Thank you to all who provided tips to guide us on our trip. This is my report. First, I want to preface by saying how lucky we were (not!) to be in Wash DC and NYC for the hottest weather on record. We were very torn between going sightseeing and just cooling in the hotel, but ultimately we managed a combination that we could live with. However, the heat certainly dampened our appetites, and made us less interested in food and eating as a baseline. Nevertheless, there were highlights and lowlights.
Here is the DC portion of our trip.
We set out to eat cheaply and ethnically, so it was almost humorous that on our first trip out, my husband brought the google map I’d created with pinpoints, but not the directory to it containing names and addresses of the restaurants. So we looked at the 4 dots closest to where we were standing and melting at that moment, and attempted to figure out (map resolution wasn’t great), what any of my pinpoints might have been. We ended up at Zaytinya. This was a delicious meal and by ordering lightly, we kept the prices down. The fatoush salad was very welcome in the heat, and the crispy eggplant and meatballs in tomato sauce were good. But the standout was the marinated grilled octopus over yellow pea puree. Absolutely delicious, tender, flavorful. We also really enjoyed the granny smith apple sorbet that was a component of one of the desserts.
Dinner that night was Peruvian chicken at El Pollo Rico in Arlington. Really, I didn’t think it was all that. It was fine, and cheap. But I’ve had much better chicken. The chicken and the garlic sauce and the pita/pickled turnips etc. at Zankou chicken in LA blows this place away.
Next day’s lunch was at Etete – a place I had been looking forward to since my trip to DC 2 years ago when Etete was closed and I ended up at Shashamane. It was worth the wait. The food – the veg platter and yetibs fitfit (spicy beef) that the waitress tried to dissuade us from ordering on account of spice – it was all delicious. We stuffed ourselves for not very much money. The injera was great, the meat was great, I have a weakness for the cabbage and potatoes and those were great. Even the lettuce and tomato salad which looked unassuming was seasoned with some Ethiopian spice which gave it some intrigue.
Dinner was meant to be happy hour at Jaleo. It was going to be our splurge because it was our anniversary. But it started on a sour note because we got there at 6:20 and cooled our heels at the bar waiting for a spot that never opened up so that we could partake of happy hour (ending at 7). Maybe I should have known better, but it was a Tuesday, and I didn’t realize how popular the place was. Once we were seated at a table, things started to look up. The pan con tomate was delicious, but I need to set the record straight for other tourists. There’s no magic here. It is a slice of toasted white bread, fairly ordinary, with some high quality tomatoes mashed into a paste and spread thinly on top. Anyone can make this at home, and for $5 per slice of bread, they must have quite the profit margin on this one. We also had the apple/fennel/manchego salad (very refreshing) that I’ve since made at home. Also the very interesting cold garlic/almond soup with grapes, crabmeat, and vinegar. One of the best dishes we had was the duck confit rice, which was very rich, ducky, and mushroomy. The shrimp in garlic I felt were pretty average. Nothing special. We topped the whole thing off with a couple of pretty light sangrias and called it a night.
On our last day, we had lunch at the Tortilla café after walking through the Eastern Market. Lunch was good, if not terribly inspired. We tried pupusa, plantains, tamale, fish tacos, and yucca. I am a sucker for plantains and loved those. The Horchata was also spot on. The rest was good quality but didn’t seem particularly bright or lively compared to other mom and pop Mexican places I’ve been to. I wished they had a salsa bar and that wasn’t present either. The whole joint seemed a little too clean and corporate for the food to really wow us. We also didn’t know it had been filmed on FTV, but Guy Fieri’s face was bigger than life all over the place. We tried to face the other direction J.
However, I would not send anyone to Eastern Market even for shopping, much less for a touristy, sightseeing experience. I was sorely disappointed. I was looking for a Ferry building (SF) or Pike Place (Sea) experience. These markets are different from each other – one is grungy but large with lots of variety and people watching (and lots of good cheap eats). The other is smaller but upscale with fancy “cheap” eats that are more expensive. Eastern Market was grungy and small. There were no eats really, and the atmosphere was dingy and unappealing. I was sad to have spent any of our very limited time there, but we made up for it with a walk to the nearby Library of Congress (and found what we were looking for at Chelsea Market in NY).
Anyway, given that we had more hits than misses, I am grateful again to the board for your advice, and I look forward to our next trip so that we may try the other 50 places that were on our list.
1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
7643 New Hampshire Ave, Takoma Park, MD 20912