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New Restaurants You Tried in 2010

With the thread about wishlists for 2011, let's recap 2010 restaurants you tried this year, ones you re-discovered, ones you've crossed off your list.

1) Have you tried a restaurant this past year that knocked your socks off?

2) Has an old standby bit the dust?

3) Any disappointing tries that didn't live up to expectations?

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1) My biggest find this year was in Gettysburg, PA. Roman Inn pizza for far better pizza than I've had here in the DC area.

2) Our old stand by had been Ceder Cafe in Burke. Owner had been with Lebanese Taverna. I can't say what it is but I'm not liking it was much. I will still go because it's convenient and its specials are decent but overall, it's just not as good as it used to be.

3) My biggest disappointment this past year is the proliferation of cupcake stores, none of which have lived up to expectations.

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  1. 1) We just had an incredible meal at Domaine Hudson in Wilmington, DE. Best of the year so far.

    2) I can't think of an old standby hitting the dust, but a new standby that I have been frequenting regularly is La Union Salvadoran.

    3) My biggest disappointment is the onslaught of mediocre Neapolitan pizzerias, none of which I have had the inclination to return to a second time including Rustico, Fireworks, Pupatella, Pizzaria Orzo, etc.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sekelmaan

      Regarding your listing of "mediocre Neopolitan pizzerias", I don't think I would consider Rustico or Fireworks as Neopolitan pizzerias. Pupatella, however, IS a Neopolitan pizzeria, but there is absolutely nothing mediocre about their food. They are fantastic.

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      Rustico
      827 Slaters Lane, Alexandria, VA 22314

      Pupatella
      5104 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22203

      1. re: mt7187

        If one defines fantastic as soggy, runny and under-seasoned, then I agree completely.

    2. 1) Grace Garden, and I'm fond of Windy City Redhots (though it's not knock-my-socks-off). Oh, and Myanmar - especially the salads.

      2) The great Thai shuffle in Reston/Herndon, though Three Thai Sushi and Thai By Thai have filled the void well enough.

      3) Nothing blazingly outlandish.

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      Grace Garden
      1690 Annapolis Rd, Odenton, MD

      4 Replies
      1. re: Dennis S

        I like Windy City Redhots, too. Not knock your socks off but reliable and hits the spot. I wouldn't drive all the way out to Leesburg or Ashburn for one but if I'm there, I'll make a point to stop by and get something.

        1. re: Dennis S

          Oh, I remembered a disappointment: The General Store.

          It wasn't awful, and I wanted to like the place but it seemed incredibly overpriced for re-warmed chicken.

          1. re: Dennis S

            Speaking of fried chicken, one of my best meals recently as the fried chicken at Ray's the Steaks East River.

            1. re: sekelmaan

              Yes, it is a revelation. Smoked, then fried. Seems grease-free.

        2. Important, new in 2010:

          Againn, Lyon Hall, Chez Manelle, Mazadar, Eyo, Lao menu at Bangkok Golden, SIchuan Pavillion, Me Jana

          Downhill: Blue Ocean, Lebanese Taverna, Nam Viet

          10 Replies
          1. re: Steve

            Nam Viet went way downhill after the original owner passed. Last couple of times I went it seemed to have had at least a slight rebound.

            But to the mention above about Ray's smoked then fried chicken, that's SO on my list for this year.

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            Nam Viet Restaurant
            3419 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., washington, dc, DC 20008

            1. re: Dennis S

              I took some folks to Nam Viet last month and it was still pretty darned good. The one on Hudson St. in Clarendon, that is.

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              Nam Viet Restaurant
              3419 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., washington, dc, DC 20008

              1. re: flavrmeistr

                I do think that one is better than the one in Cleveland Park. Good to hear.

            2. re: Steve

              Just wondering on one of your downhills. Any particular Lebanese Taverna or just the chain in general?

              1. re: misskale

                Man, I went to the Lebanese Taverna out at Tyson's for the first time yesterday and I expected to be unimpressed since I'm from Michigan and used to way better Middle Eastern food that I can get out here, but I thought it was great. I had hummus, lentil soup, and kibbeh. Same story for the other four members of my party, although they all ordered sandwiches - shawarma or falafel.

                1. re: Raids

                  Me Jana in Arlington is more impressive.

                  I don't know if the Lebanese Butcher is back on its feet in their new (temporary?) location after the fire. Chicken shawarma sandwich there is killer.

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

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

                  1. re: Steve

                    They are open but I haven't been. Thought I posted this a few weeks ago. Pretty much just around the corner from where they were.

                2. re: misskale

                  The only LT restaurant I've been to recently is the first one in the Westover neighborhood of Arlington.

                  1. re: Steve

                    I liked it better when it was Airborne Pizza. They had an excellent Greek pie back in the day.

                    1. re: Steve

                      Huh, that's sad since it's been the best/most consistent of them for me.

