Thursday, July 11, 2013

Inn at Little Washington - The Inn

A zillion words have been written about the Inn at Little Washington's incredible restaurant (and we'll be adding a few too many words about our experience soon), but not as many that detail the experience of being an overnight guest at the Inn. 

For a celebratory weekend, I booked a surprise trip for B to the Inn for a one night stay and dinner.  We paired it with a hiking day trip to Shenandoah for an unforgettable weekend.  We left DC in the morning and took our time with the drive out to Washington, VA.  I figured we could show up well before check-in time and wander around the town.  Turns out that it takes about 3.5 minutes to walk around the whole "town."  It's really nothing more than the Inn, a few art galleries and little bed and breakfasts.  We ended up grabbing a bite to eat at a roadside cafe a few miles past the Inn and heading to check-in early.

From the minute we pulled up to the Inn, I knew it would be quite a treat.  The staff met us at the car, welcomed us by name, and whisked our bags away.  We had a welcome cocktail in our hands in about five seconds flat and were led into the tea room for afternoon tea.  Our host, Cameron, is the Inn's tea and cheese guru and has a personality as quirky and fun as the Inn's decor.  He brought us each a pot of tea and selection of sweet and savory goodies from the kitchen.  We sat back in the overstuffed chairs and marveled at the over-the-top room that would make a Louis proud.  Everything about the Inn is wacky and wonderful.

After tea, we were led up to our room. During the Inn's remodel, each room was designed and named for an iconic food personality.  Our room, the Jean-Georges Vongerichten room, overlooked the front of the Inn.

We enjoyed the handwritten welcome note from Chef Patrick O'Connell and the basket of fruit and baked goods that awaited us. The room was cozy and comfortable in a country way.  It was plenty spacious too, with a separate sitting area and balcony.  The fluffy robes and bath products were also top notch.

We'll save dinner for another post, but breakfast (included with the stay) deserves mention. This is not your ordinary hotel breakfast with stale bagels and bad OJ.  It is a breakfast befitting the Inn's five star culinary reputation.  We were seated facing the sunny patio in a comfy side-by-side table.  This is the one time that sitting on the same side of a table is perfectly acceptable.  Otherwise, it's just weird.

They brought out a selection of fresh juices and pastries, granola and fruit.  Though still full from the epic marathon meal the night before, we managed to put away every delicious morsel.

As we packed up the car to leave the Inn, they presented us with bottled water for the drive home and a tin of hard candies.  We've stayed at some pretty cool places around the world, but have never seen so many personal and thoughtful touches as we did at the Inn.  It was over-the-top fantastic in every way.

Second Thoughts From B

Part upper-crust French country cottage, part Willy Wonka's culinary wonderland, the Inn at Little Washington hardly seems like the product of humble beginnings. However, did you know that one of America's greatest restaurants grew out of an old gas station?  True fact.

I don't know if the origin of the Inn's structure gets the credit but outside of the small fortune required to be a guest, there is no air of pretentiousness or elitism that I could detect among the staff or patrons.  Rather, it felt like you were staying at your eccentric uncle's farm house. It was comfortable, quiet and accommodating. Admittedly, we were waited on throughout our stay but it was done so in a friendly and helpful manner that made us feel comfortable.  We were given what we wanted before we considered asking for it and were not put in the awkward position of turning down unnecessary service that often comes with high-end hotels. "Yes, come to think of it, I would like some more tea" rather than "no, I don't need you to turn the page of my menu."

I don't know how a business strikes the balance between pampering and overbearing but the Inn was able to do it.  Then again, I don't know how they do half the things there... I'm just happy that they do. The Inn at Little Washington on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tel Veh

We live in a condo building that has been searching for a retail tenant for over six years.  During that time, we've chatted with our neighbors about what kind of place we'd like to have take over that space.  I think we found our answer in Tel Veh.  Tel Veh is a cafe and wine bar in the ground level of the 400 Mass condo building.  It's noisy as heck inside during happy hour, but quieted down nicely as the evening wore on.

