Saturday, August 27, 2011

Box Frites

Our next stop takes us to the Washington Nationals Park, home to a number of intriguing food options. The stadium like the team are both fairly new to our city and this past year a number of new dining options have arisen in the Miller Life Scoreboard Walk. This small public area houses a number of new editions including the recently mentioned Shake Shack.

Having already sampled Shake Shack I decided to try Box Frites, another import from New York City. Box Frites drew it's origins in Citi Field which is home to the New York Mets and has recently expanded it's franchise to our nations capital. Known for serving up some crispy fries with an array of off the wall sauces I decided to brave the inevitably long stadium lines to sample one of my favorite foods.

While I line I surveyed the rather simple menu that gave you the option of having plain or garlic-parmesan frites which come with an assortment of dipping sauces including Chipotle Ketchup, Ballpark Mayo, Blue Cheese, Rosemary Ranch and Smoke Bacon Aioli. Having already tried garlic-parmesan fries at another establishment I decided to order a large frites with a side of Smoke Bacon Aioli.

Although the other sauces were appealing I for one cannot give up the opportunity of sampling anything that has bacon incorporated in it. After paying a reasonable chunk of change for my meal I grabbed the piping hot box and walked towards my seat.

(Large Frites with Smoke Bacon Aioli Sauce)

Once seated I began to slowly enjoy each individual morsel which was cooked to crisp perfection. The frites were salted well and were large and crispy which is my preference. The bacon aioli was also magnificent and did a fantastic job complimenting the fries. My own greed eventually got the best of me as I prematurely ran out of the sauce but was not frazzled because I enjoyed the frites themselves.

In the lexicon of stadium concessions we are accustomed for overpaying for average food. I am glad to inform the general public that in this case we can ignore our past experiences. While it is a simple product Box Frites does a phenomenal job at providing patrons with quality food at a somewhat reasonable price. My only hope is that the other concessions that I will sample in the future produce the same results.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Shake Shack

This year has been marked by a influx of new establishments from outside the tri-state area. A number of these new restaurant chains have been imported from New York City who are on top when it comes to culinary excellence. One of the most prominent restaurants is Shake Shack, a fast food burger shop that has grown a cult following in the big apple.

Shake Shack was born in Madison Square Park in 2004 and immediately gained fame and success. It's countless awards and accolades have made it a mainstay in NYC so much so that people line out the restaurant waiting for their daily helping. Known for their renowned burgers, hot dogs and shakes Shake Shack decided to expand their talents outside of NYC and here into the District which is slowly becoming a burger Mecca.

Being a burger enthusiast and soon to be connoisseur I decided to sample this holy burger. I foolishly tried to visit on the first day and was greeted by a line exiting the door and finishing at the end of the block. I quickly decided to postpone my plans for another day in hopes of escaping the wait. I waited a week for the crowds to die down and was pleasantly surprised that my plan worked.

I walked in the door and took a quick glance at the colossal menu that lines the wall. I decided to order their Shack Stack which consists of a cheeseburger which comes with lettuce, tomatoes and fried portobello filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheese all topped with their shack sauce. I also ordered french fries and a soda which all cost around $13 which is a hefty sum for fast food. . At that point I took my seat and waited with my friend in anticipation to confirm the hype.

(Shack Stack, French Fries & Soda)

Once our meal was ready and in front of us we both began the journey through burger paradise. My initial reaction was that the burger was average, the meat was juicy and full of flavor, the bun was as soft as butter and the portobello offered a very interesting flavor combination. You could immediately tell that the ingredients were very fresh but they did not blend as well as other burgers I have had. The fries were crispy which was a big plus but needed some more seasoning.

All I my first experience left me feeling a bit robbed. Sure the meal was good but the hype built behind it inflated my expectations. I was also a bit upset with my overall portions. Every aspect of the meal was small, but this thought may be due to me experiencing US portions and being a bit disillusioned on what may be a standard size meal.

What I believe separates my blog from others is that I am more comprehensive. I know that one experience cannot shape a formal opinion so I sample places multiple times. My second visit came with my sister in order to gauge a better reading on the quality of this burger.

(Shack-cago Dog, Cheese Fries & Washington Monu-Mint)

We decided to order a number of items and share our meals. Together we ordered another Shack Stack, French Fries topped with cheese, a Shack-cago Dog, and a Washington Monu-Mint. The Shack-cago dog consists of a Vienna all-beef hot dog, relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomatoes, pepper, and mustard. The Washington Monu-Mint is one of their unique Custard concoctions which is comprised of a chocolate custard base topped with minted marshmallow and chocolate cookie dough.

