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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Eating Our Way To, From and Across Washington DC


Okay, you can't eat this but it certainly screams "WASHINGTON DC"



Rose's Hilltop Diner

I am so happy that this was our first stop on the road to Washington. It was everything I wanted in a diner. Unassuming on the outside but once you open the door, you are awash in the hum of a packed diner in the full swing of a busy lunch service. Regulars packed the counter, arguing over sports and local gossip and almost every table was occupied so I was thrilled that we snagged a table beside a window overlooking a nice hilly, wooded slope. I am sure that once spring comes, the view is beautiful and we plan to return so I will be able to let you know that first hand.
everything was fresh, home made and absolutely delicious

As always, we based our order on what the waitress recommended so that meant that I ordered biscuits with sausage gravy, Shack had sausage gravy smothering his country fried steak and The Kid got his pancakes filled with Reese's Pieces. All of the food was clearly fresh, home made and served piping hot, the service was brusque and prompt and everything we ate was delicious. I dropped a Canadian $10 bill in the washroom and someone handed it over to the waitress. When I saw her hold it up to the light to look at it and show it to a patron and they were wondering if it's even real currency, I knew it was mine. The new Canadian bills are actually polymer with a sheer panel down the side so if you haven't seen one before, they can look kind of weird but I was still thrilled that someone actually found it and handed it over, even if it looks like shiny monopoly money. Of course, this act of good faith just reinforced my naive fantasies about small town America, diners and an Opie on every corner.

waffles full of Reece's Pieces? Don't mind if I do

Rose's Hilltop Diner on Urbanspoon

Hill Country BBQ place


I had a place picked out for our first dinner in Washington but Shack really wanted BBQ. On the recommendation of our waiter at the hotel, we ventured out to Chinatown to seek out his choice for us,  Hill Country BBQ. As soon as we opened the door, I started to have some doubts as it just felt a bit like a tourist trap but I have eaten in many touristy restaurants that also serve great food and it smelled amazing so we grabbed a table. The food is served in the back so you get a card, take it back there and get your food at a couple of different stations where you pay for your meat by the pound and all sides are about $4 to $5 each for the smallest size.  Be careful because it really adds up - the kid asked for a tiny bit more meat and his 1/2 lb of ribs ended up being just shy of a lb and at $20/lb before sides, that is not a cheap plate of ribs. I would expect to pay $20 for a plate of ribs with a couple of sides - if I am fixating on the cost of a meal it usually means I wasn't as happy as I should have been. When I am happy, I don't care about price.

the collard greens and slaw were the best sides

Don't get me wrong, it was not a bad meal by any means, it just wasn't a great meal and I don't like to waste precious stomach real estate on meals that are not amazing. In the end, it was the only place we ate during our trip that none of us had any real desire to return to. I am sure that there is much better BBQ in DC so feel free to share any spots that we might want to try on our next visit.

The chicken was actually the best, with the ribs coming in second and a slightly dry beef brisket coming in third
410 Seventh St NW, Washington D.C., 20004


Lincoln's Waffle Shop

x 2 visits

Lincoln's was one of two places that we went to twice. After having lunch there on our first day, we returned to the next day to eat more of those fried chicken wings. For lunch, I had fried chicken and two over easy eggs, The Kid had a big salmon cake with eggs and Shack enjoyed some down and dirty, greasy spoon spaghetti with meat sauce. Clearly we enjoyed our meal because the next day, we dragged our travelling companions out of bed and over to Lincoln's for a 6:30am breakfast feast. My friend, Jen, got the chicken and waffles with a side of grits, I got the same thing as day one (I am a creature of habit), Shack had TWO bacon and tomato sandwiches just because and Jen's husband, Warren, had scrapple with his waffles. I am not sure what scrapple is, but it sounds like scrabble and it tasted like haggis to me. I like haggis and I like scrabble, so I like scrapple.

addictive fried chicken wings with fluffy, chewy but crispy waffles

People, this is the real deal. The chicken is shatteringly crunchy without a whisper of greasiness, the waffles are sweet, crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, the service is brisk and friendly and it's reasonably priced. It's also packed from the time it opens at 5:30am until the time it closes at 4:30pm (3pm on the weekend) so be prepared to line up for a bit and to have to get cozy with your neighbours when you finally snag a seat. If you absolutely NEED a halo of personal space, go somewhere else.




Lincoln's Waffle Shop on Urbanspoon



MXDC 

Shack and I walked past this place at about 6:30am on one of our early morning walks and I made a mental note to return for their happy hour after reading the menu in the window.

Unfortunately, we only had time for a quick drink and a snack so we only had the guacamole ($5) and the rockfish aguachile ($6) but that was enough to tell me that this is a place I want to return to for a full meal.

