Beefsteak, somewhat confusingly, is a mainly vegetarian restaurant showcasing vegetables (like the beefsteak tomato, which explains the name). It has two locations: 800 22nd St NW in Foggy Bottom and 1528 Connecticut Ave NW near Dupont Circle. I had really hoped that Jose Andres, the celebrity chef behind Beefsteak (and a whole host of other places in DC, like the amazing China Chilcano) could make me like vegetables. The food itself is actually fairly tasty (though I didn’t like the “Frida Kale” when I had it), but it simply isn’t filling. You can add “something meaty” to your dish, such as a poached egg, chicken sausage or mozzarella, but even with that a meal from Beefsteak just isn’t filling enough for me. Most of its bowls are around the $7.50 to $8.50 range, but adding any of the protein options adds a couple of dollars. In the end, you get a meal for over $10 that still leaves you hungry. I’d honestly rather go to Chipotle, but Beefsteak still gets three stars for its innovative concept and fresh, healthy choices that appeal to those with healthier eating habits (and smaller stomachs) than mine. Their homemade juice drinks are tasty too.
Senbeb is a vegan restaurant located at 6224 3rd St NW. Like the nearby Evolve Vegan Restaurant, Senbeb focuses on vegan versions of comfort food. It’s more of a casual, cafe style-spot though, while Evolve is more of a sit-down restaurant. The staff at Senbeb is super friendly and they told me that the “cheesesteak” is their most popular option. It was tasty, filling and pretty convincing! A side salad came with it, but I had no room for that after my sanddwich. They also have some of the vegan soul food options like vegan mac and cheese and collards. This is a cozy, friendly, tasty spot for a friendly, relatively inexpensive meal. Just because it vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy, though- I’m not sure if my “cheesesteak” was remotely healthy but it did taste good!
Rito Loco is a burrito place located at 606 Florida Ave NW (they also have a food truck). Despite this place’s excellent online reviews, I was not particularly satisfied with my burrito (the OG Beef). It essentially tasted like a bunch of ground beef wrapped in a tortilla without much flavor. Maybe I ordered the wrong thing, but I found it subpar.
Far East Taco Grille is an Asian fusion food truck, whose locations can be found on their Twitter. They also have a brick and mortar location at 409 15th St NE, but I haven’t tried it yet. They have two taco trucks and a burrito truck, which are all delicious, but this review is primarily about the taco trucks. There are tons of possible combinations for their tacos, since for each one you can choose a protein (pork, beef, chicken or tofu), pick from a wide selection of sauces, and finish by picking a style. I especially like the “Kimchi-Lime” and “Banh Mi Craze” styles. The 3 tacos for $8 deal is excellent for food with such great flavors. Last time I went, I ordered a pork taco in the “Banh Mi Craze” style, a beef taco in the “Volcano Fajita” style and a chicken taco in the “Kimchi-Lime” style. They were all delicious, though the “Volcano Fajita” was a bit less special since it lacked the Asian fusion element that makes Far East Taco different from the average taqueria. I usually order my tacos with the sweet and medium spicy #15 sauce.
Tony’s Place is a small diner located at 622 Kennedy St NW with additional locations at 1400 Good Hope Rd SE in Anacostia and 1401 H St NE . This tiny, no-frills, counter-serve spot offers some of the best-value breakfasts in DC; I ordered the breakfast platter which includes 2 eggs any style, a choice of bacon ham or sausage plus toast and homefries or grits all for $5.19 (plus tax). The bacon was a little tough, but no complaints about the value overall. To me, this place is to the Kennedy Street Corridor what Ben’s Chili Bowl is to U Street and Horace and Dickie’s is to H Street NE, a classic spot serving up cheap, tasty food. They also have breakfast sandwiches with an astonishing array of meat options including ham, bacon, sausage, bologna, turkey sausage, ribeye steak, scrapple, smoked sausage, country ham, beef scrapple, turkey scrapple, and even salmon. Prices for these are also low and range from $1.99 for just egg to $4.39 for egg, ribeye steak, and cheese. There is also a wide variety of lunch options including DC classics like half smokes and whiting sandwiches, soul food classics like collards and smothered pork chops, the kinds of organ meats that another Tony (that is Anthony Bourdain) loves like gizzards and livers. They oddly serve boca burgers too. This place isn’t for those looking for an upscale experience; the interior is cramped, dim and basic, but for a tasty, hearty and cheap breakfast this place is hard to beat!
