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Trip Report: Car-less Chowing in DC (w/photos)


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Trip Report: Car-less Chowing in DC (w/photos)

J&L | Oct 24, 2005 09:56 PM

Thanks to the DC hounds who provided their recs for a car-less couple visiting DC after a long absence. Here are some of the highlights from our weekend chowing. Chow pictures at the link below.

Hard Times Cafe in Alexandria is just as good as we remembered. We had the Texas (good beef flavor, nicely spiced) and the Cincinnati (spicy-sweet) chilis and an order of the beer-battered rings. The rings were good enough but we'd skip them next time and concentrate on the chili, which was plenty filling. They'll give you a plate with a sample of each of the four chili varieties if you ask. We did. (Friday night: place was jammed.)

At lunch the next day, Mama Ayesha's hommus was just about perfect – smooth but with good body, garlicky, well seasoned. The fattoush was overdressed and too light on the all-important sumac, but still enjoyable. The spinach pie was mislabeled, being more of a small spinach turnover featuring rubbery (frozen?) phyllo understuffed with a spinach-and-olive mixture. The fried kibbeh, delayed coming out of the kitchen, ended the meal on a high note – hot, crispy breading, delicious lamb mixture inside. (Saturday lunch: empty.)

Since Ayesha's is so close to Mixtec, we walked over to see if we could talk ourselves into that Chowhound tradition, a second lunch. Reading the menu in the window, we had almost settled on two tacos al pastor to go when we noted the price. Then we felt full all of a sudden. But found room for a very good takeout cappuccino from Tryst and a mediocre mango sorbet at Maggie Moo's.

Dinner that night was with old friends in Arlington who suggested Harry's Tap Room. The pepper-encrusted rib-eye was excellent and cooked exactly to order. The twin sirloins, one of HTR’s signature dishes, were ordered medium rare but cooked medium well. Sides were standard steakhouse fare. (Saturday night: crowded.)

After a morning at the zoo, we headed over to 2 Amy's for lunch. The marguerita pizza had a nice crispy crust, the tomato sauce was tasty, and the special mozzarella was very good. Only negative was the silver-dollar-sized soggy center of the pie. The pancetta, escarole and tomato panini was excellent – kind of like a foodie's BLT – but not a great value for its size. Service was the big downer. The panini came out long after we had finished the pizza. Lucky we were sharing, or one of us would have been mighty hungry. (Sunday lunch: full.)

Heritage India had two things in its favor – some strong hound recommends and a tempting happy-hour offer (50% off appetizers and selected drinks). We had nice selection of Indian street food: Behl puri with crunchy puffed rice and a tangy sweet-and-sour dressing. Golgappas, which are crispy shells stuffed with potatoes and chickpeas, and come with a little boat of chutney dressing which you pour into the shell ("Eat with one bite!" the bartender exhorted.) Dahi bhalla, which are small lentil doughnuts in a yoghurt-and-tamarind sauce – a bit too sour and gooey for our taste. And shammi kabob – fried balls of minched lamb, which were earthy and wonderful. (Sunday happy hour: a small crowd)

So much for happy hour – what about dinner? When we left DC back in '89 there was little chowing east of Dupont Circle, so we had to check out the action along 14th. Hungry for Asian, we decided on Rice. We loved the Chaing Mai pork sausages, which were greatly enhanced by the chopped lime provided (along with lemongrass, red onion, peanuts, and red bell pepper) as a garnish. The Yum Beef salad was particularly good, and a pretty healthy portion. Also good was the Chicken and Olive with Basil in green tea sauce, a nice twist on your standard chicken stir-fry. (Sunday night: full.)

On Monday, we were up at the Woodley Park metro stop when we realized we had time for a quick lunch before our flight home. We tried Lebanese Taverna. The tabouleh and hommus were standard-issue, with the latter a little too wet and bland for out taste. The arayis - baked pita filled with kafta meat, tahini and tomato – was very good, although one of us thought it had a bit too much tahini. The falafel sandwich, prepared with the Taverna's excellent warm pita, was also delicious. (Monday lunch: crowded.)

Thanks again for the tips.

Hard Times Café
1404 King Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
(703) 837-0050

Mama Ayesha’s Restaurant
1967 Calvert Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009

2Amy’s Pizza
3517 Macomb at Wisconsin
Washington, DC 20016

Heritage India
1337 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC

1608 14th Street NW
Washington DC 20009

Lebanese Taverna
2641 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC, 20008


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