Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Opening Soon: Bakery finally coming to Dupont/Kalorama

Just this past weekend, I was walking by the vacant Universal Gourmet space on Connecticut in Dupont near the tourist black hole known as Buca di Bepo, and I thought to myself how a quality baked goods and coffee shop would do amazing business in that location with the droves of workers walking to work and the tourists streaming from the hotels. Sure enough, Mark Furstenberg, the original baker behind Marvelous Market and international-banker-fav Breadline (who else can afford $10 sandwiches?), is opening a bakery!

Bakeries and butcher shops are sorely lacking from DC's retail landscape, but given the foodie explosion that's still burning strongly, it was inevitable that our sad supply of fresh yeast would soon be over. The only catch here is that Baker Furstenberg was not-too-long-ago hired as a consultant at downtown's G Street Foods, before he got the boot for not delivering (they make a deliciously modern cuban sandwich, fyi).

And don't forget the Bethesda Bagels that is opening just down the street in the thankfully-closed, former Johnny Rockets space (apparently chain-eating American tourists do have some standards). Kalorama is clearly the next 14th Street.

[via: Huffington Post]

Bread Furst (coming soon)
1825 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC
Neighborhood: Dupont
Metro: Dupont
Google Maps

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ShopHouse: Chipotle goes Asian in Dupont (First Bite)

Metro-accessible banh mi.
This weekend, I checked out the much-discussed new Asian concept from Chipotle: ShopHouse. It’s the first and only location planned currently, and it had a soft-opening in Dupont Circle last week. The food is supposedly inspired by Southeast Asian street food, combined with Chipotle’s tenet of sourcing responsibly grown ingredients while churning out orders quickly like widgets.

The space is pretty spare, but the kitchen is astonishingly open to viewing while placing your order. There didn't appear to be a separate kitchen for food prep so you can see everything that the cooks are doing.

Similar to Chipotle’s brand of Mexican, you pick your base--either rice or noodles--and then add your protein and customize your topics. I wasn’t expecting to like the place, given Chipotle’s calorie and sodium bombs/burritos, but the food was veggie-centric, seemingly healthy, and came with a surprising amount of heat and complex Asian flavors for a fast food joint. 

Even more exciting, ShopHouse features Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches on the menu (the super-trendy yuppie food this year). While these were by no means authentic banh mi (as authentic as banh mi in the US go), my sandwich managed to supply that magical mix of french bread, grilled meats, and tangy pickled vegetables. The masterful but simple touch was adding basil to the assortment of pickled vegetables on top. While the bread is definitely softer than the crustier french baguettes that are usually employed in Vietnamese eateries, I am not opposed to bread that doesn't massacre your mouth. And who cares about authenticity when you have basil and metro-accessible banh mi.

Given the Chipotle prices, quick service, and seemingly healthy options, I will be returning regularly.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 4)
Price: $ - Cheap
Recommended: Banh mi with meatballs

1516 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
Neighborhood: Dupont
Metro: Dupont
Website | Google MapsWashingtonian | Yelp

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Opening Soon: Lobster Rolls in Penn Quarter

Considering the lines for the Red Hook Lobster Pound truck and the bounty of boat shoes walking around town, get ready for a cupcakery-style infestation of lobster roll shops. Prince of Petworth is reporting that Luke's Lobster Shack is coming to restaurant-saturated Penn Quarter soon. Yet another NYC-spawned product that I'm begrudgingly looking forward to. (Opening Soon List)

622 E St NW · Washington DC

This time I'm serious. Really!

Ok, now that I'm fully employed again and settled (yay!), I'm going to really try to make this blog useful and current. More streamlined, less wordy, and more updated. So tell all your friends and make sure to come by regularly.

The trendy but still delicious, Banh Mi.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Merzi: Fast Food Indian - Why Didn't Someone Do This Earlier

My first thought while eating at Merzi, a recently opened fast food Indian joint in Chinatown/Penn Quarter, was why hadn't someone introduced this concept sooner on a mass produced scale. Sure, we've had our Naan And Beyonds and Curry in a Hurrys, but I've never seen a polished place in the US like Merzi serve Indian-inspired flavors with Chipotle-style efficiency and decor.

The chicken with curry sauce on a naan carried a surprising spicy kick--I expected more subtle seasoning to cater to the masses--although one can choose among mild, medium, or spicy finishing sauces. The samosas, while dry from sitting under a heat lamp for far too long, had an unexpected slight sweetness from currants or something (I gobbled them down too quickly on the go to pay attention.) And like Chipotle, the portions are large, so I was unable to finish my substantive meal.

The food won't amaze, and it could certainly use some polishing (the corn topping ladeled on my dish was a distraction). But if you need to satisfy you curry cravings on the cheap, Merzi is a solid option, and I expect we will be seeing more of these around DC in no time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Food Review: Tomatillo Tacqueria - The Forgotten Tacos of Dupont

Lost in the food truck craze of the past year has been one of the more novel street vendors to hit DC recently. Tomatillos Tacqueria, serving tacos and burritos during lunch, opened late last year just south of Dupont Circle in the window of the Big Hunt. Yup, that's right. You stand outside of the window of a dive bar, hand over some bills, and proprietor George Grau puts together your order in front of you. In a window. Got it?

I tried Tomatillos last year when it opened, and I found the tacos (3 for $6) to be just OK. Maybe my expectations were too great and I was half expecting some Mexican granny to be working the tortilla press. Returning again a year later, however, I experienced some much improved Tex-Mex cooking. I ordered my 3 tacos with a different meat in each one--pork, beef, and chicken. Add some not-too-smooth guacamole and other toppings if you please (various salsas, onions, queso fresco, and plenty of lime), and you have some of the best tacos in town. (Although I have yet to make it out to Tacqueria La Placita, which is on my hit list.)