They have a menu of small plates, charcuterie, cheese and wine that we were expecting to be just average.  We ended up very impressed by all of the food and jealous of the 400 Mass folks who have this downstairs.  Here's a quick play-by-play of our meal:

Rocket Salad:  grilled haloumi cheese, sundried tomatoes, sunflower seeds and honey balsamic.  How can you go wrong with grilled cheese?

Octopus with roasted red peppers, capers and an onion vinaigrette.  Perfectly cooked octopus.  We even liked it better than Mike Isabella's octopus at Graffiato.

Truffled seafood risotto.  Your standard risotto with the addition of a giant prawn and some well-cooked mussels and clams.

Herb-crusted rack of lamb.  B will love any lamb dish.  The true test is whether I loved it . . . and I did!

Selection of three cheeses.  I thought they were too skimpy on the accompaniments but they were nice and gave us more of the awesome fig jam when we licked the first serving dry.

We had a great Friday night dinner at Tel Veh and would probably be regulars if we lived upstairs.  The prices are a bit steep during the regular dinner hour, but check out their happy hour specials to save a few bucks.

Second Thoughts from B

It takes a lot to compose the perfect evening.  Food, atmosphere, service, company, occasion, state of mind.  But when they do come along, you remember.  Tel Veh was not perfect, but it reminded me of another night that was.

We have some good friends that live in the Bay Area.  On one particular visit they took us to a typical California wine bar that was not unlike Tel Veh.  Though it was several years ago, I can still taste the cheese, nuts, honey, and fruit that seems so typical of that region.  I remember the relaxed atmosphere and the comfort of old friends.  It was a perfect night and one I've longed to recreate.

When I come home from work, I'm often greeted with the question, "What do you want to do tonight?"  My answer of "whatever" is my inarticulate way of saying I am happy to go along with whatever my foodie wife has in mind.  On this particular night, J had two options in mind and when one was described as a California wine bar with tapas, charcuterie and cheese, I was sold.  Why?  Because of memories of that perfect night in the Bay Area.

With those kinds of expectations, Tel Veh was set up to fail.  Sure they weren't perfect, but they more than held their own and reinforced the fact that I look forward to my next California meal... regardless of which coast it is on.
Tel’veh Cafe & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Beau Thai

On one of those "we're way too exhausted to cook" nights, B said he was in the mood for Thai food.  Thankfully, our friends had just mentioned that they really enjoyed Beau Thai in Mt. Pleasant.  Remembering that they also have a Shaw location, I called them to see if they'd deliver to us on the outskirts of Shaw.  They happily agreed to deliver and I happily set about ordering a random assortment of dishes.

About 30 minutes later, the delivery driver called and dinner was ready.  It was a little awkward because the driver didn't get out of his car and I had to look in the windows of three different cars in our building's driveway to see who had my food.  Most drivers wait in the lobby, so he gets a few minus points for that.  However, I'll overlook it because they were speedy and I like that they take credit cards.

The food arrived hot and in sturdy non-styrofoam packaging.  The crispy tofu wrapped in sesame seeds retained its crunch, which is no small feat for delivery food.

Two thumbs up (awww, RIP Roger Ebert) to their signature Beau Thai Chicken: lightly battered chicken tossed in a spicy garlic sauce and string beans, served with white jasmine rice.

The papaya salad was a little heavy on the Thai lime dressing but otherwise a refreshing way to end the meal.

We were happy with our first Beau Thai delivery experience. One thing to understand before you order is that it's not cheapo bulk Thai food.  You aren't going to get days of leftovers for $5.  Instead, it's high quality food served in smaller portions than we're used to for takeout.  If you want mega American-style portions, it's probably a good idea to order more dishes than you normally would.

Have you been to Beau Thai?  How is the dining-in experience?

Second Thoughts From B

Half the fun of having Thai or other Asian food delivered to your home is the next day's leftovers.  The business model of inexpensive mountains of food piled high over rice or noodles is well known.  But Beau Thai seems to be trying to break the mold.  Is there such a thing as "gourmet delivery"?

