, 2010 06:05 PM

                      From what I've read on the DC board, this doesn't come as a surprise although I wish it weren't so :) We'll have great food, I'm sure, and figure out how and if we can get out of the city center. Thanks. You're a font of info.

                      1. re: c oliver
                        Steve RE: c oliver Nov 7, 2010 08:03 PM

                        DC is also known for the Jose Andres restaurants. Mostly based on tapas. Jaleo is Spanish, Zaytinya is pan-Helennic, Oyamel is Mexican. He carefully researched each cusine including some regional peculiarities, and presents dishes that would be otherwise hard to find. All three of those are great to very good, in the order listed.

                        701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                        1. re: Steve
                          c oliver RE: Steve Nov 7, 2010 08:17 PM

                          I already have a reservation for Zaytinay thanks to a Chow-friend who was there in conjunction with "the" rally. Also interested in Jaleo, esp. for happy hour. Isn't Cafe Atlantico/Minibar his also? No getting into MB, for sure.

                          1. re: c oliver
                            hill food RE: c oliver Nov 7, 2010 10:29 PM

                            they are part of his , what, mini-empire? you can try for MB, there might (ha! might...) be a cancellation. ya never know. I haven't been in quite a while, but there was a plan to make Atlantico's menu more like MB's, just not as intimate.

                            at Z definitely don't hesitate to ask for more of the puffy pita and don't miss the zucchini fritters (or whatever seasonal variation they're running)

                            don't do the chef's tasting menu. you'll find yourself with too much food and a much higher tab than you expected. (it is quite good, but...nothing that's not already on the menu)

                            1. re: hill food
                              mjhals RE: hill food Nov 8, 2010 05:17 AM

                              Not sure, but if you're referring to the chef's tasting menu at Cafe Atlantico's dim sum brunch, I'd actually disagree and recommend the tasting menu. You're right, none of the selections are different from the a la carte menu, but I've found it really takes the guess-work out of ordering. For me, I found the amount of food was just about perfect, and the price turned out to be a better deal than when ordered separately. The pacing can get a little off if you try to order additional items after your initial order (they can get busy), so ordering the tasting menu is a great way to exeprience the menu without revisiting the ordering process. Just my opinion, but we had a much better time with the tasting menu than a la carte.

                              Cafe Atlantico
                              405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

                              1. re: mjhals
                                hill food RE: mjhals Nov 8, 2010 03:54 PM

                                I was referring to Zaytinya's. one lunch a group from work went and usually I get out of there for about 20-25 p/p it ran into the 30's doing the chef's choice. I was ok, but there were a few interns in the crowd who I know felt stretched by that.

                                701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                            2. re: c oliver
                              Steve RE: c oliver Nov 8, 2010 05:28 AM

                              Cafe Atlantico is not tapas, and the dinner menu is not as successful as the others. The highlight of CA is a Sunday Latina Dim Sum Brunch (14 items for $35) that features food similar to Minibar. In fact, some of the selections are taken directly from older Minibar menus. It's quite the bargain. You can also do this a la carte and save a few bucks if you only order a few items. If you want to do the set menu, you should reserve.

                              Cafe Atlantico
                              405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

                        2. re: Steve
                          hamster RE: Steve Nov 7, 2010 06:27 PM

                          DC metro has one of the largest Salvadoran populations in the country. You can actually get good Salvadoran in the city. Try El Rinconcito or go to the market with various vendors near Columbia and 18th (Adams Morgan) on Saturday (and Sunday?) afternoon.

                          Rinconcito Cafe
                          1129 11th St NW Ste Lowr, Washington, DC 20001

                          1. re: hamster
                            c oliver RE: hamster Nov 7, 2010 06:30 PM

                            Excellent. Love Salvadorean food. Thanks. We'll be in Kalorama so we'll be spending plenty of time, I'm sure, in that area.

                            1. re: c oliver
                              hill food RE: c oliver Nov 7, 2010 10:38 PM

                              it's funny, y'know how in some cities people from Asia run "Chinese" restaurants as they assume that's the most marketable, but if you ask nicely they actually do VN or Thai? in DC a lot of Salvadorenos (sp?) run places and throw a lot of Tex-Mex on the menu, but if you look closely and see things like pupusas go ahead and ask. it can't hurt. along Columbia Road near Kalorama there are a few good places. Julia's Empanadas and one up hill from 18th running East on the South side of the street spring to mind.

                            2. re: hamster
                              Steve RE: hamster Nov 7, 2010 08:08 PM

                              I love the carne deshilalda, papusas, and tamales at El Rinconcito, good call. The rest of the menu is avoidable. I wish I could say that Salvadoran food in the DC area was really good. Samantha's in Langley Park, MD is miles ahead of El Rinconcito.

                              The market in Adams Morgan is a very good suggestion. I've been there on a Sunday.

                              Rinconcito Cafe
                              1129 11th St NW Ste Lowr, Washington, DC 20001

                              1. re: hamster
                                hamster RE: hamster Nov 8, 2010 04:20 AM

                                There's also a new Afghan kabob place (from a small suburban chain) that just opened a DC location in Dupont Circle. I tried it two weeks ago and was pretty impressed. Focus on the kabobs, not the other fancier dishes.

                            3. chowser RE: c oliver Nov 8, 2010 04:26 AM

                              I don't know if there's one cuisine but there are great dishes at specific restaurants. This thread might be helpful:


                              And, there are the can't misses, just because of what they are--eg. Ben's chili bowl, the cafe at the Native American Museum (Mitsitam), Rays Hellburgers. Given how close to SF you are, I wouldn't go out of my way to find any kind of Chinese food in this area. While you can find decent restaurants, I think it's far easier to find just as good/better in SF.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: chowser
                                monpetitescargot RE: chowser Nov 8, 2010 07:40 AM

                                really good rec on the mitsitam, esp if youre planning on going to the smithsonian. they have some v interesting and tasty things there.

