DC Dining Round Up, December 2012

It’s not December anymore. Heck, we’re already a week deep into 2013, but somehow I’ve still got my mind stuck in 2012. For the New Year (which I’m reluctantly shlepping into) I’ve got lots of intentions – to write, to network, to share, to open myself to new opportunities and new experiences. So to mark my fourth full month of living in the District and to follow these intentions with some action, I’ve compiled a second list of places to check out around DC.

DC’s dining scene certainly has a few holes to be filled, and to more adventurous and seasoned big-city (read: snobby) diners, the ‘scene’ here may be a bit disappointing at first. But as I learn more and more about the folks in the industry here and the new ideas that are coming forward, I’m willing to vouch for a good, solid future in DC dining.

The six places I’ve listed below are definitely some favorites I’ve frequented in the past months, and will continue to frequent this coming year. In an effort to curb my tendency for extreme wordiness, I’ve kept recommendations more concise. Hit me up if you want to know exactly what I thought about each, you know I’m happy to spill my guts.

Blind Dog Cafe

Go here, buzz up on some coffee and some stellar baked goods, and pound out some work on your laptop

Blind Dog Croissant If I’m not at Kafe Bohem like I mentioned in October, you can find me at Blind Dog. The food is better and the coffee a bit stronger (although, no free refills, boo), although the lack of good seating and tables wreak havoc on my back. What keeps me returning, in addition to fast free wifi and quiet work time, is the BEST croissant I’ve had yet in DC. Plus they have amazing chocolate chip cookies – this coming from a girl who isn’t a big fan of chocolate chip cookies. Of course, i try not to get both the croissant and the cookie on the same day.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie

944 Florida Avenue Northwest, Washington DC 20001
(202) 290-2865
Monday-Friday 7:30am-4:00pm, Saturday & Sunday 8:00am-4:00pm 


Go here with friends for a great Friday night dinner. and also if you are obsessed with Top Chef and still watch every episode of every season

“Is he the guy who make the pepperoni sauce?” This question was asked by DiploMan, who impressed me with his sneaky Top Chef dish-recognition skills. Why yes, that would be Mike Isabella, of Top Chef season 7 fame. We arrived for a 10pm reservation and were instructed to wait at the bar a bit longer – which turned into half an hour (and a weird stare-down from the hostess). But that’s fine, my friends and I were perfectly satiated with a round of drinks and a complimentary charcuterie board as soon as we arrived to our table. Frankly, the wait was very soon forgotten with an amazing round of small plates and a pretty damn tasty pizza (blistering hot out of the pizza oven).

6th Street Northwest, Washington DC 20001


Go here to get crunk with a group of folks. Spider bowls and ramen bowls all around!!

Spider BowlIt’s a dark bar, with one wall crammed floor to ceiling with rum and rum-friendly mixers. That’s good. But it gets better. Hogo has also got food – the kind of really good, really creative, un-advertised menu that one might find in dark LES corners and far-flung Brooklyn outposts. The bar is located in a seedy strip between Chinatown and the Convention Center (no man’s land!!) and doesn’t even have a proper marquee, but frankly it all adds to the allure of the bar. Decor is also pretty minimal, aside from the huge pieces of graffiti artwork done by a local artist – rumor is the work was commissioned to compensate for a bar tab from neighboring sister bar, the Passenger.

The kitchen is open as long as the bar is, making it the premier late-night dining option in DC, if you ask me (also, I think the only place in DC right now where you can get Spam Musubi). The menu will change constantly alongside the roster of rotating chefs Hogo has planned.

1017 7th Sreet Northwest, Washington DC 20001

Tuesday-Thursday 5:00pm-1:30am, Saturday & Sunday 5:00pm-2:30am


Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

Go here on a nice date, because you’ll love each other so much more after 6 courses of oysters.

Pearl Dive _Washingtonian The DiploMan doesn’t even like seafood all that much, and we both ate our faces off at this fine establishment. There’s usually an absurd wait for the restaurant, but that fact is assuaged by the fact that you can walk upstairs and enjoy a couple drinks at an equally rowdy and busy bar, BlackJack (complete with a bocce ball room in the back). One of my favorite meals so far in DC.