The corn tortillas (two of 'em per taco) are a bit thicker than the traditional ones used in more authentic Mexican tacos, but I'm a friend of more carbs, especially when it allows for more fillings! In any case, the meats featured enough char and seasoning to counter the extra heaviness of their surroundings, especially when topped with the punchy tomatillo and habenero salsas. I do recommend that you request the salsas be applied with a lighter touch, to better taste the meats (and to save your lap). I haven't tried the burritos yet, but with tacos this good, I don't feel like I'm missing out.

Tomatillo is only open during the week from 11:30 until 2pm, and unlike those nomadic food trucks, this street vendor stays in one spot. I'm actually feeling a bit foolish for having pretty much forgotten about Tomatillo Tacqueria while waiting in ridiculous lines for korean tacos and lobster rolls, and I won't make that mistake again.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 4)
Price: $ - Cheap
Recommended: Tacos

Tomatillo Tacqueria
1347 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
Neighborhood: Dupont
Metro: Dupont
Website | Washington City Paper | Washington Post | Yelp

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Food Trucks

The blessing and curse of food trucks is that they don't stay in one spot. But using fancy technology like Twitter and Facebook, you can be on top of these mobile food factories' latest movements. And you should check them out because these little trucks are serving some inexpensive but delicious food.

Check out my Food Truck Twitter Tracker on the main page to track these guys, or head to my Twitter List.

district of columbia

Eat Wonky
'Poutine' is their specialty, a Montreal dish of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy.

El Floridano
A taste of Florida in DC, serving pressed cuban sandwiches and bahn mi.

Fojol Bros.
The original outlandish food truck, serving Indian food, colorful turbans, and hints of ethnic mockery.

Red Hook Lobster Pound
Hailing from NYC and serving up some pricey but supposedly super fresh lobster rolls.

They have two carts serving up some seriously good wraps, featuring a diverse array of international cuisines.

Korean BBQ Tacos.

Yellow Vendor (Korean Food Cart)
Serving bibimbap, bulgogi, and other Korean specialties, these guys have been around for awhile.


Rebel Heroes
More banh mi, cubanos, and other sandwiches, with some girl power latino edge!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Top Bites - Bread & Brew Sticky Buns

A sticky bun is an indulgent, messy cross between a croissant and a brownie. It's the American way of taking a French staple--the croissant--and making it silly sweet and then adding excessive nuts and some form of sticky syrup on top. Although Wikipedia says the Germans came up with sticky buns, until I sample some for verification in a future trip to Allemagne, I going to pretend that the Americans have perfected it. Sticky buns just reek of Southern American cooking.

Bread & Brew's sticky bun
As one of my favorites pastries, a quality sticky bun is always a salivating find for me, and one for which I am willing to make a detour. Luckily, Bread and Brew, the oddly off-the-radar bakery and cafe near Dupont, serves a fantastic rendition. It's flaky on the edges, dense and rich in the middle like a cinnamon roll, and crunchy and gooey on top. A tad sweet, but well worth a stopover if you're in the 'hood and craving a little dessert. If you're in need of some more serious grub, they have some pretty solid quiches, pizzas, and specials too.

Bread and Brew
1247 20th St, NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 466-2676
Metro: Dupont Circle
Neighborhood: Dupont

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Buzzworthy: A Beer Garden on H St and Orlando beats DC...again.

Whew, keeping up with all the openings and closings is hard work in this town. One of the most eagerly anticipated openings this year, the Biergarten Haus will hopefully open this weekend. And, if you're on 14th St after a late night out, be sure to check out the newly opened Point Chaud Cafe and Crepes.

Latest updates to the New & Coming Soon page:

Dupont Circle
Lupe Mexican Cuisine (Opening Soon)
1214 18th St NW · Washington DC
--DC really needs a stellar Mexican restaurant, but this location (most recently Sesto Senso) is not a promising one, given the bar crawling on the weekends. (via Prince of Petworth)

H Street
Biergarten Haus (Opening June 11th)
1355 H St NE · Washington DC
--Any new eating and drinking place with a patio is welcome, but a German-styled beer garden with a huge patio is eagerly anticipated! Its opening has been delayed several months, but it should be opening any day now. (via Going Out Gurus)

Logan Circle
Point Chaud Cafe and Crepes (Now Open)
1736 14th St NW · Washington DC
--This neighborhood could definitely use some inexpensive food options, and even better, they will stay open until 3 AM on the weekends. (via 14th & You)

Penn Quarter
Cuba Libre (September 2010)
801A Ninth St NW · Washington DC
--If the DC branch of this Philly-based restaurant is going to be anything like their Orlando location, the space is going to be huge and will channel Havana via Disney's design team (not necessarily a bad thing). The food may be middling, but it's all about the rum drinks and Latin dance nights, right? (via PQ Living)

Carmine's (Opening Soon)
425 7th St NW · Washington DC
--Family-style Italian from a NYC-based restaurant in what will be one of the largest restaurants in town. Eh, I'll reserve judgement until it opens.(via Washington Post)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Buzzworthy: Capitol Hill and More Banh Mi

The New & Coming Soon page has been updated with some new additions to Capitol Hill's dining scene, including the restaurant that I most want to try in DC right now--Ted's Bulletin--a stylish homage to America's diner past, serving breakfast food all day and spiked milkshakes.

And until someone opens a banh mi shop in DC or a metro station opens under Eden Center, another food truck--El Floridano--serving those oh-so-trendy Vietnamese sandwiches will never be passe.