Cheap Bites (Courtesy of: Washingtonian.com)
A&J Restaurant: 1319 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD
Very good northern Chinese food served in a cheerful if spare little dining room. Don’t miss the shredded pork and mustard green soup, beef dumplings or cold salads. Credit cards aren’t accepted, and no alcohol is served.
2412 18th St. NW, Washington
Bardia P. Ferdousi has quietly created one of the friendliest neighborhood restaurants in D.C. Aim for the lone window seat, dive into a gutsy gumbo or rib-sticking jambalaya and save room for some beignets.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
1213 U Street NW, Washington
“Black owned and operated since 1958,” says the sign on wall next to the menus at Ben’s Chili Bowl – “a Washington Landmark for over 40 years.” Fashioned as a diner but without the typical heavy neon retro-look, Ben’s only has pictures of the owners and famous Black celebrities (Bill Cosby to name one) that have frequented the joint. It also has a mid-century interior with nice ornate ceilings. You can also get a good sample of soul music while dining there.
If you like American fast food you’ll love Ben’s. Hot Dogs, Half Smokes, Hamburgers, French Fries, Cheese Fries – all smothered in chili, or not if you choose not to have it that way. But as they say, “The Flavor is in the Sauce.” They even have Turkey Burgers, Tuna Subs and Veggie Burgers for the health conscious and calorie counter. Ben’s also serves a traditional Southern fast food breakfast (Hot Cakes, eggs, grits, scrapple, etc.)
If you go there, try to avoid meal hours. The line there is chaotic. There is no “queueing,” just weasel your way to the front counter and order. Seating is also reminiscent of the German Hofbrau Haus – long tables with chairs.
2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, W’ton; 1621 Connecticut Ave. NW, W’ton
For fresh, quick, high-quality Mexican-style cooking, you can’t beat the Burro. Stick to the basics and don’t miss the taco salad, enlivened with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette.
Cafe Dalat: 3143 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA
This unassuming, vegetarian-friendly Vietnamese restaurant is the toast of Northern Virginia’s “Little Saigon” and a favorite among Arlington’s sizable bohemian community.
Eat First: 728 Seventh St. NW, Washington
For Chinese comfort food, this no-frills eatery may well offer some of the best values in Chinatown. If you see soft-shell crab baked in spicy salt on the menu, order it.
Pasha Cafe: 3815 Lee Hwy., Arlington, VA
A pretty white-tablecloth restaurant dressed up with hanging green plants and specializing in the cooking of Egypt. A tip: Focus on the vegetarian dishes and construct a meal from the parade of enticing appetizers.
1711 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA; 771 Hungerford Dr., Rockville, MD
These Vietnamese restaurants set the local standard for pho, the fragrant beef-and-noodle soup. The Arlington location has the most charm; all serve up meals with subtle rejuvenating powers.
2418 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington
Fine charcoal-blackened meats make these smokehouses great; top-notch side dishes make them special. Don’t forget to wash it all down with lemonade, and finish with some homemade chocolate chip cookies.
You Only Live Once – Hot Spots $$$
Atlantic: 2400 Boston St., Baltimore, MD
A canning company turned chic underwater fantasy, this Baltimore destination offers dining on three levels and a mixed but fashionable seafood menu. It’s definitely the place to see and be scenesters in Charm City. Set sail with a trio of crab appetizers, velvety lobster bisque, oysters on the half shell and a seductive cocktail or two.
Bis: 15 E St. NW, Washington
French food with an American twist – that’s among the draws at Jeff and Sallie Buben’s alluring new bistro on the Hill. Honeyed lighting, an open kitchen, a chic cocktail lounge and a smart crowd only burnish the picture.
Cafe Atlantico: 405 Eighth St. NW, Washington
Bouncy music, three colorful floors of dining room and an exciting, contemporary Latin American menu add up to one sizzling scene. Don’t neglect to order a mojito, a pale green cocktail of rum, lime and fresh mint that goes down like a summer vacation.
DC Coast: 1401 K St. NW, Washington
Downtown tastes better than ever, thanks to the return of Jeff Tunks, who’s cooking up a storm (Chinese-style smoked lobster, mushroom-crusted halibut) in glamorous, airy and comfortable digs. Check out the fabulous wine list.
Jaleo: 480 7th St. NW, Washington
Every meal feels like a party in this big, convivial Spanish restaurant, where you can fashion a meal from a list of tapas that stretches to nearly 50 choices.
Kaz Sushi Bistro: 1915 I St. NW, Washington
It’s just what the city has been hungering for: a serene Asian restaurant, replete with a burbling rock fountain and a maestro, Kaz Okochi, late of Sushi-Ko, at the helm. Beyond a pristine selection of raw fish and vinegared rice, seek out such novelties as short ribs marinated in soy sauce and sake and a “Napoleon” of sea trout mixed with peanuts, cilantro and a gingery dressing.
Marcel’s: 2401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington
Robert Wiedmaier has taken over what used to be Provence and named the restaurant after his new son, burnishing the expanse to new lustre. French cooking with Flemish accents is the drill on this talented chef’s menu: Consider boudin blanc with caramelized onions and smoky bacon, the season’s first soft-shell crabs or crisply delicate skate wing, excited with a lemon-caper sauce.
3000 M St. NW, Washington (202) 625-2150
One of the hottest tickets in town, this coolly beautiful space features an extraordinary glass-enclosed wine cellar, a gleaming, million-dollar open kitchen and the refined French-Californian cooking of a maestro.
1017 Seventh St. NW, Washington (202) 783-0699
A chic clientele flocks to this casual, intimate restaurant for a menu that changes daily and reads as if it’s written by a fashion-conscious farmer. Chef John Cochran is redefining luxury dining for the ’90s.
Just a few suggestions on where to quench that summer thirst!
Guapos Restaurant (red line-Tenley Town)
Best Black & Tan
Fado (red line-Chinatown)
Most Expensive Martinis
Felix’s (red line to Woodley Park Zoo)
Most Original Martini (and cheaper too)
Watermelon Martini: CafÃ© Atlantico – What a way to end a hard day!
Best Cultural Mixed Drink – Mojito
CafÃ© Atlantico Again – What’s a mojito you ask? A Cuban speciality of fresh mint, syrup, lime juice and a couple of shots of rum…mmmmm, mmmmm good!