Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stoney's Bar And Grill

Logan Circle is hub of activity and has become one of the more affluent neighborhoods in the District. What was first a destination centered around the Whole Foods Market has become a landing spot for a number of new restaurants and bars. Of all the new places one has stood the test of time.

Stoney's Bar And Grill which opened its doors in 1968 has been serving pub food to loyal patrons. Over time Stoney's has built a legacy of serving some of the best bar food in the District and is a local landing spot for neighborhood residents and loyal patrons.

My initial visits were primarily for their drinks. Their array beers and their proximity to my house made it a go to spot to watch sports or kick back a beer with a friend. My first experience with their food came during the World Cup where I watched a number of games with a group of soccer enthusiasts.

We primarily ordered appetizers and their pizza which I will have to say is once of the best I have had in this city (thats not saying much). Then I decided to try a burger which are said to be their bread and butter. Scanning the list of specialty burgers my eyes were immediately transfixed on the One Eye Burger which consists of Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomatoes topped with a fried egg.

(One Eye Burger)

What was presented to me was a culinary masterpiece whose taste brought me to brink of nirvana. The patty was well seasoned a cooked medium well, the egg brought another dimension of flavor that brought it over the top. After that experience I became hooked onto their burgers and have never turned back.

Since then I have sampled their bacon cheeseburger, chili cheeseburger and the Stoney burger all of which were fantastic. If you take a gander at this review or just scan their menu you will notice that this is not the place to dine for calorie counters. Their dishes are offshoots on classic American meals on steroids.

(Super Grilled Cheese)

A great example of this is the super grilled cheese. This monstrous sandwich permeates with cheese and is stuffed with bacon and tomatoes rendering a masterpiece of epic proportions. This sandwich can tackle even the strongest appetites and is a must try.

Overall Stoney's has some of the best burgers and pub food in all of the District. The service is good, the prices are average and the environment is like any neighborhood watering hole. I advise everyone to give Stoney's a shot especially for their food. So if you are in the neighborhood stop by for a beer and maybe some food but do plan to workout after if you are conscious of your weight.

Hank's Oyster Bar

One of the joys of living near a major body of water is the pleasure of having some of the freshest seafood available to you on a daily basis. While the waters of the Chesapeake Bay may not compare to the eastern shorelines of Massachusetts, Maine or Florida we still produce some decent seafood.

The tri-state area bolsters a bevy of options when it comes to serving fresh local seafood. One of my favorites is Hank's Oyster Bar which uses local catch to produce classic New England dishes. Hank's opened its doors in 2005 right along the cozy block of Q St. between 17th and 16th Street. A short walk from Dupont Circle Hank's has been serving patrons what they call "Urban Beach Food" under the guidance of executive chef and owner Jamie Leeds.

Chef Leeds came to DC and opened up Hank's which she named after her father who inspired her career in food. Since 2005 Hank's has become a one of the best locations to get fresh seafood in the city. Hank's does a fantastic job blending classic New England dishes with local ingredients and techniques.

Having an endless passion for all seafood I find it necessary to eat as much as my wallet can support. I enjoy visiting during the summer months when I can sit outside and grab a drink or have a cozy meal. Hank's is most famous for their raw oysters and oyster shooters as their name may suggest. Being a huge fan of these mollusks I love splitting an order with some friends or having a Po Boy.

(Popcorn Shrimp & Calamari)

Check on their chalkboard for daily specials and try their oyster shooters which combine oysters with alcohol that provide a unique culinary experience. Their popcorn shrimp and calamari is an excellent way to start off a meal or a good dish to share over a couple of drinks. The portions are fair and the food is fresh and delectable.

My favorite dish on their menu that I have sampled has to be the lobster roll which is a staple of New England. The roll is accompanied with fries that are seasoned with Old Bay which is exclusive to this region. This marriage between cultures is well worth the hefty price tag of $23. The lobster meat is amazing and the buttered roll makes you want to stand up and praise the food Gods.

(Lobster Roll)

From their fantastic food to ambience that their restaurant provides (specifically their outdoor seating) Hank's is a must try. They have another location in Old Town Alexandria that I have yet to visit which may be more convenient to any readers from Virginia. To residents of the District they have prime real-estate and their outdoor seating provide a tranquil experience when the weather is nice outside.

