DC Metro area: good food blogs and food restaurants?
January 30, 2011 12:40 PM   Subscribe

DC metro area: good food blogs and food restaurants?

I've found food in general in DC pretty underwhelming (I guess SF, NY, and Philadelphia have set a high bar...), so I was hoping to get more recommendations of what is out there! I'd love any and all recommendations in the area (I'm willing to cast a pretty wide radius if there are gems even as far as Baltimore), as well as good area food blogs.
posted by wooh to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide is largely focused on DC.
posted by stuart_s at 12:56 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

DC Foodies.
posted by amelioration at 1:13 PM on January 30, 2011

It's not really a blog, but pretty much the ne plus ultra of DC food resources is DonRockwell.com. On those forums you'll find opinions on everything in the DC area. The founder, Don Rockwell, has in fact started a review blog that isn't just focused on high-end places like many blogs seem to be. He, like Cowen, is often happiest with, say, a sandwich in a gas station. And he is a man that eats out about, oh, 7 days a week, so he knows his stuff. (The Chow DC board is also quite active, though I'm more on DR.com.)

The main thing I've learned being in DC is you need to get out of DC to find the best food (in my opinion). Journey out to the suburbs and you'll find great Laotian in Falls Church, Sichuan in Rockville, great Korean of every sort in Annandale, Vietnamese in Seven Corners. As you can tell, I grew up in an area where ethnic food was Taco Bell, so finding great non-American cuisine...I'm so happy!
posted by Fortran at 1:21 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Fortran: that's definitely why I caveated with DC metro area, because I agree entirely...if you have a car, the great eats are in the areas surrounding DC. Although I still posit that while there are great eats, nothing has really enchanted my like some of the meals I had in Philly. All things in time...

Thanks for the great resources y'all. Keep 'em coming!
posted by wooh at 1:24 PM on January 30, 2011

Can you tell us more about places you've tried and been underwhelmed by (or those that you've thought were at least okay)? Any other preferences in terms of vibe/budget/neighborhood/cuisine/etc. will help, too.

One general useful resource is the archive of Tom Sietsema's Wednesday chats on the Washington Post site. More specific recs to follow!
posted by tenzingy at 1:28 PM on January 30, 2011

Response by poster: Tenzingy: I am simply searching for the best eats, by whatever metric people have. I myself tend to like bang for buck places with unpretentious, genuine atmospheres... for example, Chinatowns, Viettowns, that sort of things. I really liked the food at Four Sister's, for example. I find DC's Chinatown to be abhorrent on that front, although there may be hidden gems. Budget wise I always prefer bang for buck on principal, but if there is anything of French Laundry quality out here I'm game. Neighborhood I really don't care about as I will drive for good food, but I've found Dupont Circle in general to be blah on all counts (although Julia's Empanadas is delicious). I am in general biased towards ethnic food (what I wouldn't give for good Venezuelan food...sigh...), but love food in general.

I think Amsterdam Falafel, for example, is overrated. Is it good? Sure. Whoop de doo. DC has a decent falafel place. I think towns of 10k these days have good falafel.

I haven't found anything where somebody said "this place is AMAZING" and was then disappointed because in general most people I've met simply don't care that much about food, and admit that DC has a weak scene. Most people have spoken well of Eden Center, Silver Spring, etc and I've definitely had good experiences out there.
posted by wooh at 1:35 PM on January 30, 2011

My friend "Florida Girl in DC" does a nice job of covering the local scene, especially farmers' markets. http://floridagirlindc.blogspot.com/?m=1
posted by nkknkk at 1:35 PM on January 30, 2011

Also, you really shouldn't say Dupont is "blah" unless you've tried (and rejected) Obelisk and Komi. High-end, yes, but AMAZING.
posted by nkknkk at 1:39 PM on January 30, 2011

Chowhound's DC/Baltimore board.
posted by Majorita at 1:40 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: nkknkk: don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are good eats there. The general vibe just seems like UVA frats: the post college years. But I definitely want to check out the restaurants you mentioned.
posted by wooh at 1:42 PM on January 30, 2011

