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An LA Chowhounder's Trip to D.C.

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Restaurants & Bars Washington DC & Baltimore

An LA Chowhounder's Trip to D.C.

DrBruin | | Oct 15, 2009 06:32 PM

So, I was very excited to travel to Washington, D.C. for the first time. We stayed a block away from the White House. We were there for 6 days and ate at several places. I'm going to (try to) be brief. I posted a month or so ago and asked what quintessential D.C. fare there was to be had... and, the answer I received was, there really wasn't anything that D.C. was known for specifically. Well, I have an answer.... it has to be grease. While not everywhere I ate at was greasy, it was shocking how much grease there is to be had in the Nation's Capitol. My wife and I ate at several different price points... and walked out of one place.

In no particular order...

1. Bobby Van's - We went there with my only friend on capitol hill the first night we arrived, since we arrived late and missed our reservation at Oyamel. My friend suggested Bobby Van's because it was in close proximity to the hotel I was at and because it was a well regarded steakhouse. We were sat down without reservations after about 5 minutes at around 7:30pm on a Thursday, which was nice given how busy the place appeared. We ordered water and drinks. My drink never arrived until I told the waiter after he checked in on us after someone else delivered the entrees. Anyhow, I'm happy with water and I was thirsty, so I didn't mind. I ordered the french onion soup... and, I have to say, it was a mediocre at best rendition. There was an off flavor to it and it was saltier than I'm used to. Not impressed. My friend ordered the salad. Looked good but not worth the price. My wife skipped out on the starter and stuck with the main. My friend ordered crab cakes, which were about the size of a hockey puck and looked good. He enjoyed them. I ordered the filet mignon medium rare, and it came out medium on the inside and very charred on the outside. The flavor was beefy. The portion was large but overall a disappointment compared to some of the great steakhouses I've been to in my life. I ordered a side of sauteed spinach and, at the recommendation of the waiter, the hashbrowns. The spinach was served in a puddle of water, which required some drainage. Fortunately, it tasted good. The hashbrowns on the other hand... don't bother ordering them. They're greasy in an unpleasant way. Not worth it. My wife's halibut was slightly overcooked but my wife didn't mind. The service was not up to the level that I would expect from a higher end steakhouse.

2. Cosi - This is obviously a chain but we've never seen it before. We had lunch and breakfast there. The location we went to had a horrible workflow to order the food and the people behind the counter seemed confused. LUNCH- They screwed up the greek salad that my wife ordered, and the greek salad that I ordered. They fixed it immediately. The sandwiches were small but it tasted fine. The salad was also fine too. Nothing mind blowing. BREAKFAST - The coffee was undrinkable. They ran out of the majority of the flavors of what they call bagels (sorry, bagels are not square and shouldn't look like they're pressed out of a stamp machine) by 9am. My wife said they screwed up her bagel sandwich order. I decided not to eat there.

3. Corner Bakery Cafe - Well, it's a chain as well, and for a quick breakfast, it's decent.

4. Etete Ethiopian Cuisine - After a long, long walk, we made it there. I decide don this place after reading a lot of reviews. This was my first time eating Ethiopian cuisine. We ate upstairs. The service was spotty, particularly on the drink refills, when we wanted to order, when we asked for our check, when we put our credit card to be picked up, and, we got very little explanation or recommendations. Our server looked like she was 15 years old.. I wanted to go spicy but my wife and her friend can't handle spice. We ordered the Tikul (ground beef sauteed in butter... and, it was a bit dry and buttery... nothing wow), Yefem tibs (sliced seasoned steak... one highlight of the meal), Yebeg Alicha (a lamb dish), and a veggie combo dish. I actually don't think we got the lamb dish and they gave us 2 of the Tikul instead. However, I can't honestly tell you since the waitress looked at me like she didn't understand english when I asked her what everything was on the communal platter. The injera was bland with the texture of a pancake. I think it went well with the food. I love meat but I have to say the collard greens were the best thing I ate at that restaurant.

