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Mar 18, 2011 08:58 PM

Moving to DC - please help!

Hello Chowhounders,

I am going to be going to school in DC starting later in the year, and I am trying to psych myself up for this change by trying to find restaurants that I must try. I spent some time in DC a few years ago, and was in general disappointed with the food I could find in the District. I found lots of amazing places in the Northern Virginia suburbs, but found a lot of the food in DC to be really expensive and not flavorful.

I am sure that there must be places that I have missed, so please help me find them! I tend to enjoy underground places with creative food. I'm really into street food, too. I'm going to be a student, so my budget won't be huge for nightly dining. Also, are there any good supermarkets with local produce, or farmers' markets worth checking out?

Please help guide me! I'd be grateful!

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  1. Where will you going to school? What neighborhood(s) will you be spending most of your time in?

    3 Replies
    1. re: woodleyparkhound

      I'll be going to school at GW, but I don't mind travelling quite far for a good meal! I don't know where I'll be living yet.

      1. re: SouthToTheLeft

        Will you have a car? I don't and find traveling is convenient on the Metro, traveling to places that aren't close to the Metro is inconvenient. But I'm fortunate to live within walking distance of Eastern Market and Barracks Row so I've got all I need convenient to home. You should check them both out btw, Sat & Sun Eastern Market has a bit of the farmers market to it, not like I was used to at Boston's Haymarket but better than supermarkets.

        1. re: av8r

          Plus the food stands around there are really quite good! The gumbo folks? And the pickle dude?

      1. washington DC, Northern VA, Maryland suburbs including Wheaton, Rockville and Bethesda and even Baltimore and Annapolis offer a huge variety of cuisines and types of restaurants. The list is huge. Even in DC there are diverse and numerous "hubs" of restaurants including the following areas, U-Street, Chinatown/Penns Quarter, Dupont Circle, Capital Hill, Foggy Bottom and Georgetown. So if you want recs you need to be more specific- either by cuisine or by location

        5 Replies
        1. re: dining with doc

          I agree with D with D: more specificity would be helpful, but I'll toss a couple of things out there anyway.

          I think the GW Deli on G St. does a mighty fine breakfast sandwich if you like those. They don't have it on signs anywhere, you just have to know that they make them. No seating.

          There are lots of farmer's markets around town. They tend to be very expensive. There will probably be one relatively near where you live.

          I'm a big fan of Wheaton (on the red line). Ruan Thai, a couple of blocks from the Metro station has wonderful Thai food at reasonable prices. Irene's Pupusas, also near there, has the best pupusas I've had around here. Salvadorian cuisine is a strong point of this area. Lots of people love Max's for falafel, but I haven't been yet. I like Amsterdam Falafel on 18th St. in Adams Morgan, but I hear Max's is way better. (AF can't touch Truly Mediterranean in SF though). Also in Wheaton is an H Mart -- great for cheap produce and Asian ingredients of all sorts.

          El Rinconcito has good Salvadorean. Steve on this board always recommends the carne deshilada. I agree with him that it is very good. And it makes two meals.

          Fast Gourmet at 14th and W for a great cubano or chevito:

          Cowgirl Creamery (Penn Qtr.) for delicious sandwiches to go.

          I'm kind of sorry to hear you are from SF. I used to live there and I do think it's a better food town than DC. It is much easier to find interesting, delicious food there that doesn't cost an arm and a leg -- there are some good finds here, but one doesn't tend to stumble across them. They require doing homework.

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

          Amsterdam Falafelshop
          2425 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

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

          1. re: woodleyparkhound

            Yes, I know I am fairly spoilt living here in SF — you can pretty much throw a stone around here and hit five great restaurants. But one must persevere, eh?

            I wish I could be more specific, but as yet, I don't know exactly where in town I'll be living. I imagine it'll be in some up-and-coming area like Shaw, though.

            As for what I am looking for, I suppose I love eclectic hole-in-the-wall places. I remember every meal I ate in DC back in 2008 being incredibly expensive for what you got, but that could also be because I didn't check Chowhound often for suggestions as to where to go.

            I don't mind travelling long distances for a great meal, so geography is less of a limiting factor than cost. I love great sandwiches, modern American food, spicy Asian food (Thai and Sichuan in particular). One thing I am excited about moving to the East Coast is Caribbean food ... is there any in DC?

            Thanks again for the help.

            East Coast Cafe
            44 Calvert St, Annapolis, MD 21401

            1. re: SouthToTheLeft

              If you end up in Shaw, you'll want to check out Thai X-ing. Two or three tables in a basement apt. Great salmon. It's a hassle to go there, unless you live nearby and can do take-out. Do a search of the board for comments. I think Ruan Thai has better food.

              You will want to hit the suburbs as often as possible. That's where most of the great food at low prices resides. Hopefully, you will have a car.

              Sandwiches: in addition to the aforementioned Fast Gourmet, check out the Fri. lunch special at Breadline - pulled pork (ask for it on ciabatta). Great sandwich -- near the White House.

              Sichuan: Joe's Noodle House in Rockville. I've only been once and had noodles, which I learned later, are not their specialty, oddly enough. Search the board for comments.