Caribbean Citations is a Jamaican restaurant located at 1208 Maple View Pl SE though it’s located right on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in the center of Historic Anacostia. I happen to love Historic Anacostia and really wanted to like Carribean Citations. The tagline of the place is “turn a parking ticket into a meal ticket,” since they offer discounts to those who bring in parking tickets and you can enter into a raffle for the restaurant to pay your parking ticket (one lucky winner is chosen each month). This is a fun idea, plus I went on a beautiful warm day and sat outside with old friends. The food, however, left a bit to be desired. I ordered jerk chicken with plantains and coco bread. We all agreed that the coco bread basically tasted like a large dinner roll. The plantains were good, but the jerk chicken wasn’t as flavorful as it could have been. Nonetheless, this place would have gotten three stars, but for the fact that part of my chicken was blatantly undercooked. Fortunately, I didn’t end up with food poisoning, but I was less than pleased. The rum cake for dessert was very tasty though. My experience with undercooked chicken might well have been a fluke, but I can’t in good conscience let that slide.
Culture Coffee is a coffee shop located at 709 Kennedy St NW. I had been curious about this place for a long time since it is pretty much the only independent coffee shop between Petworth and Takoma. In fact, I had never even been to the Kennedy Street Corridor on which this place is located, aside from the very edge of it at 14th and Kennedy NW. Kennedy Street is a mixed residential and retail street, but a large number of the retail establishments are vacant, likely due to the fact that this area is pretty far from a metro station (according to Google Maps, Culture Coffee is approximately a 30 minute walk from each of the closest metro stations: Petworth, Fort Totten, and Takoma). What this means is that Culture Coffee is a true neighborhood spot, with a homey, friendly vibe and an atmosphere where everyone seems to know everyone. They made a newcomer like me feel at home right away, though. “Miss V,” the motherly lady working the coffee bar is a total treasure and very warm. Plus, there is comfy seating and great coffee. I had a cup of Haitian coffee, which was delicious, even though I hadn’t been planning on having any more caffeine that day. I also had their sweet potato cake, which was a lot like a carrot cake, but I liked it. I’d recommend a trip to Culture Coffee for the friendly, neighborly vibe, and great-quality coffee.
Vegaritos is a vegan burrito place located at 6904 4th St NW in Takoma. Since Takoma/Takoma Park is a mecca for vegan food (given the historic Seventh Day Adventist influence in the area) it’s hardly a surprise to find a vegan burrito place here. I love the concept of the place and at $6.99 for a burrito, the prices are reasonable. The place is bright and friendly as well. Of course, I can’t expect a vegan burrito to taste quite like the real thing; vegan meats and cheeses are getting more convincing every day, but still aren’t quite there yet. I do appreciate that they don’t charge extra for guac (I’m looking at you, Chipotle) but where they fell short for me was the rice. They make Mission-style burritos, so rice is a major component. Their rice choices are brown rice and jasmine rice, and I happen to hate brown rice so I chose the jasmine rice. The rice was simply too mushy- in a burrito, the rice has to have some substance to it, but the texture of this rice really took away from the burrito. They would be much better off putting yellow rice or Chipotle-style lime rice or even the rice component of West African jollof rice instead in the burrito. If they did this, they’d earn at least another star.
Bel-Feast is a Russian food truck. You can find their location on their Twitter. They bill themselves as having food with a Russian accent, and they mean that literally. The very friendly owner certainly has a thick Russian accent and cheerfully serves delicious Russian classics like borscht and blinis (Russian Crepes). Since I’m not a huge fan of beets, I always assumed I would hate borscht, but I became hooked on it when I spent a summer in Tajikistan. The trouble is, it’s hard to find places in the area that make a good borscht. Fortunately, Bel-Feast’s borscht is spot-on. Be sure to mix the sour cream into the borscht, since this is the correct way to eat it. I ordered the borscht and meat blin combo, which was delicious, filling, and reasonably priced at $10. I also ordered a kvas, a Russian malt beverage. The owner loved the fact that I was ordering such a classic item, and while it wasn’t to my taste, I respect places that don’t try to just cater to American tastes and that actually offer authentic options (though Bel-Feast did make its portions larger to cater to Americans, the flavors are authentic). The I highly recommend Bel-Feast as a welcome change from the ubiquitous kabob trucks.
The Java Shack is (unsurprisingly) a small coffee house located in Arlington at 2507 Franklin Road. It is a small, sparsely decorated place without a lot of seating. I went on a chilly, rainy day and didn’t manage to snag a seat inside. Mercifully, the outdoor patio has heat lamps, which helped a bit. They do have a few cool and cleverly-named coffee drinks (including “Java the Nut,” which is pretty funny. Otherwise, it’s a pretty average and small spot, but I root for any and all independent coffee shops.