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Mar 29, 2012 08:47 AM

DC Trip Report

The first night we were there, we fell into a long nap after driving 8 hours and woke up around 9 p.m. absolutely starving. I had done some restaurant research and we went to Hank’s Oyster Bar and Grill for fried oyster dinner. Seafood is a real treat for us, as we live in the land-locked MidWest. Oh boy, this was delicious! I am not usually a fan of fried food, but the oysters were so plump and perfectly cooked, they were divine. The cole slaw was not mayonnaise based, which is my preference, more a tangy oil and vinegar dressing, but very good nonetheless. A definite recommendation if you are in the mood for good seafood. I understand we were pretty lucky in that we got there at 9 p.m. and just sauntered right in. It is very packed during normal dinner hours.

We stayed in DuPont Circle area - We asked the concierge about buses, and took the #42 bus running to within 3 blocks of the FBI building. We found our new BFF, Paul Bakery, where we had breakfast of quiche, fruit, delicious coffee and bought some Palmiers for later. Breakfast for 2 was $26 with snacks for later, not exactly cheap but definitely tasty. Paul is also located near the Archives Metro, which makes it very conveniently located to a lot of the museum on Pennsylvania Ave. and the upper part of the Mall.

After breakfast, on to the National Gallery of Art, East & West. DD and I both love Impressionist art, and we focused on the beautiful azalea display in the rotunda as well as all the Monet, Manet, Degas, Cezanne, etc. In hindsight, this would have been a better place to have lunch than the Air & Space Musuem, but we didn’t know that at the time. In fact, the food trucks offering hot dogs and churros would probably also have been a better choice. The only choices available at the A&S were McDonald’s and Donato’s Pizza. I chose a cesar salad with chicken and DD had chicken nuggets. It was $20 for a truly regrettable lunch. Don’t make our mistake, go elsewhere.

For dinner Friday evening, we chose Bistro la Bonne on U Street where we both had steak and frites ($17 seemed a good price for this). We had 7:30 p.m. dinner reservations and got a little worried when not many people were in the restaurant. DC must be a late dining town, because by the time we left it was packed. DD had a lobster bisque starter that she said was OK, not terrific. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was my dessert – an apple strudel. I guess I pictured a warm, puff pastry apple strudel and this was a very modern deconstruction, not to my taste. DD had a mocha chocolate confection, which was finger licking good indeed.

Saturday we chose to visit the Newseum and International Spy Musuem. We began our breakfast again at Paul, it was so tasty and just so darn convenient to where we were going. DD had a turkey sandwich on baguette and I had the leek tart. Again, $26 for breakfast for 2. Lunch at the Newseum was slightly better than the previous days’ A&S museum. The Newseum offered a cafeteria with both cold and hot lunch options. Perhaps we chose badly, but we weren’t impressed with the quality of the food and the $25 price tag for lunch for 2 seemed excessive.

After the Spy museum, we made an hour long stop at the National Portrait Gallery across the street and then we walked a couple of blocks over to Bistro d’Oc, across from Ford’s Theatre, another restaurant I found on Yelp. Our theme for the trip was French bistro food and seafood, both treats for us. DD started her meal with a bowl of lobster/crab bisque, garnished with a coconut ginger crème, and me with a traditional onion soup. The steamed mussels in white wine were outstanding and the delicious French Fries tasted like they had been fried in lard (yum yum!). I had an order of ris de veau (veal sweetbreads) in puff pastry, something no one would offer in my hometown. We shared a chocolate dacquoise cake. DD took pictures of the food, which I think the restaurant people thought meant we were food critics and they kept asking us if we were happy with the food and comped our dessert! While we felt this was superior to Bistro La Bonne the previous evening, even there we would return again. French food isn’t something offered in our Midwestern city and we really enjoyed both evenings.

On Sunday we began with our third breakfast at Paul, being certain to again order some snack supplies for later. After finishing the Newseum, we visited the National Museum of Natural History. The place was packed and when it came time for lunch, we decided upon the Sculpture Garden next door. Too bad the weather was not cooperative, it would have been a lovely setting to eat outside. This was the best lunch of the 3 days we toured the museums. My turkey with brie sandwich and cranberry relish was far superior to the Mickey Ds offered at the Air & Space museum. It was also more expensive than the previous 2 days, but only slightly so, far superior in taste.