1612 14th Street Northwest  Washington, DC 20009
(202) 319-1612
Friday-Sunday 11:00am-3:00pm
 (BRUNCH), Monday- Sunday 5:00pm- 10:00pm

Thai X’ing

Go here if you want an authentic taste of Southeast Asian cooking, a rarity in any city in the states. Plus, it’s cheap!

Thai Xing Fish dish For homestyle, straightforward Thai cooking, Thai X’ing lives up to the hype. The underground restaurant, once operating from a tiny, basement-level apartment, has now spread to all three floors of the LeDroit neighborhood row house. There’s a team comprised of forceful Thai ladies, adept Mexican servers, and one funny bumbling, fumbling 50-year old Australian host. The menu is pre-set each day, and is coursed out in appetizers, mains, and desserts. Food is plenty and tasty, and beers – assuming you’ve brought your own – can be as flowing as you’d like. Dinners on Friday and Saturday are $40 per person.

Also, newsflash.

515 Florida Ave, NW, Washington DC 20001
Tuesday-Sunday 5:30pm-10:00pm

Union Market (no-brainer)

Go here with your parents, your in-laws, your friends, your toddlers, or your co-workers. It’s good for anyone because it’s got options for everyone!!

Union Market Exterior+flickr

Soooo I work here, which means I happen to eat here a lot too. But, this mention has nothing to do with a bit of nepotism, and everything to do with the fact that this place is awesome, filling a much-needed whole in DC’s dining and market scene. A few standouts, aside from Righteous Cheese of course, happen to be Border Springs Lamb, Neopol Smokery, and Trickling Springs Creamery. But there’s also a kick-ass home accessories boutique, a spice shop, Rappahanock Oyster bar, and a knife-sharpening joint – where I still have not yet mustered up the courage to overcome the embarrassment of bringing in $20 JR Henkel knives I bought at Target to get sharpened.

Bagel Sandwich

And yes, that’s bacon in my bagel sandwich.

@unionmarketdc, #UMnow
1309 5th Street Northeast, Washington DC 20002


Image Credits: Graffiato pizza: Rey Lopez c/o Eater DC // Pearl Dive restaurant: David Phillipich c/o Washingtonian Magazine // Thai X’ing dish: Thai X’ing web page // Union Market: flickr //

Upcoming to-do list: Maple, WTF, Two Amy’s, Bar Pilar, Komi, El Chucho. Let’s see if I get around to any of those.

All-star Dining in New Orleans at Maurepas Foods

Royal Street Balcony

So much of New Orleans made it a truly special place: its ornate iron-wrought balconies, its colorful additions of purples greens and golds decorating the city, its funny and virtually unintelligeable local dialect, its rich and completely self-preserved history, the Spanish moss draped over old oak trees throughout the city, the designation of “uptown” – in reference to upriver rather than any true North that I could point out on a map.

NoLA architecture

And, let’s not forget the local cuisine, so historically infiltrated with immigrant influences combined with seasonal local catch from the bayou and the nearby Gulf waters.

New Orleans is a city of leisure – much of the population is content to pass their days without a lick of work, only making efforts to eat and drink with friends and family. Minus the hurricane threat and huge percentage of welfare population, it’s much of what I imagine one version of heaven to be like.

case at Cafe D'Or

Within the immediate city borders there are numerous options to grab ‘n go, ranging from beignets to muffulattas to hurricanes and New Orleans gin fizzes (made with milk! ick!). Then there are the restaurants, sprouting up one after another following Katrina’s aftermath, with a local epicurean fervor that I could have only dreamed of. Prior to this trip, a heated exchange of emails occurred not only planning a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal, but also figuring out where our dining options on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were to be.

Cochon marquee

sausage and charcuterie platter

We settled on three of the hottest, culinariest (that’s not a word, I just made that up), and highly recommended restaurants in three corners of the city: Root, Cochon, and Maurepas Foods.

My favorite?

Maurepas Foods.

Hands down.