Prices are a bit expensive which I why I can not go more often but the freshness and flavor more than justify it. It can get busy especially when the warm weather makes sitting outside alluring. So if you are ever in the mood for fresh seafood give Hank's a shot you will not be disappointed.

Fast Gourmet

Whoever has had the delightful experience of going on a road trip or an extended bus ride has most likely had the pleasure of living off of food from rest stops or gas stations. By pleasure I mean horror of eating greasy, processed snacks that are bearable for only so long.

Couple this axiom with the fact that DC has a severe shortage of dependable sandwich shops and you are left with the following rule of thumb. You will never find good food, specifically sandwiches at any gas station in DC. But as we all know there is an exception to every rule which brings us to our next stop.

Fast Gourmet opened in late 2010 by two brothers who wanted infuse DC with traditional South American food. Located inside the Lowest Price Gasoline Station on 14th and V St. this tiny sandwich shop has blossomed into one of the best places to grab a quick bite in the entire city!

Word of this establishment spread exponentially among the more prominent food bloggers who had rave reviews on the quality and taste as well as the numerous options. At that point I decided to bump this up to one of my places to try.

My first visit came early last year when its popularity was still in its infant stages. I decided to grab a quick dinner after my workout at a nearby gym. Entering the gas station I could not help but chuckle. The combination of a sketchy crowd, bullet-proof glass and inner city junk food brought back childhood memories of life in the ghetto.

(Image via Yelp)

I took my time scanning the expansive menu and decided to order the Big Mason BBQ sandwich and a side order of beer battered eggplant. The Big Mason consists of grilled chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, onions all topped with BBQ sauce. The sandwich was fantastic, the chicken was juicy and the combination of ingredients yielded a delightful meal. The deep fried eggplant was also a pleasant surprise. It came with ketchup to dip but was good on its own.

My first experience prompted me to jump on the bandwagon. My next visit came a few weeks later with a friend after a night of bar hopping on U St. Since they are open until 5 A.M on the weekend you could imagine both the line and crowd that it consists of (hint drunk people wanting something to munch on).

(Cuban Sandwich)

This time I decided to order a Cuban sandwich to see if the owners could replicate the brilliance of Latin cuisine. My semi-drunken experience with this staple of Cuban cuisine left me speechless. I cannot recall having a better Cuban sandwich in my life. Timid by the possibility of a drunken bias I decided to return an order another one in a state of pure sobriety.

To my delightful surprise my initial synopsis was correct. The sandwich was pure bliss; the pork was moist and flavorful, the cheese and pickles combined to add that distinct flavor combination that makes it one of the best sandwiches on the planet. DC does not have an expansive selection of Cuban cuisine so putting it on top is not an amazing achievement but I will put it on par with Cubans I have had in Miami which is something to gloat about.

For all the praise I give the Cuban it is not the most popular dish on the menu. This accolade belongs to The Chivito. The Chivito (which is Spanish for “baby goat”) draws its origins from Uruguay. The sandwich consists of beef terderloin, black forest ham, bacon, mozzarella cheese, green olives, a hardboiled egg, and escabeche. For those who don't know escabeche is a slaw that consists of onions, garlic, and peppers and is used in many Latin dishes.

(Chivito Sandwich)

At a hefty $13 this sandwich packs a huge punch of size and flavor that is sure to tame any appetite. My first experience with this monstrous mound of meat came two weekends ago after a long workout I needed to justify consuming this meal. Having played football for three hours and not eaten anything my appetite was ready to conquer this behemoth.

My first bites were met with utter amazement. The shear chaos of flavors somehow managed to blend very well. I was a bit weary at first of how all the meats would blend together but the sandwich was executed very well. The tenderloin was full of flavor and the ham played off well with the slaw and aforementioned tenderloin. I managed to consume a little over three quarters of the sandwich before I had to throw in the towel. The result was an hour long food coma which was pure bliss.