We Love DC isn't a food blog, but several of its bloggers (full disclosure, one of them is a friend of mine) are definitely foodies, and so there are a decent number of posts on food and drink spots. Wonkette's Wonkabout section also does some restaurant/bar (ok more bar, but also some restaurant) coverage.
posted by naoko at 1:57 PM on January 30, 2011

seconding chowhound and don rockwell's board.

also, DC has a very good yelp community
posted by knockoutking at 3:09 PM on January 30, 2011

You think our ethnic food is lacking? You think are restaurants are all frat-boy restaurants? You think Amsterdam Falafel is supposed to be an example of good food in DC? Dude, I'm not sure what you're looking for but you definitely haven't been going to the right places.

Amsterdam Falafel is drunk college kid food. Same for Julia's Empanadas. You need to venture outside of the drunk college food places that you're trying.

If you're going to DC Chinatown for Chinese food, then you're going for the wrong type of food. The Chinatown/Gallery Place area is full of amazing restaurants, but not very many of them are chinese. Try Rasika for the best Indian food in DC, Jaleo for delicious tapas, Zaytinya for the greek version of Jaleo, Oyamel for Mexican, Nando's for afro-portuguese, Matchbox for pizza, Poste for brunch, Asian Spice for lunch bento boxes. And several others that I haven't tried.

DC's well known for ethiopian food, which I don't like that much, but there are gazillion ethiopian restaurants in the U street area that people rave about.

For vietnamese food and Korean food, you'll need to travel to Virginia - 7 corners has tons of Vietnamese restaurants, while Annandale has tons of Korean restaurants. The two in those areas that I've heard of are Present and Honey Pig.

Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide should help you discover great restaurants, as should the forums as Don Rockwell.

Also read Tom Sietsema's chats at the WashingtonPost and Todd Kliman's chats at the Washingtonian to get their ideas of what's good around here.
posted by echo0720 at 3:11 PM on January 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

in terms of area food blogs, try:

- best bites blog from the washingtonian (they have a good food & dining section on their site, too)
- washington city paper's young & hungry
- dcist's food and drink posts
- mr homer goes to washington
- the post's going out gurus cover restaurants and food events
- dcfud

go to annandale for korean food. oh, and keep tabs on food trucks at food truck fiesta.
posted by jus7brea7he at 4:18 PM on January 30, 2011

Oyamel- fries with mole
Radius Pizza - pizza with homemade sausage
Tacklebox - woodfire grilled fish and veggies
Jaleo - rare olorosos at the bar at happy hour
Brasserie Beck - the yum creamy pate that comes in a jar with the charcuterie plate
Kushi - salted cream gelato
Hanks Oyster Bar - everything
Bar Pilar - everything
Policy - almost everything, if it were just a little less greasy
Florida Ave Grill - pancakes
Founding Farmers - hash browns
Dupont Circle Market - the sandwich with turkey, swiss, sprouts, avocado, and lemon juice.
posted by yarly at 5:09 PM on January 30, 2011

Response by poster: I really liked Bar Pilar. Good food, atmosphere, and they have fernet, which puts them on the short list of "damn good bars."

A lot of great recommendations.
posted by wooh at 5:23 PM on January 30, 2011

I read the Siestsema and Kliman chat's each week (there are years of archives) and between that and Tyler Cowen's ethnic if it is tasty and in DC area it will be mentioned there. All mentioned above. Here's what I have liked and some things I have heard good things about.

Talking about the expensive to really expensive places first. The best meal I have ever had in DC was Minibar (but that's if you are up for a molecular gastronomy experience), and it was $$$$$. Still remember most of 28 courses 3 years later. Jose Andres of Minibar whose Tapas empire in Chinatown, makes up good portion of my favorite ten places I have eaten in dc in order of preference (Oyamel, Zaytina, Jaleo, Cafe Atlantico).

