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making a quick trip to DC and have a few questions ...

DH and I are making a quick visit to your wonderful city. CF Folks and Fast Gourmet have been on my list of places to try forever. We like lots of value for the $ and, of course, fabulous food. Is one of these clearly the better choice? (We like almost every food/cuisine, except for raw fish.)

On my last trip to DC, I took the Metro to Eastern Market then hoofed it to Levi's Port Cafe, only to find them NOT OPEN :0( Are they still in business? Are they worth it for one of our limited number of meals? Or is Oohhs and Aahhs better?

Any suggestions for great places to eat in the Eastern Market area?

Here are some of the places we have in mind for this trip, in addition to CF Folks and/or Fast Gourmet. Any clinkers on our list?
*Zatinaya (I love this food but DH doesn't so I'll go when he's at his conference.)
*Bourbon Steak for a drink and some bar food
*Nando's for chicken
*possibly West End Raskia
*We really want some southern food, so Oohhs and Aahhs or Levi's Port Cafe or whatever you suggest
*P7 for short ribs
*possibly Etete for Ethiopian although we can get really good Ethiopian at home

Any I should add to this list, given that we like lots of value for the $$?

I tried to look for Happy Hours with both great drinks and great food, but didn't have much luck. Any tips on great HH would be appreciated.

Finally, DH and I would be up for a trip on the Metro out of DC proper for some excellent Chinese food, as long as we could walk from the Metro stop to the restaurant. We are great walkers and could easily walk a mile to and from the resto. Holes in the wall are fine; we just want really good food.

Thanks very much.

p.s. We LOVE LOVE LOVE the DC metro--cheap, clean, efficient.

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  1. Eastern Market: Montmartre is a wonderful french bistro, right near the metro. Reserve in advance (call, they aren't on open table). Tunnicliff's tavern is good for a pre or post dinner beer.
    if you want good asian food, you might try going to Clarendon, you can metro there but come to think of it, it's mostly Vietnamese i think. I like Full Key in DC's chinatown, it is definitely a hole in the wall but awesome shrimp dumpling soup. you didn' tsay where you are staying but if you walk between metro center and chinatown stops you could pop into Cowgirl Creamery, a wonderful cheese store and stock up on some snacks for your hotel. they will let you try ANYTHING... and i am not likely to buy $35 cheese so that's always fun! I would choose Lebanese Taverna over Zaytinya because they are easier to get into, not as loud and crazy and wonderful food. There are several Leb Tavs in down, google it. You can get happy hour info on washingtonian.com. i don't know Bibiana but if you like italian and want a wonderful bargain, go to Tosca and get the pre theater menu (order before 6:30) and for $37 you get a 3 course feast that would cost you probably pay aroudn $75 after 6:30. Enjoy your trip and do tell us what you ended up doing!

    1. Two comments:

      1) I haven't been to Fast Gourmet, but my understanding is that people go there for sandwiches. I have been to CF Folks several times, and I would suggest NOT going there for sandwiches. Instead, go for the daily specials, which are listed on this Web site which is updated daily.
      One strategy might be to check the CF Folks specials and see if there's anything that sounds good. If not, or if you prefer and sandwich, maybe Fast Gourmet would be better for you. Caution that sometimes specials at CF Folks sell out early, so if you have your heart set on just one item, you may want to get there by 12:30 or so.

      2) I haven't been to Oohhs and Aahhs or Levi's, but I do like Art and Soul for Southern inspired food. More gourmet/fancy, less homey. Definitely more expensive; I've only been there for lunch which might be a better value for your money. I'm a northerner, but those shrimp and grits taste great to me.

      1. In the Eastern Market area, I recommend Ted's Bulletin. It's my favorite restaurant right now. Great home style food. My favorite meal to have there is breakfast and it's served all day...but the lunch/dinner menu is good too and the desserts. Pretty much everything is yummy.

        I haven't been to Levi's since May and the mac and cheese was amazing. I hope it's not closed!

