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Texas Hound coming to town for 3-4 days. Correct my itinerary . . .

I'm a Texas hound who lived in DC about 15 years ago. I'm coming in to town (Baltimore & DC) in a couple weeks, and I'd like any suggestions to correct my itinerary and fill in a couple gaps . . . Your comments are appreciated.

Okay, we get in to BWI late on Monday night and are staying in Baltimore. Due to the uncertain nature of flights, I figured we'd hit Sip and Bite before hitting the hay.

For lunch on Tuesday, I was planning on Chap's before heading to DC. (A suggestion for an early morning activity in Baltimore would be appreciated as well).

For dinner on Tuesday (in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria), I was originally planning the Phillips Waterfront, but was devastated (okay, not really) to learn that it's closed. Is there something else that has an expansive seafood buffet in an all-you-can-eat setting? Naturally, quality will obviously take a back seat to quantity here. If not, is Geranio in Old Town still delicious? If we can't gorge on mediocre seafood, we're pretty open here.

Lunch on Wednesday - Ben's Chili Bowl? Is there something else that is no too huge and is a "can't miss?" I don't think anyone in our group is dying to eat at Ben's, but it seems like one of those places that we should try.

Dinner on Wednesday - I'm thinking City Zen, unless it is truly not worth the time, hassle, money, etc.

Lunch on Thursday - When I was there (2000 - 2001), the best Peking duck was Duck Chang's in Annandale. If that's not the best, what is, that is also open for lunch?

Dinner Thursday - Sunday morning - visiting Lake Anna; probably mostly home cooking, but if there is a can't miss down by the lake (Bumpass/Mineral/Louisa area), we'll try to squeeze it in.

Sunday afternoon and evening (back to Baltimore) - Inner Harbor and ?Joe's Squared? - thoughts?

As you can see, we like almost everything, so all suggestions are appreciated.

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  1. Here are some things you might not have in Austin: Dinner on Tuesday or Wednesday: give up on the seafood buffet and go to Lyon Hall for Alsatian food in Arlington. Another Arlington alternative is Gharer Khabar for Bengali. This place is the cheap eats winner, go for the moglai parotta, roast chicken, fish curry, alu gobi. Or go for Palestinian food at Jerusalem Restaurant and get the musakhan and the makluba. Very good Bolivian food at Sibarita. Eden Center is a Vietnamese shopping center with about 23 or so restaurants. The well-hidden Bay Lo inside the Saigon East corridor has some really good selections like the miscellaneous salad, goat rolls, and the Boy Lo 7 Special with shrimp, pork, and meatballs. Jaleo in Arlington for spanish tapas from a famous chef, please look up specific recs on this board.

    If you want upscale modern American without the upscale, then go to Rose's Luxury in DC, but they don't take reservations so try to get there slightly before 5:30pm when they open. And try to sit at the kitchen counter if possible. As an alternative, the somewhat upscale Alba Osteria in DC has some exceptional homemade pasta dishes. Start off the with ratatuia piemontese, and then go on the the tajarin, the chestnut trofie, and the hay smoked mezzaluna. A unique meal.

    1. If you must have all you can eat seafood, the Quarterdeck in Arlington has all you can eat crabs. I haven't been there in many years, so someone else would have to weigh in on the current quality.

      We do have good Vietnamese options here, but you also do in Austin, so you might want to go another direction than that. How do you feel about Ethiopian? That is a cuisine that DC does well.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Lori D

        at quarterdeck, you buy crabs by the bushel. you'll need reservations, too.

        1. re: alkapal

          They used to have AYCE crabs, but, as I said, it's been ages since I have been.

          For pollo a la brasa, El Pollo Rico. Sides are nothing special, but the chicken is.

          Afghan Kabob House, in Arlington (Courthouse), is good for casual Afghani food.

          1. re: alkapal

            They sell by the dozen or half-dozen, not the bushel (that's usually 60+ crabs...).

            And most days QD does have an AYCE "crab feast" of small-medium crabs. The setup is rather strict, every person at the table has to order the feast, etc.

            Make reservations, even on a weeknight.

            1. re: rachelcp

              you are correct. when i went with friends, i guess it just seemed like a bushel.