Dinner at Maurepas

The Bywater section of New Orleans runs up against the Ninth Ward, and along with the Ninth Ward was one of the areas hit hardest during Katrina. It’s now a growing area of teeny tiny houses surrounded by large warehouses and a swampy waterfront view. On the night that we visited Maurepas, our cab driver got lost in the narrow streets of the neighborhood and overshot the restaurant by a few blocks. This would have typically been fine, but that night the air in the bywater smelled like some sort of burning sewage and was making me nauseous. Increasingly being referred to as the Williamsburg of New Orleans (read: hipster central), Bywater still had a far way to go before a complete gentrification was to be achieved.

We eventually arrived to what seemed like the only visibly lit corner of the neighborhood, with a yoga shop facing kitty-corner to the restaurant. Ahhh, the first sign of true yuppification, a yoga studio!

As soon as we walked into the restaurant, the smell of toxic tar was replaced by a welcoming warmth of food and conversation inside. Settling into Maurepas was quick and immediate. The host, though a bit over-the-top and intrusive, was nice enough, and sat us after a short 15 minute wait. The menu was something straight out of my dreamworld: heavy on vegetables and sides, mostly straightforward though with a few unique twists from around the world, and best of all- cheap. A simple appetizer $4-6. A side of greens $3. Main dishes $7-$12. Having such a beautiful menu come so cheap was a surprise to all of us who had lived in New York and Los Angeles.

Highlights of the evening included Whistle Pig rye whiskey for only $10 a pour!!!!!!!!! Beat that anywhere, and I’ll send you a check. Food-wise, I loved the side of greens, which was so simple but not overdone as you would find in most southern food restaurants. I was also a HUGE fan of the goat tacos. I tend to find goat a little too funky in flavor, but the meat in these tacos were mild and the corn tortillas lovely and soft, and the tacos were paired with a nice zesty green salsa. Yum.

Maurepas was BY FAR my favorite meal of the trip. In terms of dishes, ambience, and cost,   and of course that order of Whistle Pig, it alone is a major reason to visit New Orleans.

Here is where I had the best meal in New Orleans:

Maurepas Foods3200 Burgundy Street, New Orleans, LA
open everyday except Wednesday, 11am-2am 

DC Dining Round Up, October 2012

Despite setting the bar high earlier last month with small trips out of the DC area, I’ve been hanging around town the past few weekends. Not only because of a little inclement weather (called Sandy), but because it’s been nice getting to know this city. Plus given a small per diem that we’re getting from the DiploMan’s work, we’ve found it advantageous to delve into DC’s dining scene.

There’s nothing more I like to do than to eat out with loved ones (well, maybe except for cook at home with loved ones. So without further ado, here’s a round-up of some favorite eats we’ve been haunting since we’ve moved into town:

American Ice. Co

917 V Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
Monday-Thursday 5pm-2am, Friday 5pm-3am, Saturday 1pm-3am, Sunday 1pm-2am

This place brings me back to Brooklyn. It’s industrial, it’s got lots of good canned beers, there’s a solid BBQ menu, and okay, maybe it’s a little hipster. Now that the weather is turning way cold, I’m a little hesitant to recommend the picnic benches that are in the courtyard area (courtyard = surrounded by a metal sheeting fence). My advice? Bundle up, and order a hot toddy. I’ll be having the Jack’s Dry Cider in the corner.

Drafting Table

1529 14th Street NW, Washington DC 20005
Monday-Wednesday 4pm-11pm, Thursday 4pm-midnight, Friday 4pm-2am, Saturday 8am-2am, Sunday 8am-midnight

This little spot just opened up close to our apartment. It’s not the most innovative food ever but it’s tasty (the menu is pretty predictable and doesn’t change too much: pickles! a burger! pears and prosciutto!) nor does it have a particularly special drink list, but it does have a great cider on tap (so into cider these days), HDTVs that don’t overpower the space, a cool industrial-style design, good bartenders, plus high communal tables that make it a nice place to pop into and grab a weeknight bite. Did I mention it’s pretty close to our apartment?

Food Trucks at K and 13th Streets

K Street between 13th and 14th, off of Franklin Park (closest metro: McPherson Square)
Track each food truck’s status, hours, and menus on twitter!

