You’ve heard of New York-style pizza and Chicago Deep dish but the pizzas at Matthew’s Pizzeria in Baltimore refuse to be put in a box (figuratively speaking- they’re small, only 8 inches for a small and 10 inches for a large). The crust is thick, but not as thick as deep dish. Some have claimed that they follow the New England style of Greek pizza but whatever way you slice it (see what I did there?) their pizza is some of the best I’ve ever had. Rumor has it that they have a bit of lard in the dough, which is no surprise because it is decadently buttery.
I went for a small crab pizza, which wasloaded with crab and absolutely delicious. It’s easy to see why, since 1943, this has been Baltimore’s classic pizza spot. You might even be unironically called “hon” by one of the friendly waitresses.
Matthew’s Pizzeria is located at 3131 Eastern Ave, Baltimore.
Baltimore has a plethora of food markets, unlike DC, which really only has Union Market (which is fantastic) and Eastern Market (which I find underwhelming). Of Baltimore’s food markets, the most famous is Lexington Market (established in 1782) and the most famous spot inside Lexington Market is Faidley’s Seafood, established in 1886. It should be noted, first and foremost, that Lexington Market is located in a rather terrifying neighborhood.
Despite its proximity to other, nicer areas of Baltimore, such as the Inner Harbor and Mount Vernon, Lexington Market is just plain rough. You’ll find lots of people loitering around, many of whom appear to be high on drugs, some of whom are panhandling. Fortunately, Lexington Market is just a block from the Light Rail and across the street from Baltimore’s little-used single metro line. However, even walking that short distance to Lexington Market will likely unnerve most people. Once inside, Lexington Market is still pretty sketchy and has a rundown feel to it. However, a police presence means that you at least won’t feel totally unsafe.
Faidley’s itself is nice enough, boasts classic decor and the crab cakes for which it’s famous are tasty; they are clearly all crab meat with minimal filler. However, as tends to be the case with crab cakes, prices are steep and one crab cake from Faidley’s doesn’t really make for a filling meal. Faidley’s does have its own tables where you can eat. However, if you plan on eating anything not from Faidley’s you’ll have to eat in Lexington Market’s general seating area which is – you guessed it – sketchy and not the nicest.
Faidley’s may be an iconic spot but is it really worth it to visit for a crab cake that (while perfectly good) is not really memorable? Not particularly, in my opinion. To make it worth it, Lexington Market (and the neighborhood around it) would need a major makeover.
Faidley’s Seafood is located at 400 W Lexington St, Baltimore, MD.
Aladdin Restaurant, located in a Bangladeshi strip mall in Arlington’s Yorktown section at 5169 Lee Hwy, was my first foray into Bangladeshi food. For the Indian/Pakistani food lover, a lot of the food here will be familiar: there are samosas, kabobs, lamb vindaloo and even chicken tikka masala.
However, the must-try dish here and the specialty of the house is the kacchi biryani, which takes hours to make and is only served on Saturday. Aladdin Restaurant’s website said to call ahead to ensure that kacchi biryani was available but I simply lucked out and it was on the menu the Saturday that I went. This unique biryani is made by cooking marinated baby goat, lamb and chicken under a bed of uncooked rice in the oven, such that everything is cooked at once. This makes the rice extra flavorful and is the reason this dish takes so long to prepare.
At Aladdin Restaurant, a mere $13 will score you a generous plate of this extra-flavorful biryani, made with lots of TLC. This is a true, home-cooked soul food and I’m sure a place like Rasika would charge an arm and a leg for the privilege of eating it off one of their gold plates. As you might imagine, the décor at Aladdin Restaurant is basically nonexistent, but that’s not what you’re here for.
Yes, I know there are people who swear by frozen custard. That slice (scoop?) of boardwalk Americana that brings back nostalgic memories of summers on the Jersey Shore or at Rehoboth Beach. I get it. Frozen custard is tasty and I do like it marginally more than regular soft-serve. That said, I much prefer hard ice cream. The Dairy Godmother, a cutely-named, popular and friendly spot in the lively Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, specializes in frozen custard. My salted caramel frozen custard, which came in a delicious waffle cone, was tasty. That said, as frozen desserts go, I still like my hard serve.
The Dairy Godmother is located at 2310 Mount Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA.
I had heard many people extol the virtues of the duck noodle soup at Chinatown Express. Given the very mixed reviews of the place online and the fact that it seemed like a bit of a tourist trap, I was deeply skeptical. However, given the fact that there are few authentic Chinese spots remaining in DC’s sad Chinatown and since they do have someone in the front window making noodles by hand, I figured I ought to give this veritable institution a try. I went on a nice evening and sitting outside was pleasant, despite the fact that the outdoor seating is hardly idyllic and you’re likely to be placed next to an A/C unit or something similar. Nevertheless, it all would have been pleasant enough had the food been better. The duck noodle soup really was disappointing; the duck had little meat on it and the broth was thin and utterly lacking in flavor. I left feeling that my skepticism was warranted and not understanding why people say they love this place. If you insist on eating Chinese food in Chinatown, stick to Reren or China Boy.
Chinatown Express is located at 746 6th Street Northwest.
I entered El Catrachito, a tiny restaurant in Wheaton in what clearly used to be a railroad car-style diner, having little idea what Honduran food was. I left wondering why it isn’t more popular. Mexico has its tacos and El Salvador has its pupusas while Honduras has baleadas. What are baleadas, you ask? Well they are a deliciously unhealthy tortilla folded over and filled with refried beans, scrambled eggs, avocado and cream. I ordered the baleadas mixtas which also had deliciously-seasoned chicken and beef thrown in for good measure. Make no mistake: there is nothing remotely healthy about these bad boys. But they are extremely satisfying.