All in all fast gourmet is a must try if you are in the District. The sandwiches are fantastic, the prices are about average and the quality of food is superb. The dining area is relatively small so I would recommend taking it to go. Lines can be a little long now due to their popularity and it does take some time to get your meal but it’s a price you can pay for deliciousness.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Good Stuff Eatery

As we have already established Washington DC is a burger town and in my opinion the burger capital of the USA. The influx of burger establishments over the past few years has turned the nation’s capital into a glutton’s fantasy. The bevy of options have at times caused me to curse the food gods. At this point in time I have sampled a majority of burger shops and have slowly but surely refined my palate. With each new place I try I get a clearer understanding of what my favorite burger shop is and for over a year that answer has stayed the same.

Good Stuff Eatery located on Capitol Hill has been serving residents of the District some of the best burgers in the entire city. Owned and operated by Chef Spike Mendelsohn Good Stuff Eatery has quickly become a go to destination for burgers and shakes. Chef Spike whose success on the popular show Top Chef has risen to fame in the DC area and prompted him to open up We, The, Pizza next door and branch out another Good Stuff in Virginia.

Chef Spike who works with his parents dole out hundreds of hand crafted burgers, fries, and shakes to hungry patrons on a daily basis. Whether its summer interns on the hill, local residents, or even the President of the United States Chef Spike crafts the same simple burgers that produce and immeasurable amount of flavor.

My first visit came over a year ago per the request of one of my closest friends. She had nothing but rave reviews about her experience there. Even though the experience is so far back it is still scolded in my mind. During that visit I decided to order the Spike’s Sunnyside, an order of Spike’s village fries, and a toasted marshmallow shake. The burger consists of a juicy patty served with fresh cheese, applewood bacong and a sunny side up egg all topped with Good Stuff sauce. The fries were seasoned with thyme, rosemary and sea salt which can be dipped in an assortment of flavored mayonnaises. Flavors include regular, Old Bay, Sriracha, Chipotle, and Mango

Once I placed my order I waited in anticipation for what sounded like an outstanding burger. I received my buzzer and took my seat upstairs waiting for my order to be ready for pick up. Those 5 minutes or so seemed like an eternity; a combination of the continuous hype as well as the lack of food in my system made the wait unbearable at times. Suddenly I felt the vibrations and saw the flickering red lights which signaled the arrival of my meal. Once I had my order in hand I took a second to gather my thoughts and relax my senses.

(Spike's Sunnyside, Village Fries, and Toasted Marshmallow Shake)

My first bite was met with culinary bliss; I immediately scanned my memory to find a specific instance when I experienced culinary nirvana to that degree. My initial thoughts were with my experiences with In-N-Out Burger as well as Le Burger Brasserie in Las Vegas. I conversed with my friend who placed the same exact order and see what he had to think about it. His response was “This is so fucking delicious” which was exactly what I was thinking as was I devouring my burger with reckless abandonment.

The flavor that is extracted from the meat is fantastic and the combination of runny egg yolk, bacon, and their special sauce was to die for. The fries, while a bit soggy for my liking were wonderfully seasoned. The assortment of flavored mayonnaises was an added bonus. The Sriracha and Old Bay are my favorites but you can’t go wrong with any of the flavors. The toasted marshmallow shake was out of this world but I could not find the extra space in my already bloated abdomen to finish it.

What followed was one of the most grueling 3 block walks to the metro. But all was worthwhile because I found a new burger place which I can call my favorite. Ever since then I have been introducing friends in the hope that they will agree with my assessment. Since my initial visit I have branched out and tried some of their other specialty burgers including the Colletti’s Smokehouse, Good Stuff Melt and the Prez Obama Burger.

(Prez Obama Burger and Vidalia Onion Petals)

The Obama Burger was my favorite of the bunch and is second only to Spike’s Sunnyside. It consists of their fresh patty with applewood bacon, onion marmalade, and Roquefort cheese which is all topped with horseradish mayonnaise. I ordered this burger with a side of Vidalia onion petals to change things up. While the picture doesn’t look appetizing (most of the burgers don’t) there were some strong flavors that meshed well and gave the Sunnyside a run for its money. The onion petals were a bit of a letdown so I would recommend that you stick to with the fries.