13th Street Trucks

Everyday during the week, a row of food trucks are parked off of Franklin Park on K between 13th and 14th.  They’re also regularly parked in Farragut Square, near the State Dept building, and in the Navy Yard. Food trucks have taken off in DC like I never thought they would. And that’s something I’m not particularly upset about.

Kafe Bohem

600 Florida Avenue NW, Washington DC 20001
Monday-Friday 6am-5pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am-5pm

Kafe Bohem

A few days during the week, I’ll park myself at one of a few local cafes to get some work done. Big Bear, Blind Dog, or Kafe Bohem are in my regular rotation, with Kafe Bohem the usual frontrunner. A little sister to it’s next door Bistro Bohem, the Kafe has ample outlets located near each table, free wifi, refills on coffee, a quiet work/study environment, plus I’m a sucker for cool fonts and good chalkboard art, and they’ve branded the place with an assortment of the two. Bohem is the best remote office in town, although, the chewy chocolate chunk cookies at Blind Dog prove them to be a viable competitor. DC’s slightly lacking in their coffee scene, but with new additions like these, I’m excited to see how it grows.

The Pig

1320 14th Street NW, Washington , DC 20005
Dinner nightly from 5pm-close, Lunch Friday noon-4, Brunch Saturday & Sunday 11am-3pm

I’m not too keen on the service style here (“Your waiter, Luke, will be right with you”. “Hi, I’m Luke. Have you dined with us before? No? Well, let me tell you a little about us.”) But what I am certainly fond of is the menu. It’s our go-to spot to gather with a couple of friends, since the menu emphasizes piggy entrees that are served “tapas style”, as more restaurants are doing these days. It’s fun to dine with friends, and try and share several (okay, 7 or 8) different dishes. The drinks are good, and they have small 3oz pours of beers which makes tasting beers just as fun as tasting the food.


locations throughout the DC area, check website for hours and details

The DiploMan and I have been to Sweetgreen more than any other eatery in town. More than Chipotle, even! I know the concept of DIY salads isn’t novel to most of you, but to me, getting these made-to-order salads still feels so good after living in China for two years. I have learned, after my first $18 salad, that I really don’t need to add half the mix-ins they offer behind the counter. More importantly, I also learned that the lemon tahini dressing is delicious. If you’re new to DC and want a good go-to place for an easy takeaway weeknight meal, Sweetgreen’s the place to be.


1314 9th Street NW, Washington DC 20005
Monday-Saturday noon-9pm

Sundevich Mural

Sundevich was our very first meal in DC. As in, we landed, put our bags down, and walked to Sundevich. It’s in an alley, so it’s a little hard to find, but it’s definitely a shining star in the up-and-coming Shaw neighborhood that borders our apartment. I’ve tried their vegetarian selections, but I’m telling you – go for the sandwiches with meat. Chorizo and chimichurri, pulled pork with pickles, yum.

Sushi Taro

1503 17th Street NW, Washington DC 20036
Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30-2:30, Dinner 5:30-10pm Monday-Saturday, Closed Sundays

Our first GREAT meal in the city. This place does what all good Japanese places do: present good, beautifully crafted, and tasty food. We’ve chosen a-la carte options rather than their more ambitious (and more expensive) tasting menus, which have certainly not gone unnoticed. We’ve been twice in two months already, made friends with the servers, and tried many of their rotating, seasonal dishes, all of which make you feel like the most special, decadent diner on the face of the earth. Next: must make sure to take advantage of their 50% off sushi at the bar during happy hour.

Town Tavern

2323 18th Street NW, Washington DC 20009
Monday-Friday 5pm-close, Saturday & Sunday noon-close

Niners at Town Tavern

Town Tavern is the local Bay Area sports bar in town. The food is quite disgusting and takes forever to come out, to boot. It’s a big party bar that I wouldn’t go to normally, but when the 49ers and the SF Giants are both playing on a Thursday night, it’s a great place to be.

