On Rye

Rating: ★★★★☆

15050301_10154743549758011_1639497864_nOn Rye is a new addition to DC’s New York-style Jewish deli scene alongside Loeb’s NY Deli and DGS Delicatessen. It boasts the expected pastrami sandwiches, latkes and matzoh ball soup alongside more innovative fare like the Turkey and Charoset (roasted turkey breast, fennel, sage, spinach, apple compote on a challah roll) and babka ice cream sandwiches. The food is delicious; the only thing I have to kvetch about (yes, I am an honorary Jew from Long Island) is the price- $14 is pretty steep for 15046413_10154743549728011_830555383_na plain pastrami sandwich, even though that pastrami sandwich is very tender, very tasty and made with wagyu beef. It’s also not exactly heaping, but it does get points for good taste. The latkes were tasty as well, if a little small. So far my take on On Rye is that the food is tasty and I always appreciate good Jewish deli food. But it’s not light on your wallet, considering it has a fast casual format.

On Rye is located at 740 6th St NW.

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Brooklyn Sandwich Co.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

14111699_10154495061303011_1900176673_n.jpgBrooklyn Sandwich Co. is a Glatt kosher food truck serving traditional Ashkenazi Jewish foods like brisket, pastrami, knishes and matzoh ball soup. You can find their location on their TwitterBrooklyn Sandwich Co. was started by a freshman at GW looking to add to the limited eating options for those looking to keep kosher in DC. Previously, DC’s kosher food options were limited to one full-service restaurant (Char Bar), plus a vegan soup place (SouperGirl), which is in an out of the way location in Takoma, just a couple of blocks from the Maryland border. The food at Brooklyn Sandwich Co. is fantastic, and the lines for the food truck attest to this. I ordered a brisket platter with a knish with chipotle aioli on the side as well as broccoli slaw. The brisket came in a generous portion and was perfectly tender, served with a juicy kosher pickle on the side. The knish and broccoli slaw were excellent as well, and I loved that they offered a choice of aiolis for dipping the knish. Brooklyn Sandwich company is, however, a victim of its own popularity. Some items (like cholent and matzoh ball soup) weren’t on offer when I went because it was a hot summer day – this make sense since these are more wintry foods. On the other hand, they were out of a solid portion of their items, including chicken and cauliflower mash. That, combined with a bit of a disorganized and over-worked two person crew and a very long wait for food means that Brooklyn Sandwich Co. still has some work to do on their execution. The food is really excellent though.

Char Bar

Rating: ★★★★☆

13933418_10154441684318011_371164314_nChar Bar is DC’s only full-service Kosher restaurant, located at 2142 L St NW. Since my best friend is Orthodox, I often find myself at Kosher restaurants, typically in New York City. Sadly, many Kosher restaurants are pretty mediocre, since they have a niche market with little competition. Since Char Bar has a captive audience among Kosher diners in DC, it could easily get away with being marginal. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I ordered a pastrami sandwich, which was large juicy and flavorful- exactly how a pastrami sandwich should be. It was served with a large helping of potato chips, which were probably Terra and out of a bag, but 13940926_10154441684313011_517584761_nthe excellence of the pastrami made me overlook that. The one drawback was the price. I know kosher meat costs more, but $17 for my sandwich was definitely pretty pricey. If you’re looking for pastrami, there are cheaper places to get it, like Loeb’s NY Deli. That said, Char Bar’s is very good.

Shouk

Rating: ★★★

13524024_10154330447823011_1963905377_o.jpgShouk is an Israeli fast casual restaurant located at 655 K St. NW. The question of what constitutes Israeli food is, like everything to do with Israel/Palestine, a politically charged question. But whatever your politics, Israel is a country that is a mix of Jews who came from places as diverse as North Africa, the Levant, Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, India, Ethiopia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, North America, Latin America- you name it, alongside Palestinian Arabs. As such food in Israel represents a melting pot of culinary traditions, where popular foods including Turkish bourekas, Arab falafel and shawerma, Persian kabobs, Tajik plov, North African shakshouka, German schnitzel, Georgian khachapuri, and much more can be found alongside burgers and sushi.


13570275_10154330447843011_1131468679_oShouk
, which is the Hebrew word for an open-air market (just like the closely-related Arabic word, souk), represents a uniquely Israeli, nay, Tel-Avivi style of eating. It represents fresh produce alongside distinctly Levantine specialties like hummus, labneh, tahini, and mujadara. More importantly, it is vegan; veganism has become a very popular (and somewhat aggressive) movement in Tel Aviv, with places like Buddha Burgers serving up vegan takes on fast food and places like Tenat and Nanuchka serving vegan Ethiopian and Georgian food, respectively. When we asked the friendly owner why he chose to open a vegan place he replied (in a characteristically Israeli fashion) “why not?”

