DC hasn’t traditionally been known for Mexican food but the Mexican food scene here is actually surprisingly good, with a bunch of good taquerias and well as spots for other types of authentic fare, such as Oyamel and La Puerta Verde. While Taco-ma Yucatán Chicken does serve tacos (hence the punny name) it specializes in rotisserie chicken, often referred to as Peruvian chicken but called Yucatán chicken here and is seasoned with spices typical of the Yucatán. With cute decor, friendly staff, reasonable prices, and tasty rotisserie chicken, this is a solid spot for a casual and quick meal.
Taco-ma Yucatán Chicken is located at 353 Cedar St NW.
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.
Reren Lamen’s name is not some kind of racist joke about confusing Ls and Rs. Lamen, if you did not know (I didn’t) is the Chinese equivalent of ramen and is Reren’s specialty. Reren holds the distinction of being one of the few Chinese restaurants left in DC’s Chinatown, a shell of its former self, that is both good and authentic. While lamen is the main attraction, Reren offers a wide selection of food and drink options, including bubble tea, baijiu and pork xiao long bao (Shanghainese soup dumplings). Since xiao long bao are one of my favorite foods and are hard to find in DC, I had to try them. They were flavorful, though a bit too small and contained too little soup to be truly great xiao long bao. They’ll work to satisfy a craving, but it’s still work trekking out to Rockville for places that specialize in them. As for the lamen, I ordered the signature lamen with pork belly and a tea egg. While I certainly enjoyed it, it had less of that strong umami flavor than Japanese ramen at the likes of Sakuramen or Bantam King and the pork belly was not as tender as pork belly at other spots, like Purple Patch. Nonetheless, it was overall an enjoyable meal and Reren Lamen remains a bright spot in DC’s otherwise fairly bleak Chinese food scene.
Reren Lamen is located at 817 7th St NW.
Dock FC is a sports bar dedicated to soccer fans; its massive screens are perfect for those looking to watch the latest matchup between Chelsea and Liverpool and the industrial mod space, inside Ivy City’s Hecht Warehouse building, lends the place a cool, sleek vibe. However, you don’t have to be a soccer (or shall I say, football) fan to enjoy a trip to Dock FC, because they also serve Mexican food from their sister restaurant next door (which is adjoined to Dock FC by a hallway), La Puerta Verde. Both spots are owned by restauranteur Ari Gejdenson. I ordered guacamole, which was excellent, though the chips themselves seemed like they were straight out of a bag and would have been much better had they been homemade. The tacos were tasty as well; I ordered al pastor, lengua, and fried cod. While they weren’t exceptional or better than say, Tacos El Chilango or Taqueria Habanero, they were solid. Service was friendly, if haphazard (for instance, the food runner forgot napkins so I had to wriggle my way to the bar to ask for them).
Dock FC is located at 1400 Okie St NE.
Middle Eastern food is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S., but while hummus and falafel are now well-known, another Middle Eastern classic, mana’eesh, is less so. Mana’eesh (singular: manousheh- yes, Arabic plurals are very confusing) are pizza-like dough with a variety of toppings, including labneh, za’atar, olive oil, and, in some cases, meat. Zayt & Za’atar (or Z&Z) for short, is a delicious farmer’s market stand at the Foggy Bottom and H Street Northeast farmer’s markets that serves authentic, healthy mana’eesh. I went for the “Lebanese Bride,” which is a very traditional manousheh topped with labneh, za’atar, tomatoes, mint and olive oil. It took me back to my time eating mana’eesh in Jordan. The dough is baked fresh and is fluffy and perfect. Friendly staff round out a great experience.
Zayt & Za’atar is open from 3 PM to 7 PM on Wednesdays at the Foggy Bottom Farmer’s Market next to Foggy Bottom Metro Station and from 9 am to 12:30 pm on Saturdays at the H Street Farmer’s Market at 800 13th Street NE.