        2. duck changs ain't all that, in my opinion.

          and bens' chili bowl? i don't know why anyone would waste an opportunity for a meal to go there.

          you need to go to bangkok golden in seven corners shopping center (near hong kong palace)

          1 Reply
          1. re: alkapal

            I agree about Bangkok Golden in Seven Corners Shopping Center. You don't get Laotian food that easily. We are one of the few cities lucky enough to have it. There are many reviews out there on what to order. Also, I like Steve's rec on Lyon Hall as well. Also, forgo Ben's Chili Bowl. It's great purely for nostalgia, but I don't think the food is really that good. I like DGS Delicatessan if you want to stay in the city for lunch.

          2. I am not sure about a seafood buffet in DC. I haven't been to Geranio. A couple other thoughts: Bastille, Vermillion or Brabo. Or in Arlington- Eventide. Quarterdeck is also a good idea.

            Lunch on Wednesday- which location of Ben's were you going to? If the one in Arlington, you could instead go across the street and go to Ray's for a cheesesteak or a hellburger. If the U St location then you could get a G sandwich by Mike Isabella, it might not be can't miss, but it should be good and fairly iconic as he is one of DC's celebrity chefs.

            CityZen is still worth it.

            What about some Korean BBQ for lunch in Annandale?

            In Baltimore you could maybe get your seafood fix here instead? Bertha's for mussels, I think there is a Philips there, don't know if they still have the buffet one. Or you could go to the market and get all sorts of stuff. Lots of other options for seafood in Baltimore.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ktmoomau

              I had a coule of really bad sandwiches at G, so it is far from a sure bet. Mostly grisly scraps leftover from dinner at $13 a pop. If you've had a good sandwich there then by all means recommend it, but I think their setup is a cynical way to get rid of leftovers.

              1. re: Steve

                I've had several good sandwiches there, and will continue to recommend it as well! Any issues I had were more about a lack of attention to careful sandwich construction, but certainly not the quality of the meat.

                1. re: hamster

                  I can't speak for the meat sandwiches, but I loved the roasted cauliflower. I plan to work my way through all of them at the ball park this season.

                2. re: Steve

                  I have had really good version of both their chicken parm and meatball.

                1. yeah forget Ben's (I like it but wouldn't as a visitor unless it was an 'for-old-times-sake' thing.

                  since you brought up Chap's, (I would never suggest any form of BBQ to a Texan unless I knew their level of ecumenicism) have you seen this update on pit-beef in B'more?
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/556568

                  1. Duck Chang's is still around (it's now run by Duck's son) and the Peking duck is pretty good, but it's not a big deal - and that's Duck Chang's claim to fame - in the days when this was a meal that you had to order a day in advance, he came up with a way of making it a regular menu item. His procedure has been adopted by most Chinese restaurants today so that they can offer the disk on demand.

                    Peking Gourmet Inn (Bailey's Crossroads area) may do a better job, but it's a very busy place and you may need a reservation. But maybe things have changed there. We ate dinner at Peking Gourmet just this past Sunday night and "ordinary" dishes that we've enjoyed there in the past weren't up to par. Kung pao chicken had no zing at all (I spruced up the leftovers last night with some peppers, ginger, and a little garlic and it was decent), pork with fresh hot peppers had practically no peppers, and only the crispy beef (they call it Szechuan Beef Proper) was up to par, but still short on heat. Could have been a bad night, or maybe they were just too busy serving ducks.

                    1. Austin has loads of great Vietnamese options...although I'd say IMHO ATX best VN offerings excel compared to NOVA's VN, the best Thai in Austin is not as good as the best Thai here, plus there is no Lao food in ATX, so Bangkok Golden is a must.

                      Trying to think of what ATX doesn't have at all: Afghan. Any recs for good Afghan in the vicinities mentioned in the OP?

                      Also, Peruvian chicken...pollo a la brasa. Being from ATX myself, one of my absolute favorite meals in the universe is the chicken from El Pollo Regio/El Pollo Loco. The Peruvian chix meal here in NOVA looks similar and even has a green sauce, but it is nothing at all like the Monterrey, MX style rotisserie chix or renowned green salsa we have all over Austin. However, even though the plate you get looks similar, one shouldn't compare since Peruvian and MX cuisines are extremely different. So, if you like exploring, def. try pollo a la brasa and other South American plates. ATX has dozens and dozens of varieties of MX and TX-MX, plus Central American, but zero Peruvian since that place in Highland Mall didn't re-open after the mall closed. And ATX has a few Latin-Caribbean places, but limited South American, so it's worth exploring Bolivian food, too while you are here. You have some recs in posts above, but what are the best places for pollo a la brasa?

