Bada Bing is a food truck serving spiedies, salt potatoes and cheesesteaks. You can find their location on their Website. When most people think of New York food, they think of pizza, bagels and pastrami. But that’s Downstate New York food. Upstate New York, which comprises the vast majority of the state by area, has its own food specialties. One of the most popular is the spiedie, a chicken or pork kebab sandwich that originated in Binghamton (hence the name Bada Bing) as a variation on the Sicilian spiedini, or skewered meat. I first had spiedies at a family friend’s house near Ithaca, New York and absolutely loved this simple but delicious food. I wasn’t familiar with salt potatoes, but Bada Bing’s friendly owner (who is from Upstate New York) explained to me that they are from Syracuse. They are delicious boiled potatoes with lots of salt and drenched in butter.
Bada Bing offers five different varieties of spiedie sandwiches and you can choose between chicken and pork. I split my food with a friend, so I tried both the #1 “The Bing” (mozzarella, tomatoes and basil) with chicken and the #4 “Joey’s Special” (BBQ glazed spiedies, cheddar cheese, bacon bits and caramelized onions) with pork. I enjoyed the #1, but the #4 was especially satisfying (probably because it is so unhealthy). This truck seems to always pop up somewhere in Arlington, which is inconvenient for those who work in Downtown DC (like myself). But the trip from McPherson Square to Rosslyn is only 6 minutes on the metro, so those spiedies may be way closer than you think! I was able to walk from my office to the metro, ride to Rosslyn, pick up spiedies, and return to my office in 40 minutes, leaving 20 minutes of my lunch hour to gorge myself up Upstate NY goodness. It was well worth it.
Brightwood Park might be DC’s most underrated food neighborhood. Sure, its main commercial arteries on Georgia Avenue and Kennedy Street haven’t taken off yet like other parts of NW have in recent years, but what the neighborhood lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. While I still have places in the neighborhood that I want to try, I can add Sunrise Caribbean Restaurant to a list of excellent local spots that includes Culture Coffee and Tony’s Place. Sunrise Caribbean Restaurant is one of a handful of Trinidadian restaurants in DC, and I’m surprised, given this place’s quality and authenticity, that it has so few reviews online. I’ll chalk that up to its location in
Massive curry goat roti.
a neighborhood that is overlooked by most people with poor public transportation access, aside from the #70 Georgia Avenue buses. This small, friendly hole in the wall serves up delicious home-cooked Trini food, such as rotis, doubles, and aloo pies. If foods like roti and aloo sound Indian/Pakistani to you, that’s because over 35% of Trinidad and Tobago’s population is of South Asian origin. Eighteen percent of the population is Hindu, while five percent is Muslim. Lovers of Indian and Pakistani food will find that they love Trini food too. I started off with doubles, which is fried bread filled with curried chickpeas. As you can imagine, it’s
The whole meal, including Sorrel.
absolutely delicious and pleasantly spicy. I also ordered the curry goat roti. The roti was made fresh on the grill and was wonderfully moist and savory. The curry goat was flavorful and tender- be aware that it is served on the bone in the traditional way. If you are afraid of meat on the bone, this is not the dish for you. Never fear, the menu is full of options and I want to go back to try the bake and shark- fried bread and fried shark. I also had Sorrel, a Trini hibiscus-flavored soda. It tasted too artificial to me, but it was interesting to try. This place is a wonderful hidden gem, and a must-try in DC’s ethnic food scene.
Brooklyn Sandwich Co. is a Glatt kosher food truck serving traditional Ashkenazi Jewish foods like brisket, pastrami, knishes and matzoh ball soup. You can find their location on their Twitter. Brooklyn Sandwich Co. was started by a freshman at GW looking to add to the limited eating options for those looking to keep kosher in DC. Previously, DC’s kosher food options were limited to one full-service restaurant (Char Bar), plus a vegan soup place (SouperGirl), which is in an out of the way location in Takoma, just a couple of blocks from the Maryland border. The food at Brooklyn Sandwich Co. is fantastic, and the lines for the food truck attest to this. I ordered a brisket platter with a knish with chipotle aioli on the side as well as broccoli slaw. The brisket came in a generous portion and was perfectly tender, served with a juicy kosher pickle on the side. The knish and broccoli slaw were excellent as well, and I loved that they offered a choice of aiolis for dipping the knish. Brooklyn Sandwich company is, however, a victim of its own popularity. Some items (like cholent and matzoh ball soup) weren’t on offer when I went because it was a hot summer day – this make sense since these are more wintry foods. On the other hand, they were out of a solid portion of their items, including chicken and cauliflower mash. That, combined with a bit of a disorganized and over-worked two person crew and a very long wait for food means that Brooklyn Sandwich Co. still has some work to do on their execution. The food is really excellent though.
It’s been a long day at work and you’re looking forward to unwinding with a beer at a happy hour. The problem is, you’re also really hungry and don’t want to shell out for a $15 burger at the likes of Laughing Man Tavern. Fortunately, A&D, a bar located at 1314 9th Street NW, has you covered with their excellent $10 pizza and beer happy hour special. Granted, the pizza is french bread pizza and the beer includes inexpensive choices like Natty Boh and Narragansett, but it hits the spot. The french bread pizza is very tasty as french bread pizzas go, and Natty Boh and Narragansett are two of the best cheap beers out there, very refreshing on a muggy DC summer day.