Marrow Soup, and other Offal Bits

Bone Marrow was never exotic to me. When I was younger, I would watch as my parents sucked the marrow out of pork bones after they were cooked in soup for hours. I followed suit, and pretty soon a meal of pork soup was a cacophony of sucking and slurping. Today, salted, roasted marrow bones with a parsley salad and crunchy toast is one of my favorite menu items- if it’s on the menu, I’m sure to order it. (Landmarc at the Time Warner Center has my favorite, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try Fergus Henderson’s at some point in my life)

As you know by now, Tainan has no shortage of good eats (if you don’t know, read the last few blog entries). Some restaurants in the West are famous for their nose-to-tail dining (I’m looking at you, Incanto, Cochon, St. John’s), but this idea has been around for centuries in Asia.

One eatery in Tainan highlights this concept extremely well. On display is a bevy of pigs parts- stomach, livers, intestines, hearts, brains, kidneys- sauteed and in clear soups, there is so much offal that I wonder where the actual meat of the pig goes.

Laoban, or “Boss”, and his wife have set up so the cooking happens in the front, and the seating behind. With a steady stream of customers requesting their parts and how they want them prepared, it’s amazing that Laoban never gets any two parties’ dishes confused. In fact, while we were there, continuous streams of four or five parties would be sitting at a time, waiting for their meals, and each order came out just as quickly and accurately as the one before it.

Since it was getting late in the evening, we ordered a couple of snacks- though I suppose in the States you would rarely call this a “snack”- pig livers tossed in sesame oil and a heap of sliced ginger, as well as a bone marrow soup.

I didn’t care for the pig livers all that much, but I could have drank a whole bowl of the soup all to myself. At first, the soup looked like a cloudy, fatty broth-and just for a moment I thought we had someone’s leftover broth given to us. Not exactly the most appealing nor photogenic of the dishes I encountered that evening. Running a spoon through, strands of white worm-shaped globs were picked up, and once again I was briefly mortified, until I was told this was bone marrow. I had never before seen marrow stripped so naked, out of the bone that I thought was necessary to contain it.

The marrow soup tasted delicious- each bit of marrow like a pat of butter or cream that would not melt in the warm and porky soup. It brought me right back to my childhood dinner table, just, without the slurping sounds.

If you’re feeling adventurous, and if you like offal- you’ve got to check out this stand in Tainan.

Aming Pig Restaurant 阿明豬心冬粉


72 Bao An Road

Tainan, Taiwan

Open 6pm-2am

Egg Tarts: A fresh start for eggs

I used to HATE eggs.  Wouldn’t touch them.

If I had known that eggs could take this form– a sweet eggy creme filled pastry of an egg….well, I think my views on eating eggs would have long ago changed.  The Egg Tart (蛋挞), as I have recently discovered, is straight out of Hong Kong.  It’s a food as equally East-meets-West as the city of its birth.I wrote about a traditional Chinese dessert the other day, and here we have, on the flip side, a neo-traditional Chinese dessert.

I still won’t eat eggs very often, and actually can’t quite stand scrambled or hard boiled eggs.  But the egg tart is certainly, more recently up my ally.  When I was younger, I found these egg tarts disgusting- bold hard discs of mealy butter filled with a stiff egg jelly, blegh.  But much to the wiles of my egg-loving little sister, we would always have a round of egg tarts at dim sum.  Vickie, I wish you could try these, because it’s nothing like you’ve ever tasted.

Walking around Hong Kong, we often passed this little bakery, with an not long, but never-ending line spewing out the sidewalk.  Like the Shake Shack of Chinese Egg Tarts. One egg tart was $5HKD, so about 65cents.  And the line wasn’t long, so I had to make the DiploMan wait as I hopped in line.

The egg tart came, in its own precious little foil cup, which the egg tart lady dropped into a clear plastic baggy, shoved into my arms, and from which I happily collected and practically ran out the door as if someone was going to steal it back from me.  Feeling the bottom of the bag, this egg tart was still warm.  And finally, I realized the egg tarts served cold in the states in no way resemble the egg tarts in Hong Kong.  Buttery,  oozy, only slightly eggy, just like a custard should be.  It’s like comparing those cold, Costco sized cold croissants to fresh warm-out-of-the-oven flaky Parisian croissants.  No. Comparison.  At all.

Tai Cheong Bakery
35 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, HK
中環擺花街 35 號地下