Shouk

Rating: ★★★

13524024_10154330447823011_1963905377_o.jpgShouk is an Israeli fast casual restaurant located at 655 K St. NW. The question of what constitutes Israeli food is, like everything to do with Israel/Palestine, a politically charged question. But whatever your politics, Israel is a country that is a mix of Jews who came from places as diverse as North Africa, the Levant, Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, India, Ethiopia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, North America, Latin America- you name it, alongside Palestinian Arabs. As such food in Israel represents a melting pot of culinary traditions, where popular foods including Turkish bourekas, Arab falafel and shawerma, Persian kabobs, Tajik plov, North African shakshouka, German schnitzel, Georgian khachapuri, and much more can be found alongside burgers and sushi.


13570275_10154330447843011_1131468679_oShouk
, which is the Hebrew word for an open-air market (just like the closely-related Arabic word, souk), represents a uniquely Israeli, nay, Tel-Avivi style of eating. It represents fresh produce alongside distinctly Levantine specialties like hummus, labneh, tahini, and mujadara. More importantly, it is vegan; veganism has become a very popular (and somewhat aggressive) movement in Tel Aviv, with places like Buddha Burgers serving up vegan takes on fast food and places like Tenat and Nanuchka serving vegan Ethiopian and Georgian food, respectively. When we asked the friendly owner why he chose to open a vegan place he replied (in a characteristically Israeli fashion) “why not?”

13549058_10154330447848011_946928301_oNormally, I’m not a huge fan of Middle Eastern fast casual places where you just throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl and bastardize the region’s cuisines. But Shouk is different. The combinations are pre-set so that the flavors actually work together properly. The each combination can be ordered in a pita or in a bowl over mujadara, a Palestinian dish of rice and lentils. The different options combine Middle Eastern ingredients but are fresh and innovative. Falafel, refreshingly, is absent. I ordered the roasted cauliflower with tomato, scallion, tahini, and jalapeno oil over mujadara. Roasted cauliflower with tahini 13570245_10154330447818011_246556163_ois very popular in Tel Aviv, so I enjoyed this homage to an Israeli favorite. It could have used a bit more spice (it was a little bland) but overall it was quite satisfying. I also ordered sweet potato fries with cashew labneh- labneh is a yogurt-like dish but Shouk makes it with cashews in order to keep it vegan. It was very tasty, but they should provide larger containers of cashew labneh- there just wasn’t enough for dipping. Aside from a couple of small shortcomings, this place is a promising and refreshing change from the Cavas and Rotis of the world.

 

Taqueria Habanero

Rating: ★★★★★

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Taqueria Habanero is a Mexican restaurant located at 3710 14th Street. DC may be known as more of a Salvadorean food town, but fear not, Mexican food lovers, the food at Taqueria Habanero is a work of art. Why spend lots of $$$ and deal with the terribly slow service at Oyamel when you can enjoy beautifully-prepared tacos, sopes and more at Taqueria Habanero for a fraction of the price. I ordered two tacos (barbacoa and pastor) and a sope with lengua, which only ran me $10 including tax and tip! The barbacoa taco was especially divine. Sopes are delicious as well; they look like tostadas but are served on a thick, soft corn tortilla so they don’t fall apart like tostadas do. I highly recommend Taqueria Habanero for delicious, fast and affordable Mexican fare.

 

Saint’s Paradise Cafeteria

Rating: ★★★★★

13523966_10154325355588011_1586193300_oSaint’s Paradise Cafeteria is a Soul Food restaurant that is part of the World Headquarters of the United House of Prayer for All People, located at 601 M St NW. This is one of the most interesting places to eat in DC since it is essentially a cafeteria attached to a black church, with a simple but bright atmosphere and pictures of clergy on the walls. Most of the crowd appears to be regulars and one curious regular checked in with me to make sure I was enjoying my food. Food options are varied and encompass many soul food classics, served cafeteria style, including fried chicken, fried whiting, fried shrimp and smothered pork chops. Items can either be ordered A la carte or as a meal, which comes with two sides and a tasty piece of cornbread. Some of the sides include the usual suspects, such 13509501_10154325355593011_1584744794_oas collard greens, mac n cheese and candied yams. I had the fried chicken breast meal with mac n cheese and collard greens. The crowd, which was almost entirely African American, looked like they had just come from church (I went on a Sunday after church myself). This is an awesome place to experience an authentic slice of DC’s African American culture (and a delicious slice of sweet potato pie) and enjoy a hearty meal at a great value. 13549140_10154325355618011_62162329_o