I wouldn't run out to litte inn at washington, good experience there but not a great bang for your buck. I would like to go to Rasika (Indian) at some point, which seems the darling of local critics, and Komi which is generally #1 on Washingontians rankings. Thumbs up for my experience at Volt in Fredrick, thumbs down for J&G. I wouldn't drive across town for it but I'm super close to 8407 and Jackies in Silver Spring, I liked 8407 more and it is place my wife and I go we want a quick date (we have a young kid). A dinner at 8407 and a movie at the American Film Institute's Theater a couple blocks away is a great evening. The next big meal plan is for Birch and Barley and their tasting menu paired with beer.

On the blogs in terms of Ethnic. I have heard great things about Nava Thai and Ruan Thai in Wheaton. Grace Garden (Chinesse) near Baltimore. Oriental East in Silver Spring, people rave about the dim sum and there are long lines, but I thought it was OK. I like Hollywood East in Wheaton better. I'm not as into Ethopian food, but DC has a bunch of places. I keep meaning to go Samatha's for Salvadorian

Ray's the Steaks or Hell Burger is worth a visit. People will tell you it's overrated, but I have a soft spot for Old Ebbits Grill, the raw bar is fantastic. Oh and if you dig oysters look up about the annual Oyster Riot each november. The Orka platter is an experience everyone should have.

A good day trip is Jimmy Cantler's for crabs by the water near Annapolis.

Good luck! I would curious what else you have tried and liked so far.
posted by akabobo at 6:14 PM on January 30, 2011

Response by poster: Well, akabobo, this thread prompted me to make a list of the places that I remembered I had been to. There have been more but you know how it goes.

Addis Ababa - Ethiopian in Silver Spring, fun atmosphere and tasty food (I quite like Ethiopian, though)
Amsterdam Falafel - Talked about it above
Tono Japanese - Utterly forgettable
Yosaku - A nice japanese place to have nearby, nothing spectacular
Politics and Prose - the sandwiches here are actually tasty, although a bit greasy. it's super close to me though and I like it a lot.
Julia's Empanadas - this only makes me wish there were actual Venezuelan empanadas around... tasty though. I'll take it over amsterdam as far as cheap eats, but I'm biased to latin food :)
Four Sister's - liked it a lot, the can chua was not perfect but in general quite tasty. I have had better though. I need to get to Eden Center.
Kushi - Really liked it. Perhaps that is influenced by the fact that me and my friend just sort of went crazy, ordered a shitload of everything (including various sakes), stayed for a while and shot the shit with the bartender, sushi chefs, and even one of the owners at one point.
Buck's Fishing and Camping - it felt a little overpriced, but they did what they did well and things were generally tasty. doubt I'd go back but that's just because there are so many other things to try.
Hank's Oyster Bar - the crowd who was eating here was unbearable, but I love oysters and the food was tasty, so forgivable. I really need to take better advantage of the seafood in the area.
Jaleo - Tasty, not life changing. But what they did will was quite tasty. The crowd and place was meh. If I'm gonna go to a crowded trendy place, Kushi is more my style. Need to try the other tapas places mentioned.

I'd be curious to know where one can get the best crab in Maryland, by the way. I'm willing to drive.
posted by wooh at 6:35 PM on January 30, 2011

If you're interested in brunch food, check out Bitches Who Brunch. Some fashion and events listings are also included, but their brunch reviews are good and cover a relatively wide range of locations, ethnicities, price points, etc.
posted by hefeweizen at 7:12 PM on January 30, 2011

I find DC food overpriced and not that good, but I only work here. If you have a car and can travel, Grace Gardens in Odenton is amazing authentic Chinese food.

I did have the best burger of my life at Ray's Hell Burger across the river, though.

wooh, I'm told Mr. Bill's in Essex, MD is the best crab in the Baltimore area by people I generally trust on food. Haven't made it myself yet. For crab cakes, I like Faidley's in Lexington Market (which is a fun place to munch your way through, although I don't trust the 60 cent sushi and sashimi).
posted by QIbHom at 10:27 AM on January 31, 2011

I think there is a lot of great food here in DC, but the places you've been to aren't really representative of the good stuff.