Call me old fashioned but as good as Beau Thai was, I missed the delivery experience.  I missed the enormous portions of mystery meat slathered in overly sweet or hypersalty sauces that mixed perfectly with white rice.  I missed the soggy vegetables and copious amounts of individually packaged condiments.  I missed the gluttonous waddle to the kitchen to find 47 pieces of mismatched Tupperware to store the rest of our bounty.  And most of all, I missed the soupy, mushy, deliciousness reemerging from the fridge the next day on the fast track to the microwave.  That is what delivery is in my mind.  It is not good for you and it certainly isn't gourmet, but it is familiar and wonderful.  I missed that with Beau Thai. 

Beau Thai should be commended for trying to elevate delivery.  They were effective in bringing the restaurant experience to our home.  But it seems that my little reptilian brain couldn't handle it.  So I guess we'll have to enjoy their food in their restaurant next time because as disoriented as I was, it was tasty.
Beau Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 8, 2013


Would you roll your eyes if I told you that we checked out a new cupcake place?  How about a frozen yogurt place?  Are you completely over the cupcake and fro-yo trends and ready to move on to donut mania 2013?

Before you jump head first into donutville, take a moment to consider Dupont Circle's new Yocake.  Yocake is the brainchild of siblings Ellen and Edward Quach.  Their mom is a French-trained pastry chef and her recipes inspired over 90 varieties of cupcakes in Yocake's rotating selection.  The siblings opened up a shop in Rockville and one in the Montgomery Mall (since closed due to foodcourt renovations) before setting their sights on DC. 

We had the great fortune to be invited to an opening party to see what Yocake is all about.  The Quach siblings and their super friendly staff gave us slices of about a dozen different cupcakes to sample.  I loved the banana caramel coconut, the raspberry lemonade, and the chocolate peanut butter, while B gave high marks to the almond pear and key lime pie.  The cupcakes are reasonably sized and moderately priced at $2.75 each.  They have a "buy 5 get 1 free" deal that's unlimited. So, for your next office party you can buy 50 and get 10 free. They also run a special where they'll give you a free cupcake if you check-in on your mobile device (limit 1 per customer and 50 per location per day).

If you're not in a cupcake mood, you can go straight for the frozen yogurt.  They have a rotating flavor selection ranging from tart Pinkberry-style flavors to sweet flavors like cake batter.  The toppings bar is top-notch with homemade (!) mochi in several flavors and unique toppers such as mango popping bubbles.  They also have cookie-yogurt sandwiches called Yokies that looked pretty awesome.

If you want to go all in, try the namesake creation: the Yocake.  You pick a cupcake flavor, they put it in a cup, then swirl your choice of frozen yogurt on top.  They will also top it off with your choice of toppings from the toppings bar.
B and I split a banana caramel coconut cupcake topped with cake batter yogurt, coconut mochi, and blueberry popping bubbles.  I really liked the yogurt and toppings but waited too long to dig down in the cup to get to the cupcake.  By the time I reached the cupcake, it was cold and crumbly with frozen frosting.  This was probably user error on my part, but I think I'd prefer having the cupcake served on the side.  This is coming from the kid who ate all the ice cream out of the Baskin Robbins ice cream cake and never touched the cake, so take that for what you will.
Yocake sent us home with a dozen cupcakes so we could continue our sugar coma right into the work week. Who wants cupcakes?

While cupcakes and frozen yogurt may not tickle your fancy like they did a few years ago, Yocake's unique spin makes it worth checking out.  I challenge you to find a nicer, more enthusiastic group of store owners.  You can taste the effort and enthusiasm they put into each unique cupcake recipe.  Mom should be very proud.

Second Thoughts From B

I understand your skepticism.  You must be thinking that if you butter us up with enough buttercream, we'll sing your praises throughout the blogosphere.  And I'd be naive to say that my sugar coma didn't positively affect my impression of Yocake.  So instead of waxing poetic with flowery non-descriptive adjectives, let me spell out a few of the concrete things I liked, and yes, didn't like, about Yocake.