Dinner Sunday night was my fault. I had not planned everything, thinking we could be spontaneous and it just didn’t work out. DD wanted Italian food, which is tricky because she doesn’t eat tomatoes. We called a few places (Otello and a couple others in DuPont Circle), she wasn’t satisfied with their offering. We finally went to Bertucci’s near DuPont Circle and both of us walked away with bad dinners. We don’t have Bertuccis near us, but I know it is a chain similar to Olive Garden. That they were practically empty at 8:00 on a Sunday night should have been a sign. I had the chicken marsala which tasted like rubber and she had some kind of sampler plate. Oh well, you can’t win them all.
All in all, we found Washington, DC to be a good city for Chowhounds and certainly lots of information and choices about food. Yelp was our primary source for last minute planning and we looked at this site as well.

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  1. I'll post my trip report here as well. I just visited DC for the first time. I'm a big foodie, but am more comfortable in the mountains than the city. I really thought I was going to just fish for most of this trip and want to leave early. DC-1. Me-0

    Sri Lankan Buddhist temple food festival. Just awesome. It reminded me of a midwestern soup supper, but with sri lankan food. One of the coolest things I've done in years. The food was made by Sri Lankan grandmas. For $17, three of us ate until we were stuffed, I had some leftovers, and my sister's boyfriend got a meal from leftovers.

    Bistro Bohem. Thank you, thank you, thank you to the kind person who mentioned this place. It made my birthday watching my sister eat her duck and dumplings. I'm REALLY splitting hairs here, but I'd prefer the dumplings lighters, and their was a hint of clove on the duck. Outside of that, it was amazing. My grandma's czech and it was as good as her's or what I make. For the money, you can't beat it. Most of the patrons were speaking czech, so that's a good sign. We enjoyed all the dishes immensely and shared. We got the duck, chicken schnitzel, cesar salad, and goulash. Some other patrons ordered the pork roast and some soup and both looked great. As my sister said, "They gave us how much food we should eat, not how much I want to eat." If this place was near where I lived, I'd be a regular.

    Eastern Market:
    The next day, my sister decided she wanted me to cook something. She will honestly buy a cheap plane ticket and come and visit me just for my cooking. She constantly complains about the cost of food. I was very surprised at the variety and prices. Eastern Market surprised me. I found some hard to find items for my sister (it almost KILLED me to pay $3 for 4 spring onions when my parents have a 1/4 acre patch of them at home). Oh, what we'll pay for some nostalgia. However, the rest of the prices were good and I saw some cool things. We brought back some boudin and shad roe. The cheese market was great and cheap too. DC was starting to impress me at this point....

    We head to trader joe's to get the rest of what I needed to make chicken chicken cacciatore. I've never stood in line at a grocery store for 1/2 hour. I wanted to take a picture, but my sister wouldn't let me. :) Then we went down to her neighborhood to pick up the last things.


    I have a good Italian market where I live. Vace, we had a short relationship, and I think it was love at first bite. I've never had fresh mozzarella and it was mind blowing. I wouldn't own a pasta maker if I lived near here. Almost as good as mine, and cheap.

    Food Corner Kabob House

    My lady friend flew into town. I met her at her hotel in Dupont Circle. We're both hungry and cranky, and need some food ASAP. I checked some reviews and found this place. I'm a sucker for middle eastern food and loved this place. Have I had better? Yes. However, I personally love everything about this place. Fresh flatbread, the soup, the ambiance, all of it. I tried all the kebab meats, and liked the kufta and chicken the best. None of my friends liked it as much as I did. My favorite side was the eggplant. This place was me. I'm pretty much in check vs. DC at this point. I came to the city to try lots of different places and had a slew of places to choose from. I ate here 3 times if that tells you anything. I loved the man working behind the counter as well. This place kind of killed my other plans, but in a good way.

    The final nail in the coffin.

    We went to a bar for a few drinks the night before I left. I got pretty hungry, and just stopped at a random pizza place near the kabob joint for some pizza. I stopped at a liquor store and got a hoppslam. I finished my time in DC eating decent, cheap ($6 for half a pizza), and drinking a great beer. I figured the pizza was terrible and I was just buzzed, so I saved a piece for the next day. It was pretty decent. Ok, win.

    DC-3. I've got a white hot sitting downstairs waiting for me. They were nice enough to package it all separately because it was getting flown 1/2 across the country by a friend. I'll retoast the bread and heat it up. I'm expecting to be blow away once again.

    5 Replies
    1. re: ajb05854

      You learn something new everyday. I didn't know about Bistro Bohem, and I didn't realize that Food Corner opened up a DC location.

      You did very well for yourself.

      1. re: ajb05854

        Am so glad that Bistro Bohem worked out well, and thanks for your review! Yes, I heard that they're still working on perfecting the dumplings...
        And nice that you found Kabob House! I regularly recommend it for people in Dupont Circle. Though I have to say on my last trip I thought the meat spicing was a little excessive... but I split hairs. I agree with you about the eggplant, I found it very impressive.

