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First time in DC, and a week in Virginia - Tips?

Hi everyone,

I'll be travelling to the US for a week in June, staying for 36hrs in DC and the rest in Charlotteville, VA for a training programme.

I'm looking for street food & restaurant suggestions, specifically:

Bakeries. We have loads of good breads and pastries in Europe, but I'm looking for American items such as bagels, cupcakes, pancakes. I enjoy Magnolia Bakery (for their banana pudding not the cupcakes), Clinton St. Bakery for their blueberry pancakes, Momofuku for their werid shakes & cookies - all in NYC.

Street food / Quick bites. I plan to be walking and making quick stops for small snacks, especially in DC. I enjoy things such as Momofuku or Baohaus pork buns, bubble tea, burgers from Shake Shack, tacos/burritos, dumpings, pastrami sandwiches like from Katz deli in NYC, hotdogs like from Gray's Papaya's. Most based on my time in New York and Connecticut, what's good in DC?

Restaurants. Are there local specialities in DC or Virginia? Blue soft shell crab or is that more southern? Otherwise I enjoy Thai, Chinese, Japanese although we get that in Europe. Maybe some authentic Mexican food, which is more difficult to find over here?

Thanks a lot for any tips!

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  1. There are a few C-Ville tips in this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/901245

    On street food, mainly for lunch in DC, check out foodtruckfiesta.com

    1. My favorite (easily accessible) places right now to stop in for a snack are GBD for the fried chicken breast (it's snack size, but only available at dinnertime), and the chopped liver appetizer at DGS. These are the names of the places, not just cryptic shorthand. Both places are on the same block just south of Dupont Circle metro. You can eat at the back bar of DGS. During the day at GBD, they do offer chicken leg and thigh combo. Ignore the donuts at GBD, and go across the street to Krispy Kreme, do not get a pre-made donut, ask them to make a couple fresh.

      DC3 just south of the Eastern Market metro for the kimchi hotdog and the Sonoran hotdog.

      Across from DC3, get an eclair at Sweet Lobby. It is not the kind you are used to!!! They also have cupcakes here if you really need one.

      Remaining on Capitol Hill, get a toasted marshmallow milkshake at Good Stuff Eatery. Next door at We the Pizza, they make their own sodas. I recommend the sour cherry or the coconut - but ask for an extra shot in the coconut.

      Oyamel for Mexican - a restaurant that serves tapas portions. Go for the albondigas and the ceviche with passionfruit. Ignore the tacos.

      In DC that you can't find easily elsewhere: Oohhs and Aahhs is a tiny soul food kitchen with four stools and a small dining area upstairs. It specializes in Coastal Carolina soul food. Go for the shrimp and grits, the lemon pepper wings or the broiled crabcake - though this involves a long wait. Do not get the crabcake fried. Down a block from Oohhs and Aahhs is Etete, an Ethiopian restaurant. Go for the vegetarian platter and add the fish for a small upcharge. Both of these are located an easy walk from the U St/Cardozo metro stop.

      Overall, you seem to be looking to recreate your NY experiences here - most people on Chowhound seem to think this is a bad idea, and I tend to agree.

      Arlington, Virginia is home to a sizable Bolivian community. My favorite place is Luzmilla's (get the saltenas, open only until 6pm), but if you are interested in dinner, I recommend Sibarita, about a 15 minute walk from the Clarendon metro. They specialize in silpancho, get the beef. Also the sopa de mani and a mocochincho to drink. Next door to Sibarita is the DC area's best taco, the taco de cabrito at Taqueria El Charrito Caminante.

      There is also a large Vietnamese population here, and Eden Center is a vietnamese shopping center with about 23 Vietnamese restaurants and other shops. I like going here in the evening. RIce Paper is a very popular place, focus on the rice paper wraps. For a more exotic experience, there are three hidden courtyards. The one labeled Saigon East contains Nha Trang (I go for the noodles with shrimp paste in the shape of worms) or to Bay Lo (I get the Boy Lo 7 Special or the "miscellaneous salad"). Neither of these are easy to find, but worth the effort.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        ha! your post reminds me how much DC really IS "Acronym City" and "insiders only welcome"

        it's like phyllo, layer after layer after layer.

        1. re: Steve

          I would steer away from Oyamel now, they used to be awesome, but they've started to really decline. For Mexican food in DC, unfortunately I'd say the best options are El Centro DF and Rosa Mexicano (upscale). Downscale, there's Ercilia's, a nice though very casual Salvadoran place, and a few taco places I don't know much about.

          1. re: Steve

            I'll tag on here since you always have excellent recommendations. Trite but close to Oohs and Aahs is Ben's chili bowl, as close to street food as you can get w/out it being in a truck. It's worth visiting just to see the pictures and history.

            If you make it to Arlington, try Bayou Bakery--the chef/owner is a Louisiana native. There are sandwiches at lunch time but check for dinner specials. We've been when they had crawfish boils, shrimp boils. The baked goods are very good. If you go for breakfast, try their beignets and French coffee.

            Also in Arlington, try one of the Rays burger places for an American burger done more upscale.

            If you can get to Annandale, there are a lot of Korean food places there. Try Shilla's for the korean shaved ice. Shaved ice w/ the kitchen sink--an amalgam of korean and american toppings (from red beans to frosted flakes). They have plenty of samples for their baked goods. Interesting assortment of baked goods w/ red beans, mung beans, taro, sesame, etc.

