Google Street View of the blighted exterior.
Twin Dragon Carry-Out is a Chinese takeout place located at 5504 3rd St NW, and is one of the sketchiest-looking places I have ever seen. Most carry-outs in DC look pretty sketchy, with spare interiors and bulletproof glass separating the customer from the employees. Twin Dragon Carry-Out is, however, a sight to behold. There’s a boarded-up storefront next door, but the inside is where things get really interesting-looking. The interior almost looks like a bus station, with a row of plastic seats affixed to the ground attached to each wall.
This would make a great set for a horror movie.
What’s with the fancy-schmancy relief.
But in an odd way, the place has a certain faded beauty to it. Twin Dragon Carry-Out has been around for decades (at least since the 1960s) and has the feel of a bygone era, with a tin ceiling and an incongruously grandiose Chinese relief on the wall. Basically, the place would make a great setting for a horror movie.
So now you might be wondering, why was I there? Well, it turns out that Twin Dragon Carry-Out is known for their massive egg rolls, which people apparently drive from all over the DMV to get. I ordered two shrimp egg rolls for $4 and change and they truly were the largest egg rolls I had ever seen. They were basically my whole dinner for the night. Taste-wise, they weren’t anything special, though some mustard and/or duck sauce jazzed them up a bit. Nonetheless, Twin Dragon Carry-Out is definitely an experience, both for its somewhat spooky bygone look and its ginormous (and very cheap) egg rolls.
They really are massive… Note the quarter for perspective.
Good Food Markets is a small, neighborhood, local food-centric market located at 2006 Rhode Island Ave NE in Woodridge. This is a great little spot and the friendly owner gave me the backstory on the business. It is a mission-driven place in a neighborhood that would otherwise be a food desert. For those unfamiliar with what a food desert is, an urban food desert is an area of a city that is generally low-income and lacks good access to fresh produce. In some cases, it is defined as an area that does not have a grocery store or supermarket that sells fresh produce within a one-mile radius, making it difficult for residents to access good nutrition at reasonable prices. While carryouts serving tasty fried chicken wings and mumbo sauce are ubiquitous in DC (and while this food blogger loves the stuff) it does not count as good nutrition.
Good Food Markets set out to change this, selling delicious and nutritious, locally-sourced items to the neighborhood’s older, low-income population, some of whom are on food stamps, as well as to young professionals and families who have recently moved to the neighborhood. One of the most interesting things about Good Food Markets is its partnership with DC Urban Greens, an urban farming initiative that grows a variety of produce in hoop houses in Fort Dupont Park and Marvin Gaye Park right in DC’s Ward 7. They produce a special line that Good Food Markets sells. Since I was there in mid-October, the only DC Urban Greens produce available was lavender. However, Good Food Markets’ owner told me that there’s a lot more available in the summer and early fall. Another highlight was the cranberry orange granola from Oh-Mazing, a small DC granola-making operation. I would rarely describe something like granola using superlatives, but this stuff was simply divine, like a decadent cranberry orange muffin in granola form. I’ll definitely be back!
Annie Mae’s Mississippi Fried Chicken and Fish is a soul food food truck serving up delicious fried chicken and fried fish with soul food sides like mac and cheese and collard greens. I had griped before about a lack of soul food food trucks, but this one definitely fits the bill. The people are very friendly, and the food is worth the long wait. At $9, the fish and chicken combo is a pretty good deal. You can choose from catfish, trout, or whiting and the obvious choice is catfish. Most places charge more for catfish than whiting, but not Annie Mae’s. Their catfish fillet is a generous portion, and it makes for a great sandwich with some hot sauce and tartar sauce. The chicken is tasty as well, as is the mac and cheese. This is neither the quickest nor the healthiest lunch on the planet, but it is satisfying and everything is served with a smile.
Zeke’s Coffee is a Baltimore transplant with a DC coffee shop and roastery located at 2300 Rhode Island Avenue NE in Woodridge. If you haven’t heard of Woodridge, you’re not alone. It’s a neighborhood located between Brookland and the Maryland border that’s still largely lacking in anything but carryouts, but which is home to a small group of trendy new establishments. Zeke’s Coffee is undoubtedly one of the coolest coffee shops in DC, but it’s worth noting that it’s not a place that has a ton of seating or a lot of food; it’s more of a coffee shop operation that has been set up inside a space that is largely dedicated to being a roastery (Zeke’s sells its small batch roasted beans all over DC). As such, it almost has the feel of a pop-up. The coffee is delicious and pretty inexpensive at less than $2 for a small, single-origin coffee. They also sell inventive kolaches (delicious stuffed rolls that are Czech by origin but have become a Texas delicacy) baked by Republic Kolache, a DC popup bakery. I had both the saag paneer kolache and the egg and chorizo kolache which were delicious but a bit pricey at $4 a piece. Friendly staff rounded out my tasty first excursion to Woodridge.
