50/50 Pizza

Rating: ★★★☆☆

IMG_9190.JPGLunchtime meets Vegas at 50-50 Pizza, a food truck where you can spin a wheel on an iPad to determine how much you’ll pay for your meal. You have a 50-50 shot of only paying 99 cents for a pie with one topping. If you “lose” (they like to say everyone is a winner) you pay $9.99. It’s a really cool concept that adds an (often much-needed) dose of fun in the middle of the work day. As for the pizza itself, there’s room for improvement. The crust is pretty good and IMG_9193it’s a good size, but the cheese to sauce ratio tends way too heavily towards the cheese. I love cheese, but the amount of cheese is almost overwhelming, overpowering the sauce.

Find 50/50 Pizza’s location on their Twitter.

 

Suns Cinema

Rating: ★★★★☆

IMG_9196.JPGIt may seem strange that I’m writing about a movie theater on a food blog, but Sun’s Cinema is far too cool of a spot for me not to write about. It’s a combined indie theater and dive bar in a small space in Mount Pleasant, offering up cheap drinks like $3 PBR, as well as the obligatory popcorn and, oddly, vegan pork rinds. They purport to sell “TV dinners” as well if you want something more substantial with your movie, but they didn’t have them available on the night when I went. The movie selection is eclectic and ranges from the old and obscure to the (relatively new) and popular, like Superbad. I went to see Ong Bak, a highly entertaining and action-packed Thai martial arts movie (yes, I was also skeptical when I first heard about it) that happens to be one of my favorite movies. The place attracts a cool crowd and is a real gem- my one gripe would be that because the floor isn’t slanted like a normal movie theater, you could have trouble seeing if you’re behind someone tall. My friend with me had to move to be able to read the subtitles. Other than that, though, I highly recommend checking this place out.

Suns Cinema is located at 3107 Mt. Pleasant St. NW.

Red Toque Café

Rating: ★★★☆☆

17328248_10155143864058011_1067209089_nRed Toque Café, a Pakistani restaurant in Shaw, is not quite what I expected it would be. Given the interesting name and its location in Shaw, I was expecting an interesting and cutely decorated spot. But the interior is the definition of drab and the food is average and not especially cheap. I ordered a lamb kabob with rice and spinach, which was just ok. I would have preferred for the kabob to be a bit more char-grilled and flavorful. The spinach was on-point, as was the rice. The naan, however, was not as buttery as I expect and prefer. Ultimately the place isn’t bad, but it’s honestly nothing special.

Red Toque Café is located at 1701 6th St NW in Shaw, with an additional, smaller, location in Georgetown.

Lavender Moon Cupcakery

Rating: ★★★★☆

17321752_10155140527488011_650307663_n.jpgFar from the cupcake wars of Georgetown, Lavender Moon Cupcakery is a far more low-key spot, baking delicious cupcakes in an adorable space in Old Town Alexandria, just off King Street. In fact, it does little other than bake cupcakes. While they have bottled cold drinks like water and soda for sale, they don’t offer coffee like Georgetown’s Baked and Wired does. While I appreciate having coffee or hot chocolate with my cupcake, Lavender Moon is in the business of doing one thing and doing it well. The cupcakes are smaller than the massive ones you’ll find at other cupcakeries, but $3 doesn’t seem too unreasonable of a price for 17321451_10155140527458011_2096308955_npremium cupcakes such as these, especially when the La Boulange crap at Starbucks costs about the same. I ordered a chocolate peanut butter cupcake and really enjoyed it. If you’re in Alexandria, check it out!

 

Lavender Moon Cupcakery is located at 116 S Royal St. in Alexandria, VA.

Pepe

Rating: ★★★☆☆

17360764_10155140491768011_378675536_n.jpgDid you know that José Andres has a food truck? It’s called Pepe and it serves Spanish-inspired sandwiches. The day that I went, the line was pretty short and I got my sandwich quickly, though the cold weather may have played a role in the short line. I ordered the Butifarra Burger, which was a long, narrow baguette with olive oil, bravas sauce and Spanish butifarra sausage. It was a bit too small for the $12 I paid for it and while I wasn’t wowed by the sausage itself, the interplay of the 17354808_10155140491808011_2067843021_n.jpgsausage, the olive oil, the bravas sauce and a high-quality baguette made for a really tasty sandwich. Still though, I don’t come to a food truck expecting small plates, so while I know that’s José A’s M.O., larger sandwiches would be welcome.

You can find Pepe’s location on its Twitter.

Dolan Uyghur Restaurant

Rating: ★★★★☆

17273836_10155137563073011_1152508169_o.jpgDolan Uyghur Restaurant in Cleveland Park is the first Uyghur restaurant in DC proper. Uyghur cuisine, the cuisine of the Turkic-speaking Uyghur people of Western China could be described, unsurprisingly, as a cross between Central Asian food and Chinese food. Since being written-up by the Washington Post, this small Cleveland Park spot has gotten very popular very quickly. So if you go on a weekend, prepare to wait for your food. Probably the most iconic Uyghur dish is laghman, hand-pulled noodles with beef and stir-fried veggies. I ordered the Royal Laghman, which was reasonably-priced at $16. The portion wasn’t overwhelming but it was sufficient. I did expect my noodles to arrive a bit more piping hot, but they were delicious and, as laghman tends to be when it is handmade, the noodles were delightfully stretchy. For dessert, my friend and I ordered the candied walnuts, which were tasty but came in too large of a portion, in contrast to the laghman. I would also liked to have seen a more interesting beverage selection. I know that Uyghur society is Muslim, so there likely isn’t much in the way of a culture of alcohol, but the cocktails could be made more interesting through the use of Uyghur-inspired ingredients. The service was friendly and welcoming.