All in all Good Stuff lives up to the hype and is currently my favorite destination for a burger. I continue to introduce friends mainly because it’s an excuse to go. The prices are a bit expensive but what isn’t in DC. The lines can get long because of its popularity; you will also get large crowds of tourists because of its proximity to the Capital so be prepared. Their one huge flaw is that they are closed on Sunday’s which really sucks but it is something I have gotten over. If you haven’t noticed I highly recommend the Spike’s Sunnyside and the marshmallow shake. Hopefully you are lucky enough to visit when he is behind the counter and thank him for what he has brought to DC.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Far East Taco Grille

Our food truck tour continues with a recent addition to the ever growing fleet of mobile vendors. The Far East Taco Grille which opened its doors in early September takes tacos, a traditional latin dish and adds Asian flare. This fusion of cultures is in vogue not only in brick and mortar restaurants but also with food trucks in and out of this city.

My first experience with fusion tacos came this past year when I sampled the TaKorean truck. The two experiences that went behind that post were positive, so when I heard that there was another truck that served similar food I pounced on it as quickly as I could. As you may know by now my Latin background has somehow encoded tacos into my DNA; they are as much a staple in my life as sleep, water, and air.

Once I became aware of their truck I began to follow them on twitter and waited for them to serve anywhere near the Georgetown. My wish came to fruition later that week when they arrived at the State Department. Once the clock struck noon I began my journey to their location in pursuit of taco bliss. On the way there I glanced at their menu on my iPhone and thought long and hard on what I was going to order.

My knowledge or lack thereof when it comes to Asian cuisine proved to be an impediment when I was trying to finalize my decision. While I have exposed my palate to Asian cuisine that is not enough to internally justify what I believe is adequate knowledge for constructing the perfect taco with the ingredients presented to me.

Once I arrived at their black truck I was still unsure as to how I would pair each taco. Each taco comes with one choice of meat, one vegetable slaw, one sauce, and four different topping which are unlimited. I knew beforehand that I was going to try each different meat but pairing it with a slaw and sauce proved to be a challenge to me since I take tacos very seriously.

While waiting in the long line I finalized my decision. I decided to order a powerful steak (rib-eye steak) with Sriracha sauce, kimchi-lime slaw and all the toppings (cilantro, chopped onion, sesame seed, and lime-crema). I also ordered a bang tang teriyaki chicken taco with their #15 sauce, sweet chili romaine slaw, and all the toppings. The last taco I ordered was a sweet sexy tofu with grilled bean sprouts, spicy mayo sauce and all the toppings. After waiting a few minutes my order was presented to me, at which point I took it to a nearby bench to enjoy one of my favorite meals.

(Powerful Steak, Bang Tang Teriyaki, and Sweet Sexy Tofu Taco)

I dissected each taco carefully trying to both enjoy the flavor combinations, identify which components matched well and what needed to be added or removed. The steak taco was constructed perfectly, the juicy and flavorful meat mixed well with kimchi lime slaw and the minor kick of the Sriracha offered remnants of past taco experiences. The chicken taco while good was not great, I initially wanted to order it with either the spicy mayo or pineapple sauce but wanted to try something new. The #15 sauce while flavorful reminded me of a peanut flavored Thai sauce which I do not like. The tofu was the biggest surprise of the three; while I enjoy tofu from time to time it is almost sacrilegious to have a taco devoid of some animal. To my suprise it was a huge success, the tofu was full of flavor and the spicy mayo offered an extra kick of flavor.

My first experience was met with a great deal of curiosity. I wanted to tinker more with the flavor combinations in order to create the perfect Asian taco. I attempted this feat earlier today when I visited them at the GW campus. I stuck with my original steak taco since I enjoyed it so much, I also ordered two chicken tacos in order to remedy the blunder of the original. The first chicken taco came with the spicy mayo, sweet chili romaine slaw and all the toppings. The second taco was adorned with pineapple sauce, romaine vinaigrette and all their toppings. The steak taco tasted even better than I remembered from my first experience and the two chicken tacos were magnificent. If I had to choose one I would prefer the one with the spicy mayo as it blended better with the sweet chili romaine slaw.

All in all my two experiences with this vendor were positive. The ingredients are flavorful the the taste combinations are pure ecstasy. Their service is prompt but the lines during both instances were long. They are cash only at this point and their prices are average (3 tacos cost $8). The only thing that would make them better would be to serve ice cold beer which is almost necessary when devouring tacos but that is not possible with food trucks. Definitely worth a try if you are a fan of tacos or Asian cuisine.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

American Ice Company

Everyone has their own neighborhood watering hole. A place where you can take a quick stroll with a friend or roommate to have a drink or a bite to eat after work or during a lazy weekend afternoon. Some are luckier than others when it comes to their choices for a neighborhood bar. I consider myself lucky enough to live a couple blocks away from one of the newest and most popular bars on U St.

