As you probably already know, the Halal Guys started as a food cart in NYC and has evolved into a growing fast food chain. Halal food, which is meat slaughtered according to Islamic law, has become almost a brand of its own in the US, despite the fact that any kind of cuisine (well, except for anything involving pork) can be made with halal meat. What the Halal Guys have is what they have dubbed “American halal food,” that is, food made with halal meat that is based on NYC food cart food. It is influenced by Middle Eastern food but is about as healthy as American fast food. The Halal Guys now has two locations in DC proper, one near Dupont Circle at 1331 Connecticut Ave NW and another at 814 H Street NE. I tried the H Street location, which despite being new, had a leaky roof in the bathroom. The staff are still getting their acts together organizationally, which is also probably a function of the newness of the place. While they do offer Middle Eastern sides, such as hummus and tabbouleh, this is NOT a place to come for authentic Middle Eastern food. Instead, it’s best appreciated for what it is: greasy and filling drunk food (which is ironic because alcohol is haram, the opposite of halal). I ordered the chicken and gyro platter with their signature white and red sauces. Beware that a little of the red sauce goes a long way spice-wise. The meats were flavorful and well-cooked and the rice, which was kind of like a Persian-style rice, was particularly excellent. The pita, by contrast, was moist and flabby. Thumbs down for that. Ultimately, you’ll get a satisfying, filling meal. But remember that you’re not getting Middle Eastern food; this is its own thing. And nothing super special.
People looking for a fancy take on Indian food flock to Rasika, but those looking for the best authentic Indian food in DC know to go to Indigo. This friendly and funky place is best visited when the weather is warm enough to sit outside on its expansive patio, though there are a handful of tables inside as well. While inside, you can enjoy the Bollywood dance videos playing on the TV and scrawl a message in sharpie on the walls. You order inside, take a number and then wait. The food does sometimes take a while (20+ minutes) to come out, but that’s because it’s made fresh. Trust me, it’s well worth it. The spicy masala chicken is especially good, but you really can’t go wrong with anything here. The food is definitely heavy on the ghee (clarified butter) but that’s just part of what makes it so tasty. And please do pair your food with a Kingfisher, either from the fridge inside, or from the bar outside that’s open when the weather’s warm. Friendly service rounds out what is all-around a gem of a place.
Indigo is located at 243 K Street NE.
Ethiopic is an upscale Ethiopian restaurant located at 401 H Street NE. Those critical of Ethiopic might point to its higher price point than most Ethiopian spots in DC and argue that you’re paying mainly for the ambiance. There is some truth to this; the ambiance is lovely with dim lighting and Ethiopic script on the walls. Unlike a place like Zenebech, it makes a romantic spot for a date (the messiness of Ethiopian food aside) and you can certainly get great quality food for a cheaper price at a place like Zenebech.
But Ethiopic‘s high-end character makes for a very worthwhile dining experience that goes far beyond the chic decor. While other reviewers of Ethiopic have griped about inconsistent service, my table’s server was attentive, friendly and helpful. The meal begins with a tasty wheat bread with a hot pepper and olive oil dipping sauce, and the drinks list is particularly extensive; while most Ethiopian spots in DC only offer St. George Lager, Ethiopic offers a list of several different Ethiopian beers, though only some were available when I went. There are also several Ethiopian wines plus tej, a Ethiopian honey wine fermented with powdered leaves and twigs of the gesho plant, which acts a bit like hops and lends a funkiness to the beverage. Unsurprisingly, this funkiness is not always well-received by American palates, so Ethiopic’s tej is sweet and very approachable. I personally prefer the funkier home brew at Habesha Market and Carry-out, but Ethiopic’s tej does make a pleasant accompaniment to spicy Ethiopian food, if the sweetness doesn’t bother you.
Kitfo- Ethiopian beef tartare.
The full richness of Ethiopian food can’t be experienced without trying both meat and veggie dishes, but Ethiopic doesn’t offer mixed meat and veggie combos for some reason. As such, it is best to come here with a group and eat family style. We ordered a vegetarian combo, lamb tibs and kitfo, which is Ethiopian beef tartare served with a little cottage cheese and collard greens. The veggies were all delicious but the lamb, while very flavorful, was a little on the tough side. The kitfo, however, was fantastic and wouldn’t be something I’d feel comfortable eating at a place that wasn’t a bit upscale. Overall, Ethiopic is great- the atmosphere is great and while the food in general is similar what you’ll find at excellent hole in the wall places, you’ll find food and drink options here that you won’t find elsewhere.
The 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 a 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.
“Fried” plantains (top left), curry cabbage (right) and coconut “crab” cake (bottom left).
Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar is located at 402 H St NE. It is a combination of a vegan raw food eatery, a juice bar, and a shop selling an eclectic mix of African products and books, some of which include books about Islam, Christianity, Judaism and … Scientology?? There is also a book that claims that vaccines are dangerous. As you can already tell, this is a really quirky place. Ok, I’m being diplomatic; this is a downright strange place. But the food really is delicious, which is what matters most. I was pretty unacquainted with the concept of raw food, other than the fact that it was the sort of thing that people like my health-obsessed mother were into. I had assumed that eating raw food meant all of the food had to be cold; apparently
Berry cashew “cheese”cake
some heating is allowed. The food at Khepra’s is influenced by soul food and Carribean cooking. I had the coconut crab cake for my entree, which (while obviously not containing any crab) was really tasty and was reminiscent of a crab cake. they were out of some of the sides that I wanted, but I ordered the curry cabbage with was very flavorful (with a significant kick) as well as the “fried” plantains (obviously not actually fried) which were great as well. For dessert, I had a cashew berry “cheese”cake, which was delicious if a bit over-chilled. Be aware that the food is a bit pricey considering there’s no meat or dairy; that said, the flavor development in the dishes really is great. This is a spot that caters to hippie and Rastafari types- maybe not a place to bring a date, unless you’re both hippie and/or Rastafari types, in which case, go for it! This is definitely a place worth checking out for a unique, delicious, and healthy meal in DC, if you’re adventurous (or wear hemp clothing).
Sidamo is an Ethiopian coffee shop located at 417 H St NE right next to the 3rd Street stop on the DC Streetcar. The streetcar itself may be little more than a novelty, but Sidamo is a true winner. They serve single-origin Ethiopian pour-overs (sidamo, yergacheffe, harrar) and the very kind Ethiopian owner is keen to explain the rich history of coffee in Ethiopia. They also serve the usual variety of espresso drinks as well as loose-leaf tea. The “Sidamo Chai Leben” is particularly tasty. A highlight of Sidamo is their weekly traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony at 2 pm every Sunday (which you can’t get to by streetcar since the streetcar doesn’t run on Sundays). An Ethiopia lady in traditional garments roasts beans in a skillet over an open flame while burning fragrant incense. She then prepares the coffee in a traditional pot and they serve samples in demitasses to guests. The very friendly owner offered patrons samples of spiced clarified butter, which some Ethiopian tribes take in their coffee instead of sugar. Atmospheric Ethiopian music plays in the background. Seating can be tight at times, but this place is a must for the great coffee, friendly people, and unique cultural experience.
Maketto is a Southeast Asian restaurant, coffee shop and boutique located at 1351 H St NE. The coffee shop portion occupies the upper floor and that is what this review covers. Maketto is, without a doubt, one of the coolest and most up-to-date coffee shops in the city. The decor is minimalist and sleek, there is good WiFi and there are plenty of outlets. They have an extensive and excellent menu of coffee and tea, and their drinks are elegantly served in something that resembles a little bento box.
Savory galette and a pot of white peony tea.
Their tea flavors are particularly good (I’ve had the turmeric ginger and the white peony) and they only use loose-leaf (as they should!). I also tried the savory galette, which was hearty though a bit weird-tasting. Overall, this place is awesome and definitely one of the top coffee shops in the city.
The huge Whiting Dinner with collards and mac and cheese on the side.
Horace and Dickies is a soul food and seafood carryout specializing in fried fish located at 809 12th St NE. There is an additional location in Takoma but this one along the H Street NE Corridor is the original. While it’s nowhere near as old as Ben’s Chili Bowl, Horace and Dickies has been in business for about 25 years and is an institution along H Street, much like Ben’s Chili Bowl is for U Street, but far less well-known. Horace and Dickies long predates the fancy new places on H Street like Maketto and Dangerously Delicious Pies; it remains an authentic locals’ spot, specializing in basic, tasty, fried fish with soul food sides, like collards and creamy mac and cheese. The most popular item on the menu is the Whiting Sandwich, which is a large portion of fried whiting served with two slices of bread. It’s nothing fancy (the bread is supermarket bread and you have a choice between wheat or white) and there is far more fish than you could possibly fit into one sandwich. It’s a very satisfying comfort food, particularly after a night out on H Street, and it’s as DC as the chili half-smoke. Another option is to get the Whiting Dinner, which comes with a choice of two sides. I made the mistake of getting this my first time there. It was delicious but the large helping of fish plus collards and mac and cheese made it far too much for one person; this is a great option if you have someone to split it with. Be warned that Horace and Dickies’ authenticity and popularity does have its drawbacks: it’s often pretty packed (waiting in line does give you a chance to hear the latest from longtime residents about the neighborhood, though) and there’s no seating at all (it’s a true carryout) so prepare to find a bench on H Street to eat your tasty fried fish if you don’t live nearby. I’ve done this twice in rainy, cold weather and it was less than ideal, though the food made it worth it.