        My favorite happy hour in DC is at Ceiba (closest metro is Metro Center). Cocktails are just $5 and appetizers are half off. Both are really good. The only thing is happy hour ends at 6pm and I seldom get off of work before then. They start happy hour specials up again at 9:30 so it's also good for a late drink/snack.

        1. Fast Gourmet is worth it for the chivito, corn empanadas, and the cubano. In that order. So far other items I've tried are not that interesting. The chivito is a 5-star Chowhound delight.

          cf folks is always satisfying though there is no one thing they do that will blow you away. It is more the quirky experience, if you sit at the counter. A Washington institution.

          There is also no one thing at Eastern Market that is worth a special trip; it is simply an interesting place to go on the weekend for the flea market plus some interesting food options. I go there principally to buy meat to cook at home. There is a counter-order grill that gets very long lines. In the morning the bluebuck pancakes are really good, and the crabcake is cheap and delicious.

          Oohs and Aahs is a personal favorite. It is a true hole-in-the-wall with four stools in front of a tiny kitchen. Also there is a small dining area upstairs to take your food. My favorite items are the shrimp and grits with vegetables (you need to ask for the 'vegetables,' peppers and onions), the lemon pepper wings, and the broiled crabcake. The broiled crabcake takes about 35 minutes, so eat your other stuff first. The fried crabcake is quicker but not the same. Other good orders are the short ribs, the turkey chop, and the meatloaf, but stick with the first three. My favorite sides are the greens and the cabbage.

          Nando's is good for the quarter dark spicy. Get the mushy peas on the side.

          My other top suggestion is Joe's Noodle House in Rockville for Sichuan food. A 15 minute walk from the Twinbrook Metro stop. They specialize in xiao chi (small plates), so you can order a lot of little things to try. Wontons in red hot sauce, shredded radish, spicy and sour pickled vegetables, peanuts with fried baby smelt, beef jerky, rice cakes with shredded pork, steamed taro mash and red date cake, homemade bacon with leeks, and this is the season for their homemade sausage - there may be a post-it at the cash register. Ask. Food here is very, very spicy.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Steve

            I thought the eggplant fries at Fast Gourmet are a must try. They were amazing dipped in ranch and hot sauce.

            1. re: shake N baik

              Thanks for the rec. I will try them the next time.

            2. re: Steve

              Isn't Sichuan Jin River right next to a Metro stop? Much closer than 15 minutes, I believe, and IMO the food is *much* more interesting than Joe's. I just don't think Joe's is in the top rank in the DC area anymore, though it might have been before all these new places opened.

              1. re: KWagle

                JNH is my favorite, mostly for their list of small plates, though I haven't done a side by side comparison with the possibilities at SJR. SJR is a terrific place, no doubt.

                For the visitor, I'd first recommend JNH because I'm pretty sure it's easier to try more items.

            3. DC 'hounds---YOU RULE! THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH FOR THESE GREAT RECCS. I will be studying your suggestions as i wait for my flight this am.

              Quick question for DCDoll---is the food at Lebanese Taverna as good as the food at Zaytinya?

              13 Replies
              1. re: soccermom13

                Lebanese taverna is more traditional - closer to home cooking - Lebanese food. The food I grew up on. Think grandmother steaching their granddaughters how to roll grape leave and shape kibbe

                Zaytinya - is hipper - louder - more chic - modern - PanMed.. Think euro trash drinking arak and beer.

                They are both fun - but very different vibes.

                1. re: soccermom13

                  Lebanese Taverna started out as one small place (one of my favorites) and now has boomed to quite a few locations. With it, it has completely lost its soul. It is mostly a joke for people with limited access to better food. Zaytinya is light years ahead of LT.

                  If you want better mezze and don't care about being in DC, then Me Jana (Courthouse Metro station) is very good, but I wouldn't go past the mezze for their other main courses, because they start to get out of their league. Pricey but worth it.