Dolan Uyghur Restaurant is located at 3518 Connecticut Ave NW in Cleveland Park.

Olivia Macaron

Rating: ★★★★☆

17274338_10155125491038011_423319794_n.jpgI have a friend who is obsessed with macarons. So obsessed that she researches macaron places whenever she moves to a new city and samples them, mercilessly critiquing them with her exacting standards until she finds a place where they have the flavors she likes, the proper cookie to filling ratio, and the requisite crunchy exterior but soft interior. My friend’s exacting standards took me to Olivia Macaron, a small bakery in Georgetown. The macarons (please, please, please don’t call them macaroons- those are made from coconut and are a completely different dessert) were delicious and, as is usual for macarons, grossly overpriced at $2.50 for one small cookie. My friend is especially fond of the seasonal cherry blossom flavor, and it was indeed very tasty. So, if you don’t mind paying a pretty penny for your tasty treat (as is always the case with macarons), this place is worth checking out. Just don’t expect cutesy French decor- it’s pretty minimalist, which is too bad in my opinion. And for my kosher-observant friends, their macarons are certified kosher!

Olivia Macaron is located at 3222 M Street NW in Georgetown, with additional locations in Bethesda and Tyson’s Corner. 

Letena

Rating: ★★★★☆

17199173_10155114862488011_2053266935_n.jpgDC is rightly known for its Ethiopian food and Letena offers a new model for Ethiopian food: a bright fast-casual restaurant where you order at the counter, you take a number and the food is brought to your table. Mercifully, Letena avoids the “bowl” phenomenon that is rampant at other fast casual places like Cava and ShopHouse, where great cuisines are bastardized by throwing a bunch of ingredients into a bowl. Fortunately, Letena serves actual Ethiopian dishes, including kitfo, which is one of my favorites. Kitfo is the Ethiopian version of steak tartare (or is steak tartare the French version of Kitfo?) Either way, kitfo is a mound of raw beef that is deliciously seasoned and served on top of injera bread. Letena’s kitfo was massive and made for an indulgent feast that is a carnivore’s dream. I have to admit I get a sort of primal joy out of eating raw meat. Friendly service rounded out what was a solid dining experience. My only gripe is that I wish they served alcohol, like tej (Ethiopian honey wine) and Ethiopian beer.

Letena is located at 3100 14th St NW (though physically on Park Road) in Columbia Heights.

Balkan Grill

Rating: ★★★★★

17148831_10155107921988011_986793410_oBalkan Grill and the attached Euro Foods market serve up a taste of the Balkans just steps away from Huntington Metro Station at the southern terminus of the Yellow Line. Balkan Grill serves up a mix of Bosnian and Turkish food at very reasonable prices. I ordered a sandwich with five pieces of cevapcici, a grilled Bosnian meat that is something of a cross between a kebab and sausage. The cevapcici were served with lettuce, tomato and delicious bread, baked in-house. The bread was unlike anything I had ever had before; it looked like pita but it tasted more like sourdough.

I also ordered kadayif (shredded wheat filled with walnuts and soaked in syrup) for dessert, as well as a Bosnian coffee (like a Turkish coffee), which came beautifully presented in a cup surrounded by a metal holder with a lid to keep the coffee hot. The service was very friendly and the entire meal set me back well under $15.

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Euro Foods next door is just as much of a gem, selling wine 17195446_10155107920493011_909800849_oand a wide variety of other goods from the Balkans, other parts of Eastern Europe and beyond. Since I myself am 1/4 Croatian, I tried a white Malvasia wine from Istria in northern Croatia that I was sadly not a big fan of. That said, I want to go back and try some other wines since they have a truly impressive selection.

Balkan Grill is located at 5902 N Kings Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22303 near Huntington Metro Station.

 

Lamis Sweets

Rating: ★★★★★

17105372_10155100737318011_258815810_n.jpgAll anyone sees on the news these days about Syria is war and the refugee crisis. But Syria is also home to an ancient and rich culture, including delicious food. Lamis Sweets, an online order bakery based in Chantilly, Virginia, specializes in delicious Syrian sweets such as mamoul (shortbread pastries usually filled with dates and walnuts) and ghraybeh (butter cookies topped with an almond). I first tried their sweets at a benefit event for Syrian refugees hosted by Moishe House, an organization that puts on events for young Jewish adults. They were so delicious that I immediately ordered a box of ghrayben to bring to my weekly staff meeting at work. At $10.99 for a beautifully packaged box of 30 delicious home-baked cookies, the prices are pretty reasonable (though shipping is extra). They make really great gift items for a holiday or a dinner party and I will definitely be ordering from them again!

You can order from Lamis Sweets on their website.