<rant> Taste of Persia is a food truck that is best avoided. I had hoped that it would have authentic Persian food and serve up tasty kabobs, but I was wrong. For the record, gyros and falafel are not Persian. I ordered a lamb kab0b and was given a gyro sandwich. Don’t call yourself a Persian food truck and serve Greek and Lebanese food. </rant>
Tiki Carryout is a bit different from most carryouts in DC in that it doesn’t have Chinese food. Instead, it has many fried fish and chicken options (though sadly absolutely nothing Tiki-themed). However, what it is best known for is its cheap breakfast sandwiches, which are served all day. Imagine waking up hungover on a weekend morning and craving some eggs on the cheap. You could make some yourself, but you’re hungover and lazy. Fortunately, Tiki Carryout will make a breakfast sandwich for you on the cheap- only $3.40 including tax for a sausage egg and cheese or bacon egg and cheese sandwich. That’s even cheaper than an Egg McMuffin. I ordered a bacon egg and cheese sandwich, which came extremely neatly stacked on toast. It was nothing special and on the small side, but it hit the spot and barely made a dent in my wallet. The place is dumpy-looking but the people are friendly.
Tiki Carryout is located in Shaw at 1601 7th St NW.
On Rye is a new addition to DC’s New York-style Jewish deli scene alongside Loeb’s NY Deli and DGS Delicatessen. It boasts the expected pastrami sandwiches, latkes and matzoh ball soup alongside more innovative fare like the Turkey and Charoset (roasted turkey breast, fennel, sage, spinach, apple compote on a challah roll) and babka ice cream sandwiches. The food is delicious; the only thing I have to kvetch about (yes, I am an honorary Jew from Long Island) is the price- $14 is pretty steep for a plain pastrami sandwich, even though that pastrami sandwich is very tender, very tasty and made with wagyu beef. It’s also not exactly heaping, but it does get points for good taste. The latkes were tasty as well, if a little small. So far my take on On Rye is that the food is tasty and I always appreciate good Jewish deli food. But it’s not light on your wallet, considering it has a fast casual format.
On Rye is located at 740 6th St NW.
Bob’s Shanghai in Rockville: it’s quick, it’s cheap and, most importantly, it serves authentic Chinese food, something that is in short supply in DC proper. The dish they’re best known for happens to be one of my absolute favorite foods: xiao long bao (soup dumplings). They offer pork xiao long bao and pork and crab mixed xiao long bao. I wasn’t looking to get too fancy so I stuck with the pork. The bao were a tad on the small side, but perfectly cooked and delicious. For the uninitiated, eating these little bundles of deliciousness requires a little finesse- you have to pick them up with your chopsticks, place them on a spoon, bite a small hole in the side, and suck the delicious soup out before you eat the dumpling. Approach your first with caution: it’s tough to know exactly how hot the soup will be. In addition to the xiao long bao, I also ordered an order of two large fried leek crescents, which were essentially tasty leek-filled dumplings. In the future I’d like to go back and try more of the menu; at the very least, xiao long bao are worth a trip to Rockville.
Bob’s Shanghai 66 is located at 305 N Washington St in Rockville, MD.
Chaia is a farmhouse-chic vegetarian taco spot in Georgetown that’s so delicious that it doesn’t make me miss meat. The fact that it scores as one of the best taco places in DC in my book without serving meat speaks volumes. The tacos include such inventive, seasonal options as the sweet potato hash taco with feta, arugala pumpkin seed salsa and cilantro and much more. I ordered a trio of tacos for $11, which is a bit more expensive than I’d pay for a trio of meat tacos at a place like Tacos El Chilango, but what you’re getting here is (in their words) a farm to taco experience. The tacos are artfully put together, delicious and good for you too. I also had their seasonal strawberry rhubarb shrub to drink, which was a great accompaniment to the food.
Chaia is located right on the C&O Canal in Georgetown at 3207 Grace St NW.