                  1. re: Steve

                    They have managed to suck a lot of the flavor out of their food, haven't they? Maybe their customer base is flavor intolerant? Perhaps they should market themselves as "The Lebanese Restaurant for People Who Hate Lebanese Food?"

                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      I still see a lot of my cousins there. . . .

                    2. re: Steve

                      I like Zatinya too. But I go there for the intangibles not the food. The food is not Lebanese home cooking. It is "hipster-med" . . .

                    3. re: soccermom13

                      Totally disagree with the 'dis' on Leb Tav...and yes i've had lebanese food cooked by lebanese people in private homes and even THEY commented on the fact that Leb Tav is authentic. Just don't go to the pentagon city location which is tarted up to LOOK lebanese but of course the food is the same all over. I do like Mi Jana, i know someone suggested that one too. Maybe you would like Cafe Divan which is Turkish, but it's not near public trans. mama Ayesha's is in Adam' s morgan but haven't been there in years. i like the food at Zaytinya but it is a food barn...loud, crazy, and hard to get into...

                        1. re: DCDOLL

                          Perhaps the people in those Lebanese homes are not wondering what LebTav is doing with the rest of the chicken? Because LT only serves boneless, skinless, chicken breast. This does not jive with home, traditional cooking which uses the entire chicken.

                          1. re: Steve

                            People in my Lebanese home don't eat much chicken - and we don't eat entrees and Lebanese Taverna.

                            We eat mezze.

                            1. re: drewpbalzac

                              We love Lebanese Taverna (the original on Washington Boulevard, in Arlington VA) but it has never occurred to me to order chicken there. Why order something I cook at home all the time? We go for the hummous, tabbouleh, etc., etc. Delicious!

                              1. re: tannline

                                Nice to know you can make the chicken bel djaje at home. As opposed to hummos or babaganouj, which you can't make at home? They are in the Moosewood Cookbook, for gosh sakes. Get a food processor.

                                My point is that the food is tame. Their verison of manakish is also very lame. The mezze are far superior at Me Jana, Bacchus, Mount of Olives to name a few.

                                I was once a fan of LebTav, but no more.

                                1. re: Steve

                                  No need for snarky attacks (whew - cuisine aside, this board is more exciting than Home Cooking), I've made hommous and tabbouleh at home and have taught my kids how to make them. But I don't have the time and ingredients (and desire to keep washing out the food processor) to whip up numerous apps on a workday. I like Me Jana too (have not tried the others); don't see it as more exciting / less tame than LT, although it is newer to the area.

                                  1. re: tannline

                                    We recently had an awesome meal at the newly-reopened Lebanese Taverna in Woodley Park. I ordered the trio of condiments (lebneh, harissa, tahini) to go with my roast lamb dish. Nobody who has sampled the harissa would accuse LebTav of being tame. The new space is beautiful and we particularly enjoyed the fried artichoke appetizer and roast lamb entree.

                      1. If you like value for the $, I'd skip Oohhs and Aahhs and stick with Levi's. Pork chops, collards, mac n cheese and cornbread will run you around $8 and is generous. You'd have a hard time getting out of Oohhs and Aahhs for less that twice that. Tortilla Cafe is also a good value in Eastern Market, but not worth going out of your way for. Seventh Hill makes an outstanding Italian sub using their pizza dough for bread. A pretty good deal as well, but I prefer the G Man Sub at Mangialardo's, but that's carryout only. If the weather's good, Jimmy's Grill at the Maine Avenue Fish Market does some excellent and cheap fried fish sandwiches for dining al fresco. Their seafood chowder is also tasty. The only thing I could recommend at Ted's Bulletin would be the coffee.

                        Ren's Ramen in Wheaton, MD is at the end of the Metro line, but just a block or so from the station. Worth the hike, in my opinion. You'd have a hard time finding better noodles in DC.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                          Oh no! A dilemna---Ren's Ramen or Joes Noodle House? Questions---Is Ren's close to the Red Line Wheaton stop? Or the Glenmont stop?

                          This item on the Ren's menu surely does look good:
                          Miso Tan-Tan Men
                          (sesami paste, sesami hot oil,ground pork,bai choi)

                          p.s. Had the chivito and Russian salad at Fast Gourmet yesterday. FABULOUS. DH licked his bowl clean :0) Love your city.

                          1. re: soccermom13

                            Ren's is near the Wheaton stop. It really depends on whether you're craving Japanese ramen or Chinese noodle dishes. Joe's has a sprawling menu, so there's sure to be something you'll want to try. Ren's is more focused on doing a few dishes extremely well.

                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                              Despite the name, don't go to Joe's Noodle House for the noodle dishes. The name is a leftover from a previous restaurant.

                              To make things more complicated next door to Ren's is the area's best Thai restaurant and around the corner is the extraordinary felafel bar at Max's Kosher Cafe (which is not open from 2pm on Friday through Saturday).

                            2. re: soccermom13

                              This really IS a dilemma - but it's a great dilemma to have! I love Ren's - I like their regular miso ramen so much that I haven't been able to branch out and try their new specials, which look fantastic. If I were able to go more often, I would certainly do this. Also at Ren's, I love their gyoza. The last time I went, I went with a friend who ordered the fried rice - not something I would usually order, but it was delicious - not greasy at all and very very tasty - and a small-ish portion, perfect to share for 2-4 people as an appetizer.

                              Joe's Noodle House is fantastic - huge selection. There are tons of recs on the board. Wontons in red hot sauce (I think that is what it's called on the menu) was a real stand out. I would get an order of these for myself and refuse to share!

                              Look at the menus and gauge your mood. I agree with monkeyrotica: "Joe's has a sprawling menu, so there's sure to be something you'll want to try. Ren's is more focused on doing a few dishes extremely well."

                              Ruan Thai (next door to Ren's) is my favorite Thai place around here. I have been known to go to Ren's, then pick up take-out for the next day from Ruan Thai.

                              Oh, another thing about Ren's... their hours are a bit tricky. They are closed from 3-5 on weekends. Be sure to check the hours of these places before going, especially if you'd like to do Ren's followed by take-out at Ruan Thai.

                              I still haven't been to Max's for their falafel, I'm ashamed to say. There have been many positive comments on the board through the years.

                            3. re: monkeyrotica

                              Mangialardo's - a word of warning unless things have changed (which I doubt - part of the charm) is it's weekday only and closes about 3 PM. and if you hit it around noon expect a huge crew of cops, EMT and FD in line. but then it's probably the safest place to be in DC on a Wednesday.

                              1. re: hill food

                                Hill Food---I am reading this on Sat am and Mangialardo's is CLOSED. Big fat bummer but something to look forward to for the next trip.

                                Game Plan for today is Oohhs and Aahhs for lunch then Ren's or Joe's Noodle House for dinner. (Levi's Port Cafe isn't open til 3, and we want to take the long metro trip for dinner, not lunch...) Ren's is close to the Wheaton stop and Joe's is close to the Twinbrook stop, both on the red line. Should we be concerned re metro problems if we go to Ren's? From the Metro Website: "Red Line: Trains single tracking btwn Takoma & Forest Glen due to scheduled track work. Expect delays through closing Sunday, November 18th"

                                I am working on Sunday lunch options (around noon so that we can make it to the airport on time...... ) Some of the places we are interested (for example, Rasika) in are closed on Sundays. Maybe we'll go to Etete.......

                                Again, DC 'hounds, thank you so much.

                                1. re: soccermom13

                                  Single tracking can certainly slow you down, so Twinbrook might be the better option

                                  1. re: Teddybear

                                    I'm with Teddybear - single tracking can turn your outing into a nightmare. This would be what I'd use to make up my mind.

                                    1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                      single tracking sucks. once even with a 2 hour budget I still had to nab a ($50) cab to BWI once from New Carrollton (last flight of the day).

                                      the Ethiopian will not disappoint. and makes good (if smooshy) leftovers