American Ice Company opened its doors a little over a year ago and has quickly become one of the more popular bars on the block. American Ice Company is brought to you by the owners of Marvin and The Gibson. The attempt her is to try to blend the chic, relaxed environment of their two successful ventures and add a bit more of an edge to give it a more dive feel.

The bar was erected in a former car repair shop and hidden on the mostly residential V St. Its obscure location adds to the allure and experience of visiting. Every time I introduce a friend to the bar I am always met with the question “Where the hell are you taking me?” which never ceases to amuse me.

The decor consists of exposed brick which gives it a bit of an urban rustic feel. The outdoor patio which is heated during the winter is definitely better during the spring and summer months. As you enter the bar your nasal cavity will absorb the distinct scent of barbecue emanating from the open kitchen. Your ears may hear the sound of a cleaver pounding meat and see the sweat of a chef hard at work preparing endless platters of food that are doled out each day.

The restaurant has a mix of table and bar seating which appeal to different groups depending on both the size of your party and whether you are there to eat or not. The chalkboard display lists a diverse set of beers that come either in cans (Metal) or on tap (Jar). The list contains a good mix of beers that will appeal to hipsters and aristocratic beer lovers. The beers are served in mason gars which seem to be in vogue but suit this bar especially well.

Of the many times I have been here I can say that I enjoy the experience regardless of the time or day. I have introduced a countless number of people here to share a couple beers or eat some food. Its proximity to my home makes it either the first or last bar I visit when I go out. Finding an open table can be extremely difficult since it is a first come first serve policy so be weary of that and plan to come early if you want to sit down and enjoy some food with a group of friends.

If you choose that path I highly suggest placing an order of swachos. This dish puts a southern approach to a traditional Latin snack. The basic formula to understanding the name of this dish is swine + nachos = swachos. The platter consists of nacho chips smothered with queso and pork to produce a delectably devious mound of deliciousness.


It is by far my favorite dish on the menu and a must order for a group of two or more. I love to pair it with a Dos X tall boy to keep with the roots of the dish and because it is the best Mexican beer! Of the other dishes to share I would suggest the pickle sampler which contains an assortment of flavored pickles which is sure to entice any pickle lover.

For the individual options you have your choice of pork, turkey or brisket that come in a sandwich or platter. The former comes simply with slaw while the latter adds brown beans. You can also order the late nighter which is available only after a certain hour. You will have to ask the bartender what is in it because I only sampled it once and by that I mean my friend and I spit it after a loooong night out so my attention level was at an all time minimum.

(Pork Platter)

Of the individual dishes I have sampled both the pork sandwich and sampler. The pork is full of flavor, the beans share the same characteristic, and the coleslaw is on par. I myself am not the best judge of barbecue seeing as though DC does not have a bevy of options with this cuisine.

Regardless I have heard from Southerners that it is respectable but does not compare with what you can get in the South. I would take the assessment as a favorable endorsement because I do not expect those results to be replicated just like I don’t expect to find the best clam chowder in Alabama.

All in all American Ice Company is a destination that you must visit. Whether it’s for a Sunday fun day, an all night beer marathon, or to grab a bite of some solid BBQ this bar is a must try. The atmosphere is unique, the décor suits it perfectly, and the experience is one to live for. This place has blown up (cue the hipster spew) since its opening so there are lines many times, especially when it is nice outside which has become annoying as of late. The prices are reasonable for DC and the service is on par. If you have a chance I would advise you to take the sketchy walk, you are sure to come out with a positive experience.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rolling Ficelle

My recent reporting, or lack thereof with food trucks became apparent when I noticed how far back my last post was. This prompted me to make a greater effort to escape the confines of Georgetown and bike to various food truck hotspots during my lunch break. Last month I accompanied a friend to the weekly Farragut Friday gathering of a large number of popular food trucks.

