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.

Chao Ku

Rating: ★★★★☆

13647183_10154366125008011_1679451578_oChao Ku is a fast-casual Chinese restaurant located at 1414 9th ST NW. To a large extent, DC is a Chinese food desert. While great Southeast Asian food abounds, most Chinese places are carryouts specializing in wings and mumbo sauce over fried rice (this is a beautiful blend of Chinese food and African American cooking in its own right, but isn’t exactly authentic Chinese food. Most of the restaurants in DC’s meagre Chinatown are touristy and poorly rated. There are, of course, a few diamonds in the rough. Aside from some great Chinese food in the suburbs, Great Wall Szechuan does a mean hot pot 13662544_10154366125028011_1151576751_oand China Boy makes a simple but excellent beef chow fun. Aside from these options, however, Chinese food in the District proper has been limited. Chao Ku is a welcome addition. Chao Ku offers both small plates and more substantial entrees at reasonable prices, in sleek surroundings and with friendly staff. It’s partway in between fast casual and waiter service because there’s a carryout downstairs and upstairs you fill out a card with what you would like to order, and then a food runner brings your food. My friend and I got the pork dan dan noodles and the fried catfish. My friend, who is a Chinese food expert, said that the dan 13647056_10154366124993011_1413295664_odan noodles were not spicy enough to be authentic, but were still tasty. The fried catfish was excellent, with a generous coating of delicious batter. This place will never be an authentic Chinese spot of the sort that you’ll find in Flushing, Queens, but it does offer a tasty, fresh take on Chinese and Chinese-inspired dishes that are a welcome change from the typical general tsaos chicken and beef and broccoli of American Chinese food. It’s definitely worth checking out!

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.

 

Saint’s Paradise Cafeteria

Rating: ★★★★★

13523966_10154325355588011_1586193300_oSaint’s Paradise Cafeteria is a Soul Food restaurant that is part of the World Headquarters of the United House of Prayer for All People, located at 601 M St NW. This is one of the most interesting places to eat in DC since it is essentially a cafeteria attached to a black church, with a simple but bright atmosphere and pictures of clergy on the walls. Most of the crowd appears to be regulars and one curious regular checked in with me to make sure I was enjoying my food. Food options are varied and encompass many soul food classics, served cafeteria style, including fried chicken, fried whiting, fried shrimp and smothered pork chops. Items can either be ordered A la carte or as a meal, which comes with two sides and a tasty piece of cornbread. Some of the sides include the usual suspects, such 13509501_10154325355593011_1584744794_oas collard greens, mac n cheese and candied yams. I had the fried chicken breast meal with mac n cheese and collard greens. The crowd, which was almost entirely African American, looked like they had just come from church (I went on a Sunday after church myself). This is an awesome place to experience an authentic slice of DC’s African American culture (and a delicious slice of sweet potato pie) and enjoy a hearty meal at a great value. 13549140_10154325355618011_62162329_o

 

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I have no idea what a Convocation King is but it seems like an important dude. Certainly a table setting fit for a king.

 

A Baked Joint

Rating: ★★★★☆

12699013_10153933617038011_264458909_o.jpgA Baked Joint is a coffee shop and bakery located at 440 K St NW near Mount Vernon Square. Yes, the name is just as suggestive as you think it is; their motto is “get baked with us” and the place is run by the same people as Georgetown’s perennially popular Baked and Wired. A Baked Joint offers a wide variety of coffees, teas, cakes, breads made in-house and a variety of other baked goods. They also sell tiny “A Baked Joint” pins for $0.42[0]. It is much more spacious than Baked and Wired and has a wide variety of seating options from tables, to cozy chairs in an industrial, but atmospheric place.

12674824_10153933617308011_920460181_o.jpgI can’t give it five stars because it doesn’t have WiFi (come on, guys, it’s the 21st Century- I know some places structure their business plans around being off the grid, but that’s stupid in a city like DC where people need to be plugged-in). Like Marie Antoinette, A Baked Joint lets the people eat cake; let them have WiFi too.

 

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My coffee and cardamom cake.

Aside from that, there’s a lot to love about this place. In addition to the excellent atmosphere and friendly staff, the coffee is delicious and comes with beautiful latte art in a cup with your name on it- it’s pretty cute. I ordered a something similar to a cortado and a slice of cardamom cake to start- I happen to love cardamom, so the fact that they had that made me happy.12647880_10153933616878011_1830498552_n

 

Their selection of breads looked great too, and I loved the fact that they have challah on Fridays with a sign saying, “Happy Challah Day Every Friday .” The New York honorary Jew in me couldn’t help but kvell.

After my coffee and cake, I ordered a lavender white tea. They have a great selection of tea, it is steeped using loose-leaf tea with a timer (as it should be) and is served beautifully; I was impressed by their attention to detail. Baked and Wired fans should be aware, however, that they don’t have Baked and Wired’s famous cupcakes (I’m not a huge cupcake eater so it didn’t bother me).

 

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A beautifully done lavender white tea. Yes, that is TEA on top of the teapot.

 

La Colombe

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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The setting of La Colombe really is pretty cool.

La Colombe is a cafe located at 924 Blagden Alley NW in the area of Mount Vernon Square (La Colombe has another location at 6th and I, as well as other locations in Philly, Chicago and NYC). La Colombe is situated in an undoubtedly cool location in an industrial/warehouse space in a small back alley. I visited on a rainy day, which gave a particularly awesome effect to the space. They have a good menu of single origin pour-over coffee, but it’s pricey pricey pricey (they start at $5 and go up to $7). I 12650228_10153931205458011_462451670_ncan get a much more extensive selection of pour-overs at Qualia Coffee in Petworth for significantly less. I ended up going for one of their drip coffees instead, which was solid. I also had a croissant which was decent (by US standards) but wasn’t the freshest. 

By far the biggest flaw of the place is how ill-suited it is to lingering and working on a laptop. Outlets are very limited and there is no WiFi. Seriously?! The coffee is that expensive but they can’t even throw us coffee shop bums a bone and provide WiFi? I understand that some cafes, like Tryst and The Potter’s House don’t

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It’s not as if the lack of WiFi is encouraging people to converse…

have WiFi during some weekend hours. Fine. But it strikes me as nuts to not have it at all. It’s not as though La Colombe is a space that is conducive to conversation; it only has small tables that are well-suited to one or two people working on laptops. In fact, that’s exactly what most people there were doing. I guess they were either working offline, were using Xfinity WiFi or had personal hotspots on their phones. If that’s the atmosphere anyway, just provide WiFi (or at least on weekdays)! I want to love La Colombe; the space is one of the coolest of all the coffee shops in town, the staff are friendly and my coffee was good. But without WiFi and with coffee that pricey, it just isn’t the whole package for me.