Evolve Vegan Restaurant

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I can’t believe it’s not mac and cheese!

Evolve Restaurant is a vegan soul food restaurant located at 341 Cedar St NW. As a result of the influence of the Seventh Day Adventists (Takoma Park was their headquarters until they moved to Silver Spring in 1989), Takoma and Takoma Park are a mecca for vegan and vegetarian eating in the DC area. Evolve is far from a crunchy, grungy, granola-eating kind of place. It has the ambiance of a casual but sophisticated restaurant, along with a full bar. It is totally date material, if the person you’re going on a date with is vegetarian or vegan. I ordered Evolve’s most popular combo (at least according to my waitress) which consisted of fried fake chicken with collard greens and dairy-free mac and cheese (it’s vegan so it must be 12903984_10154095582388011_1362039509_ohealthy, right??). The “fried chicken” itself was okay; the batter was a bit too thin for my liking and slid off the fake chicken a bit too easily. The “chicken” itself was a fairly average meatless rendition of chicken, which is to say it was decent enough. The collards were perfectly good collards.The mac and cheese, on the other hand, was the star of the show; it was not only a convincing imitation of mac and cheese but it was actually good mac and cheese in its own right. I have no idea what magic Evolve pulled off to make that happen, but my taste buds were pleased. If you order a main course and two sides as I did, it comes to $11, which is a very reasonable price for what is a huge amount of food (I’m a big eater and I couldn’t finish my meal). Next time I go, I want to try the drumsticks which are actually on a “bone” (I have no idea what said bone is made out of, which is kind of scary). In addition, my waitress was very friendly. This is a great place to eat if you’re curious about trying tasty vegan renditions of soul-food classics, if you’re with a vegan or vegetarian friend, or if you yourself are vegetarian or vegan. If you’re just looking for fried chicken, the imitation at Evolve is not going to cut it for you (but I suspect you already knew that).

 

Queen Amannisa

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Delicious laghman.

Queen Amannisa is a Uyghur restaurant located at 320 23rd St in Crystal City. For the uninitiated, Uyghur food is basically a cross between Chinese food and Central Asian food. They also serve some of the common Chinese American dishes for the less adventurous, but it’s pointless to order things like that when you can order authentic Ugyhur laghman, a delicious stretchy noodle dish with veggies and meat. I ordered the Ammani-style laghman, which was absolutely delicious. The noodles were stretchy and the meat and veggies were cooked perfectly. I also ordered a red jujube tea, which is a Chinese herbal tea that’s a bit fruity. The tea was served in the carafe of a coffee maker,

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Red jujube tea.

which I found a bit odd. It was also approximately $7, so I concluded that it was intended for sharing by the table. In general, I think this place is best-suited for groups. The restaurant is cavernous (I’m not sure how they ever expect to fill it) and the fact that it presents a rare opportunity to eat Uyghur food means it is a great place to share a bunch of dishes and try new things. The staff is very welcoming and is keen to make sure you like the food. The decor is pleasant, though they were playing this annoyingly repetitive elevator music when I was 12914923_10154090899188011_1074126145_othere, which I could have done without.

 

 

Soho Tea and Coffee

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12896347_10154086181283011_2005423119_oSoho Tea and Coffee is located at 2150 P St NW. It’s a cafe with cool decor and ample space to spread out with a laptop or play board games. The people are friendly enough, but it’s a bit of a fussy establishment. For starters, they require a $5 minimum purchase in order to use the WiFi. I understand that they want to keep themselves afloat, but that’s kind of b*tchy. They also have a sign saying no outside food; I would hope most people understand that it’s just common courtesy not to bring in outside food. I ordered a glass of red wine, which at $5 was reasonably priced, but it was pretty crappy red wine. Their late hours are a redeeming quality, but Google Maps shows their hours as closing at 11, while a paper sign on the door said they actually close at 10. If you take the above caveats into account, the ample seating and cool vibe makes this a decent place to stop in and get some work done. I wouldn’t detour for it, though. 

Oyamel

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The raspberry and apple mimosa.

Oyamel is a Mexican restaurant located at 401 7th St NW. It is run by celebrity chef José Andres, which immediately sets a high bar for quality (China Chilcano, another José Andres restaurant across the street, is one of my favorites in the city. The menu is certainly special, and I appreciate the fact that it is not Tex-Mex but instead seeks to bring the full complexity of authentic Mexican cuisine to the capital. I also appreciate the fact that the brunch menu (I went for brunch) includes real Mexican breakfast items that go far beyond huevos rancheros, though they, of course, have that too. The menu is, however, frustratingly tricky to read.

 

We started the meal with a pitcher of raspberry and apple flavored mimosas, which were delicious (I wanted to try the blood orange and

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The Pozole Rojo soup.

chile pequin ones, but I was out-voted). I began my meal with the Pozole Rojo, which is a hominy soup with pork and chiles, garnished with onion, lettuce and sliced radishes. The soup was good and had a nice kick, but it wasn’t my kind of dish; I’m not a big soup eater unless it’s matzoh ball soup or clam chowder and I should know that by now.