The number of new trucks I saw was a complete shock and speaks to the rapid evolution of this industry. As I walked around the park slowly observing each individual truck a black and orange truck immediately caught my eye. The Rolling Ficelle led Juan Jose Quintana serves a variety of sandwiches whose recipes are drawn a culinary team with years of experience. Each sandwich is served on a ficelle (French for string) which is a thinner version of baguette from the Lyon Bakery in DC.

While waiting in line I was able to scan their menu and look enviously at sandwiches that were being eaten. Flabbergasted at which sandwich I should try I finally decided on the Davis which consists of chicken breast topped with parsley, lemon aioli, and slivered almonds over avocado, red tomatoes and romaine lettuce. I also ordered a soda and chips which set me back about $10 which as you know is average in DC. Once I had my sandwich in hand I joined my coworker and made camp under a tree during the warm summer afternoon to enjoy our meals.

My initial thoughts were of how large the sandwich was and whether I could actually finish it. Leaving this thought behind I began to dig in. My first couple of bites were met with sheer amazement at both the quality of the bread and the contents within it. The ficelle felt like it just came out of the oven; it was as soft as butter and full of flavor. The sandwich as a whole was superb, the ingredients blended well and made for an incredible meal. Both my coworker and I were surprised that I was able to finish it and in such quick time.

(Davis Ficelle)

Upon returning to work I bookmarked them as my next food truck post. I kept track of their daily location in hopes that they would return to a reasonably close area. My prayers were met when they stopped by my alma mater the very next week. As I walked to George Washington University my only hopes were that they could replicate the delight I felt during my first visit.

Once my turn came I approached the truck and placed my order. This time I decided to sample the Calder which is their take on a cold cut. The Calder consists of hard salami, mortadella cheese, and Danish ham which is adorned with romaine lettuce, roma tomatoes, pepper relish and Italian dressing. Once I received my sandwich I nestled myself under a tree, opened my book and had a quiet lunch.

To my delight the same positive characteristics were present in this sandwich as well. The freshness of the bread and natural blend of the ingredients were on full display. The sandwich was also not drenched in dressing which was a huge positive for me because this error occurs more often than not.

(Calder Ficelle)

Since then I have had the opportunity to visit two more times. During those ventures I ordered another Davis as well as the Gorky which consists of Danish ham layered with sliced mozzarella, tomato, kalamata olives, pesto sauce, basil and olive oil. I can gladly say that I enjoyed both and will continue to visit when I am in the mood for a fresh sandwich.

If like me you are a sandwich lover, especially on a baguette then I would highly recommend visiting this truck. Their ingredients are fresh, the bread is fantastic and their prices are on par with any food establishment. I have never had to wait too long in line and the service is prompt. For all these reasons please skip the abomination that is Subway and try this, it is a real sandwich. Did I mention how much I hate Subway? I will save that for another post entirely but please try this if you want a real sandwich.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pho 14

As fall has dawned upon us I am now in soup mode. In all reality I can eat soup year round but at least I am partially justified to have it as the weather cools. Pho (pronounced Fuh) is one of my favorite types of soups which originated in Vietnam.

Luckily there is a large contingent of Vietnamese mainly in Virginia that shares their culture in every facet including a large number of restaurants. For the most part all of the renowned Vietnamese cuisine was located in Falls Church and Alexandria which is a hassle to get to if you live in the district and do not own a vehicle.

In the past I was required to take the journey across the water to eat at Pho shops which were constantly ranked as the best and most authentic. Luckily Pho 14 decided to take a chance and open its doors in the up and coming Columbia Heights neighborhood. In their short stint they have expanded both their menu which used to be solely Pho as well as their restaurant which has doubled in size. They have also climbed up the rankings to the top spot for Pho in the area. Their recent accolade is being named best Pho of 2010 by the Washington City Paper.

Located only a metro stop from my house I was ecstatic to know that I had at the very least a dependable authentic place to eat that was convenient for me. Pho cures everything from a cold to a hangover and it is my go to place when I am in dire need of this. During my first visit I was under the impression that I had at least an armature understanding of Pho. This notion was quickly put to rest when I was presented their menu consisting of 22 different recipes coming in both a regular and large bowl.