What will make me come back:
  • The family: there is something to be said about supporting a local family-run business.  You won't meet a nicer group.
  • The prices: Outside of the generic options at Safeway, where else can you get cupcakes for under $3 these days?
  • The variety: When they said they have 90 flavors, I did a double take.  I then assumed it was made up of ridiculous novelty flavors but as they rattled off example after example, I was intrigued more than skeptical.
  • The frosting: It was more than a hit or two of sugar.  The flavors were distinct and interesting.  Maple and almond were memorable and several of the fruit-based flavors were outstanding.
  • The location: Unlike a few other notable cupcakeries, it is not in Georgetown.
  • The toppings: To me, the frozen yogurt experience has nothing to do with the yogurt.  Unless you have an off the charts fun factor, the toppings are what does it.  Bonus points for homemade toppings.  The mochi was soft and the bubbles perfectly tart.
What might send me to Baked and Wired:
  • The cake: with the notable exception of the carrot cake and some of the fruit cakes (that have real fruit chunks!), the cake was simply a vehicle to get the frosting in my mouth.  Some were on the firm and dry side but I did appreciate those that had filling.
  • The seating: unless you are lucky enough to get the only table, you'll be eating your sweets on the go.
Yocake on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 5, 2013


We tried to make a return trip to Energy Kitchen to see if we liked it apart from the free preview night, but found that it is closed on the weekends. It is a huge pet peeve of mine when restaurants in Downtown DC are not open on weekends.  I know that the area isn't as bustling as it is during the week, but there are people who live in Downtown that would like lunch options.  That's why I'm glad Boloco (just around the corner from Energy Kitchen) was open on Saturday.

Boloco is a regional chain of "globally inspired burritos."  They have a location in Bethesda and one in Downtown.  We were really impressed with the look and feel of the place.  From the reclaimed materials to the free wifi and plugs at each table, they make an effort to make you want to sit and make yourself comfortable.  They even have chargers you can borrow to juice up your e-devices.

We were also big fans of the DC-inspired art.  You can even buy it on their website.

Another cool feature is the different menus for different categories of customers: regulars, first-timers, kids, and catering.  The first-timers menu explains the concept. First, you pick a size (original, small, mini, or 2x mini bundle) and whether you want a burrito or a bowl.  Then you choose a flavor combo (from buffalo to Bangkok thai). Finally, you choose a protein (from white meat chicken to tofu).  You may also be tempted by their selection of shakes (mmmmmm nutella shake) and smoothies.  Once you've figured it out, you place your order at the register and then they'll call your name when it's ready.  If you've called in or ordered online, they've got an employee wearing a red hat that will help you out and allow you to avoid the line (cool huh?).

I tried a Memphis BBQ-style bowl: a blend of pinto beans, rice, sweet BBQ sauce, and coleslaw topped off grilled steak.  The steak was over-done (no pink at all), but the rest of the bowl was a winner.  I added some hot sauce to balance out the sweetness of the BBQ sauce and it made for a sweet and spicy bowl o' fun.  It's unusual to find BBQ flavors in a burrito bowl, and I dug it.

B tried the teriyaki-style bowl with chicken.  This is much more in line with a typical rice bowl but B was impressed with the bold flavors and healthy dose of veggies.

I'm not sure that Boloco is a go-out-of-your-way-because-it's-amazing place, but it is a very solid lunch choice if you're in Downtown.  Particularly if you're there on a Saturday and everything else is closed!

Second Thoughts from B

While those of us who live downtown might get a little miffed that certain eateries are dark outside of normal business hours, I get it.  The golden triangle is bustling at noon on a Tuesday, but is a ghost town at that time on the weekends.  It is one of those chicken/egg things that I won't attempt to solve here.

Like Energy Kitchen's hours, Boloco's cuisine and business model certainly centers around the working lunch.  It is no surprise that it is designed to be eaten quickly, over a laptop, for multiple days in a row.  The fact that the food had an impressive depth of flavor was a bonus.  That it seemed geared to the health-conscious was a revelation.