 

Next, I had chapulines, which are grasshopper tacos. Yes, they are tacos filled with actual
grasshoppers. And there’s no mistaking them for anything else; you can see the legs and antennae and they’re definitely crunchy. They come in a spicy sauce, so it’s hard to tell what the actual grasshoppers taste like, but this is not for the faint of heart; you remain acutely aware that you’re eating grasshoppers and this was made worse by the fact that my friend kept saying “Jiminy Cricket” to me while I was eating them.

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There’s no mistaking these for anything but grasshoppers.

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The Carne Machaca con huevos revueltos

I finished with the meal with the Carne Machaca con huevos revueltos, which is scrambled organic eggs served on a tortilla with dried shredded beef, potatoes, poblano chile, tomato and a smoky sauce of chile pasilla de Oaxaca. It ended up being way too much food, which is an example of Oyamel’s main drawback: the service. For starters, the server (who was very nice) described the menu as small plates and suggested we get two or three dishes. I could easily have had one dish and something small (like the chapulines) and we all felt a bit led astray by that.

 

In addition, and unlike China Chilcano, the service was so slow and the waitress forgot half of one of my friends’ food. The food was brought out rather haphazardly all at different times, and service quality was simply lost in the shuffle. Unlike China Chilcano, which has airy and spacious ambience, Oyamel feels tight and constricting. Overall, you can see some of the José Andres magic in this place, but it’s still a bit rough around the edges.

 

Bobby’s Burger Palace

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12874448_10154073072198011_1017828677_oBobby’s Burger Palace is a relatively small chain with a DC location at 2121 K St NW, as well as additional locations in Bethesda and College Park. Bobby’s Burger Palace benefits from the immediate name recognition of its owner, celebrity chef Bobby Flay, a largerr-than-life personality on the Food Network. I had previously eaten at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Las Vegas, which serves up delicious, sophisticated, and pricey Southwestern fare. I loved it, so Bobby’s Burger

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“The New Mexico”

Palace was on my list to try. Bobby’s Burger Palace falls into the “Better Burger” genre alongside the likes of Five Guys and Shake Shack. However, there are some differences that make it somewhere in-between a fast food place and a sit-down restaurant. First, you order when you enter but then take a number to place on your table so that a food runner can bring the food to you. Second (and most important) is that the bugers are cooked to order; unlike like Five Guys, where you just choose toppings (though I love Five Guys), at Bobby’s Burger Palace, you can actually choose how you want the meat cooked. I ordered the “New Mexico,” which comes topped with green chilis, queso and 12915218_10154073072263011_414750173_opicked red onions. I appreciate that Bobby Flay brings some of his Southwestern flare into his burger joint; the burger itself was very tasty and had a nice kick to it, though it didn’t blow me away. The fries were good too, but the fry sauce wasn’t thick enough for proper dipping, as far as I’m concerned. Any burger can be “crunchified” by adding potato chips to it for free. In the future, I want to try their shakes (they have a cool list of flavors and you can order your shake spiked with a shot of alcohol. I also need to try their cactus pear margarita, since I had something similar at Mesa Grill and loved it. If you’re not a meat eater and insist on 12914922_10154073072173011_626418075_oordering a salad at a burger place, Bobby’s Burger Palace has you covered with salads that sound legitimately good. The interior is sleek and cool-looking and the staff are very friendly. This is a solid spot if you’re craving a good burger, and the menu offers far more inventive choices than the standard options at Five Guys and Shake Shack. It’s also nice to be able to order your burger the way you want it cooked. That said, I’m not going to crave Bobby’s Burger Palace over Shake Shack or Five Guys going forward; all three satisfy my craving for a fattening, delicious burger that’s more than a cut above a Big Mac or a Whopper.

 

Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar

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“Fried” plantains (top left), curry cabbage (right) and coconut “crab” cake (bottom left).

Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar is located at 402 H St NE. It is a combination of a vegan raw food eatery, a juice bar, and a shop selling an eclectic mix of African products and books, some of which include books about Islam, Christianity, Judaism and … Scientology?? There is also a book that claims that vaccines are dangerous. As you can already tell, this is a really quirky place. Ok, I’m being diplomatic; this is a downright strange place.  But the food really is delicious, which is what matters most. I was pretty unacquainted with the concept of raw food, other than the fact that it was the sort of thing that people like my health-obsessed mother were into. I had assumed that eating raw food meant all of the food had to be cold; apparently

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Berry cashew “cheese”cake

some heating is allowed. The food at Khepra’s is influenced by soul food and Carribean cooking. I had the coconut crab cake for my entree, which (while obviously not containing any crab) was really tasty and was reminiscent of a crab cake. they were out of some of the sides that I wanted, but I ordered the curry cabbage with was very flavorful (with a significant kick) as well as the “fried” plantains (obviously not actually fried) which were great as well. For dessert, I had a cashew berry “cheese”cake, which was delicious if a bit over-chilled. Be aware that the food is a bit pricey considering there’s no meat or dairy; that said, the flavor development in the 12903468_10154068667078011_1662481387_odishes really is great. This is a spot that caters to hippie and Rastafari types- maybe not a place to bring a date, unless you’re both hippie and/or Rastafari types, in which case, go for it! This is definitely a place worth checking out for a unique, delicious, and healthy meal in DC, if you’re adventurous (or wear hemp clothing).