 

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I have no idea what a Convocation King is but it seems like an important dude. Certainly a table setting fit for a king.

 

Pimento Grill

Rating: ★★★★★

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Ackee and saltfish.

Pimento Grill is a Jamaican carryout located at the far Eastern edge of the District at 4405 Bowen Rd SE, just a block from the Maryland border. For many, Jamaican food is limited to beef patties and jerk chicken. This is understandable given the fact that it’s rare to find places that venture into some of Jamaica’s more complex culinary territory. For example, Ackee and Saltfish (cod) is the national dish of Jamaica, but it’s much harder to find in the US than jerk chicken. Ackee is a fruit that was originally indigenous to Ghana but was imported to Jamaica sometime in the 18th Century. It is a very interesting, savory food that looks almost like eggs when cooked. The fact that you can’t buy ackee in your average supermarket might well explain why most places don’t have it. Pimento Grill’s rendition of ackee and saltfish was absolutely delicious; my friend whose grandma is Jamaican told me it reminded him of her cooking. It was served over rice and beans with collard greens on the side. Other authentic dishes offered at Pimento Grill include ackee and callaloo (cod and stewed greens) as well as brown stew cow foot. Another friend ordered their jerk chicken and loved it and I sampled my friend’s curry goat which was flavorful and delicious. Pimento Grill is a busy, popular spot and it is a bit hard to reach so here’s how to best enjoy it:

 

  1. Go with a few friends and split and Uber to and from (it’s well worth the trip).
  2. Be prepared to wait a bit for your food (it’s well worth the wait).
  3. There are a handful of seats there but space is really tight so I suggest picking a nice warm evening and Ubering to somewhere nice for a picnic. We went to Yards Park at sat right on the water at a table. I felt like we were at Montego Bay and it was a beautiful al fresco dining experience with delicious food at a low price.

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The Queen Vic

Rating: ★★★★★


imageThe Queen Vic
is a British pub located at 1206 H St NE. They have an authentic pub atmosphere, a great selection of British and Irish beers and ciders both on tap and by the
bottle and a great selection of pub fare. I went to watch the Brexit returns and before it became clear that Remain would lose the atmosphere was festive, with cheers when a municipality voted to Remain. As an Episcopalian and an Anglophile, I felt that it was my duty to watch and to drink a Pimm’s Cup while doing so. Their Pimm’s Cup was totally
spot-on and I paired it with perfect fish and chips. I especially liked the mushy peas that had imagea bit of a curry touch to them. I also had Crabbie’s spiked orange ginger beer whIn the future, I want to go back to try their Ploughman’s Platter, bangers and mash, and full English brekkie.

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Washington Kabob

Rating: ★★★

13499688_10154314017753011_903465430_oWashington Kabob is a Pakistani food truck. They do not appear to have a Twitter. All of you who work Downtown like I do have been there: you see a bunch of food trucks and they look promising until you realize that it is kabob and falafel truck after kabob and falafel truck. The kabob trucks in particular tend not to score well on aesthetics and it can be hard to differentiate one from the other. That doesn’t mean the food is bad, however. I had a very tasty meal from Washington Kabob. My main tip at a kabob food truck is to find a special or other item on the menu that you have never heard of and give it a try. If the truck is Indian or Pakistani, you might find yourself having a delicious regional specialty that you’ve never encountered in a restaurant before. In the case 13515373_10154314017748011_831384659_nof Washington Kabobthis was lamb karahi, a delicious and hearty lamb curry that was flavorful and spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. The hilarious and outgoing owner, who was wearing a Sox cap, called everyone boss and encouraged most passersby (especially attractive women) to come try his food in a thick Pakistani accent. This added to the fresh-off-the-boat charm of the place. If you don’t mind a truck that isn’t flashy and enjoy South Asian food, Washington Kabob will provide you with a tasty, filling, and flavorful lunch at a good price.