Mari Vanna may sound strangely like Marijuana, but it’s the DC branch of a well-known Russian restaurant with locations in Moscow and Saint Petersburg (as well as NY, LA, and London). It is an absolutely beautifully decorated place that will transport you straight to Russia, with delicious and authentic Russian food to boot. We started with pirozhki (delicious meat-filled fried buns) and pelmeni (Russian dumplings). The drinks menu is extensive and features a wide range of infused vokdas- I stayed away from the fruity ones and ordered cucumber and dill, which was refreshing. I also tried my dad’s horseradish vodka which had a great kick to it. For my main, I ordered the perfectly tender golden duck with a delightfully tangy sour cherry sauce and cabbage on the side. My dessert, sour cherry dumplings, was certainly interesting. I can’t say it was decadent enough for my taste for a dessert, but I appreciated its unique Russianness. A small glass of Armenian Ararat brandy, on the other hand, made for the perfect digestif. I highly recommend Mari Vanna for its beautiful and cozy ambiance and authentic Russian food.
Mari Vanna is located at 1141 Connecticut Avenue NW.
I love José Andres’s China Chilcano but I was initially skeptical of Zaytinya. There has been a recent “Mediterranean food” fad in American eating, where all food from the countries around the Mediterranean is lumped together, despite the fact that Turkey, Greece and Lebanon all have distinct cuisines, to say nothing of other countries like Italy, Spain and Morocco. I feared that Zaytinya would offer a rather inauthentic and bland mix of Lebanese, Greek and Turkish food but I should have put more faith in José Andres.
While many of the dishes are an upscale take on the cuisine of their respective countries of origin, they are deeply rooted
in those countries’ culinary traditions. For instance, the snail kibbeh is hardly traditional, but is an absolutely delicious take on the traditional Lebanese dish. Dishes like the adana kebab and the octopus santorini were far more traditional, but artfully cooked and well-presented. The Batata Maquliya (Lebanese frites with za’atar spice and garlic yogurt) are sure to please any french fry-lover. The fries themselves are Belgian-style crispy frites seasoned with za’atar and the garlic yogurt dip is a perfect accompaniment. Finally, the Peynirli Pide (a Turkish flatbread with halloumi cheese, tomato sauce, oregano and cinnamon) was a bit of a cross between a khachapuri and a pizza. It was delicious to be sure, though perhaps not quite as interesting as some of the other items. Zaytinya is a small plates restaurant, so do be aware that you’ll want to order a few things per person, which makes the cost add up.
However, a major advantage of the small plates format at Zaytinya is the fact that dessert can also be ordered in a small portion. This is great if you want to sample a few desserts or just don’t have room for anything big. I was pretty stuffed so I ordered a small “chocolate rose,” consisting of rose ice cream, chocolate custard, and spiced berry puree. It was absolutely top-notch. Finally, a plus of Zaytinya is their selection of several varieties of raki, arak and ouzo- a polarizing drink but a favorite of mine. Sleek modern ambiance and friendly, attentive service round out a five-star experience.
Zaytinya is a Lebanese, Greek and Turkish restaurant located at 701 9th Street NW.
Have you ever walked up 18th street in Adams Morgan (likely not sober) and wondered what the place with the Arabic lettering was? Well it turns out it’s a little Sudanese market called Khartoum, located at 2116 18th St NW. It doesn’t have a huge array of stuff but it does have some cool finds, like fava beans imported from Egypt, as well as all sorts of hookah materials and large containers of cheap olive oil. The friendly owner also talked me in to buying some cumin, which was the freshest I had ever seen. There are a few savory pastries (like sambusas) on the counter, which I plan to try in the future. It doesn’t have a selection of Middle Eastern goods anywhere near as extensive as Shemali’s near American University, but it’s in a much more convenient location (at least for me). It’s worth a stop in, at the very least to check out this unique, somewhat obscure spot.