                3. Most of my great finds this year have been outside the DC area, but two recent meals stick out - Temel in Fairfax and the Lao menu at Bangkok Golden.

                  Growler's, my go-to brewpub, has been closed for months due to a storm that took it's roof off. They're supposed to open in February. Not really "bit the dust" but it feels like it, especially since they've weren't open during football season.

                  Clyde's Tower Oaks and Volt were both pretty uneven for me this year. Volt keeps showing flashes of brilliance but then makes some pretty bad missteps along the way.

                  1. You know what I loved about 2010? Brunch at Againn. You know what I hated about 2010? The end of brunch service at Againn.

                    Worst experience of 2010 was brunch at Hook. Hands down, far and away, the worst. Note to restaurant employees everywhere - if you see my napkin on the floor, please don't put it back on my chair when I'm standing up and not looking. Thanks.

                    1. What is this thing for cupcakes everywhere? I understand that grilled cheese sandwiches are the next iconic consumable. I think it all started with bottled water and $5 cups coffee.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                        Yesterday I noticed The Big Cheese food truck among the several trucks parked across K St from my building. I think their specialty is grilled cheese sandwiches.

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                        The Big Cheese
                        47 Randall St, Annapolis, MD 21401

                      2. 1) 701 since they revamped,Thai Square (I can't believe even after reading about it all the time I didn't go sooner) and Pizzeria Orso.
                        2) Brunch at Eventide :( I am very upset they stopped this.
                        3) Central didn't live up to past experiences on multiple occasions.

                        1. Finally made it to Grace Garden. It lived up to the hype. Also had meals at Againn (it was good, nothing to rave about), and Brabo Tasting Room (Very good meal, and a relative bargain for the price). Cheong Wong in Fair Lakes was a surprise hit.

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                          Grace Garden
                          1690 Annapolis Rd, Odenton, MD

                          1. Okay, I consulted my Opentable history and much more prepared to answer this question.

                            In 2010, I had a really awesome birthday dinner at Jaleo. I think we ordered one of everything. I tried the Jose Andreas G&T for the first time. I've had dozens since.

                            I went to Zola before the redesign and did not like it. I am looking forward to trying it again. I went to Zengo for the first time and decided that while not the best food in the city, it's still a very fun place to dine and the cocktails are very good.

                            I decided that I hate, loathe, detest Rosa Mexicana. I have come down on the side of liking the sushi at Buddha Bar, despite the fact that nobody agrees with me.

                            I had a really awesome dinner at the Columbia Firehouse in Arlington thanks to some recs here - just a fantastic place. Fun and yet intimate. Great for a dinner with a few friends.

                            I had excellent dinners at RIS, Poste, J&G, 701, and Raiksa. I had a pretty good, but not great, dinner at Kaz.

                            I had a very awkward - though no fault of the restaurant - dinner at Kushi. Have to return soon.

                            Best dinner of the year goes to Rasika, but I still end up at Jaleo most often and will continue to do so because the lounge service is so great. This was also the year that I discovered The Passenger, but the allure has somewhat worn off in light of all the fantastic cocktails I've had at J&G, Ris, Jaleo, Cafe Atlantico, Zaytinya, Zentan, etc., and because of a truly nasty excuse for a dark & stormy I had at The Passenger.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Raids

                              Great list. Is Rosa Mexicana the place at the National Harbor? What didn't you like about it? I've talked to friends who've raved about it but none are particular about food.

                              1. re: chowser

                                I think they have one there also, but I'm speaking of the one in Penn Quarter. The food was fine - nothing special, but not offensive if overpriced for what it is - but the service is kind of...snooty.

                                I know! I'm like, come on, you're Rosa Mexicana! And I gave it a few tries. I really did. I've waited 30 minutes for my check to come back. Seriously. I've been ignored by the bartender for 20+ minutes, while sitting at the bar. Which was not busy. Requests for things like, you know, silverware, were met with a flat stare.

                                I wanted to like it. My only other options in the neighborhood for Mexican are the pretty much appalling (and not because it's Tex-Mex) Austin Grill and the wonderful but not always affordable Oyamel.

                                I admit that I kind of expected the service to be like, you know, Chili's or something. Not that they'd be wearing actual "flair" or anything, but that it would lean toward the casual and friendly, not distant and haughty. That could be coloring my POV.

                            2. Finally made it to Taylor Gourmet (or perhaps I should say they made it to the burbs) and it lived up the hype. Maybe next year I'll make a pilgrimage to Deli City.

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                              Deli City Restaurant
                              2200 Bladensburg Rd NE, Washington, DC 20018

                              Taylor Gourmet
                              1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                              1. I'll add on, as I remember--based on CH recs, I tried le Pain Quotidien and really liked it. Good thing I don't live closer because those crispy, melt in your mouth buttery croissants are addicting.

