Wednesday, November 16, 2011

DC Metro Food Tour

For my birthday, one of my friends gave me a gift certificate for a food tour with DC Metro Food Tours. The certificate allowed me to bring one guest and choose between 3 tour options: Old Town Alexandria, Little Ethiopia, and Capitol Hill. I opted to bring B (lucky guy!) and signed us up online a few weeks in advance of the Sunday afternoon Capitol Hill tour.

We met our tour guide Andrew (a recent DC college grad) and the rest of the group (7 other people) at the Eastern Market metro station. We set off around the Barracks Row neighborhood learning interesting tidbits about the area's history.

After walking around a bit, we stopped at the first restaurant on the tour, Capitol Hill Tandoor & Grill. Andrew described the food as Anglo-Indian and we feared it would be watered-down and flavorless. To the contrary, the food (including a tandoor chicken dish and soup) had the zesty Indian kick that I love but also incorporated more "American-style" vegetables such as broccoli and carrots. It was an interesting fusion and one I'd be happy to try again.

After eating our fill at the first stop, we continued our walk around the neighborhood and learned more history. I was beginning to sense that the history lesson and the food part of the tour were not really connected. We'd learn about a historic home and then go to a seemingly unrelated restaurant. After learning about the Marine Corps Barracks we went to Las Placitas, a Salvadorean/Mexican restaurant. The food here was fine, bordering on good, but nothing I need to race back to the Hill for.

After Las Placitas, we returned to the streets for more walking and more learning about the neighborhood. Then we entered one of the most random stops on the tour: a relatively new Italian restaurant named Lavagna. I was expecting some discussion of the historic nature of the building or a lesson on Italian food's connection to DC, but there was none of that. The food we had was very good (particularly the gnocchi) and the manager who greeted us was as friendly as they come.

Our last stop was at Zest American Bistro. Again, there was no tie-in to the history of the neighborhood but the bread pudding was damn good.

After 3 hours our bellies and minds were full of good food and historical tidbits about the Barracks Row area. We had a great time on the tour and were grateful for the chance to try out four new restaurants. If you're expecting a tour providing a historical connection and backdrop for the food your are eating, this is not for you. If you want to spend a day learning about a new neighborhood with stops to eat in between, this is your ticket.

Second Thoughts from B

This was not a food tour. This was a Barracks Row tour. Since restaurants are prevalent on 8th street, they fit with the neighbor walkabout theme, but then again, going into the costume store or bicycle shop would have as well.

Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoyed our 3 hour tour. I'm a sponge for any kind of oddball historical fact and it is no secret to you, dear reader, that I live to try new restaurants. But to call it a "food tour" is a bit misleading. Andrew certainly possessed sufficient expertise of the area's history and architecture, but he was far from an expert on food (poor kid had never heard of gnocchi before starting this job).

J and I went into this adventure expecting to get a behind the scenes tour of several Capitol Hill restaurants... hear about the building's history, learn about the eatery's place in the community, and meet a chef or two. Rather, we visited a few historical buildings, discussed architecture and the evolution of the city, and broke it up with a bite to eat. Definitely not what we had in mind, but a great way to spend the afternoon anyway. We might have even discovered a few places to return to when we are in the area...

Perhaps it was said best by the Rolling Stones, who certainly were talking about DC Metro Food Tours when they sang:

You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need

Capitol Hill Tandoor & Grill: Capitol Hill Tandoor & Grill on Urbanspoon
Las Placitas: Las Placitas on Urbanspoon
Lavagna: Lavagna on Urbanspoon
Zest American Bistro: Zest Bistro on Urbanspoon

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