Between the very non-American serving sizes, the calorie counts, and the emphasis on fresh and natural ingredients, I can see why Boloco might build a strong following among the desk bound.  I felt like I was paying for quality rather than quantity, which is certainly rare in this type of place.  I loved that you could order online for pickup and choose from a fairly diverse selection, all while leaving the guilt of another fried mystery meat sandwich or over-salted soup at the door.  As someone who is at the mercy of a government cafeteria during his workdays, I have to admit that Boloco made me a bit jealous.
Boloco on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Osteria Elisir

As the song goes, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run."  I don't know if Chef Enzo Fargione is a Kenny Rogers fan, but he certainly pulled a Gambler-style move with his restaurant Elisir on 11th Street in Downtown.  Fargione (formerly of the shuttered Teatro Goldoni on K Street) opened Elisir near the end of 2011 as an Italian fine dining concept with tasting menus and the average check around $130.  Fargione came to realize that the expense account Italian restaurant concept wasn't going to work.  He closed the restaurant for about 10 days and rebranded it as Osteria Elisir with a more country Italian feel.  With the new decor come lower prices and more simple, home-style cooking.

Only a few weeks into the new concept and it seems to be a good move.  Case in point, we live up the street from the restaurant and never bothered to try it under the old concept.  And we eat out A LOT.  Once the restaurant was revamped, however, we tried it on the second night.

Overall, we had a really good experience with Osteria Elisir.  We loved the huge open kitchen and that Chef Fargione was working the line and checking each dish on a Saturday night.

While we enjoyed a wide variety of dishes, the one we managed to photograph was the Roman-style fried artichoke.  As we wrote in our post on Dino, B has been searching for "the one" artichoke to bring him back to our trip to Rome.  This one was dressed up with a sophisticated (and potent!) creamy anchovy garlic sauce, but at its core was a taste of that great meal in Rome's Jewish Ghetto.

I have a few quibbles with Osteria Elisir that I think will get worked out as they find their identity:
  • In their rush to redecorate a whole restaurant in a short span, I think they had some misses. The rope lighting, fake fruit, fake flowers, etc. looks a lot like they ran into a Home Goods and bought everything in sight.  Some of it works, some of it doesn't.  Please ditch the rope lights!
  • The service was very helpful but the pacing was very European.  During the 25 minute-plus waits between courses, we felt like we were right back in Italy.  Or worse... Spain.
  • If you are going to charge $6 for an accompaniment for your bread basket, please make it a healthy serving.  The ricotta we got to go with our bread was served in a comically tiny dish (however, it was tasty ricotta).
I don't think any of these things should keep you from checking out Osteria Elisir.  We're glad Chef realized it was time to "fold 'em" and reinvent his concept.  Smart thinking from a guy who certainly showed he knows how to cook.

Second Thoughts From B

J wrote her half of this post last week and has been hounding me ever since to finish it.  She has even co-opted some of our friends to crack the whip.  Hopefully whatever dribble falls out of this brain of mine makes up for the wait...

A few months ago I helped organize a training course on "effective communication strategies" for several of our senior scientists.  Among the things that the instructor emphasized was the concept of identifying a single message.  Since most audience members won't remember more than one or two things from any presentation, paper, interview, etc., he reasoned that it was critical to control that sole take-away idea.

I think restaurants are not dissimilar.  After a few days of separation, my thoughts on a place usually boil down to one or two distinct memories.  Maybe it was a mind-blowing sauce or an absent-minded waiter.  It could be a particularly loud group of diners or an inedible dessert.  Sometimes it is more general like a comfortable dining room or a series of familiar flavors. Regardless, without J's super-human memory or this blog's archive, I'm not going to remember every single dish, interaction and emotion from every meal I've ever had.