                      Also, the Jerusalem Resto rec from Steve piques my interest. ATX has several Palestinian owned places that serve a generic Levantine menu (mezze, gyro, shawerma, kabab, IMHO mediocre places) but no place that has stuff like ma'looba and musakhan...if Steve recs it, I trust it will be a good meal, too.

                      Oh, and there is a Sri Lankan place in Springdale (I think) called Shakthi...string hoppers, curry, sambal, not available in ATX, and reputably a good place.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: luckyfatima

                        shakthi is near delray in alexandria
                        3807 Mount Vernon Ave
                        Alexandria, VA 22305
                        Phone number (703) 739-2400
                        Business websiteshakthicuisine.com

                        1. re: luckyfatima

                          I am not high on Shakthi. Stringhoppers are not enough to make me return.

                          1. re: Steve

                            That's disappointing. Had heard it was good from a few friends, though. What did you order?

                          2. re: luckyfatima

                            Aghan? Try going to Helmand when you're in Baltimore. Karzai's might not be the best political family, but they make very delicious Afghan food.

                          3. PERSIAN food at AMOO's in McLean.

                            better than afghan food ever dreamed of being.

                            non-descript outside, but inside: flavor-packed, top-quality cuisine with a flair.

                            CHILEAN SEA BASS KABOB pic: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7205...

                            LAMB CHOPS TO DIE FOR: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9757...

                            i'd be happy to eat at Amoo's or Bangkok Golden straight for the next two weeks!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: alkapal

                              Well, Austin does have Persian restaurants.

                              If you do choose to try Afghan, PMD669, since there is some overlap in the menu offerings of typical NOVA Afghan and Persian restos, as the two cuisines overlap a bit depending on ethnic group and region, you may want to try something distinctly Afghan. Selecting from typical local menus, have mantoo (dumplings dressed in yoghurt and meat ragu, similar to aushak, which will likely also be on the menu, and I believe the main difference between them is that aushak have leeks in them). Also, try bolani (fried flat stuffed bread, kind of like a lightly seasoned flat samosa). Some places have appetizer samplers with small amounts of both of these items on the plate. And you gotta try qabili pullao. It's considered one of the iconic dishes of Afghanistan. It's basmati rice cooked in meat broth with tender meat, and garnished with raisins and carrots. Sounds weird but tastes good. And choose a kabab that one would not also see on a Persian resto menu, like try a chappli kabab.

                              Pardon the lengthy recs if you already know your way around an Afghan menu.

                              If you are interested, I guess you could look on Yelp and try a highly starred resto with 100+ reviews if no one puts forth a suggestion here.

                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                Mazadar in Fairfax and Faryab in Bethesda are probably the two best Afghan places in the DC area, maybe a bit far out for the OP....? but it is an impressive cuisine when done with care and attention.

                              2. re: alkapal

                                I have to agree about the lamb at Amoo's, it is very, very good. And the tadhik is as well.
                                The koobideh on the other hand is painfully mediocre on a good day, and a greasy mess on a bad day.

                                The lamb chops are pretty good at Ravi Kabob (South Ballston and Pakistani) as well and their chole is outstanding. Their lamb karahi is spicy and rich, but that is a dish they serve for two if memory serves.

                              3. There are a number of really good, casual seafood places in the District right now, none of them anything like Phillips, e.g., Seki, Eat the Rich, Fishnet and the District Fishwife (the latter only for fish 'n' chips and tempura shrimp, in addition to retail). And a great soft-shell sandwich at 2 Amys if you hit it on the right day.

                                1. Here's a map of DC area crabhouses. I can vouch for Bethesda Crab House and Quarterdeck, although on a nice day I prefer dining al fresco at Maine Avenue Fish Market.

                                  http://dc.eater.com/archives/2014/06/...

                                  For morning Baltimore activities, we like to wander the Cross Street Market, get oysters at Ryleigh's across the street, then take in the Visionary Arts Museum. Great view of the harbor from the top of the hill.

