Zeba Bar

Rating: ★★★★☆

18555027_10155345755153011_1898171643_nZeba Bar is not as well-known as some of DC’s other hookah spots, like Soussi, but it is a much more relaxed (and less pretentious) spot as a result. While I’ve sworn off hookah for the time being because it’s so terrible for you, I can vouch that they have a wide selection of flavors and reasonable prices.  As for the food at Zeba, it’s nothing special. I believe the owners are Persian (which makes sense since zeba is the Persian word for beautiful). If so, they have 18578495_10155345755103011_692215404_nmissed an opportunity to include more Persian options on the menu. While they do offer a pretty tasty chicken kabob, it’s more like a salad with four chunks of meat on each corner. Otherwise the options are pretty much your regular bar food. Most importantly, Zeba Bar has been the regular site of my favorite Middle East-themed pop-up bar, The Green Zone, which boasts DC’s best cocktails.

Zeba Bar is located at 3423 14th St NW.

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.

Sonoma Cellar

Rating: ★★★★★

16730723_10155037887378011_1889678132_nMy friends and I stumbled upon Sonoma Cellar while browsing around Old Town Alexandria and decided to stop in for wine tasting. Sonoma Cellar offers a tasting of four wines for $10 or four reserve wines for $15, as well as a full food menu (we stuck to wine this time). They are flexible and let you mix and match between the two wine lists. We all decided to taste two wines from the regular “Select Tasting” list and two from the “Reserve Tasting” list for $12.50. The pours were generous and the experience afforded us the opportunity to taste some truly great wines while being well taken care-of by our friendly server.

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The star of the show: the 2015 Mazzocco Zinfandel

I started with the 2013 Chehalem Reisling from Wilamette Valley, Oregon, which was a classic, bright, satisfying Reisling. Less successful was my next tasting, the rosé of the day which was a Pinot Noir-based rosé with notes of strawberry that we all found rather bitter.  However, the 2013 Au Contraire Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, CA was great, and everything I want from a pinot noir; it was a light, approachable, tasty red wine. Even better still was the 2015 Mazzocco Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley, CA. This bold, dark red had complex flavor but lacked the unpleasant earthiness of some potent red wines. It was without a doubt one of the best reds I have ever tasted and I plan to pick up a bottle at some point. I am no wine connoisseur, but my group unanimously agreed that this one was really good.

Magazan

Rating: ★★★☆☆

16699743_10155026789438011_778806800_nI must admit that I’ve been known to bash Moroccan food a bit. While I’m a big fan of Tunisian food, Moroccan food’s spicier and more seafood-oriented cousin, I tend to lampoon the national dish of Morocco, the tagine. Tagines are an overcooked stew of generally under-seasoned meat and vegetables and as a food, are highly overrated. So at Magazan, I did not order a tagine but instead stuck to two Moroccan foods that I actually like: harira and bastilla. Harira is a lentil soup, which is tough to mess up too badly. Mine was pretty average, though I didn’t find any small pieces of lamb in it, a usual component. I also ordered the chicken bastilla, pastry filled with chicken and dusted with cinnamon and sugar. The sweet/savory combination turns some people off to bastilla, but I really like it. In Morocco, bastilla is just as commonly made with pigeon, and while I was not surprised that pigeon wasn’t an option at Magazan, it would’ve been cool. Nevertheless, Magazin’s bastilla was delicious and beautifully presented.

The major flaw with Magazan, at least in my experience there, was the service. I went in16706928_10155026789418011_2107752228_n the late afternoon when the restaurant was nearly empty and plenty of staff were there. Nonetheless, my server, while pleasant, was relatively inattentive and slow to take my order. They also brought me the wrong menu (a cheaper menu of lunch specials first) before apologizing and bringing me the dinner menu, because the lunch deals ended earlier despite the fact that I was still there at an off-hour and far too early for dinner. This place has the makings of being great; the food is tasty and the decor is sleek, but the service needs an upgrade.

Magazan is located at 2901 Columbia Pike in the Westmont neighborhood of Arlington, VA.

Taste of Persia

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

15129751_10154759997573011_702521588_n<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>

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Zaytinya

Rating: ★★★★★

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Snail Kibbeh

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

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Adana Kebab

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.

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15000215_10154718155728011_4109147489155219819_oHowever, 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.

Khartoum

Rating: ★★★★☆

14937828_10154703134213011_2001594731_nHave 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 14958704_10154703134223011_1830559791_ncheck out this unique, somewhat obscure spot.

A&D

Rating: ★★★★☆

14044960_10154467324633011_394464663_oIt’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 14012960_10154467324628011_1927077809_obread pizzas go, and Natty Boh and Narragansett are two of the best cheap beers out there, very refreshing on a muggy DC summer day.

Ivy & Coney

Rating: ★★★★☆

13647233_10154363511853011_1887049541_oIvy and Coney is a Chicago and Detroit-themed dive bar and restaurant located at 1537 7th St NW. Without a doubt, this place has more personality than almost any other spot in DC. Their schtick is that they try to be as divey as divey gets, and their very amusing owner, who has an excellent and dry sense of humor is a perfect example of this. In a bit of an unorthodox move for a dive bar (and for brunch in DC) I went with my friends (one of whom is from Detroit and one of 13639873_10154363511483011_1942868142_owhom has lived for the past two years in Chicago) for brunch. Brunch options include the “eggs bene-dog” (sausage on a bun with a poached egg, bacon jam and hollandaise) and the “chicken and waffles-ish” (fried chicken sausage served over a pancake topped with bacon and hot sauce maple mayonnaise, alongside several equally comical (and comically unhealthy) choices and lunch options such as the Chicago-style dog and the Coney dog. You can pair it with a mimosa-ish (orange juice out of the fountain soda gun, mixed with cheap beer), just a cheap beer (like Stroh’s), or something stronger. We were the only people there for brunch and the owner was out of the beer on tap for the mimosa-ish and wasn’t serving hot coffee because of the hot weather. But that just added to the not-really-giving-a-f*ck charm of the place. We just chatted with the owner about how he once got Rahm Emanuel (whom he referred to as a f*cking a**hole – not even a f*cking a**hole-ish) wasted off of shots of Malort when he visited once and my Midwestern friends were thrilled to experience a little slice of home.

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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