I'll let you decide if my delay in writing this post was intentionally meant to better solidify my thinking about Osteria Elisir (it wasn't), but I will say that I do have a few distinct memories from our time there.  First, as J said, it was clear that they were still working out the kinks but the potential was there.  Second, every single thing on the menu looked like something I'd enjoy.

While I'm generally easy to please and have been known to let the server decide which direction I'll go, I usually can narrow things down to two or three of dishes I'm most interested in.  Not so at Osteria Elisir and this was not a small menu either.  It could be that the chef is particularly gifted at designing a menu and describing appetizing dishes but it seems more likely that this is a reflection on the offerings themselves.  Either way, I'm curious and willing to investigate further.  And doesn't that seems like a pretty good take-home message?
Osteria Elisir on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I have a serious ramen problem.  I would probably eat it every day if I could.  There's just something so comforting about a giant bowl of noodles in soul-warming broth.  My absolute favorite bowl of ramen is the Hakata Classic (with extra noodles and endorphin sauce) at Toki Underground.  But, for the days when I can't wait hours for a table, I'm glad there are other ramen places popping onto the scene.

Daikaya on 6th Street NW (next to Graffiato) had been rumored to be coming forever.  They built the restaurant from the ground up.  Seriously.  It was a dirt lot a couple of years ago.  After a long wait and approximately 86 bazillion articles and tweets about when it would open, Daikaya finally began serving ramen on Valentine's Day this year.

The 40 seat ramen bar on the ground floor is open but the 90 seat izakaya section will open upstairs later this month.

We went after 9:00 p.m. on a rainy weekday and scored one of the two booths with no wait.  Aside from the booths, there are seats at the bar and a few communal tables with stools.  I hear they are working on more coat/purse hooks (a key feature in my book).

The menu is limited, placing the focus squarely on the ramen.  We ordered the only appetizer, gyoza, which were about the same as all the other gyoza in this town.  If you've had one, you've had these.

There are four types of ramen to choose from: Shio (salt); Shoyu (soy sauce); Mugi-Miso (barley-miso); and Vegetable Shio (salt with vegan stock).

I ordered the Shoyu and liked the roast pork and soy-marinated egg a lot.  I also thought the noodles had a nice snap to them.  The balance was thrown off by too many bean sprouts that imparted a strong sprouty flavor and a heavy soy sauce component.  I know it's a soy sauce ramen, but I stopped tasting the complexities of the beef/pork/chicken broth after a few slurps and felt like I was slurping soy sauce.  I read somewhere that it takes a while to figure out the balance of the Shoyu broth and I think they need more time to figure it out.

B was the big winner with his Mugi-Miso ramen.  The barley-miso broth was deliciously complicated and interesting.  This is more like the Toki broth that I've come to love and I'll be ordering this bowl o' noodles the next time we eat at Daikaya.

Will there be a next time?  Definitely.  I think Daikaya has a lot of promise and I like its convenient location and lack of crazy long wait times.  If you do encounter a wait for your table, you can grab a drink next door at Graffiato (psssst....they have prosecco on tap!).  They are also now open at lunch time in case you get a noodle hankering while you're at work.

Have you been to Daikaya yet?  What did you think?

Second Thoughts From B

Depending on your position on noodle soup, I'm either lucky or cursed.  Thankfully, I'm on board and enjoy our frequent sojourns to the ends of the earth (Cambodia, Wheaton, etc.) to find J's favorite comfort food.

While I do love a hot bowl of ramen or pho or Campbell's, I'm clearly not the connoisseur that J is.  As long as it is hot and salty and has some form of noodle-like substance, I'm a happy camper.  This is not to say that I don't recognize the good from the great.  Toki Underground and others certainly deserve the praise they receive.  It is more to say that I don't need a chef's touch to be happy.  Therefore, speed, availability, friendly staff, and cost are bigger factors for me.

In Daikaya, you have all of those things, plus J-approved ramen, within a short 15 minute walk of our place (and less than 5 minutes from Gallery Place-Chinatown's metro stop).  Sounds like a winner to me!
Daikaya on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 4, 2013


H Street NE has so many great restaurants, it can be hard to choose. However, since most of the popular H Street places don't take reservations, it can be mighty tricky trying to pick a place for a group of friends to meet for a quick dinner prior to a show at the Atlas Theater.

