SKWR Kabobline

Rating: ★★★★☆

imageSKWR Kabobline is a fast casual Middle Eastern restaurant located at 1400 K St. NW. At first glance it appears similar to Cava and Rotibut SKWR Kabobline’s center of gravity is farther east, since many of the ingredients have more of a Persian flavor, such as the Salad Olivieh topping and the Lavash Crisp topping. imageWhile I’m generally not a huge fan of places like this that throw a bunch of ingredients into a bowl or onto a plate, the ingredients that they use are fresh, flavorful and delicious. Overall, I like SKWR Kabobline better than its competitors.

Mama Ayesha’s

Rating: ★★★★★

imageMama Ayesha’s is a Palestinian/Lebanese restaurant located at 1967 Calvert Street NW. Ayesha, for whom the restaurant is named, grew up on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem in the 1800s when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire, making her Palestinian in today’s terminology. She founded Mama Ayesha’s in 1960 and it has remained a beloved institution to this day. Since the countries that comprise the Levant today (Syria, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine and Jordan) were once once considered part of Greater Syria under the Ottoman’s they all have very similar cuisines, with regional specialties of course. Lebanon came to be known as the region’s culinary center such that top restaurants in Amman, for instance, will often market themselves as Lebanese. Pedantic distinctions about cuisine aside, Mama Ayesha’s is truly excellent. While it makes me cringe to pay American prices for what I would eat for a few dollars in Amman, they do excellent and authentic renditions of some of the best mezze classics, including hummus, fuul and falafel. Service is very friendly and the decor is beautiful, if a bit over the top. They also serve a very satisfying kunafeh, which is very difficult to find done properly in the U.S. Kunafeh, at least the Palestinian version which was invented in Nablus, is a sweet, rich dessert consisting of cheese topped with shredded wheat and sugary syrup.

imageIt may sound gross, and it can be if it isn’t done right. When done right it’s divine and Mama Ayesha’s does a solid version.

 

Compass Coffee

Rating:

13296145_10154248627943011_631507160_nCompass Coffee is a popular local coffee shop with two locations in Shaw at 1921 8th St NW and 1535 7th St NW. It’s easy to see where this place’s popularity comes from; they roast their own coffee and make an innovative array of coffee drinks, such as nitrogen-infused cold brew. They also offer kolaches, which are savory, filled, pastries of Czech origin, but have become popular in Texas. Compass Coffee‘s Kolaches are made in the Texan style but with a twist; the day I was there, there were saag paneer kolaches and half smoke kolaches. I wish my half smoke kolache had been warm, but it was otherwise tasty. Seating at both 13288816_10154248627948011_357103512_nlocations is tight, which is probably Compass Coffee’s main drawback. It isn’t like Tryst where you can lounge on a couch, but I can’t dock them too much for being victims of their own popularity.

Water Park Café

Rating:


13288403_10154244359633011_1844669993_o.jpgWater Park Cafe
is a little kiosk  (closed in the winter) located in the Water Park in Crystal City (1750 Crystal Dr, Arlington), which is a plaza with fountains. At first glance, you might think that this is just a regular food stand, but you would be very wrong. In fact, the friendly owner is Egyptian, so alongside hotdogs you can order falafel, fuul medammes, hummus, shawarma, labneh, dolma, and other Middle Eastern classics. The house specialty, however, is koshary, a uniquely Egyptian pasta-like dish that is a mix of rice, macaroni and lentils topped with a tomato-vinegar sauce, chickpeas, and crispy fried onions. It is a simple dish, albeit very tasty and satisfying. On a nice day, you can sit in the park at one of the tables overlooking the fountains, making for a tranquil and unique al-fresco dining experience (if you can overlook the styrofoam containers).

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This could even make for an out of the box date option (especially if it’s a first date and you’re not looking to shell out much). For dessert, I ordered basbousa, a sweet semolina cake, which was also tasty, though pretty simple.  They also serve Egyptian coffee (basically Turkish coffee) and I plan to go back to sit by the fountains for a bit with a coffee and a basbousa or baklava.

Gloria’s Pupuseria

Rating:

IMG_5677Gloria’s Pupuseria is a Salvadorean restaurant located at 3411 14th St NW. This place is a bit bare-bones and kind of smells like bleach (though it’s perfectly clean). The very friendly proprietors (along with the clientele) speak basically zero English, so hone your rusty Spanish before you go, or else you may find yourself miming what you want. My food was tasty, if not super memorable. I ordered three pupusas (loroco, frijoles and revueltas) which were only $6.50 total, so no complaints about the price. My friend ordered the Carne Asada platter which was absolutely massive.