13549058_10154330447848011_946928301_oNormally, I’m not a huge fan of Middle Eastern fast casual places where you just throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl and bastardize the region’s cuisines. But Shouk is different. The combinations are pre-set so that the flavors actually work together properly. The each combination can be ordered in a pita or in a bowl over mujadara, a Palestinian dish of rice and lentils. The different options combine Middle Eastern ingredients but are fresh and innovative. Falafel, refreshingly, is absent. I ordered the roasted cauliflower with tomato, scallion, tahini, and jalapeno oil over mujadara. Roasted cauliflower with tahini 13570245_10154330447818011_246556163_ois very popular in Tel Aviv, so I enjoyed this homage to an Israeli favorite. It could have used a bit more spice (it was a little bland) but overall it was quite satisfying. I also ordered sweet potato fries with cashew labneh- labneh is a yogurt-like dish but Shouk makes it with cashews in order to keep it vegan. It was very tasty, but they should provide larger containers of cashew labneh- there just wasn’t enough for dipping. Aside from a couple of small shortcomings, this place is a promising and refreshing change from the Cavas and Rotis of the world.

 

Fine Sweet Shoppe

Rating: 

12722616_10154063984873011_929674983_oFine Sweet Shoppe is a bakery located inside Eastern Market at 225 7th St SE. Despite its name, Fine Sweet Shop is not just fine, it’s great! They have a wide variety of baked goods, but I especially love them for their New York Jewish baked goods, like black and white cookies, ruggalah and hamentashen. As a native of Long Island and an honorary M.O.T. (member of the tribe), I was raised on this stuff. For the uninitiated, hamentashen are a traditional sweet for 12381002_10154063984913011_1764643207_othe Jewish holiday of Purim, which celebrates the story of Queen Esther (and which is an occasion on which Jews are supposed to get so drunk that they can no longer keep the names of the protagonist and antagonist of Purim straight). They are basically a triangular cookie with a filling, named after Haman, the villain of the Purim story (sounds like great drunk food to me). The hamentashen at Fine Sweet Shoppe are HUGE and come in both apricot and chocolate chip cookie flavors. Both flavors are delicious.

Loeb’s NY Deli

Rating:

12834822_10154013677828011_1597901887_nLoeb’s NY Deli is located at 1712 I St NW. As a Long Islander who often describes himself as Episcopalian by religion but deeply influenced by Jewish culture, I have exacting standards for the New York Jewish classics like pastrami, knishes, matzoh ball soup, bagels with lox and shmear, etc. Given the bold claim to be a New York deli and the tacky Statue of Liberty logo, I was skeptical of Loeb’s when I first walked in. But my hot pastrami sandwich on rye was everything it was supposed to be and did not disappoint. It was thick, warm 12825258_10154013677768011_1917933590_nand flavorful. I also ordered a knish which was pretty decent. I was pretty impressed with the menu as a whole; they had an extensive list of sandwiches that all sounded great, matzoh ball soup, chopped liver, latkes and even a dessert kugel (obviously there are a lot more items that I need to try there). I was a bit surprised to not see any ruggalah or black and white cookies, but I can go to Baked by Yael for those anyway. All in all a solid spot for lunch downtown, especially if you crave food from the tribe. B’tayavon!

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DGS Delicatessen

Ratting: ★★★★★

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DGS’s matzoh ball soup and chopped liver.

DGS Delicatessen is a Jewish deli (not kosher) with a sleek, sophisticated atmosphere, located at 1317 Connecticut Ave NW (there is an additional location in Fairfax).  As a Long Island native, Jewish deli food is basically my local cuisine and the food culture that I grew up with. I love being able to go to a place that makes food like bubbe made it growing up (forget the fact that I’m Episcopalian and “bubbe” is of Irish Catholic heritage and barely cooks, though she does love bagels and lox and pastrami sandwiches, speaks in a Long Island accent, and sends Rosh Hashanah greeting cards to her friends- the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). DGS has especially delicious takes on traditional Jewish classics, like matzoh ball

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I had DGS’s latkes for Chanukah, but they’re delicious any time of year.

soup and chopped liver. During Chanukah, I tried to make my own latkes (from a mix- oy vey!) which looked good but tasted a bit like cardboard. I tried DGS’s latkes and they were so much better- mine were bupkis by comparison. So whether it’s for a full dinner or a quick nosh, whether you’re a “Member of the Tribe” or a Goy, whether you’re alone or the shidduch set you up on a date, be sure to get your tuchus over to DGS Delicatessen. 

 

 

Baked by Yael

Rating: ★★★★★

yael.jpgBaked by Yael is a bakery primarily known for its cakepops located at 3000 Connecticut Ave NW. As my friends are well aware, as a Long Island native I am an honorary Jew. I even have a Jewish alter-ego named Rabbi Grovewitz. So I of course greatly appreciate the fact that in addition to cakepops, Yael bakes traditional Jewish baked goods, including ruggalah and black and white cookies, both of which are very tasty. It’s certified kosher, though by a Conservative rabbi, which isn’t strict enough for my Orthodox friends. It has Rabbi Grovewitz’s seal of approval, though!