        1. re: hamster

          Bistro Bohem kind of made my birthday. I let my sister and her friend eat all my food because they were loving it so much. I figured I could always cook some of my own. We grew up with her friend, so it was kind of like a slice of home in the big city.

          I think they'll add onto the menu later. The co-owner/waiter mentioned that they wanted to open the side space up as a coffee shop and bistro. This is not a complaint, but they were missing desserts from the menu. I'm not much for sweets, but I really wanted to try a kolace or some makovy zavin. If they start carrying kolaces, poppy seed is my favorite. I felt the portions were fair for the money. It honestly kills an entire day when I make duck and dumplings. It's not really a "restaurant" food, which made it really cool that you can get it. I prefer sauerkraut with mine rather than the sweet and sour cabbage, but I'm sure you can substitute. I also hope they add jaternice to the menu. I literally get mine like this. My grandma's sister's sister in law lives in kansas and knows a lady who makes it when she butchers hogs. My great aunt gets it from her sister. Then she drives 300 miles to see my grandma and gives it to her. My mom drives 50 miles to my grandma and gets it. It's overnighted to me frozen in a mini cooler. Folks are pretty passionate about this cuisine. The czech embassy even keeps a list of restaurants on their website. My family butchers hogs and makes it, but usually I get it from the "lady in Kansas." The best way I can describe it is boudin without the heat or rice. It smells pretty bad when you cook it... I also want them to add some liver dumpling soup!

          As far as the dumplings go, I prefer mine with a texture more like gnocchi but shaped like the ones in the restaurant were. I know my grandma's food is legit. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and every czech exchange student who came to the US near us would get a meal cooked by my grandma. A couple have even said it's better than what their grandma makes. I'm not an expert on czech food, but that's a good enough endorsement for me.

          From the food we got, I really liked the potato salad because they put dill in it. I love dill. Also, this type of food isn't for everyone. It's not light.... My grandpa ate a lard and sugar sandwich for lunch everyday for 25 years. I really want this place to make it. Can you tell?

          To give you an idea of my little sister's reaction to the food, I've only seen her eat like this one other time.

          She's worked in lots of foreign countries doing human rights work. Think working in orphanages and grass roots type things. She's got some stories... Well, she wanted culture shock and worked teaching english in a private Japanese high school. She doesn't eat seafood, and doesn't speak japanese. She ate burnt rice and just bought random cans of food to eat for 6 months. My dad and I picked her up from the airport and took her to a czech restaurant nearby that's just ok. Not as good as Bistro Bohem. She literally had a spoon in one hand and a fork in the other. She just ate off of our plates. I'll never forget her saying, "Dad, can I have some peas and carrots?" Duck and dumplings was falling out of her mouth. LOL. She was like that at Bistro Bohem. Give it a try. Even if you don't like it, appreciate the fact that it made for one of the best birthdays some random guy on the internet has ever had.

          1. re: ajb05854

            What a great story - thanks for sharing! And thanks for the review - it's been on my list since I heard about it...oh...last week. :-) I'm eager to try the dumplings. The best ones I've ever had were made by an ex-boyfriend's mother (off-the-boat German). They were so good, I almost didn't break up with him. Seriously.

            I have to know how old your grandfather made it to? Mine was Sicilian, but ate so many artery-clogging meals (lard was involved), smoked, drank, and lived to his mid-80s. He was thin, too - go figure.

            Also, thanks to Diane for posting as well. Bistro d'Oc is one of my favorites; glad you enjoyed it.

            1. re: VaPaula

              Grandpa Foster is still kicking! If you want an age reference, I turned 28, and he just turned 87 a few months back. Grandma is 82. Grandpa smoked and drank until he was about 65. He is also thin as a rail. On a funny side note, I was over at there place last summer and they asked me how tall I was. I told them 5-10, and they argued. Well, I'll be darned....they got on a chair and did the whole ruler on the top of the head/pencil doorway thing. I am 6 ft. tall. I'll never forget that visit and feeling like I was a 6 year old.

              Don't get too pumped up on the dumplings. I grew up on about every type of dumpling you can imagine and these were not that great for my tastes. Everything else was outstanding, so I'm kind of ignoring that.... If you want a good recipe for dumplings, I can call my mom and post some. Potato dumplings are my favorite, but are a little tricky because they'll vary on the types of potatoes you use and how old they are. I could never get bread dumplings down, but baking powder and flour are good as well.