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Moby Dick House of Kabob

Rating: ★★

13262399_10154241059988011_1238142336_oMoby Dick House of Kabob is a casual Persian restaurant with numerous locations throughout the DMV area. The two DC locations are at 1300 Connecticut Ave. N.W. near Dupont Circle and 1070 31st Street N.W. in Georgetown, which are the only ones that I have been to so far. Moby Dick has a special place in my heart because it is one of the first places I ever ate in DC when I was on a pre-orientation for a trip to Tajikistan to study Persian. As a student of Persian and a big fan of Persian food, I can vouch that Moby Dick (despite its bizarre name) is one of the best places to get a reliably good Persian-style kabob in the area. Persian kabobs, when done right are hearty, juicy and served with delicious, buttery long grain rice that you will want to devour on its own (with some yogurt sauce on top). I typically order a lamb kabob (kabob-eh barreh) which is reliably satisfying. I have also had their koobideh kabob, which is similar to a seekh kabob in South Asian restaurants. It is good too and is a classic Persian dish but I don’t like it as much as the chunks of lamb. Their baklava is a bit pricey, but baklava tends to be and it’s very tasty. There are a few drawbacks to Moby Dick; first, it lacks an everyday offering of some of the more diverse, non-kabob dishes of Persian cuisine, like ghormeh sabzi or zereshk polo. Instead, it offers a daily lunch special that cycles through some of the other Persian classics. In addition, the wait can be a bit long and the service, while not rude, could be a bit warmer and friendlier. That aside, for your kabob fix, Moby Dick is hard to beat.

Döner Bistro

Rating: ★★

13262256_10154237305068011_14031005_oDöner Bistro is a German cafe and bar located at 1654 Columbia Rd NW boasting both Turkish döner kababs, casual German fare like schnitzels and sausages, and a solid German beer selection. Döner kababs, which are a pita sandwich similar to a shawarma or a gyro, are originally from Turkey but have become widely popular in Europe, especially in Germany where there has been a lot of immigration from Turkey. Their döner sandwich is pretty good, though it was a bit too heavy on the sauce for my taste. The atmosphere is cool and the decor makes you feel as though you are in a small eatery in Germany (the vibe is somewhat similar to Amsterdam Falafel in that regard, except for the fact that they have beer.

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Mayur Kabab House

Rating: ★★

13295408_10154237232343011_100544815_nMayur Kabab House is a Pakistani restaurant located at 1108 K St NW. It provides a welcome alternative to the food trucks and to the endless chain offerings downtown like Cosi. They offer a lunch buffet with typical staples such as pakawra, saag, and chicken tikka. The chicken tikka was tasty, especially given that it was from a buffet and the pakawra was wonderfully fried and satisfying. My Afghan co-worker, who grew up largely in Pakistan, was disappointed that they didn’t offer separate containers for the dessert at the buffet. That aside, the buffet, which can be had to go, is a reliably tasty, quick and filling work lunch.

Chik’s Chik’N

Rating: ★★

13275616_10154231414843011_1875838347_nChik’s Chik’n is a Trinidadian food truck serving up dishes such as curry chicken rotis. You can find their location on their Twitter. I ordered the curry chicken roti and thought the filling was flavorful and hearty. You can’t really eat it like a sandwich since that would be far too messy given the quantity of filling but that doesn’t affect the taste at all. The roti itself was less rich than an Indian roti, but from what I can tell that’s the authentic Trinidadian way.

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Bojangles

Rating: 

13169795_10154199087533011_1564743202_oBojangles is, of course, a fried chicken chain (with a Cajun twist), as well as a trashy Pitbull song. And it’s not even a DC-based chain (it’s based in Charlotte, NC). I did, however, choose to write it up because there is only one Bojangles in DC (located in Union Station), plus a few in the suburbs, and this is one of the northernmost Bojangles that exists, aside from ones in Largo, New Carrolton, and Reading, PA. As such, not a lot of Yankees like myself regularly try Bojanglesand while writing up fast food might make me lose my street cred, I don’t care. Their fried chicken is tasty and their biscuits are rich and buttery. It is a bit odd that they claim to be Cajun since they’re based in NC and aside from a slight kick, their “Cajun Pintos” tasted pretty average. The real star of the show, however, was the sweet potato pie. It 13148422_10154199087483011_883938487_o (1)comes in a package that looks like a McDonald’s pie, but don’t be fooled. The crust is an amazing, deliciously greasy, fried piece of goodness and the sweet potato filling isn’t as sickeningly sweet and syrupy as its McDonald’s coutnerparts. I’ll be tempted just to grab a sweet potato pie next time I swing through Union Station. The Bojangles sweet potato pie may not have a viral video to go with it like the Patti LaBelle Sweet Potato Pies do, but it should. Voulez-vous manger avec moi, ce soir?