Le Mirage

Rating: ★★★☆☆

13453401_10154306393848011_1828714257_o.jpgLe Mirage  is a food truck that serves Po’Boys and other fried fish items. They don’t appear to have a Twitter and this is a pretty bare-bones food truck. It lacks the fancy decorations of so many of the other trucks, which (predictably) means it doesn’t appear to draw very large crowds. My Po’ Boy was pretty good though, if nothing super memorable. The prices are reasonable, the portions are hearty, and the service is quick.

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Yellow Vendor

Rating: ★★★★★

13473835_10154306406228011_1547826953_nYellow Vendor is a Korean food truck. Yes, you heard that correctly. I assume the name comes from the fact that the truck is yellow and wasn’t intended to be a politically incorrect joke, but either way I can’t help but chuckle. You can find their location on their Twitter. This is one of the most solid food trucks out there. They serve delicious Korean classics like bibimbap relatively quickly and always with a smile. At $9, the filling and delicious Bulgogi Bibimbap is a good deal by the standards of this city’s pricey food trucks, and offers a relatively nutritious, balanced lunch.  Unlike many of the other food trucks, the owners 13474182_10154306406253011_1750415064_nof Yellow Vendor are actually Korean, and are an adorable older couple at that. Highly recommended.

Sushi AOI

Rating: ★★★☆☆

 

 

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The Lycheetini was a winner.

 

Sushi AOI is a Japanese restaurant located at 1100 New York Ave NW. This is truly a tale of two reviews, which average out to three stars. The drinks would get four or five stars while the sushi itself would get one or two. This place is a favorite of my colleagues for the excellent happy hour drink specials, including cheap prices on Asahi and $7 “Happy Tinis,” which are a selection of sweet martini cocktails. Since I am secure in my manhood, I ordered a delightfully pink and Lycheetini, which was delicious, beautiful and flavorful. The sushi was a totally different story. I ordered a white tuna roll, which was cheap during happy

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The white tuna roll was every bit as bad as it looks. I’m sure Hanaya Yohei would be rolling in his grave.

hour at $5, but apparently you get what you pay for. It was clearly bad quality fish and definitely ranks among the worst tuna rolls I’ve ever had (I’ve had white tuna before and enjoyed it in the past). In fact, most supermarket sushi I’ve had has been significantly better than this was. So in summary, come here for the drinks (especially if you can sit outside on a nice day) but give the sushi a miss.

 

Maki Shop (Food Truck)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

13509461_10154306248118011_429890632_oMaki Shop is a food truck that primarily serves large sushi handrolls. You can find the food truck’s daily location on their Twitter, and they also have a brick and mortar location at 1522 14th Street NW, near Logan Circle.  I ordered both the beef short rib handroll, as well as the salmon handroll. I enjoyed the salmon more than the beef short rib, since cold ribs inside a sushi roll aren’t nearly as tasty as ribs served hot. They were essentially going for a handroll take on 13509364_10154306248113011_372192892_oKorean galbi, by pairing the short ribs with kimchi, romaine and carrots. It is worth noting that the handrolls are not made to order while you wait. Instead, they are pre-wrapped with the seaweed separate from the rice and other contents in order to keep the seaweed crisp and fresh. This definitely has a time advantage in that you will get your food right away, without the interminable wait at other food trucks. On the other hand, it means it’s less ultra-fresh than rolls prepared while you wait. I also ordered the mochi ice cream, which was pretty small for the price. If you enjoy handrolls and want to grab something super quick, Maki Shop will get the job done. That said, I’d rather get my rolls made fresh at Buredo.