I just got back from 5 days in DC, theoretically for a conference but mostly to see the city for the first time. I got some wonderful advice on restaurants from this board, so I just wanted to return the favor with a recap of the highlights.
After a long and hot day sightseeing I decided to follow iowagirl's example (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/588373) and sprawl on my hotel bed with takeout from Pizzeria Paradiso.
I got the Atomica. The dough was meh (I've been spoiled by Pizzeria Libretto in Toronto) but the toppings were amazing. This pizza singlehandedly made me reconsider my position on olives - never been a fan, but these were meaty and juicy and briny and went so well with the cheese and salami that not only did I not pick them off, I actually admit that they enhanced the pizza. My only regret is ordering the 8" instead of the 12".
Afternoon snack at Georgetown Cupcakes. I sampled the peanut butter fudge and the red velvet. The peanut butter frosting on the peanut butter fudge was perfect - strong peanut butter flavor and perfect buttercream texture - but the cake was disappointing. The "fudge" filling had the taste and consistency of Hershey's chocolate syrup, and although the cake was moist with a good crumb, it wasn't very chocolate-y. The red velvet was much better - frosting had the perfect amount of cream cheese tang and the cake had good flavor as well as texture.
Dinner at Eatonville. I love Zora Neale Hurston so I really wanted to try this restaurant even though they're so new. I had the fried green tomatoes and the crab cake burger with the light beer on tap. I'm a New Englander so I'm not the best judge of Southern comfort food, but I thought the tomatoes were great - the red pepper aioli was spicy and flavorful. The crab burger was so huge I had to abandon the bun halfway through to focus on finishing the burger. It was all crab meat, very fresh and tasty, but I found myself wishing for some more of the red pepper aioli to jazz it up a little. Fries were crispy but oversalted. The service was definitely still learning (my main was served before I had finished my appy, I had to chase a server down for ketchup), but everyone was so earnest and friendly I didn't mind the glitches.
Lunch at Mitsitam, the National Museum of the American Indian's cafeteria. I had the pupusas and coconut-pineapple agua fresca. The pupusas were filled with black beans and topped with fresh slaw - they were tasty and so filling that by the time dinner rolled around I only had room for beer.
Lunch at the National Gallery of Art. I did the Spanish buffet in the Garden Café and it was surprisingly good - especially the gazpacho (nicely chilled with well balanced flavors) and the little meatballs (with a sweet plum sauce). At $19.25 it is definitely on the overpriced side, but since the gallery is free I figured it balanced out.
Romantic dinner for one at Equinox. For my last night in town I took myself out for a nice dinner. Equinox is doing a 10th anniversary tasting menu for $40 pp, which is great value for the quality of the food. (I also did the wine pairings for another $25). The menu is 4 courses, plus an amuse-bouche - actually 2 contrasting bites, one a spoonful of cold salad (basically gazpacho that hasn't been blended) and a shot glass of hot cream of mushroom soup. There were also airy, salty little gougères. The first course was crab agnolotti with asparagus and a sherry sauce. The crab and sherry were a lovely flavor combination, and the pasta was perfectly al dente. The second course was a tiny dish of roasted veggies, mainly summer squash and mushrooms. The veggies were delicious but the bottom of the dish seemed to be coated in mayo which was a little gross. The main course was bbq'd salmon with a fresh corn salad and onion rings. I'm a bit of a Pacific salmon snob, but this Atlantic fish was so perfectly cooked I fell in love. It was grilled to a crispy on the edges and brushed with a sweet barbecue sauce, but the inside was basically still raw - the contrasting textures and flavors were perfect. Dessert was disappointing - it was deconstructed strawberry shortcake, with a biscuit, whipped cream, strawberry-basil sorbet and strawberry sauce. The strawberry sauce and sorbet were wonderful, and the cream was nice and thick, but the biscuit was dense (what my moms would call a hockey puck) and the whole thing was topped with "phyllo hay" that tasted like packing confetti. Dessert was, however, paired with a lovely Moscato d'Asti that more than made up for the dismal biscuit. Service was impeccable, unsurprisingly.
Farewell lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl. I got the chili half-smoke, of course, and a chocolate shake. In flavor and thickness, the shake was eerily similar to McDonald's, so let's skip right on to the dog. The chili was OK, but oh my God, the sausage underneath it was amazing. Crispy charred skin with filling that is blessedly more smoky and spicy than salty. I would buy these by the dozen and then some.
Anyway, I had a wonderful time in your city and I can't wait to come back without any conference to distract me from eating and sightseeing.
Ben's Chili Bowl
1213 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009
Pizzeria Paradiso - Dupont Circle
2029 P St NW Ste 102, Washington, DC 20036
Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe
Independence Avenue Southwest Washington DC, Independence Avenue Southwest Washington, DC
818 Connecticut Ave NW Frnt 1, Washington, DC 20006
1209 Potomac St NW, Washington, DC