I LOVE happy hour and Washington does it up right. In fact, happy hour is so popular there that I downloaded a Happy Hour app  to help us find one every day. These people take it very seriously and even the nicest restaurants have one.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in DC for happy hour, please stop in to MXDC and have some $5 happy hour tacos for me.
I only wish that we had made it back for more than this wonderful guacamole and aguachilie style ceviche
600 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005




Legal Sea Foods


Legal Seafood is a Boston chain of upscale seafood restaurants on the east coast with the majority of them located in Massachusetts. Since we were dining with a Boston native, I wasn't sure if she would want to eat here but she was thrilled by the prospect of fried clams so we had dinner here on the night of their arrival. All of the food was very good because, despite being a chain, Legal maintains a pretty high standard and it's always a really safe bet when you are unsure of where to go. Having a chain that is dependable AND serves great quality food when you are travelling can be priceless.

a giant vat of perfectly cooked mussels did not disappoint
As can always be expected at one of these places, service was very good, food was very good although I found the restaurant to be very dark - I certainly don't want to eat with overhead fluorescents or anything but I hate overall, dull lighting. Nobody's food was mind blowing but it was fresh and well prepared which is a must when you are eating seafood.

my meal was boring as hell but that was my fault for ordering a plain piece of grilled fish, plain rice and the fancy butter on the side. It was all perfectly cooked, just a snooze fest. Legal Sea Food deserves better than this sad dinner order lol
704 7th St NW
Washington DC 20001


Black Salt


This was the place where we really wanted to spend our NYE but that was not to be since it is wildly popular and, therefore, sold out by the time we decided to go on our trip. Luckily, Jen made us a lunch reservation so after a morning of museum hopping, we grabbed the kid, jumped into a cab and made the trek out to Black Salt. Lunch is always a great option when you want to try a more upscale restaurant and this place offers a great lunch prix fixe deal ($20 for three items or for $25 you can add a glass of one of the featured wines). I am going to give this place it's own, dedicated blog post later in the week so stay tuned for that but in the meantime, behold our luncheon bounty.

4883 MacArthur Blvd., 
Washington D.C. 20007


Boqueria

Black Salt was sold out so I was really pleased when we could get NYE reservations for this Spanish tapas place so last minute. For those of us who could drink alcohol, it was a great deal. For $110 each, you could drink as much of the featured wines, sangria, beer or cava as you like. Unfortunately, two people in our party were not drinking at all (one due to teenagerness and the other to pregnancy) so it was not the most economical of choices but everyone seemed quite happy with the food and the venue. We booked a 10pm seating so we could be there for midnight, which, in retrospect, might not have been the best idea. By the time we got there, everyone seemed to be much farther along in their revelry than we were and it kind of felt like the staff was kind of eager for everyone to just go home so that they could start their own NYE party. I am sure that service would be much more attentive on a regular night.

roasted butternut squash, hazelnut praline and Mahon cheese

We were served an extensive selection of tapas and churros for dessert. It seemed like it wasn't going to be enough food at the beginning but by the end of the night, we all found ourselves to be full and satisfied. I would definitely like to go back on a normal night and eat there again.

three of my favourites - Pan con Tomate, Montado de Foie and a scallop crudo

the patatas bravas were promptly inhaled - delicious




Boqueria
1837 M Street NW
Washington DC 
202.558.9545



Old Ebbit Grill 

x2 visits



Looking for a great spot to have a happy hour cocktail, we asked our car valet at the Hilton Garden Inn,  Robert, where he would go if he could leave and go out for a drink. Without hesitation he said "Ebbits". Robert was also the man who sent us to Lincoln's Waffle House so we were buying whatever he was selling.

This place was already on the radar and I was hoping to fit it in at some point anyway so we took his advice and headed on out. He directed us to walk through to the back of the place to one of it's three bars and we found seats right beside the spot where they shuck the oysters and get the seafood ready. We ordered drinks and an assortment of oysters and had just got to work on them when I noticed two guys building this enormous seafood tower so I wandered over to get some pictures and ask questions. It's normally about $125 but during Happy Hour it's half price. That means it's only $65 for that sexy beast! Unfortunately they don't have a happy hour on holidays and since it was early on NYE, we would have to pay the full $125 for it if we wanted it but if I lived here, I would be popping in at least once every week or so for a glass of prosecco and that tower.



As soon as I got back to the hotel, I made reservations here for our final dinner on New Year's Day. The boys were going to spend the day at the Winter Classic hockey game and I knew they would be famished so this seemed like the perfect choice for them to enjoy a big, hearty last DC supper.