In the US, hummus is often thought of as a mere dip, something to put out at a party in addition to guacamole or salsa. But in the Levant, hummus can truly anchor a meal. Jordanians, Palestinians, Israelis, Lebanese, etc. will fiercely argue about the best place to grab a meal of hummus. People make pilgrimages to spots like Abu Hassan in Jaffa, Hashem in Amman, Lina in Jerusalem and Hummus Said in Acre, just to eat a meal of hummus. And why not? Hummus is delicious, healthy and filling.
Little Sesame, tucked under the popular DGS Delicatessan, has finally brought this style of eating to DC. This laid-back, friendly spot serves up hummus with inventive toppings and fantastically fluffy pita, without doing anything that would piss off a purist myself. For instance, they don’t mess around with stupid stuff like chocolate dessert hummus. Instead, toppings like za’atar, sumac and chicken shawarma are firmly rooted in the Middle East. Oddly, they don’t have Middle Eastern drink options like mint lemonade or Vimto but ginger beer pairs surprisingly well with hummus. I had the #5: roasted onions, charred ramp vinaigrette, sumac and sorrel, which was absolutely delicious despite the fact that the vinaigrette made the hummus a little thinner than I would’ve liked. Do note that they are only open on weekdays for lunch, but it’s worth a trip even if your office isn’t super close by.
Little Sesame is located at 1306 18th St NW.
Charming Nomad is a food truck that serves a mixture of Pakistani and Afghan food, though I’d say it skews more towards the Pakistani. This solid lunch option offers tasty and relatively healthy South and Central Asian meals with fresh ingredients and very friendly staff. It differentiates itself from the rather nondescript kabob trucks with eye-catching (and charming) decor and a commitment to using local, farm to table ingredients.
You can find Charming Nomad’s location on their Twitter.
The poke (pronounced POH-kay) phenomenon has finally arrived in DC! For the uninitiated, poke is a popular Hawaiian snack consisting of marinated sashimi over rice with an assortment of toppings, such as seaweed, tempura flakes, pickled ginger and edamame, plus sauce. For those familiar with chirashi, poke is basically chirashi gone wild with flavors and toppings. Poke Papa, which is fast-casual, serves up excellent poke at very reasonable prices with generous portions. If you love sushi but hate how expensive it is, try Poke Papa for a delicious and fast raw fish meal that won’t break the bank. Friendly service add to a great experience!
Poke Papa is located in Chinatown at 806 H St NW.
Lunchtime meets Vegas at 50-50 Pizza, a food truck where you can spin a wheel on an iPad to determine how much you’ll pay for your meal. You have a 50-50 shot of only paying 99 cents for a pie with one topping. If you “lose” (they like to say everyone is a winner) you pay $9.99. It’s a really cool concept that adds an (often much-needed) dose of fun in the middle of the work day. As for the pizza itself, there’s room for improvement. The crust is pretty good and it’s a good size, but the cheese to sauce ratio tends way too heavily towards the cheese. I love cheese, but the amount of cheese is almost overwhelming, overpowering the sauce.
Find 50/50 Pizza’s location on their Twitter.
It may seem strange that I’m writing about a movie theater on a food blog, but Sun’s Cinema is far too cool of a spot for me not to write about. It’s a combined indie theater and dive bar in a small space in Mount Pleasant, offering up cheap drinks like $3 PBR, as well as the obligatory popcorn and, oddly, vegan pork rinds. They purport to sell “TV dinners” as well if you want something more substantial with your movie, but they didn’t have them available on the night when I went. The movie selection is eclectic and ranges from the old and obscure to the (relatively new) and popular, like Superbad. I went to see Ong Bak, a highly entertaining and action-packed Thai martial arts movie (yes, I was also skeptical when I first heard about it) that happens to be one of my favorite movies. The place attracts a cool crowd and is a real gem- my one gripe would be that because the floor isn’t slanted like a normal movie theater, you could have trouble seeing if you’re behind someone tall. My friend with me had to move to be able to read the subtitles. Other than that, though, I highly recommend checking this place out.
Suns Cinema is located at 3107 Mt. Pleasant St. NW.