Thinking of my readers on vacation in Antelope Canyon, Paige Arizona
I took most of the summer off, so my notebook is pretty full. Let me catch you up, starting with some stray musings and then turning to my best summertime bites.
Deep Thoughts, by Jack “Rick Eats DC” Handy
Puns are the lowest form of humor, unless you’re a Thai restaurant. Then they’re charming.
Peter Chang’s food tasted better when he was a fugitive.
I have nightmares that all the empty storefronts in Union Station become Tattes.
I have an unnatural aversion to penne.
I don’t believe in the death penalty except for online posts looking for advice ending with the word “Go!”
Kiwis are the Avril Lavigne of fruit. Twenty years ago they were everywhere but now your best bet is a Las Vegas buffet line.
Tortilla chips > Saltines for crumbling in soup
The world’s worst sandwich is the Monte Christo. Never read the book, but my guess is at no point does the Count take a break from swashbuckling for a deep-fried ham sandwich dusted in powdered sugar.
Chicken does not go with waffles.
Ivy City just needs to hang on until Union Market can get there.
You can tell everything you need to know about a person by whether they return their grocery cart to the parking lot corral.
Fads that were fine in moderation but enough already: watermelon and feta salad; uni not in sushi bars; Detroit-style pizza; Detroit.
People complain about being forced to eat turkey during Thanksgiving and then spend the rest of the year ordering cobb salads.
A table covered with rings still looks better than a table with coasters.
And it’s not food-related, but anyone who asks a Tambourine Man to play a song for them is going to be sorely disappointed.
Best Summertime Bites — DMV
Breads and cookies from Manifest Bread, Riverdale Park MD
Some of the area’s best eating can be found in this little corner of Maryland in and around Hyattsville. Manifest Bakery not only has terrific baked goods, they also serve lunch and throw a pizza night every Thursday. The sesame-sourdough above was fantastic. A little good butter made it sing, so using irrefutable logic I added a lot more good butter and it was off the charts.
Pastrami Sandwich (Thursday only) at 2Fifty Texas BBQ, Riverdale Park MD
Speaking of Riverdale Park, 2Fifty Texas BBQ serves up the best ‘cue in DC, and arguably in the DC area (although I am a big fan of the pork ribs at Monk’s in Purcellville VA). The good news is that 2Fifty is opening a second location this winter in Mt. Vernon Square. Hopefully this top-notch pastrami — on equally top-notch Manifest Bakery rye — will be promoted from a Thursday special to a spot on the daily menu.
Carbonara Pizza at La Casina, Washington DC (Capitol Hill)
The crust on these Roman pinsa-style pies is spectacularly crispy, light, and chewy. So keep the toppings limited, like this carbonara pizza with guanciale, pecorino Romano, black pepper, and a wash of egg.
Crispy Calamari with house-made orange chili sauce at Kyojin, Washington DC (Georgetown)
I’m not a huge fan of the new, posh-bordering-on-pretentious sushi restaurant in Cady’s Alley. Too much truffle oil, 24k gold, and caviar added to too many dishes for my tastes (sometimes simultaneously). This excerpt from the website sums up the puffed-up vibe: Our experience is not kid-friendly. We do not have high chairs or booster seats, and we do not offer a kid’s menu. Sunday to Wednesday, we do not allow those under the age of 16 past 7:00 pm. Thursday to Saturday, we do not allow those under the age of 21 past 9:00 pm.
So you can be old enough to vote and join the army to die for your country, but you can’t have a California Roll at Kyojin after 9 pm on a Thursday night. I don’t know what happens after 9 pm, but it’s apparently too much for a 20-year old.
But the calamari was delicious.
Grilled Avocado with Shiso Chimichurri & Tamari-Cured Egg Yolk, Perry’s, Washington DC (Adams-Morgan)
Chef Masako Morishita is doing some great things at Perry’s. How great? These days if the roof deck is full, I’ll settle for eating inside.
Parisian Gnocchi at Lutece, Washington DC (Georgetown)
There’s so much to love at this jewel-box French spot — the sourdough foccacia, charred Napa cabbage, duck, and this gnocchi are all signatures — but you really can’t go wrong. This dish transported me from a DC sidewalk with Metrobuses rattling by to the 4th Arrondissement with much classier Métrobuses providing a delightful backdrop.
Fried Egg Salad at Little Vietnam, Washington DC (Petworth)
My mom asked why anyone would fry egg salad and she has a point. It should probably be called “fried-egg salad” but never mind. It’s one of the best dishes at this wonderful new spot that once housed the late, great Himitsu (and this summer reprised some of Himitsu’s greatest hits in a joint pop-up with Chef Kevin Tien).
Sashimi Course (one of three) at Kappo, Washington DC (MacArthur Blvd)
I’ll make an exception for my anti-tasting menu mood these days for the lovely and intimate 8-course experience at Kappo. The small plates are mostly wagyu-focused, but Chef Ogawa knows his fish and the three sashimi courses stole the show.
Tofu + Truffle Dumplings with corn espuma at Queen’s English, Washington DC (Columbia Heights)
I assumed the phrase “I didn’t miss the meat” was meant to be ironic until I had this dish at QE and I meant the words coming out of my mouth.
Kung Pao Chicken at Sichuan Jin River, Rockville MD
I love a good kung pao and Sichuan Jin River nails it with good heat and bright vinegar/acidity. Be sure to get the “Chinese-Style” made with dark meat rather than the white-meat version for those who like their chicken dry and tasteless.
Potatoes at Albi, Washington DC (Navy Yard)
Chef Michael Rafidi has a way with potatoes. I fell in love with his patatas bravas when he cooked at Arroz, his first DC restaurant. He conjures a similar outward-crisp/inward-fluffy magic with his batata harra dusted in shawarma spices at Albi.
Crispy Potatoes at Melina, Rockville MD (Pike & Rose)
Speaking of potatoes with good crunch and a fluffy interior, I give you the Crispy Potatoes at Melina. Ironically, the other must-order dish at Melina — the slow-roasted lamb neck “kleftiko” — also comes with a small dish of these potatoes. But unless you’re dining solo, you’ll want to order the full portion as well to avoid looking like a jerk who refuses to share.
Chicken mole at Taqueria El Mexicano, Hyattsville MD
Whenever I need my mole fix, I head to this modest storefront in Hyattsville where the sauce is more complex and less stodgy than moles in the area at twice the price.
Best Bites — Out-of-Town
Ramen at Ichiron in NYC (near Penn Station)
Not only is the ramen fantastic at Ichiron, solo-carrel dining is the seating chart of my dreams
Pork and Steak Tacos at Los Tacos #1, NYC (locations near Times Square and in Chelsea Market)
Fish Taco at City Taco, San Diego CA
Lobster roll at Peake’s Island Inn, Peake’s Island Maine (ferry from Portland)
Duckfat fries from Duckfat, Portland Maine
Clam chowder from Eventide Oyster Co., Portland Maine
Duck & Spaetzle at North & Navy, Ottawa Canada
Insalata di Mare at Ci Siamo, NYC (Hudson Yards)
Braised Lamb with celery pesto and pistachio at Ci Siamo, NYC (Hudson Yards)
Finally, we lost Jimmy Buffet over the summer. It won’t surprise you to learn that I pronounced his name “Buff-ay” until some spoilsport corrected me. Jimmy, if you’re out there, they found this behind your fridge. You can rest in peace.