As a devout reader of the Washingtonian’s annual “100 Very Best Restaurants” edition, it’s safe to say that I’m a bit of a foodie-in-training. After 10+ years of living, working and playing in DC, I’ve eaten at my fair share of notable places.
Rather than compile a list of my top restaurants, I wanted to focus on the dishes that really shine. The individual menu items that are just so good that I remember them in vivid detail days, weeks, even years after the meal is done.
Here are my some of my favorites – part one of the Best Food in DC.
Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake @ Good Stuff Eatery
When it comes to camping, the campfires are my favorite part… because campfires = roasted marshmallows! Equally delicious (and a little easier to procure) is this shake from Top Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s Capital Hill burger joint. Made with actual charred marshmallows blended with vanilla ice cream and milk, and topped with a few toasty confections, this is one treat worth traveling for. (And it tastes pretty darn good with a Farmhouse Bacon Cheeseburger and a side order of handcut fries.)
Crispy Brussels Afelia @ Zaytinya
This high-end Mediterranean tapas restaurant by the legendary Jose Andres is delicious from start to finish. But what brings me back time after time is something unexpected. Brussels sprouts! These are flash fried to be extra crispy (but not bitter) with some sweetness from something called barberries and a tangy garlic yogurt drizzled over top.
Deep Fried Bacon-Wrapped PB Cups with a cola tempura batter @ Passenger
Something so-bad-it’s-good… Inside these skewered treats is a hot, ooey-gooey salty sweet tempura’d bite of hedonistic heaven. Just enjoy (and don’t even think about the calories.) Basically, it’s the perfect bar food at a bar that’s the best in town.
Lobster Roll @ Red Pound Lobster Truck
Is there anything more DC than food out of a truck? Here we’ve got hipsters serving up Indian food, politicians in suits lining up for Hawaiian Spam Musubi and pretty much any other kind of cuisine you could imagine. But the absolute best is the infamous lobstah roll truck. Sweet, perfectly cooked meat in either a butter (Connecticut style) or lemon mayo (Maine style) sauce piled atop a warm, toasty buttered roll. It doesn’t come cheap – these rolls are $15/each and go down fast – but they rival the best rolls of New England.
Spicy Sauce @ Crisp & Juicy
People come to DC and just rave on and on about Peruvian chicken staple El Pollo Rico. For me, I say- no! Crisp and Juicy is where it’s at. The real star is their spicy mayo sauce, which hungry patrons slather on the chicken (well-seasoned with crispy skin and juicy meat) and dip spears of delectably fried yucca. Get your own sauce and you can double dip to your heart’s content!
Empanadas @ Julia’s Empanadas
When the bars begin to empty out, hungry late night bar-goers head to one of two places- Julia’s or Big Slice. Sure, pizza’s great, but Julia’s (pronounced hoo-le-ah’s) is the place to be. The empanadas range from Chilean-Style beef (with beef, raisins, hard-boiled egg, onion and olives), to Jamaican (beef, onion, potato and curry) and the vegetarian-friendly Spinach and Cheese and are just-right for late night noshing.
Wrapping up the list is the Ultimate DC Nosh… A Half Smoke @ Ben’s Chili Bowl
There’s a reason why everyone from Bill Cosby to President Obama to Anthony Bourdain have waxed poetic about Ben’s. It’s the ultimate greasy spoon… a local landmark for over 50 years. The halfsmoke is charred just enough to have a little crackle, and get it with all the fixings- mustard, onion and spicy chili.
What’s your favorite food in DC? Let me know in the comments and you may see it on Part 2!