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DC trip review 2014 (long)

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HI everyone,
I'm a long time member (reading mostly) and rarely post things, but I thought I should post a review of some restaurants that we recently visited in DC last weekend, as I recently read a comment on this board from a visitor saying that there are not many reviews! As a background- I travelled with my boyfriend (both late 20s/early 30s), and we stayed in the Dupont Circle area, which I found to be a perfect location for sightseeing and eating and touring the city. We live in Toronto (Canada) if that helps put anything in perspective; I found DC reminded me a lot of our city, actually (in a good way, I suppose I was comparing to NYC- never been to Chicago, Boston, etc).

I chose many restaurants and spots based on reviews here, on Yelp and from various blogs, and to be fair, some were just because we felt like a certain cuisine or would be in a specific area, so I tried to get a mix of the most highly rated and some decently rated places.

Dinners- Rose’s Luxury, The Pig, Hill County BBQ, Oyamel, and Shack Shack (we had to!)

Rose’s Luxury (Barracks Row)- very good, we were big fans. We showed up at 525pm on a Thurs to line up before it opened, and we were easily the 30th couple in line (and worried we wouldn’t get in, but we did- it’s bigger than it looks, and the back patio-esque covered area was gorgeous). We had the uni scrambled eggs, homemade gnocchi, pork sausage salad (thai-esque flavours, with coconut foam and lychees), strawberry-tomato pasta (is this a DC region thing? we saw it a lot- interesting idea), ricotta toasts, crispy squid salad (Mexican flavours). All were very good, the complimentary sweet potato bread and onion butter was excellent as well. Foie gras French toast for dessert was worth the extra calories for sure. A big favourite overall for us! With 2 cocktails, a bottle of wine and a coffee I believe it was ~$200 (pre tip). I liked the small plates and the flavours in all of the dishes, but I did find they were sort of all over the place in flavours, so it borderline clashed (for example, the Thai flavoured pork salad was immediately before the Mexican flavoured crispy squid....it wasn't bad per se, but it was sort of..odd). Still, overall a really excellent meal- I almost wanted to wait for a table because I wanted to have a drink upstairs in the bar while we waited!

The Pig (14th and N)- had the face bacon (still dreaming of it), pig cheeks, Szechuan tongue (liked the concept, wish we got the cirspy pig bits instead because I felt this Asian-y dish was totally out of place with all the other flavours), burrata bacon salad (meh), porchetta stuffed with heart/liver, truffled mac n cheese (worth the hype). Cool vibe, a bit more relaxed, another favourite (for the face bacon alone). For 2 cocktails, a pitcher of DC Brau and the 6 plates it was ~$120 (pre tip)

Hill County BBQ (7th and D) was a game time decision- we actually cancelled our reso for Ethiopic because we saw this place after we went to Oyamel and were so much in the mood for BBQ. This place was awesome- that being said we don’t have much that is similar in Toronto so we could be biased, but it was exactly what we were craving. Cafeteria-style (order meat by the pound) with BBQ type sides, it was really good! Can't speak to how authentic though. They also had a pretty good bar front and downstairs has regular country bands which is fun (again, context is important because I don't have a Canadian comparison!)

Oyamel (7th and D) was so-so…we have done a lot of Mexican recently, so maybe I was underwhelmed because of that, but we really enjoyed Jaleo in Vegas and wanted to do another Jose Andres place…it’s a nice place, but I didn’t LOVE it…not that it was bad in any way, but I don’t know I’d go back if I was back in DC (unlike the others I’ve listed). It's all small plates and there are so many options depending on how adventurous you want to be..some standouts were the tongue taco and the queso fundido with chorizo. The margaritas (including their feature salt air foam margarita) are yummy and I would go back for a drink here, and sit on the patio!

Brunches- Le Diplomate, Boqueria

Le Dip (14th and Q)- I can see why this place is popular, it does French food well…had the foie gras parfait (it’s vacation, right?) and it was literally an ice cream scoop size of foie gras pate that was another BIG favourite of the week of gluttonous eating. Had the croque madame and the eggs on polenta+crispy prosciutto (both good, honourable mentions after the appetizer). Service was excellent here too. With coffees, 2 cocktails and the dishes above, ~$85. I could see coming here with family or as a special occasion brunch, it's definitely not a hangover brunch place

Boqueria- for the bottomless sangria/mimosa brunch (AYCE tapas from a limited menu as well). Food ok, likely better tapas/Spanish places around, but it was nice on the patio and a fun time nonetheless.

Drinks-
We went to The Gibson without a reservation as we were told to get one for a drink (we weren’t banking on getting in, back up was Marvin’s), but we were able to get a table immediately! Loved the concept of this place (with the little checklist menu and mystery of what drink you’ll get), but drinks were pricey, as expected (~$12-15 per drink). There was a back area that was more of a standing bar, so I'm sure you could find your way in, but it is fairly small overall. We also got to the POV bar on top of the W hotel. We had to wait 15min for a table, which was definitely worth it for the view. Old Ebbitt Grill was another place we had a drink, in case other tourists are reading, and it was cool to hear/read some of the history associated with it (plus there are some interesting patrons you'll bump into- or at least we did).

Hope that helps anyone else sort of wondering where to go- thanks again to everyone who didn't even know they were helping us out by posting suggestions in other threads! I can post pictures if anyone is interested later on.

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  1. Thanks for your reviews. Oyamel is totally hit or miss and can't be counted on at all - though there is a ceviche with ono and passionfruit that is damn good. Other items sometimes way too salty. Tacos mostly kinda boring.

    You did well with your other choices, and I will make it a priority to try the face bacon at The Pig.

    1. Thanks for the excellent report. A friend of mine is one of the owners of The Pig, so I will share your comments with him.

      1. At the risk of sounding like I missed the big picture, I was curious to hear your review of Shake Shack. As a New Yorker (who is trolling this board because I'm relocating to DC next week), I've always felt that their burgers were pretty good, but not good enough to justify the very long lines that tend to form there. My theory is that most of the people in those lines are tourists who've heard that they "have to" go to Shake Shack, while most locals have tried the place once or twice and decided it's not worth waiting in that line again. Your comment seems to corroborate the "have to" part but I'm curious about what you actually thought of the place.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Garlic Guy

          So, in Toronto, we have maybe only one fast food burger place that is reminiscent of Shake Shack/In and Out,etc (ie. a step up in a way from McDs and the lot). When we head to NYC or LA we always hit up Shake Shack and In and Out because it's basically something we cant get at home....honestly? I wouldn't wait in line for it, ever. No doubt there are better 'gourmet' burgers out there, but we find the burgers to be tasty, basic, hit-the-craving-for-a-cheeseburger type burgers, sort of like comfort food. In NYC, we head to the flatiron location, split a burger and then head to Eataly and split a pizza...the location makes it worth it too, for us.

          1. re: Garlic Guy

            Also, there aren't really long lines for the Shake Shacks here. I have never waited more than 5 minutes.

            1. re: hamster

              Exception for the Nats stadium location.