                                1. re: monpetitescargot
                                  mjhals RE: monpetitescargot Nov 8, 2010 08:13 AM

                                  I've enjoyed Mitsitam, lots of interesting options there. Another option in the mall area is the Michel Richard buffet at the National Gallery of Art (in the Garden Cafe). It's put on by one of DC's best chef's and at around $20 pp for all you can eat, it's definitely a cheap way to taste some of his cooking.

                                  It's definitely not your typical buffet, all the food is on one moderately-sized table, and the quality is superb. There's a charcuterie area, a soup (has been french onion, pea soup, etc), usually a stew like coq au vin or beef daube, an interesting salad and usually a ratattoiulle (sp?), plus his "faux gras" and awesome bread.

                                  It's definitely a good place to keep in mind if you're in the mall area and looking for a good lunch option.

                                  1. re: mjhals
                                    monpetitescargot RE: mjhals Nov 8, 2010 08:20 AM

                                    that's true, however if i were visiting from SF i would probably rather just do the native american thing, it's really unique.

                                    1. re: monpetitescargot
                                      c oliver RE: monpetitescargot Nov 8, 2010 08:33 AM

                                      BUT, we're going to be there almost two weeks! It ALL sounds so good.

                                      1. re: c oliver
                                        chowser RE: c oliver Nov 8, 2010 08:53 AM

                                        SInce you're going to be here that long, I'd recommend a trip to Old Town Alexandria--brownstones, little shops, along the waterfront and a lot of great food. It's not far out of the city. For a casual lunch, you could go to Eamonn's Irish pub for fish and chips (we were in the UK last summer and it brings back memories), The Majestic or Restaurant Eve for their lunch specials (Royal Pick, Lickety Split respectively) when you sit at the bar. They're both great deals. They both serve regional food, Restaurant Eve a little higher end.

                                        I just realized they're all owned by Cathal Armstrong but it shows what a powerhouse he is in the area.

                                        Restaurant Eve
                                        110 South Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                        728 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                        1. re: chowser
                                          woodleyparkhound RE: chowser Nov 8, 2010 09:46 AM

                                          I second the Lickety-Split lunch at Restaurant Eve. (M-F only). It is the best deal in town at one of the best restaurants in town.

                                          Restaurant Eve
                                          110 South Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

                              2. c oliver RE: c oliver Nov 8, 2010 06:16 AM

                                Wow, I'm impressed at all y'all did while I was sleeping :) GREAT info. Thanks.

                                It was kinda funny when I actually did call Minibar. I started the conv. by asking that she not laugh at me for calling two weeks late! She couldn't have been nicer and said she would wait til we were off the phone before she laughed. She explained that their waiting list also fills up immediately but to call when we're actually in town just in case. I had no idea that the CA "dim sum" was similar to the MB menu.

                                Loving the idea of Afghan. And, yeah, we love Chinese so much and get so little of it here at the lake that there's a tendency to see it out when we travel. But we'll resist the impulse in your wonderful city.

                                1. e
                                  elledeepea RE: c oliver Nov 8, 2010 06:36 AM

                                  There's a little of everything in DC, cuisine-wise. You can't go wrong with the U Street Corridor (Busboys & Poets, Eatonville), Adams Morgan (Lauriol Plaza, El Tamarindo), Georgetown (News Cafe Italian Kitchen), Dupont Circle (Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe - bookstore/diner) and Capitol Hill (Art and Soul, B. Smith's) areas. Speaking of Capitol Hill...check out Barracks Row (La Placitas, Banana Cafe, Ted's BULLETIN, Matchbox, Molly Malone's) if you're in the mood for some good bar food, American and tex-mex/Salvadorian food or late night eats.

                                  You'll notice there are PLENTY of popular and hole-in-the-walls to choose from. I like El Tamarindo, when I dont' feel like being bothered with the 45 minutes-1 hour wait at

                                  Let us know what you decide. Enjoy your visit!

                                  Eatonville Restaurant
                                  2121 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                                  El Tamarindo
                                  1785 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

                                  U Street Cafe
                                  1301 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: elledeepea
                                    woodleyparkhound RE: elledeepea Nov 8, 2010 07:17 AM

                                    "...with the 45 minute - 1 hour wait at..." where?

                                    1. re: woodleyparkhound
                                      elledeepea RE: woodleyparkhound Nov 8, 2010 07:18 AM

                                      (Not sure what happened...) Lauriol Plaza doesn't accept reservations and there's ALWAYS a crazy wait. While its worth it, sometimes I just don't have the time TO wait.

                                      Lauriol Plaza
                                      1835 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                                      1. re: elledeepea
                                        nedh RE: elledeepea Nov 8, 2010 11:00 AM

                                        Lauriol Plaza isn't worth a five-minute wait.

                                        Lauriol Plaza
                                        1835 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                                        1. re: nedh
                                          hill food RE: nedh Nov 8, 2010 03:57 PM

                                          the roof deck is pleasant at Lauriol, the food forgettable.

                                          on the Hill, I'd hesitate to recommend Banana and most of Las Placitas menu. but on the Row I would recommend Cava (Greek) and Lola's

                                    2. re: elledeepea
                                      KevinS RE: elledeepea Nov 8, 2010 11:30 AM

                                      To the OP - you certainly CAN go wrong in Adams Morgan, Lauiel Plaza, and many places on U street. Google Tyler Cowan's Ethinic Dining Guide for some direction.

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