Tacos El Chilango is a taqueria located at 1119 V St NW. Alongside Taqueria Habanero and Lezo’s Taqueria, Tacos El Chilango is one of DC’s best and one of the city’s most pleasant budget dining experiences. While Tacos El Chilango is conveniently located near the U-Street/Cardozo metro station, it is tucked away on decidedly residential V Street. You could easily miss this tiny spot if it weren’t for the (somewhat annoying but entirely necessary) bright flashing lights outside. The cozy, warm interior is adorably decorated and friendly and the tacos are great value. You do have to order a minimum of three (but you want three) and it costs only $8.50. The menu is pretty small but the tacos come quickly and are very tasty. Add in a margarita for $5.50 and you and your date or significant other have a tasty, inexpensive and low key dinner out. For a starving non-profit worker like myself, places like this are clutch.
Sauf Haus is a German-themed bar and beer garden located at 1216 18th Street NW that is known for its oversized German beers and massive pretzels. This makes a great spot for an after-work happy hour where you can listen to their kitschy music playlist while enjoying a liter jug of hefeweizen. You can also munch on their massive pretzels. My friends preferred to order two one-pound pretzels, which were huge as it is, but they also offer two-pound pretzels. If this place weren’t so German, I’d almost call it the Texas of bars- everything is big.
Sharks Fish and Chicken is a DC branch of a chain hailing from the South Side of Chicago, located at 4049 Minnesota Ave NE. Sharks Fish and Chicken offers a large variety of fried fish and fried chicken options in a bright, spotlessly clean storefront. A word of caution about the neighborhood: Minnesota Avenue is rapidly developing with new retail and residential units, but it’s still not the safest part of town. That said, it is DistrictNoms’ goal to highlight noteworthy food spots in all neighborhoods. Sharks Fish and Chicken is especially noteworthy for its fantastic deals if you’re buying in bulk. Take the 50 pieces of fried chicken (legs and thighs) for $36.99, for instance. That works out to approximately $0.75 per piece! There are other good bulk deals for fish, but the fried chicken deal is the best in my opinion. I ordered a”small” combo dinner, which was a lot of food for the price. I got two chicken tenders plus a catfish filet and fries. The crinkle-cut fried were nothing special and almost certainly came out of a bag. The chicken tenders were actually tender and were certainly real, juicy white meat chicken. However, I could have used a bit more seasoning on them. The catfish filet was thin, but huge and the crispy batter was delicious. It made for a tasty sandwich with hot sauce and tartar sauce. Unlike other DC fish spots where whiting is the star, like Horace and Dickies, catfish is apparently the thing to get at Sharks, though whiting is available too and for a cheaper price.
Mom’s Organic Market is a regional chain that contains a vegan eatery called Naked Lunch. The only location in the District itself is at 1501 New York Ave NE in Ivy City. I’d be willing to bet that you’ve never heard of Ivy City, a historically run-down and neglected warehouse district. However, Ivy City’s hulking Hecht Warehouse has been converted into snazzy condos, which have brought with them the typical harbingers of gentrification: organic food, a yoga studio, a CrossFit Gym, and other establishments such as the New Columbia distillery (known for its Green Hat Gin). However you feel about gentrification, Mom’s Organic Market is a fantastic place. It’s bright and friendly and stocks a wide range of health food products, many of them local. Naked Lunch offers tasty and healthy veggie-based food options (kind of along the lines of Beefsteak, but what I had was tastier) along with fresh juices. I ordered the cauliflower steak and while a carnivore like me cringes at the idea that cauliflower would be called steak, it really was pretty tasty. The best thing about Mom’s Organic Market, however, is the FREE COFFEE. Yes, you read that correctly. There is FREE COFFEE right at the front of the store (as well as tea). I biked over there on a rainy, chilly day and that free coffee was a godsend for a caffeine addict like myself.
Tempo Di Pasta is an Italian food truck. You can find their location on their website. They offer high-quality, sophisticated pasta dishes. I ordered the Ravioli Di Funghi (Ravioli filled with Wild Mushrooms in a Fontina Sauce topped with Mushroom Ragu and Parmigiano Cheese) which was delicious and arrived quickly, though it was a bit small for $10.
Secrets of Nature is a health food store and eatery serving vegetarian soul food. Unlike many of DC’s newer vegetarian or vegan eateries which cater to a clientele that just got out of their bikram yoga class and are looking for some kombucha, this place has been in business since 1990 and is located in one of DC’s most impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods. It’s a no-frills type of spot that stocks a wide variety of herbs and other health food products and has a kitchen in the back. The food, while not cheap, is delicious. I ordered curry imitation chicken with black-eyed peas, okra salad, and quinoa on the side. They had a wide selection of drinks including the elusive GinsengUp and a brand of authentic, locally-made sorrel called Papa WaBe’s So Real Sorrel. This place brings some healthy and delicious food to a part of town dominated by Chinese carry-outs. While this place is mainly geared towards food to go, there is one large table for those who prefer to sit and eat. It’s a trek from the rest of the city but Secrets of Nature is a worthy stop for an explorer seeking out home-cooked food for the body and soul.