                                1. I actually went back to Cedar Cafe in Burke last month (for carryout) after not going for a long time and I liked it a lot. Maybe you got them on a bad day. Or I got them on a good day. Hopefully the former.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: KeithW

                                    Don't get me wrong--it's not a bad place and we still go there. But, I'm finding the quality of the food isn't quite the same. I've found it's far better to eat in than take out there and you can't beat the garlic puree still. But, overall, the quality isn't the same as it was when we discovered it years ago.

                                  2. Fun thread.

                                    Kushi was a nice surprise. DC needs good sushi.

                                    Tried Ris and expected more.

                                    Some of my old casual standbys in the neighborhood have gone downhill: Lebanese Tavernea, Rosemary's Thyme (used to love this place) and Lauriol Plaza's salads.

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

                                    1. 1) Againn, Bibiana, and Kushi are my favorite recent additions to the DC scene. Oh, and the Columbia Room really is fantastic.

                                      2) Cashion's is still OK, but it used to be much better than that

                                      3) No disappointments that come to mind, but I didn't try many new places (I can think of only one or two new places I tried other than those listed above).

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: marcj

                                        How recently have you been? Can't remember for sure, but I think Tom Seitsema said in his chat that it had recently gotten very, very good again.

                                        1. re: Raids

                                          I think it's probably been about 5-6 months. And yes, I noticed that yesterday Sietsema mentioned a Cashion's soup as a dish that's been particularly on his mind. I guess it may be time for a return trip--I'd be delighted to discover I just hit them on a couple of off nights in a row (a couple of months apart).

                                          1. re: marcj

                                            Haven't read this week's chat yet, so he must've mentioned Cashion's two weeks in a row - I remember the comment I read as being really general and not about a particular dish. I have a Groupon to use and a reservation, so I will report back!

                                            1. re: Raids

                                              That's funny, I missed last week's general endorsement. This week he touted a "broccoli and beer soup with the texture of a souffle." I'm intrigued.

                                              I look forward to your report.

                                      2. Can't remember if this was new this year or last. but I love having Cafe Sano nearby. (Reston). Fresh ingredients, comfortable enough atmosphere (including a tiny outdoor balcony), and reasonable prices. It's our goto place for a quick dinner. LOVE the Bianca Insalata pizza.

                                        My biggest disappointment this year was that Minibar closed for December so I didn't get to try it for my birthday dinner. Restaurant Eve did not disappoint as the replacement though.

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                                        Restaurant Eve
                                        110 South Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: lblau

                                          I've never heard of Cafe Sano but it looks like a great quick, healthy bite type place. You can never have enough of those types of places.

                                          http://www.cafesano.com/

                                          Thanks for the rec.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            Sano was incredible when it first opened. Now it's okay (disclaimer is that I haven't been in a while - read on). I pass by it daily (on foot and in car).

                                            So, when it first opened, they just did everything TOP NOTCH. Fresh fruit always, good mozzarella, great soups. They did this for about a month. If you didn't go that first month, then it's a great place. If you DID go that first month, and were discerning, the downward changes are noticeable. For a while (and this is posted somewhere here) the "prosciutto" seemed like VA ham - which is fine, but don't label it otherwise.

                                            They've opened a market, and I'm still rooting for them, but I think it was a major blunder to open as something they turned out not to be, or otherwise make changes and do them up front. Costs too high to support? Raise the prices or explicitly change the menu. Don't lie about it.

                                            Sorry for vitriol.

                                            1. re: Dennis S

                                              Guess I either missed the first month, or am not discerning enough. But, this place beats anything else we can get to easily. It's hands down better than Panera or Cosi. If you know of other places nearby for similar type meals, I'd love to know of them.

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                                              Panera
                                              6700 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22306

                                              1. re: lblau

                                                Good point there, certainly better than Panera, and I'm originally from Missouri (and usually support home-state businesses; Budweiser being the other exception).

                                                Have you been to Primo Italiano? I've largely boycotted the place for the past 5 years or so, but the quality of the food has remained strong (the owner had a few distasteful run-ins with customers). It's probably closest to Sano. And I don't want to overly knock Sano entirely, I just still resent the bait and switch they pulled.

                                                For pizza, outside of Primo, I personally don't think there's much in the area.

                                                For kebabs, either Reston Kebab or Charcoal Kebab are, imo, as good as Kabob Palace and the like (the sides at CK are great).

                                                Perhaps my favorite deli sandwich is at The Deli over by the Herndon K-Mart. This is not to be confused with A Deli at Worldgate.

                                                You might also want to check out Pica Deli for deli items, which is tucked away near Reston Kebab and Popeye's - it's in the office building complex just South of Popeye's. It didn't do much for me but I know it has a lot of fans.

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                                                Kabob Palace
                                                2315 S Eads St, Arlington, VA 22202

                                                Italiano's
                                                2229 Washington Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21230

                                                Panera
                                                6700 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22306