A visit to Union Market can be overwhelming since there are so many good food options to choose from. On a visit there, I stumbled upon Toli Moli, a Burmese noodle and falooda shop that I had never noticed before. I was looking for a (relatively) healthy option compared to arepas or empanadas. Falooda has its origins in Persian culture and is a sort of ice cream float that has made its way from Persia into South and Southeast Asia. Toli Moli’s most traditional falooda contains vanilla ice cream, pomegranate jelly, basil seeds, rose syrup and vermicelli noodles. The cool thing about Toli Moli is that you can do a sampler meal that comes with tea, a noodle dish, and a small falooda. I ordered a hot noodle soup that the lady behind the counter likened to ramen. It was tasty, though only if you appreciate the flavor of coconut milk in your soup. I also ordered an ice tea with fruit, and basil seeds, which was a bit like bubble tea. The service was really friendly and the food was tasty and well-priced.
Toli Moli is located in Union Market at 1309 5th ST NE.
Boccato Gelato & Espresso is a gelato shop and coffee house located at 2719 Wilson Blvd in Arlington. It is a spacious coffee shop with a cozy atmosphere and plenty of seating. Since it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, I ordered a chocolate Guinness-flavored gelato which was a cool concept. The gelato itself was a bit too icy and not creamy enough for my taste, but my latte was good. Overall this is a solid coffee shop in Arlington to hang out in and work in.
Ben’s Chili Bowl is a DC classic with multiple locations (in Rosslyn, on H St NE, and in National Airport), but the one and only original is located at 1213 U Street NW. Ben’s is famous for its chili (duh) and its chili half-smokes, which are basically jumbo loaded chili dogs with mustard and onions. They really are delicious and Ben’s has updated its options in recent years, adding veggie chili and a veggie half smoke. Ben’s also has several flavors of shakes which are good too. Ben’s is one of the most iconic places in DC and has been in operation since 1958; it survived both the race riots of 1968 at the crack epidemic of the 1980s. It retains its 1950s charm and plays Motown classics. This is a place that everyone living in DC must visit at least once (even Obama has enjoyed a Ben’s half-smoke) and it is a great place to bring visitors to show them something quintessentially DC.
Pleasant Pops is a cafe and market located at 1781 Florida Ave NW (there is an additional Downtown location at 731 15th Street NW). It is an ideal cafe to work in, with plentiful outlets, good WiFi, and friendly staff. I am personally not a big ice pop guy but they do have an innovative list of flavors, including Mexican Chocolate, New Orleans Iced Coffee and Strawberry Ginger Lemonade. They also have a full list of the standard coffee drinks, plus a light food menu and a small grocery section of artisanal products and upscale dairy products like farm-fresh organic egg and local products. One of their more interesting set of items is their hot pops, basically flavored chocolate bars on a popsicle stick that you dip and stir into
hot milk to make a hot chocolate. You can either have them there or take wrapped hot pops to make at home. I ordered the Mexican chocolate hot pop, but instead of regular hot milk, got a shot of espresso in it. My drink arrived as a beautifully made latte with the hot pop on the side. Getting the hot pop to mix properly into the latte in order to make a mocha was, however, a bit of a challenge. By the time I had fully stirred the chocolate in and made a total mess, the drink was still warm but not quite as hot as I would have liked. The spice in the Mexican chocolate was a bit harsh for my taste. But I give them points for what’s a cute concept, and I will try it again to see if I can make it work a bit better next time. I also had a lavender lemonade, which was delicious, if a touch too sweet. On balance, I think this is a really nice place- more creative than the average cafe, and a good place to work or just stay awhile.