The need for quick and easy led me to H&Pizza, a new-ish kid on the block, that makes individual-sized pizzas fast. I hate to say it's the "Chipotle of pizza" (the "Chipotle of ____" is as played out as "____ is the new black") but it's a similar concept.

You can tell the very friendly pizza topper what you want on your pizza and what kind of crust you want it on (traditional, whole wheat, or multigrain) or you can choose from one of their suggested combos. They've got everything to top your pizza from shrimp to strawberry balsamic finishing oil to vegan cheese.

All the topping options overwhelmed me so I ordered the pre-designed Farmer's Daughter (spicy tomato, housemade mozzarella, hot sausage, farm eggs, spinach, parmesan, red pepper chili oil). You can ask for them to make the farm egg topper runny or scrambled (the answer is runny, duh).

B went a little crazy and ordered a side salad, Moonstruck pizza, and a dessert pizza!

The Moonstruck was topped with "mushroom truffle" (is that a truffle truffle?), goat cheese, roasted mushrooms, fig marsala, red pepper chili oil, and crushed black pepper.

The dessert pizza, which we shared with friends, was nutella, sweet ricotta, strawberries, powdered sugar, and pecans. You really can't go wrong with this combo (though I'd vote for fresh strawberries or at least something less syrupy).

We left very impressed with H&Pizza. First, it's hard to beat the prices. $8.64 for a pizza packed with gourmet-ish toppings is a steal. It's only $6.82 for a simple pizza with dough, sauce, cheese. Second, it was good pizza. It wasn't the very best ultimate fantastic pizza in DC but it tasted high quality and the crust had a nice crispy/soft combo texture going on. Third, the people were really nice. We went on a Friday night and the place was packed full of people (including a huge group of Gallaudet students having some sort of meet-up). The staff handled the crowd really well and our pizzas came out of the oven in minutes.

My only complaint is the space and set-up is a bit awkward. It would be nice if you could pay for your order while you are waiting for your pizza to come out of the oven. Having everyone crammed into the small space near the pizza oven didn't work well. There is also little counter space to put your tray o'pizza while you're trying to move from the pick up area to the cashier area. It all felt a little jumbled and confusing. Finally, the ventilation system could use some work. There was a thick haze of smoke in the air and my winter coat smelled strongly of smokey pizza fumes for days.

Logistical hiccups aside, I recommend H&Pizza for a quick and easy bite on H Street NE.

Second Thoughts From B 

In my defense, I arrived at H&Pizza after a long day at work which caused me to skip lunch. Despite my huge order, I would have made my 16 year old self proud by polishing off everything with ease (not to mention gusto!), plus a few slices of J's pizza. I don't say this because I'm proud of my most recent gluttonous exploits. Rather, I want the readers to know that my thoughts on H&Pizza were heavily influenced by a rumbling tummy.

Just like no one should call Chipotle fantastic Mexican food, I don't think you'll confuse H&Pizza with gourmet pizza. You probably wouldn't even put them in the same class as some of the District's more accomplished pie slingers like 2Amys, RedRocks, or We, the Pizza. But in a country that loves the freedom to make choices, as well as immediate results for a cheap price, this place is a winner.

Since we so unpatriotically forfeited our right to create our own pizza and went with items on the menu, I can also say that H&Pizza is more than an oven at the end of a toppings buffet. I was impressed with the quality of ingredients and the contrasting flavors and textures that demonstrated more culinary expertise than your average college pizza joint. And the people were nice. Say what you want about my hunger bias, I am confident that the people were nice. H &pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 10, 2013

TwoDC Turns Four!

Four years ago today, we started chronicling our adventures in DC.  We had no idea that our little journal would turn into a blog with over 400 posts covering our lives in DC from A (Acadiana) to Z (zpizza).  In fact, we've written about at least one restaurant from every letter of the alphabet except X.  2013 will be the year we complete the alphabet!