            On the way to Charlottesville, try the Moo-thru creamery for ice cream/some baked goods. Ice cream is made from milk from cows down the road.

            http://www.moothru.com/

            In Charlottesville, I like Bodo's bagels, especially if they're still warm.

            1. re: chowser

              I second the Ray's rec, in Arlington or Silver Spring.

          2. in Shavoutz-ville Bodo's (a chain) is probably your best bet for bagels (and don't miss a Monticello tour while there) after reading all the stuff about GlassHaus (sp?) I really would like to try it.

            at the low-end bargain basement level of the spectrum, a "Gus Burger" around 3 AM at the White Spot on the "corner", is a must. inebriation is non-negotiable.

            8 Replies
            1. re: hill food

              I replied about Bodo's before reading your response. I think it has the best bagels in the area, far better than any in the DC area.

                1. re: hill food

                  Yeah, I can't remember the last time I bought a bagel in this area. Just not worth it.

                  1. re: chowser

                    Port of Piraeus used to get H+H bagels from NYC on the train every AM, but just wasn't quite the same as getting them fresh from the (now-shuttered) store on B'Way on the UWS...

                    1. re: hill food

                      Chutzpah Deli supposedly got their bagels from NYC, too. I don't know if it's the transport but their bagels aren't good.

                      1. re: chowser

                        The bagels at Bagel Buddies in Fair Lakes, Tysons Bagel Market, and Main Street Bagel Deli in Fairfax are all good, but none are good enough to merit a special trip.

                        Chutzpah's bagels are ok, a decent accompaniment to one of their egg dishes.

                2. re: chowser

                  DGS imports their bagels from Montreal's St. Viateur Bagels. They're quite good.

                  1. re: Benquo

                    How often? That's quite a trek from Montreal. Given I'm in the suburbs, it's easier for me to make my own. Why can't anyone in this area make their own decent bagels? Why are so many places importing bagels? It doesn't seem efficient.

              1. Georgetown in DC is great for cupcakes (Baked and Wired for big cakelike ones, Georgetown Cupcake if you like smaller elaborately frosted cupcakes).

                Near Eastern Market, there's Ted's Bulletin, which has pop-tarts made from scratch and a nice selection of milkshakes and more generally old-fashioned American diner food.

                As far as food trucks go, if you see Takorean or Carnivore BBQ you should try it.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Benquo

                  Question: What's the magic behind Georgetown Cupcake? Any specific flavors? I biked past there on Friday last week and there was a line about 30-deep around the corner. It was the same the last time I drove by there a couple years ago.

                  We have a place here in MN that makes easily the best cupcakes I've ever had but...they're still just cupcakes. Order for the wife's birthday? Absolutely. Wait in a 30+ person line? Hell no.

                  Are they worth killing 1-of-36 hours in DC standing in a line?

                  1. re: MSPD

                    No, I've never had to, I wouldn't, and there's a place in Arlington called Bakeshop that I like just as much. But I do have to say that with all the wannabees, all the others are just plain terrible.

                    Here in DC, the cupcake has reached a saturation level and is on the wane. The next big thing here is donuts, and the Washington Post is doing a months-long series on who has the best donuts. Still, nothing beats a made-to-order donut like an old fashioned Krispy Kreme which has been around for decades. Some restaurants have been doing made-to-order donuts for brunch for a long time now, and those are very good. The pre-made donuts are worthless, like 99% of the cupcakes.

                    1. re: Steve

                      cupcakes, yeah, that's soo "Sex in the City" from 10 years ago.

                      KK donuts? sure but ONLY when a Krispy's "FRESH" sign is on. off the shelf, or from the supermarket? may as well buy the off-brand.

                      1. re: hill food

                        At Dupont Circle Krispy Kreme, they will make the donuts fresh anytime! All you have to do is ask.

                      2. re: Steve

                        I don't get the appeal of KK, either. They're overly sweet. I love a good donut but they're hard to find. The WaPo has been covering them in the Food section every week and nothing has caught my eye. The best donuts I've had were an amuse at 2941 about a decade ago. Meyer lemon donut holes. It was the highlight of our meal. Beignets aren't technically donuts but I love the ones at Bayou Bakery.

                        1. re: chowser

                          You could remove some of the coating if its too sweet; it is still liquid right after it comes out. Or ask for none at all.

                          Fresh, piping hot donuts seconds after they've been made are a good thing. A Krispy Kreme donut like that will beat any donut cold.

                          1. re: Steve

                            How do you remove the coating? Do you just blot it off w/ a paper towel? I've had them hot, in Alexandria, which I think might be the original location. It never occurred to me to ask for no coating but I might do it if I find myself near one.

                      3. re: MSPD

                        They're not worth the price, let alone waiting in line. You can avoid the line by placing an order online and prepaying. Waltz past the line and pick up. Or have them delivered. But, they're only known because of the show, not the quality of the cupcakes.

                        1. re: chowser

                          They were known before the show. That's how they got a show. I know it's common to think of TV show hosts as talentless boobs. They are, in fact, talented boobs.

                          1. re: Steve

                            Known, but not lines out the door, 3 hour wait known. I don't care for their cupcakes and the few times I saw the show in the beginning, they seemed so clueless that it was surprising their store had been a success. But, it's been years since I've seen the show (don't know if it's still one) or had their cupcakes.

                    2. Shilla Bakery in Alexandria, VA is excellent for Korean baked goods like sponge cake rolls, sweet buns, and bubble teas. You might want to stop by on your way to Cville for supplies. The biggest center for SE Asian cuisine is Eden Center, where you can find excellent Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants. It's located off Rt 50.