The Fainting Goat is a classy, New American restaurant located at 1330 U Street NW. Its catchy logo (of a fainting goat, of course), guides diners into a pleasant space with tasty food and great drinks. I confess that I have a bias against New American places and in favor of ethnic dining, but I did have a really enjoyable meal at The Fainting Goat. I started with the “Who Killed Kenny?” cocktail because I loved the South Park reference. It was very tasty. A better value, though, are their punches, which are served in carafes for multiple people to share. I love when places offer punches because they tend to be a delicious and relatively cost-effective alternative to ordering a cocktail. For an appetizer, I ordered the steak tartare which was delicious, if tiny. However, my main course, the duck bolognese, was a hearty and generous portion. In this sense, I like The Fainting Goat better than nearby Provision No. 14, which offers delicious food but absurdly small portions.
When a college classmate told me that Panda Gourmet, a Szechuan restaurant located at 2700 New York Ave NE was really good, I was very skeptical. Yes, it is well-reviewed, but it is located in a weird, remote part of town on New York Avenue, across from the National Arboretum in what’s apparently called the Gateway neighborhood. Surrounding areas are blighted or industrial, and the restaurant itself is attached to a pretty sketchy-looking Days Inn motel. However, since DC (at least the District itself) has a serious lack of authentic Chinese restaurants, I was willing to give it a shot. I read
up on some of the online reviews, in order to help me navigate Panda Gourmet’s extensive menu.
It turns out that the place is not really all that sketchy, once you get past the location. It has the feel of an average Chinese restaurant and feels infinitely less sketchy than a DC-style Chinese Carryout. I ordered the Dan Dan Noodles, the Cumin Lamb and the spicy wontons, all of which were excellent. I expected the food to set my mouth on fire, but the spiciness, while relatively intense, wasn’t so strong as to overpower the flavor of the dishes. The cumin lamb was well-cooked and very
Dan Dan Noodles
flavorful, but had (unsurprisingly) a very strong cumin flavor to it. The spicy wontons, which were boiled, not fried, were fairly small, and delicious. The Dan Dan Noodles were excellent as well. The service here is the main drawback- it is entirely apathetic and un-attentive. But Panda Gourmet still gets high marks for offering an authentic Szechuan experience in a city that really lacks good Chinese food options.
China Town is a carryout located at 3207 Mt Pleasant St NW. As the name suggests, (Americanized) Chinese food is the focus, but like most DC carryouts they serve a wide variety of other foods like burgers and subs. Since it is a carryout in DC, China Town, of course, specializes in fried chicken wings with mumbo sauce, which is a uniquely Washingtonian African American-Chinese fusion dish.
China Town offers a special of four wings with fried rice or french fries for a mere $5.50. Be aware, however, that there is a $7 minimum for credit cards, which isn’t posted anywhere. Since I had no cash on me, I had to order an egg roll to make my total over $7. China Town also offers a wide variety of lunch specials for under $5. The wings were deliciously crispy, with a thick batter that tasted as though it had possibly been fried twice. The mumbo sauce, which is a mystery concoction, was slightly sweet and pleasantly tangy. I really liked it, though I think it takes a true DC native who was raised on the stuff to be a mumbo sauce connoisseur. I am not one. I prefer fried rice over french fries any day, but the fried rice itself was just ok. It was a bit of a cross between fried rice and yellow rice. The egg roll, which I didn’t want in the first place was large, tasty, and delightfully fatty.
Unlike most carryouts, China Town does have a couple of small tables, but if it’s a nice day it’s much more pleasant to sit outside at one of the tables in the small square across the street. The food may not be gourmet, but this is a solid spot to eat on the cheap and experience the authentic, pre-gentrification DC classic that is fried chicken wings with mumbo sauce over fried rice.
Himalayan Soul Foods is a Nepalese food truck. You can find their location on their website. Nepalese food is a complex cuisine with a large number of traditional dishes,but Himalayan Soul Foods keeps it simple and limits itself to momo, Nepalese dumplings. They offer a choice between chicken and pork. I ordered the pork dumplings which were simple but tasty. They came out right away, which is the advantage of a food truck that only offers a very limited menu. This is a solid spot for lunch, but you have to be in the mood for making a meal out of dumplings.
Florida Avenue Grill is a soul food institution that claims to be the oldest soul food restaurant in the world, located at 1100 Florida Ave NW. It has been in business since 1944, which at the very least makes it quite a historic spot, though I definitely have my doubts about its truly being the oldest in the world. The atmosphere is great, though, on-point soul music and signed celebrity photos are on the walls in classic diner surroundings. I ordered the pig’s feet with okra and tomatoes and mac and cheese on the side. It was my first time having pig’s feet and I can’t say I liked it very much. There were a lot of bones and knuckles and the texture was extremely gelatinous and reminded me if traditional Ashkenazi pt’cha (calf foot jelly). It’s not Florida Avenue Grill’s fault for serving an authentic classic, though. Next time I’ll probably stick with the fried chicken, which my friend ordered and which he said was excellent. The okra and tomatoes and the mac and cheese were great, though. For dessert, I ordered the king of all soul food desserts, their excellent sweet potato pie. In terms of press coverage, Ben’s Chili Bowl gets all the press as the DC institution, but Florida Avenue Grill is older, equally important and has better food.
Char Bar is DC’s only full-service Kosher restaurant, located at 2142 L St NW. Since my best friend is Orthodox, I often find myself at Kosher restaurants, typically in New York City. Sadly, many Kosher restaurants are pretty mediocre, since they have a niche market with little competition. Since Char Bar has a captive audience among Kosher diners in DC, it could easily get away with being marginal. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I ordered a pastrami sandwich, which was large juicy and flavorful- exactly how a pastrami sandwich should be. It was served with a large helping of potato chips, which were probably Terra and out of a bag, but the excellence of the pastrami made me overlook that. The one drawback was the price. I know kosher meat costs more, but $17 for my sandwich was definitely pretty pricey. If you’re looking for pastrami, there are cheaper places to get it, like Loeb’s NY Deli. That said, Char Bar’s is very good.