This cute little spot is nothing remotely fancy but it certainly is delicious and well-worth a visit.
El Catrachito is located at 2408 Univ Blvd W in Wheaton, MD.
At first glance, this small, storefront Thai restaurant in Arlington looks like a run of the mill Thai restaurant. But look more closely, and you’ll notice signs that this is no ordinary Thai restaurant. The picture on the wall, for instance, is of people on horseback on a steppe with a yurt. That’s because the owners of Thai Eatery aren’t Thai at all but are, in fact, Mongolian and this is a spot that (in addition to an extensive Thai menu that I didn’t try) serves up authentic Mongolian food. How did I know that? Well, I probably would just have bypassed this place as just another Americanized Thai restaurant had it not been for the fact that a college classmate of mine lived in Mongolia for a time and tipped me off about the place. I ordered raisin juice to drink, which is a traditional and refreshing Mongolian beverage. In case you’re wondering what raisin juice is, you’re not alone. I, too, couldn’t fathom how a dry raisin could produce juice, so I looked it up. It turns out that it’s made by soaking raisins in water and then evaporating the excess liquid.
For food, I ordered khuushuur, which are fried dumplings filled with juicy beef, and a bit of broth, making them reminiscent of soup dumplings, but fried. An interesting Mongolian tradition is the belief that holding warm khuushuur between your hands will boost circulation thereby promoting health. I’m not sure there have been scientific studies showing whether the boosted circulation offsets the artery-clogging that is sure to occur from eating these. Either way, they are delicious (but very heavy).
Thai Eatery certainly isn’t fancy, but it’s a solid place to grab a tasty and reasonably-priced Mongolian meal.
Thai Eatery is located at 1926 Wilson Blvd in Arlington.
At long-last, DC has a Georgian restaurant. While many people are confused that Georgia is, in fact, a country in addition to being a state, Georgia has one of the world’s greatest cuisines and one of its oldest wine cultures. In fact, Georgians will claim that the country is the world’s oldest wine producer but the Cypriots and people from several other countries would beg to differ. Regardless, Georgia makes some truly excellent wine, and the beautifully-decorated Supra is a perfect place to savor some. Some Georgian wines are fermented and aged in a large clay jar called a qvevri and Supra offers several of these. At the friendly Georgian waiter’s recommendation, I had the Orgo Saperavi. At $16 for a glass, it certainly was expensive, but it was an excellent red.
The food was fantastic as well. We started with the tasting board, which includes pkhali (a type of ball of vegetables that is hard to describe but that tastes amazing), three Georgian cheeses that could stand toe to toe with the world’s best, eggplant, additional spreads and warm, delicious fresh bread. It was beautifully presented. Then we moved on to khachapuri. Georgia has many kinds of khachapuri, which are stuffed breads. We opted for the ajaruli, a boat-shaped khachapuri that is filled with cheese and an egg. We finished with khinkali, Georgian soup-dumplings that are a bit similar to Chinse xiao long bao. While tasty, they could have had a higher soup to meat ratio and were only lukewarm inside. That would be my only criticism of what was otherwise a fantastic meal.
Supra is located at 1205 11th Street NW.
Back in my hometown on Long Island, we have a little Japanese grocery store where the friendly sushi chef, Takahashi-san, makes delicious and reasonably-priced sushi in the back. Takahashi-san, who has a son my age, is a fixture in my hometown and has a loyal following of regular customers, including my father. I didn’t realize how spoiled I was to grow up in a place where I could get a tuna roll for only around $5 or so. Here in DC, I rarely eat sushi because it’s so damn expensive; even a supermarket roll costs over $10 and the pieces of $1 happy hour nigiri at Tono Sushi, a great deal by DC standards, are almost comically tiny.
Yet, improbably, hidden in a building downtown, Sushi Express exists. The place is basic and mostly for takeout. It’s only open weekdays and closes at 7 pm. But, it might be the best place in town for affordable sushi. Tuna, salmon and yellowtail rolls are only $4 and there are great-value combos as well. This is definitely the place if you just want your sushi fix without breaking the bank.
Sushi Express is located at 1990 K St NW #400.
I had passed by Bul, a Korean restaurant in Adams Morgan, countless times before trying it. While I love Adams Morgan (it’s my neighborhood), I don’t tend to take restaurants on 18th Street very seriously. I would NEVER eat at one of those spots that’s primarily a fratty bar that happens to serve food. There are, however, some solid spots: Zenebech, Donburi, Sakuramen and Himalayan Heritage come to mind. When I finally did go to Bul, it was only because a friend of a friend (who is Korean) had recommended it. Moreover, it was our third choice of where to go that night, after our first choice had been closed for a private party and our second choice was packed to the gills. I’m so glad we went- the food at Bul is delicious, authentic and reasonably-priced.
One of my friends who I was with has made it very clear that she absolutely hates the thought of having children. However, after trying Bul’s kimchi fried rice with pork, she declared that she was in love with the dish and that having the dish’s babies was “negotiable.” For my part, I tried a bunch of dishes including the seafood pancake (excellent), the galbi (excellent) and the Bul Korean Fried Chicken (so spicy that I was crying). Definitely don’t make the mistake I made of overlooking this place and give it a try!
Bul is located at 2431 18 St NW.