The place is totally old school with a tinge of faded glamour that makes it fancy and cosy all at the same time. You can totally imagine, back in the day, the movers and shakers of DC kicking back in the lounge with cigars and bourbon, wheeling and dealing over a giant platter of oysters. Mix that atmosphere with excellent, attentive service and perfectly prepared classics like clam chowder, crab cakes and grilled slabs of meats and you have got yourself a winner.

That is the NY Strip Steak up there on the left and the Berkshire Pork Chop on the right. The pork chop eater proclaimed it the best pork chop he has ever eaten and the steak was absolutely perfect. It was hard to get more out of the boys eating these dishes because I couldn't hear their remarks over the moans and chomping.


I, myself, am proclaiming this to be one of the best crab cakes I have ever eaten. It was certainly the most buttery

Between us, we also had a clam chowder, catfish tacos, apple pie and peanut butter pie and all were wonderful. All in all this place is a wonder - founded in 1856, bought and sold, time and again and finally relocated for the last time in the early 80's, it's Washington's oldest saloon and an absolute landmark in it's own right. No visit to DC is complete until you visit Old Ebbitt Grill at least once. Since it serves brunch, lunch, dinner, late night and has a number of bars on site, you will probably visit more than once.

the famous seafood tower under construction
I am sad to say that this was not for us


These were ours and they were spot on. Fresh, full of briny sea water and ice cold

Old Ebbitt Grill on Urbanspoon

 


Shake Shack


I am not really a burger gal but there was no way I wasn't going to try one at the Shake Shack. Often compared to In and Out, the Shake Shack is famous along the east coast for it's burgers and the shakes made out of frozen custard instead of ice cream. We were with our good friend, Jen, who hails from Boston and loves good quality, American fast food but, somehow, she had never eaten here either so it was particularly exciting to go there together. Since her last name ends with "meister" and we are the Shack's we all felt like we had no choice but to order the new Shackmeister. It was like a sign from above that we all needed to eat this scrumptious cheeseburger with crispy shallots and shacksauce ( we wisely added bacon, tomato, onion and pickle at the recommendation of our cashier- always ask the people who work there what THEY like).


The burger was freshly made and still faintly pink in the center, soft and juicy and the toppings were perfect. If you are in Toronto you will understand when I say it was like a Burger's Priest burger with fancier toppings. The crinkle fries were so good that I ate the whole order, another thing I almost never do. When you kind of eat for a living, you have to be disciplined when it comes to eating this kind of food if you don't want to double your weight every year so these are the kinds of foods I generally only have tastes of so when I tell you I ordered and ate the entire thing myself you can assume it's absolutely worth it. 

Take that however you want to but the last time I ordered a burger and fries for myself and ate the entire thing was when I was pregnant with my almost 16 year old.


Shake Shack on Urbanspoon


Inlows Drive Inn

Quick shout out to Inlows Diner in Duncansville PA. On the drive home, I was having trouble finding a place along the road where we were going to want to eat. It was going to be way too late by the time we would reach Rose's Hilltop Diner but it was nothing but a sea of bad fast food chains and things were looking grim when I stumbled upon this place that was about 10km up the road.



It says that it is home of the hotdog and it features an entire menu of possible hotdog variations, all based on a 12" dog (I am not sure why the don't refer to it as a foot long, but just to be contrary, we started calling them 30cm dogs). The restaurant is an old style diner with a great looking counter with lots of items with very regional specific names. When I asked what a "gob" is, the waitress brought over a selection of whoopie pies. When I said  "oh, look, they are whoopie pies" I got a look and she just said "obviously you are not from around here. These are gobs."
It seems there is an age old whoopie pie war raging between Maine and Pennsylvania with both sides laying claim to the contentious sweet.

Note to self: When in Western PA, do not refer to the whoopie pies as whoopie pies.

Nobody got anything fancy (locals seem to favour some sort of hot dog concoction that involves splitting the dog and filling it with cheese) but it was a good hot dog, coleslaw was tasty and my chili was clearly homemade, the bowl was huge and although it was far too beany for my liking so I could only eat half of it , it hit the spot and was much better than whatever I was going to get at Bob Evan's even if he does insist he's "down on the farm".

285 Inlows Rd
Duncansville, PA 16635


Washington odds and sods

This truck was jam packed with stuff that nobody could figure out how she was able to pump out hot chili, coffee, corn dogs or smoked sausage sandwiches but, like a clown car on crack, she just kept disappearing into the back of the van and coming out with steaming kettles and hot food

I so want to taste Chick-fil-a but their crazy, fundy corporate ways are a problem for this leftie, commie Canuck. That said, this food truck was everywhere and I almost caved more than once.
A Pho Truck? Be still my beating heart

The front of Black Salt is a full on fish monger shop

We never made it inside by we passed it a million times, I loved the signs and it will be my first stop next time

Chinatown is a hotbed of good places to eat, very few of them Chinese

Don't miss this exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum of American Stuff