Taking a deep breath I cleared my mind and decided to order Cha Go which are traditional Vietnamese egg rolls. The rolls consist of pork, shrimp, chicken and vermicelli noodles which are deep fried and served with fish sauce. The spring rolls were on par with the other Vietnamese establishments that I have visited in the past. I also decided to order Goi Cuon Do Bien which I have never tried before. These are seafood spring rolls which consist of calamari, shrimp, scallop, celery, green beans, carrots and mango wrapped in rice paper and served with a sweet chili and tamarind sauce.

(Goi Cuon Do Bien)

The Goi Cuon Do Bien was a bit of an upgrade of over the Cha Goi. The ingredients paired well with the sauce, each bite was refreshing in and of itself. The fact that it was served on fresh rice paper was also a good alternative to a deep fried concoction of meats and vegetables which I am accustomed to eating prior to my soup. After finishing my appetizers I though carefully about which Pho I would order.

After some quick deliberation I decided to order the number 1 (Tai, Nam, Gau, Gan, Sach) which consists of slices of round eye steak, well-done flank, morsels of fat brisket, soft tendon and bible tripe. Each bowl comes in either regular or large which run you $7.95 and $8.95 respectively. If you ever come here it is dogma to order a large. The Pho itself consists of a beef broth whose day long preparation time is as arduous and complex as (blank),but the end result is sheer brilliance.

(Tai, Nam, Gau, Gan, Sach)

The piping hot caldron of culinary brilliance was presented before my eyes in a matter of minutes. The bowl was also accompanied by the basic accoutrement of bean sprouts, jalapeño peppers, and mint leaves. My personal preference which has taken months to craft is to add all but the mint leaves, a generous helping of hoison sauce and a deluge of sriracha. Once my concoction was finalized I armed myself with my chopsticks and spoon and began to accost my soup with tranquil chaos.

During my meal I believe I touched culinary nirvana; the broth was the finest I have had to date and the round eye was moist and full of flavor. The beauty and elegance of the dish almost brought me to tears when I sipped the last ounce out of the bowl. Each time I have returned have been met with the same results. I have since tried the 2, 3, 4 & 6 which you can look up on their website. My preference is still the 1 which I would recommend having. They also have chicken and vegetarian pho both of which I have yet to try because I believe it is a bit sacrilegious.

(Bahn Mi Thit Ngui)

Aside from their phenomenal Pho they also have an assortment Vietnamese dishes including Do XAO (Stir Fry) and Bun (Vermicelli) the latter of which I have sampled. They also serve Bahn Mi’s at a respectable price. Above is the Bahn Mi Thit Nguoi which is the traditional sandwich which consists of pork and pickled vegetables all served in a baguette. The sandwich itself costs $4 but you can get also order the combination which comes with an appetizer and a cup of beef broth for $8 which is an amazing value. I only had their Bahn Mi once and I found it to be average. If you are looking specifically for this then I would venture elsewhere.

In conclusion Pho 14 is among one of the titans when it comes to both Pho. Their wide variety of options will suit anyone’s palate and is good for all Pho enthusiasts regardless of your experience. But be aware this fame does bring long lines and I have on several occasions swayed by lines that go out the door. So if it is a cold and rainy day don’t expect immediate service if you decide to show up, there was a line outside the door during hurricane Irene! Their prices are modest and the service is good. I would say that you should go specifically for the Pho but their other options are not bad.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Greek Spot

When you hear the or see the word Greece your initial thought at least recently has been their debt crisis as well as the perilous times facing the European Union. This unfortunate circumstance has taken away from our previous perception of Greece including their wonderful history in fine art, literature and food. The latter of these characteristics is the purpose of this post and takes us to one of the best dining spots for Greek food in the city.

The Greek Spot is small shop as its name indicates located right off of U St. Being a big fan of Greek food since my childhood I found it almost offensive that it took me until last year to visit this establishment. A close friend during my childhood was Greek so I would remember going over and having Tyropitakia, Horiatiki Salata and Baklava to name a few. For those whose knowledge of Greek cuisine is limited to Gyros use the power of Google to look up these dishes to enhance your knowledge and culinary palate.

Although rather small and visually unappealing The Greek Spot offers some of best and most authentic Greek food I have had to date. Before my personal discovery I was limited to a small number of shops to get Greek food, which was limited mostly to a salad or Gyro. But the menu here far surpasses what I have seen in this city and my personal knowledge of Greek cuisine.