My second helping of the Shack Stack was a bit more pleasant. I seemed to have a greater appreciation for the flavor combinations which elevated it's standing in my overall ranking of top burgers. The Shack-cago dog received high marks as well. The flavor combinations proudly justified the name and reminded me of the brats that I tasted in Chicago. The custard was also very good but I could not find the room to finish or appreciate it to the fullest extent.

I left with an elevated level of appreciation for this establishment. While I will not say it is the best burger in the city it is certainly not the worst. Is it overrated? Yes I believe so, the amount of hype behind the shakes and the burgers does not match the utility or pleasure that I gain from eating on of their meals.

I do however recommend this to any burger lover. While the prices are high it is DC so you should expect that by now. In the three additional times I have been here the crowd size is mixed so I cannot give an accurate description on how long the wait is but it should not be nearly as big as it initially was. They also have another branch in the Washington Nationals stadium which always has a gargantuan line, probably because it is the best food option.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Restaurant Week 2011

Brace yourselves food fanatics it's that time of year again. Restaurant Week kicks off tomorrow and goes all the way through the 21st. For those of you that are unaware this is a yearly event in which a hand full of restaurants in the DC/VA/MD offer Table d'hôte for lunch and dinner.

Just about every restaurant on the list offers a 3-course meal. While there are are a couple of places that offer more the three course meal is the norm. Lunch specials cost $20.11 and dinner is $35.11 per person. In the past I have sampled some of DC's finest establishments including Bourbon Steak, Filomena Ristorante, and Fogo De Chao all of which I highly recommend.

Pack your appetites because this should be a long fun filled culinary adventure. I myself plan to visit Chef Geoffs, Bourbon Steak (again), 1905 Restaurant, and Ceiba. Hope you all find a couple of great places to eat. Cheers!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Georgetown Dinette

Revisiting your childhood hangouts is one of the best experiences in your adult life. Whether it's going back to your original home, old school, or in this case your after school eating spot.

My recent adventures took me to The Georgetown Dinette which was my elementary school meet up spot. Located on the northern end of Georgetown this divy diner has been serving simple cuisine for over 25 years. The restaurant is owned by a Emmy (pronounced Amy) and Harry, an eccentric Korean couple whose personalties are worth the visit alone.

Every day after school bell rang me and my group of friends would run the hundred feet or so to the door in an attempt to quench our limitless appetites. Usually it was an order of salt and pepper with ketchup which was topped with pipping hot french fries or a steak an cheese. Other times I remember getting in early and ordering some breakfast.

Every time we visited we were greeted by Emmy who had a unique nickname for every one of us. I loved this place so much so that I walked a mile or so every week when I moved on to middle school. But as time passed I didn't have the opportunity to visit as often as I wanted.

(Steak & Cheese)

My current job has taken me to this historic neighborhood so it has been my primary mission to eat and blog about every place there. After a couple of months I asked myself, what other places do I have to try? At that point it hit me immediately, I need to visit Emmy again. I felt a bit embarrassed that I had overlooked this place.

I walked in and was greeted by Emmy who paused for a second and said, "Hi son, I remember you. You used to come in a long time ago, you used to be a fat boy. You are really skinny now." I couldn't help but laugh that she remembered me after my 10 year absence. I said yes, it's me. Can I have my regular? She said oh the steak and cheese with crispy french fries. I said, yes ma'am.

So I sat there with a coworker and devoured my juicy, cheesy sandwich which sent me back to my young days. The fries are old school diner style, crispy and extra salty which is exactly how I like them. The meal was so good that I came back for the next three days.

On the second day I ordered a bacon cheeseburger which unfortunately was not as good as the steak and cheese. On my last day I decided to go for their egg salad which was on par. After every visit I conversed with Emmy mainly about our current lives with a few stories of the past sprinkled in.

(Bacon Cheeseburger)

It is almost shocking to me that the Georgetown neighborhood association would let such an eye sore continue to stay open. It is a testament to their impact on the neighborhood that they are still operating. The place is exactly as I remember it when I was 13 years old. It's a hole in the wall with three lunch tables, two soda refrigerators and one of the simplest menus you can find. The food is all purchased wholesale so there are no "fresh" or "organic" meals to be found here, just plain and simple greasy American cuisine.

All in all The Georgetown Dinette is a solid venue to go for dirt cheap diner food in this neighborhood. Meals will cost you at the most $8-9 but most meals are cheaper than that. They only accept cash and seating is very limited. Don't accept to be blown away by the cuisine, but if you like greasy take out then I would definitely give this a shot.