On 2/10/2009, DC was welcoming a brand new President to town.  On 2/10/2013, DC has the same President but an entirely new crop of restaurants to dazzle him with.  New restaurants are popping up so fast, we can't come close to keeping track.  4 years ago we never would have thought that H Street NE and the 14th Street Corridor would be the hot places in town to slurp a bowl of noodles or eat a toffee bacon donut.

We are thrilled you've joined us for every up and down over the past 1,460 days.  Without readers like you, we'd just be writing to our parents.  It kind of bewilders us that anybody except our parents is even out there.  Hello not-our-parents-readers and hello to our parents too.  Here's to more adventures in DC (culinary and otherwise)!

Second Thoughts From B

4 years is a long time to do anything.  Seems like we should be graduating with a degree by now.  I guess that is one of the great things about this city that we call home.  After 4 years of exploration, there is still so much for us to see and do.  Glad to have everyone along for the ride!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hank's on the Hill

Catching up on some culinary adventures, we take you to Hank's Oyster Bar on Capitol Hill.  You may be familiar with the Hank's near Logan/Dupont or the Old Town Alexandria location.  Hank's on the Hill is the youngest sibling in owner Jamie Leeds' mini-chain. 

The space is narrow and dominated by a large bar on one wall.  DC's master mixologist Gina Chersevani (of Buffalo and Bergen fame) has partnered with Hank's to create "Eddy Bar" featuring a wild menu of cocktail creations.

On this visit with a group of friends, we shared a plate of fried oysters for the table.  If you can't get down with the slippy slidey-ness of raw oysters, these lightly-coated fried bivalves are for you.

Hank's has a chalkboard that lists where the raw oysters are from that day.  Since we know approximately nothing about oysters, we let our waiter choose a selection.  He explained which ones were brinier and which had a smoother finish.  I dump cocktail sauce and horseradish on them and they taste pretty much the same to me.  An oyster expert I am not.

I've never met a lobster roll I didn't like, so I couldn't resist ordering the Hank's version.  I was pleased with the large lobster chunks and light touch of mayo.  The onion rings were a big disappointment.  They were bland and two of the four (yes, four onion rings) were made from the stringiest part of the onion, making them very hard to eat.

Since apparently B didn't have enough oysters for the appetizer course, he ordered the oyster po boy.  Though it was oyster overload, I think he liked the sandwich version of the fried oyster appetizer.

One of the coolest things about the Dupont Hank's location, the half price raw bar from 10pm to midnight every night, does not appear to have made its way to the Capitol Hill location.  This late night happy hour is what makes Hank's stand out in our minds, so I hope they'll consider adding it to the Hill location. 

Even without the late night discount, Hank's makes a nice addition to Pennsylvania Avenue SE and I'm glad to see their recent roof fire didn't keep them closed.

Second Thoughts from B

I've written the latter half of nearly 400 blog posts under the heading, "Second Thoughts."  The title is simply an allusion to our TwoDC theme that provides two perspectives on all the wonderful, and sometimes not so wonderful, things to do and eat in Washington.  In this post, however, "second thoughts" takes on a more traditional meaning... regret.

Any loyal reader knows that I enjoy eating almost anything and that allows me the flexibility to order the "best" thing on the menu.  Sometimes this is determined by the masses (i.e., Google), sometimes a waiter/waitress gets an assist, and sometimes the answer is written in giant letters over my head.  In other words, when I go to Hank's Oyster Bar, I'm ordering oysters.

The problem with that strategy is that on this particular night, I got a bit carried away.  I'm sure some of you love oysters enough to have them featured on three different plates.  I'm not one of those people.  By the time my po boy showed up, I was oystered out.  Don't get me wrong, they were good.  Really good.  But I had enough of the rich, salty, sliminess and was wishing I ordered a salad.

So to the good people of Washington, learn from my mistake.  Skip the third straight oyster dish, but don't skip a trip to Hank's.
Hank's Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon