Tony’s Place

Rating: 

13078143_10154167326928011_280390129_oTony’s Place is a small diner located at 622 Kennedy St NW with additional locations at 1400 Good Hope Rd SE in Anacostia and 1401 H St NE This tiny, no-frills, counter-serve spot offers some of the best-value breakfasts in DC; I ordered the breakfast platter which includes 2 eggs any style, a choice of bacon ham or sausage plus toast and homefries or grits all for $5.19 (plus tax). The bacon was a little tough, but no complaints about the value overall. To me, this place is to the Kennedy Street Corridor what Ben’s Chili Bowl is to U Street and Horace and Dickie’s is to H Street NE, a classic spot serving up cheap, tasty food. They also have breakfast sandwiches with an astonishing array of meat options including ham, bacon, sausage, bologna, 13052666_10154167326913011_2097240284_oturkey sausage, ribeye steak, scrapple, smoked sausage, country ham, beef scrapple, turkey scrapple, and even salmon. Prices for these are also low and range from $1.99 for just egg to $4.39 for egg, ribeye steak, and cheese. There is also a wide variety of lunch options including DC classics like half smokes and whiting sandwiches, soul food classics like collards and smothered pork chops, the kinds of organ meats that another Tony (that is Anthony Bourdain) loves like gizzards and livers. They oddly serve boca burgers too. This place isn’t for those looking for an upscale experience; the interior is cramped, dim and basic, but for a tasty, hearty and cheap breakfast this place is hard to beat!

 

Oyamel

Rating: 

 

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The raspberry and apple mimosa.

Oyamel is a Mexican restaurant located at 401 7th St NW. It is run by celebrity chef José Andres, which immediately sets a high bar for quality (China Chilcano, another José Andres restaurant across the street, is one of my favorites in the city. The menu is certainly special, and I appreciate the fact that it is not Tex-Mex but instead seeks to bring the full complexity of authentic Mexican cuisine to the capital. I also appreciate the fact that the brunch menu (I went for brunch) includes real Mexican breakfast items that go far beyond huevos rancheros, though they, of course, have that too. The menu is, however, frustratingly tricky to read.

 

We started the meal with a pitcher of raspberry and apple flavored mimosas, which were delicious (I wanted to try the blood orange and

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The Pozole Rojo soup.

chile pequin ones, but I was out-voted). I began my meal with the Pozole Rojo, which is a hominy soup with pork and chiles, garnished with onion, lettuce and sliced radishes. The soup was good and had a nice kick, but it wasn’t my kind of dish; I’m not a big soup eater unless it’s matzoh ball soup or clam chowder and I should know that by now.

 

Next, I had chapulines, which are grasshopper tacos. Yes, they are tacos filled with actual
grasshoppers. And there’s no mistaking them for anything else; you can see the legs and antennae and they’re definitely crunchy. They come in a spicy sauce, so it’s hard to tell what the actual grasshoppers taste like, but this is not for the faint of heart; you remain acutely aware that you’re eating grasshoppers and this was made worse by the fact that my friend kept saying “Jiminy Cricket” to me while I was eating them.

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There’s no mistaking these for anything but grasshoppers.

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The Carne Machaca con huevos revueltos

I finished with the meal with the Carne Machaca con huevos revueltos, which is scrambled organic eggs served on a tortilla with dried shredded beef, potatoes, poblano chile, tomato and a smoky sauce of chile pasilla de Oaxaca. It ended up being way too much food, which is an example of Oyamel’s main drawback: the service. For starters, the server (who was very nice) described the menu as small plates and suggested we get two or three dishes. I could easily have had one dish and something small (like the chapulines) and we all felt a bit led astray by that.

 

In addition, and unlike China Chilcano, the service was so slow and the waitress forgot half of one of my friends’ food. The food was brought out rather haphazardly all at different times, and service quality was simply lost in the shuffle. Unlike China Chilcano, which has airy and spacious ambience, Oyamel feels tight and constricting. Overall, you can see some of the José Andres magic in this place, but it’s still a bit rough around the edges.

 

Highlands

Rating:

12842660_10153999531883011_936951807_oHighlands is a coffee shop and restaurant located at 4706 14th St NW that serves a mixture of breakfast food and Latin American fare. It is a cute neighborhood place, if a bit confusing and haphazard. When you enter, there’s a sign that says to order at the counter for carry-out and to be seated for table service if eating in. In reality, you order at the counter no matter what and if you’re eating in, you pick up a number to place on your table. I was confused for like 10 minutes why the server was paying no attention to me. I had chicken and waffles and a coffee from Swing’s. The chicken and waffles were very good, and the coffee was just ok-
12192721_10153999531863011_1877532422_odespite the fact that it was from Swing’s, it was from an airpot and not brewed fresh. I had tried to order an Eggs Benedict with fried green tomatoes, but despite a sign saying they had Eggs Benedicts on Saturdays and Sundays, they didn’t have them. This is the second time I’ve tried to order fried green tomatoes in DC and been disappointed (the other time was at Market Lunch in Eastern Market). Please don’t tease me like that. Overall, I love the neighborhood vibe of this place, but it really is 12192734_10153999531843011_1289254512_ojust that- a solid place for brunch if you’re in the neighborhood, but not a place to trek to 16th Street Heights for.

Tryst

Rating: ★★★★★

12787247_10153986063783011_634710078_oTryst is a combined coffee shop, restaurant, and bar located at 2459 18th Street NW in the heart of Adams Morgan. Tryst is a DC institution that is rightly regarded as one of the best coffee shops in DC. It’s great for its laid-back vibe and cozy seating options. As I write this post, I am sitting on a really comfortable antique couch, enjoying a delicious $5 microbrew special (the Golden Ox Belgian Ale from Old Ox Brewery in Virginia). I’ve been known to come here a few nights each week since I live close by and much

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The Golden Ox Belgian Ale from Old Ox Brewery.

prefer getting work done here to my studio apartment. It has kind of become my living room, except I can’t just grab a beer from the fridge. I don’t often have a full meal at Tryst, but their food is very good, both for brunch (they have Bullfrog Bagels!) and for lunch/dinner. The pies and desserts are tasty too. The great thing about Tryst is that it can be whatever you want it to be; you can come here in the evenings to hang out and get work done, as I often do, or you can come here for dinner, for brunch, for a drink, on a date, you name it! When I go there to work, I usually nurse a Chaucer’s Cup, which is a calming herbal tea blend of mulling spices, mango and rose hips. In the evenings, there is very often live music. They have special deals every night; though some nights are better than others. My favorite nights are Sundays (when there is Happy Hour from 4 pm until close) and Tequila Thursdays

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I’m sure Lindsey Graham would love the julep toddy.

(when there are $6 margaritas). The coffee menu is extensive and features Counter-Culture coffee and a wide variety of espresso drinks. Be aware that Tryst can get very crowded and that unless you’re grabbing a coffee to go, it’s table service; the servers are all very friendly, but it can be hard to get their attention. That said, it’s really great that it’s a place where you’re encouraged to linger. Tryst is the sister restaurant of The Coupe, Open City Cafe and The Diner. If you live near The Coupe (located at 3415 11th St NW) it offers a similar experience to Tryst, though with much more modern and less cozy decor.

 

China Chilcano

Rating: 

 

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The Tortilla China

China Chilcano (China rhymes with Tina in this case) is a Peruvian-Chinese-Japanese fusion restaurant located at 418 7th Street NW. China Chilcano‘s food is based on the immigration of Chinese and Japanese people to Peru; they brought their culinary traditions with them but adapted them to suit the ingredients that were available. The food is absolutely delicious and innovative. I once went for a business lunch and we ordered one of the tasting menus, which provided an amazing overview of a large portion of the menu items. Last time I went, I had brunch which was also great. The brunch menu itself is small, but involves cool fusion options as well. The regular menu is also available at

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The Ceviche Clásico La Mar

lunch. I ordered the Tortilla China (Egg foo yung, Edwards smoked ham, fresh crab, scallion, jicama, bean sprout, oyster sauce), which was like a tasty Asian-influenced Spanish omelette. I also had the Ceviche Clásico La Mar, which is made with a daily selection of fresh fish- it was great. My friends ordered the Lucky 12 dim sum tower, which is an awesome combo of three different types of Peruvian-accented dumplings. China Chilcano is a bit of an off-the-beaten track choice for brunch and doesn’t have the standard chicken and waffles fare. While there were a good number of people there, it wasn’t packed, making it a great choice for a unique brunch that isn’t especially hard to 12790229_10153985411073011_1432101274_o (1)get a table at. Cool, minimalist decor and super friendly staff add to the experience. Our server, a Peruvian, took great care of us and was enthusiastic about explaining the menu and offering suggestions. At the end of the meal, he gave us all samples of chicha morada, a deliciously sweet sangria-like beverage (though alcohol-free) made from purple corn and spices.

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Chicha Morada

 

 

Woodward Table

Rating: 

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Woodward Table specializes in upscale southern food and is located at 1426 H St NW. It is a very popular downtown lunch spot, including both a sit-down restaurant and an upscale carryout called Woodward Takeout Food, or WTF for short. Signs on the windows proclaim “WTF is for Lunch.” I see what they did there. For lunch, their oyster po’boy salad is especially good. It’s so delicious and must be healthy because it’s a salad right? That’s what I tell myself. But where Woodward Table really shines for me is as one of DC’s best-kept secrets for a classy, delicious. Since Woodward Table is primarily busy with the weekday business lunch crowd, people don’t think to go there for brunch. But it’s a pretty large restaurant which means that you can reliably get a table there for brunch without a reservation. Why reserve Founding

 

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Fried oyster frittata.

 

Farmers a few weeks in advance to eat their chicken and waffles, when you can have Woodward Table’s absolutely delicious chicken and waffles with no prior planning at all? The “Hot Mess” is also great- it consists of a buttermilk biscuit, fried chicken, ham, bacon, scrambled eggs, and sausage gravy; it doesn’t even pretend to be healthy, but it’s so good. Another winner is the fried oyster frittata. Bottomless mimosas are available as an option for those who want to turn up. This is my go-to place to bring visitors to DC for brunch since it’s classy and reliably excellent.

 

Izakaya

Rating: ★★★★☆

Izakaya

Top: “Lox and Onigiri.” Bottom left: Poached Egg and Chesapeake Korokke. Bottom right: “Chicken and Waffles.”

Izakaya is a Japanese small plates restaurant located at 705 6th St NW. Izakaya is located upstairs from its sister restaurant, Daikaya, which is a ramen place. Japanese food is not normally associated with brunch, but Izakaya’s Japanese fusion brunch might just be the best brunch in DC. An added bonus is that unlike some of the better-known brunch spots (read: Founding Farmers) it is not difficult to get a brunch reservation at Izakaya. Some of their most innovative and delicious brunch options include:

  1. A Japanese take on bagels and lox featuring a rice ball in place of the bagel and an assortment of smoked salmon, salmon sashimi ikura, picked onion and cream cheese.
  2. A Japanese take on crab cakes benedict with a Japanese-style crab korokke and tonkatsu sauce.
  3. A Japanese chicken and waffles with chicken kara-age and a waffle stuffed with red bean served with maple syrup and wasabi butter.
  4. Delicious french toast made with condensed milk.

One of the best aspects of their brunch is that it is served small-plates style, so you can (and should!) try a few. Excellent french press coffee sourced from Qualia Coffee in Petworth and tasty cocktails round out the meal nicely.

So why doesn’t Izakaya get five stars? I tried their brunch before their dinner and had high expectations that their dinner would be equally mind-blowing. It wasn’t. I ordered the “hambagu,” Japanese-style beef hamburger steak with red wine-Worcestershire sauce. It was reminiscent of meatloaf. I also had a fish dish, which was fine but nothing terribly memorable. The crab croquettes were very tasty, though. Izakaya also does a really cool take on the sake bomb: the sake comes enclosed in a ball (similar to a large pop boba) floating in the beer. When it hits your tongue, it pops, giving you a burst of sake.

The bottom line for Izakaya is that the brunch is phenomenal and deserves five stars. The dinner (at least what I ordered) wasn’t bad by any means, but was less exceptional.