 

Fine Sweet Shoppe

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12722616_10154063984873011_929674983_oFine Sweet Shoppe is a bakery located inside Eastern Market at 225 7th St SE. Despite its name, Fine Sweet Shop is not just fine, it’s great! They have a wide variety of baked goods, but I especially love them for their New York Jewish baked goods, like black and white cookies, ruggalah and hamentashen. As a native of Long Island and an honorary M.O.T. (member of the tribe), I was raised on this stuff. For the uninitiated, hamentashen are a traditional sweet for 12381002_10154063984913011_1764643207_othe Jewish holiday of Purim, which celebrates the story of Queen Esther (and which is an occasion on which Jews are supposed to get so drunk that they can no longer keep the names of the protagonist and antagonist of Purim straight). They are basically a triangular cookie with a filling, named after Haman, the villain of the Purim story (sounds like great drunk food to me). The hamentashen at Fine Sweet Shoppe are HUGE and come in both apricot and chocolate chip cookie flavors. Both flavors are delicious.

DC Ballers

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12874321_10154051410003011_986027070_oDC Ballers is a Middle Eastern food truck. You can check their location on their Twitter. I have very high standards for Middle Eastern food, since I’ve lived in both Jordan and Israel, but the food at DC Ballers is actually better than I expected. I ordered a falafel platter. The falafel is good, especially by the standards of what is available in the US, and the falafel platter comes with hummus, tomato and cucumber salad and tabbouleh. The hummus was not quite my style, but that’s a matter of personal preference. I loved their pita, however, which came topped with olive oil and za’atar. I also ordered a ginger mint lemonade, which was tasty, if a bit too sweet, and not a perfectly accurate rendering of a mint lemonade in Jordan. Overall, this is a good bet for a relatively healthy lunch.

Pizza Boli’s

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12874344_10154051516018011_1777144261_oPizza Boli’s is a regional chain, but this review is for the location at 2455 18th St NW in Adams Morgan, which is one of several locations in the area where you can order the famous DC Jumbo Slice, which is a supersized pizza slice of sometimes marginal quality. Yes, I know, writing about jumbo slices is pretty much sacrilege for a food blogger, but sometimes a huge slice of pizza can hit the spot, and not only when drunk. There are may jumbo slice places, especially in Adams Morgan, and most of them 12674795_10154051516118011_847302275_oclaim to be the original jumbo slice joint. Pizza Boli’s is no different in this regard, except that jumbo slices were apparently invented at nearby Pizza Mart. I do think, however, that the jumbo slices at Pizza Boli’s are better than most of their competitors. The sauce to cheese ratio is spot on, and the crust is good and not soggy. By contrast, I find the crust at Jumbo Slice soggy and the crust at Pizza Mart seems almost pre-made. The pizza at Jumbo Pizza on U Street is best consumed while drunk. Plus, you save $0.50 by going to Pizza Boli’s since their jumbo slice is only $5 instead of $5.50. I wouldn’t trek out of my way to go here (unless you’re looking to show an out of town visitor one of DC’s most infamous traditions) but I live in the area, so it actually makes for a satisfying and cheap dinner option when I don’t feel like cooking.

Bourbon Coffee

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12873628_10154051447308011_848338628_oBourbon Coffee has multiple locations in DC, including at 2101 L St NW (Downtown), 4200 Wisconsin Ave NW (Tenleytown) and 621 Pennsylvania Ave SE (Capitol Hill). The pictures in this review are from the Tenleytown location, but I have also been to their Downtown location. Bourbon Coffee also has a location in Cambridge, MA, but actually started in Rwanda. They serve Rwandan single-origin coffees directly from Rwandan farmers and cooperatives. The Tenleytown location is inside 12874085_10154051447283011_1871285890_oa soulless, concrete building, but the interior is warm and inviting, decorated with Rwandan crafts. It was surprisingly easy to get a seat there on the weekends. The WiFi is good and the coffee is excellent. The Downtown location tends to be crowded, but I seriously appreciate a coffee shop with personality downtown, which is a rare find in a sea of Starbucks and wannabe Starbucks like the very disappointing Greenberry’s Coffee & Tea.