                                  http://www.avam.org/

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                                    I'm wondering if there is an absolute need to get crabs in the DC, though as someone mentioned upthread, I like Quarterdeck.

                                    But it seems like with the travel between Baltimore and DC, why not go to Cantler's in Annapolis or seafood places in Baltimore that, I feel, are better than Phillips, like Bo Brooks.

                                  2. You guys are awesome!! Thanks for all the great suggestions! I think I have only one hole left . . . a good weekday lunch spot between the Holocaust Museum (Smithsonian Station) and Ford's Theater (Metro Center Station).

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Pmd669

                                      Right near the museum there's nothing of note, but on the way you'll pass Central Michel Richard, which is definitely worth a stop.

                                      Around the corner from the theatre is District of Pi, which has really good Chicago-style pizza. And only a few blocks further away (7th & E) is Jose Andres' Jaleo.

                                      And since almost nobody else seconded your choice - the best meal I've had in the past year was at CityZen, so definitely keep that one on the itinerary.

                                      1. re: Pmd669

                                        yeah you may want to just walk and think for a while after the Holocaust Museum and wait until across the Mall

                                        1. re: Pmd669

                                          Central and District of Pi are great suggestions, except you ought to be forewarned that Pi is NOT chicago-style pizza...they make a great deep dish, but a totally different cornmeal crust (from SF via St. Louis).

                                          Michel Richard's fried chicken at Central makes my list of favorite lunches, although it certainly doesn't fit a light, mid-day summer touring break kind of meal (but perhaps no worse than pizza!).

                                          If you're looking for something more casual, I enjoy stopping in the Mitsitsam Cafe in the Museum of the American Indian (it's at the Capitol end of the mall, might be a little too far out of your way). Cafeteria-style, but really interesting food inspired by the different native populations of the Americas. Easy to please a group with lots of choices.

                                          Poste Brasserie has a really nice courtyard and a couple of good prix fixe lunch options.

                                        2. A couple of Baltimore comments:

                                          1. Latenight Monday is a challenge, but how about Joung Kak on 20th St instead of the S&B? Great Korean BBQ.

                                          2. Sunday afternoon/evening, depends what you want. Joe Squared is up and down on pizza quality. Iggies is more dependable (also BYOB). For other choices, most of the good restaurants downtown and north are open Sunday. Just to throw out some names: Tapas Teatro, Woodberry Kitchen, Bistro "b" in Bolton Hill, Jacks Bistro in Canton, Hersh's in South Baltimore.

                                          3. Phillip's -- bleah. No-one from Baltimore eats there. AYCE seafood, you really trade off quality for quantity, but I guess you've already realized that.

                                          Enjoy your trip and report back.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: lawhound

                                            I am going to agree with most of what lawhound says.

                                            I have only been to sip & bite once, and have never & will never go back on purpose. I think Joung Kak is a great idea. Depending on when you are coming in (10? 2?) there are plenty of places open on Monday nights. I have been really happy going to Heavy Seas after a late flight.

                                            I did not like Joe Squared at all & would not eat at the harbor - period. And, yes, Phillip's is a sure to miss.

                                            Fells Point might be a better alternative

                                            1. re: foster

                                              I second the recommendation for b Bistro. Great neighborhood spot if you haven't already made Sunday dinner plans. Plus with the glorious (typical - ha ha) weather they have outdoor tables in one of Baltimore's grand old sections.

                                          2. I'm amazed that Steve didn't mention two fabulous Chinese options, Grace Garden and Hunan Taste, and an equally fabulous Burmese place, Myanmar. There's also a great Sichuan option, Sichuan Jin River in Rockville.

                                            I second the recommendation for Lao food at Bangkok Golden, though I'd go to one of the other places first. I'm guessing you don't have good examples of these cuisines in Austin, though--if you do there's less reason to try them in DC.

                                            3 Replies
                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                I am guessing that, since the OP said, almost three weeks ago, that the trip was "in a couple of weeks," that it has already occurred, or he/she may still be here.

                                                I hope we hear back about what he/she had, liked and perhaps didn't like.

                                                1. re: Lori D

                                                  i do believe others use these threads into the future, fwiw.

                                                  and i'm not sure of the odds of getting a report back. less than 50-50 in my experience.