              Jamaican: Negril in Silver Spring. It's good, not great. Combine it with another errand in SS.

              Modern American: most are very expensive. Some have good happy hour deals though, e.g. PS7. "Expensive for what you get" is a very common refrain here.

              Hole in the wall: Oohs and Aahs for soul food on U St. One meat and two sides makes two meals. I like the broiled whiting there.

              That's it for now. Welcome to the area!

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

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

              1. re: woodleyparkhound

                I like your list a lot. I'd also add Sumah's on 7th in Shaw for African (I believe he's from Sierra Leone) and Domku for Scandinavian food in Petworth.

                And if you want a nice Sunday morning without the Dupont farmer's market hassle, stop by the Bloomingdale farmer's market, make sure to buy a baguette at the bakery that sells there, and get one of Big Bear's wonderful lattes. Then walk a few blocks to Timor Bodega, which has interesting, inexpensive wines, microbrews, local dairy, meats and ice cream, organic produce, and hard-to-find Asian imports. And since Kim also does doggy daycare, there's a good chance you can pet a friendly pup, too.

                Domku Bar & Cafe
                821 Upshur St NW, Washington, DC 20011

                1. re: woodleyparkhound

                  It's actually not that odd that noodles aren't Joe's Noodle House's specialty (or, at least, there is a reason for this). Apparently the English sign was never changed from the previous owner. It is one of my favorites, and my favorite dish on their menu are the hot and sour wontons.

                  There is a farmer's market at Foggy Bottom on Wednesdays (at the GW metro stop) for part of the year:

                  Eden Center, in Falls Church, is the local Vietnamese shopping center. Probably not comparable to what you have in San Francisco, but it is the biggest Vietnamese shopping center on the East Coast.

                  Ethiopian food is something that is probably more available here than on the West Coast. My favorite place is Etete, but there are many choices.

                  As for shopping, I have the best luck with the Asian (mostly Korean) grocery stores. They are all in the suburbs, though. I usually combine going to the Korean grocery store trip with some other trip, so it may be difficult to make this worth your while. There are a couple inside the Beltway, but the best ones are all outside (meaning a long drive).

                  And no one has mentioned Korean food yet. We have many places in the area. Annandale is sort of the center for this, but there are lots of other choices. Almost none in DC, though.

                  1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

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

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

                  East Coast Cafe
                  44 Calvert St, Annapolis, MD 21401

          2. As a long-time student here, I can assure you that things have improved dramatically in the last couple of years, so get ready for some changes. I love the occasional trips out to the burbs, but without a car I have been pretty limited to DC.

            First of all, there's been a huge food truck revolution in the last year. Check here for links to all the food trucks. There is even a bao truck coming at some point. Some of these trucks go to GW regularly, so you are lucky. Mostly they stay in the downtown area.

            Near GW, check out Breadline, G Street Foods, Roti.

            Secondly, a number of places have opened up on H Street NE that might be called "underground" and "creative." Granville Moore's is a highlight, as is Dangerously Delicious Pies. Also Taylor Gourmet - Philly-style sandwiches - with another location in Mt. Vernon Square as well. Supposedly some place called Toki Underground is coming with dumplings and ramen.

            Other new things that are very delicious and cheap:
            -cuban sandwich at gas station at 14th and V St, NW (U Street area
            )-Good Stuff Eatery and We the Pizza (Capitol Hill)
            -Pico Tacos (14th and Florida NW)
            -Pho 14 (Columbia Heights)
            -Pete's Apizza - New Haven style pizza (Columbia Heights)
            -Shanghai Tea House - Chinese delights and bubble tea (Glover Park)
            -Surfside - fish tacos (Glover Park)
            -Muncheez Mania - Lebanese flat bread sandwiches (Georgetown)
            -Vace - not new, but pretty awesome; pizza by the slice (Cleveland Park)
            -Baked and Wired - also not new, awesome baked goods and coffee (Georgetown)

            Food shopping: You mentioned Shaw, so there's a farmers market in Bloomingdale on Sundays (summer only), and one on Saturdays at 14th and U (summers only). The only yearlong one in DC is in Dupont Circle on Sunday mornings.
            There's a Trader Joe's in Foggy Bottom.
            They are about to start renovating this old market building on O Street in Shaw. It will be a few years before we can benefit, but I think it will be great eventually.

            Here is a potentially useful thread:
            and another:

            Dangerously Delicious Pies
            1036 Light St, Baltimore, MD

            Taylor Gourmet
            1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

            G Street Food
            1706 G St NW, Washington, DC 20006

            1 Reply
            1. re: hamster

              Food trucks were my first thought reading the OP also. You can follow many of them on Twitter.

            2. Your very first stop should be Breadline near campus. On Friday lunch only, go for the bbq sandwich and order it on a ciabatta. Very awesome. Any other day of the week, go for the Italian Sausage sandwich.

              Also near campus, go for the happy hour at Taberna del Alabardero. Normally an expensive place, but half price tapas and sangria at the bar. Go for the patatas bravas and the anchovies.

              That should get you started.