I happen to love Kushi, so i'm glad you liked it too.

For falafel, try the hole in the wall at 20th & O, between the horrible and worthless Eli's and the excellent Bread & Brew. Firefly, just up the street is nice too.

Minibar is not to be missed.

Central and Citronelle have their detractors, but if you haven't tried them, then you may have missed an amazing experience.

Chinese is DC is mostly miss. Order Cantonese at Full Kee on H st. Only order Cantonese. If you order General Tso's chicken and don't like it, its your own damn fault. The MaLa at Szchechuan House Great Wall on 14th is pretty damn awesome.

Etete on 9th St for Ethiopian. Also, Ethiopic on H St.

Seventh Hill and Montmartre next to Eastern Market.

Corduroy. Komi. Obelisk. Sushi Taro.

Birch & Barley and Churchkey.

Annandale for Korean. I have no idea which place you will like, but i like Hee Been.

I like 8407 and General Store in Silver Spring.

Cantler's for crabs. But wait until summer. Don't order crabcakes until summer either. Anyplace that sells you "Maryland Crabcakes" this time of year is full of it.

I found the Inn at Little Washington a bit too much. I preferred French Laundry and the much-missed Laborotorio at Galileo. I haven't been to the new Galileo, so i'm not sure if Roberto Donna is back or not.

Dino for well-priced Italian. Palena, although the new dining room is getting mixed feedback.

Moby Dick. Malaysia Kopitiam. Litteri's.

Cafe Deluxe. Two Amy's.

Rasika. Udipi Palace. Woodlands.

Thai X-ing. I hesitate to mention it, but when it works its pretty damn good. I don't think there is good Thai in this area. Spoon in Chicago or Lotus of Siam in Vegas are the only great Thai places i've ever been to.

Ray's can be great. Five Guys can hit the spot. Nando's for an inexpensive change of pace. Have you tried any of the Peruvian chicken places?

Good luck. I hope you have some good meals.
posted by jindc at 2:26 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oops...falafel joint is at 20th & N, not 20th & O
posted by jindc at 2:26 PM on January 31, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, Jin, I just have to come back and thank you for all the spots! This has been such a helpful thread! Now not to gain 100 lbs...
posted by wooh at 7:12 PM on January 31, 2011

For Peruvian chicken, I'd suggest the always-awesome El Pollo Rico, in Arlington. Others swear by Crisp & Juicy, but I just don't find either the chicken or the sauces as good. All of the Ray's places are really good (Hell Burger is the best burger ever IMO) and cost less than other places with comparable or even worse dishes. Five Guys is a "local" burger chain, and have fantastic cajun-seasoned fries, but their burgers are meh at best. Negril in Silver Spring used to be great for cheap and delicious Carribean/Jamaican food, but I haven't been there in over a decade, and it looks like it's gone downhill. And while it's a chain, I really enjoyed myself at Fogo de Chao the last time I was there. In addition to the already-mentioned Churchkey, the Quarry House Tavern has a good beer selection, if not a particularly strong dinner menu. I also agree with those suggesting Ethiopic (esp. the kitfo) and Old Ebbit's Grill.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:02 AM on February 1, 2011

Am I the only person in DC who isn't gaga over Churchkey/ Birch & Barley? They served me a nigh-undrinkably bitter beer (and I have a pretty sophisticated palate when it comes to beer) and the appetizers were way too salty and pretty much flavorless. Also, ridiculously crowded, but I realize that's par for the course in DC.
posted by yarly at 10:01 AM on February 1, 2011

I second Founding Farmers, Ray's Hell Burger, Five Guys (mostly for the cajun fries. And it bugs me that they don't have milkshakes. My favorite shake in DC is the toasted marshmallow one at Good Stuff), Old Ebbitt Grill, El Pollo Rico, Matchbox, and random Korean and Vietnamese joints out in Fairfax county. I also love Flavors in Arlington (but am aware this opinion is controversial).
posted by naoko at 8:44 AM on February 2, 2011

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