5. Coco Sala - After eating at Etete, we wanted to have some desserts. The restaurant is decorated in a dimly lit and somewhat stylish atmosphere. The patrons either looked to be couples on dates or groups of women in for their chocolate fix. My wife and I ordered two of the four chocolate 3 course menus (the xocolatyl/aztec/spicy chocolate experience and the grownup/american experience.) I enjoyed nearly everything I ate. The aztec experience started with churros and a dulce de leche dip. Delish. Everything on the main course menu tasted good but I have to say the chipotle truffle was disappointing in the sense that it was bland. The final aztec course had a very tasty chocolate horchata drink. The mexican wedding cookie was a decent rendition but not my favorite cookie in general. The american grownup experience was also tasty but didn't blow my mind away. The amuse was a tiny but tasty boston cream pie (the filling wasn't exactly the consistency that I'm used to, which was fine, because it was lighter) and a small but tasty coffee panna cotta. The highlight of the main course was peanut butter chocolate dessert. I don't think it was ice cream but it had a light peanut butter (not overly sweet) flavor with a chocolate on top. I'm not a fan of malted candy, so the shooter was the only item left on all the plates. The final petit fours course of a the minty cup and the popped rocked strawberry cheesecake lollipop were also just ok. I was expecting more of a mint burst. The best part about the lollipop were the pop rocks lightly crusting the outside. My wife's friend who accompanied us and is not adventurous, elected for the chocolate tasting menu. They had chocolates in firm (think lindt candy bar square), semisoft (think more of a truffle texture), and liquid (think chocolate milk) from a white "chocolate" to a 70+% coco bean chocolate. I had a taste just 2 of the firm chocolate (the closest to milk chocolate and the darkest chocolate). I'm not a huge fan of very dark chocolate, but it tasted good. It tasted a bit like a a regular dark chocolate covered espresso bean.

6. Ben's Chili Bowl - Okay, so we know it's an institution and has historical significance. One of the owners also just passed away the day before we went. We got off of the metro, walked upstairs, found it right away. There was a long line. . We stood in line for about 10 minutes, barely moving and in a barely ventillated or air conditioned restaurant.. We saw dish after dish pass us by. The chili looked okay, but the velvetta cheese liquid they had on the fries, looked unappetizing. On top of it, we were,putt off by the smell of grease. I honestly think I needed some acne medicine and a cholesterol lowering medication just from standing there. We walked out without eating anything. I'm sure the chili is tasty but the grease factor was just too big a turn off.

7. Matchbox Pizza - We went to their Chinatown location. The Chinatown area itself is hilarious, since it's not really a china town... looks more like a disney set with non-chinese restaurants with chinese characters as decorations. I'm guessing historically, chinese people probably were there but they look like they haven't been there in a long while. Anyhow, to the food... the pizza, albeit a tad greasy, was delicious. We ordered a half veg, half pepperoni pizza and 2 salads. My wife ordered the simple salad, which was good. I had the chopped salad, which was also good. The pizza was thin crusted with a nice char on the crust. The toppings were generous and tasty. I enjoyed everything I ate and based upon reading the menu, I probably would have been happy eating there every day.

8. Potbelly Sandwich Shop - Okay, another Subway like chain we don't have in LA. Scratch that, it's basically a Quizno's under a different name. I had the works and it tasted fine. My wife ordered the turkey, which was also okay. I think I liked it better than Quizno's but not as much as Subway (only because subway offers more veggie toppings). We also had their oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, which were pretty good.

9. Capitol City Brewing Company - You can really skip eating here. I would say, unless you're there to get drinks and happy hour specials, the menu is a total snooze fest and the food is mediocre. (My wife's friend with the bland palate suggested this place because she didn't know where else to go.) The service was a notch below the food quality. The bbq chicken salad was just average, to slightly below average compared to what I've had in the past. The burgers looked okay but nothing special. The sweet potato fries were initially served to use undercooked. I sent them back. They came back on the burnt side. I don't think they know what temp or time to fry them at.

When I go back to DC, I only plan on returning to Matchbox pizza. I would go back to CoCo Sala if their menu changes (just to try the new items). If you've never had etiopian, Etete wouldn't be a bad place to try (not that I'm an expert in this cuisine). I would however, ask them if you can get an additional side of just the collard greens. Yum.

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