My litmus test for any Greek restaurant is their Gyro. Now I know I just lambasted people who didn’t know anything beyond this dish but that speaks volumes to its popularity. Although its origin lies in Turkey (bet you didn’t know that) gyros are most commonly associated as traditional dish of Greece, at least from an American perspective. During my visit I decided to get a Gyro which I ordered with tzatziki sauce, an option that I recommend you do as well. I took it out to their small outdoor dining section with my friend and basked in a typical summer afternoon on U St.


Once seated we began to devour our meals as ruthlessly as the Achaeans during the Trojan War. The lamb was oozing with flavor and permeated with an array of spices that blended perfectly. The feta, onions, lettuce and tzatziki added their own dimensions to create the best gyro I have ever tried. Their platter included their own seasoned fries which were also very tasty. I accompanied my meal with a bottled Fanta and a small Baklava. After our meal was finished we both basked in the sun and lightly reminisced the culinary experience that had just passed.

Delighted by my experience I have continued to visit; from the occasional drunk munchies run to the Saturday afternoon post run The Greek Spot never disappoints. Another dish I like is the Chicken Souvlaki which consists of small portions of grilled chicken, feta, tomatoes and cucumbers. The chicken itself is marinated in an array of spices grilled on a skewer. You can also choose pork if that is your preference.

(Chicken Souvlaki)

The Souvlaki was good, the chicken was moist and the marinated well. The vegetables that accompanied it went well and made for a fair dish. If I to make a choice I would prefer a gyro or even a falafel but that is not taking away from the taste of the dish.

In conclusion The Greek Spot is a destination that needs your attention. The food is fantastic, the service is quick and the prices are beyond reasonable for joy that will ensue. I would recommend ordering take out or if you live in the area they also deliver. While going to Greece may be the only way to truly experience the elegance of their food visiting The Greek Spot is a much cheaper alternative.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bar Pilar

Our tour of 14th street takes us to one of my favorite neighborhood destinations. Bar Pilar serves it patrons New American cuisine along with an assortment of fine cocktails and beers. Located between S & T St. Bar Pilar presents the ambiance of a European café paired with an eclectic menu.

The interior offers hints of classical rustic design. The exposed brick walls are adorned with classical posters while the chandeliers offer dim lighting which meshes well with the classical design of the bar. The space itself is very small which provides for a very intimate setting that I believe the owners intended on.

My first few visits were solely for drinks during impromptu gatherings or happy hours. I then decided to have an afternoon lunch during which time I sampled an assortment of wines and cheeses. Their menu is based on the local ingredients available at the time sot it rotates by season.

My main culinary attraction is their brunch menu which I have sampled extensively. My most recent visit came this past Saturday with a good friend of mine. I was laboring from a miniscule hangover which was the result of red wine, rum and bourbon from the past night. To remedy this ill I decided to order their Hangover cure and a Bacon Bloody Mary.

(Bacon Bloody Mary)

The former is a messy concoction of eggs with cheese, biscuits, sausage gravy, home fries, ketchup and sriracha sauce while the latter is a classic drink combined with our recent obsession of bacon. While visually and structurally unappealing the hangover cure was menacingly good to the extent that a cloud of caloric guilt hovered over me for the rest of the day. While I am not the biggest fan of Bloody Mary’s I did enjoy it and saved the juicy alcohol covered slather of bacon until the end.

My friend ordered a couple of eggs and a plate of toast and mocked every bite I took seeing as though our roles seemed to be reversed on this day (I am usually weary of eating anything particularly unhealthy, especially in the morning). After our meal my mild hangover subsided and I did not feel the overbearing weight of my meal which was fairly delightful.

(The Hangover Cure with Toast)

The minimalist approach of this venue is what drives me to continue to return. In the future I hope to extensively sample their lunch and dinner menu again which I would characterize as New American tapas. I enjoy the intimate setting especially when it is less crowded which is not the norm.

In conclusion Bar Pilar is a fantastic destination for both drinks and food. The crowd is a bit older and sophisticated; I myself have felt a bit out of place at times but don’t let that discourage you. They have a small patch of outdoor seating which gives you a nice view of 14th St. During the weekend it can get crowded at which point I believe it loses some value. Great brunch, a diverse beer selection and some interesting cocktails make this an establishment to try if you haven’t already.