A few weeks ago, Food Wars rolled into town to settle our city's big food conflict: who serves the best jumbo slice of shitty pizza in Adams Morgan.
Who won? Who cares?
The good folks over at the City Paper did a fine job panning this steaming pile of crap. However, the show did resurrect the issue of D.C.'s lack of a signature dish. A poll conducted by the City Paper back in December found (unsurprisingly) that most folks think the half-smoke at Ben's Chili Bowl is the District's Philly cheesesteak.
It's not, not for me anyway. When I think of D.C., I think of Julia's Empanadas.
In 2004, the missus and I moved down to Chapel Hill, N.C., so she could attend grad school and the University of North Carolina. For the three years we were in Carolina, I never thought about half-smokes, Peruvian chicken, or thin pizzas with fancy toppings. I thought about savory pastries filled with meat and egg. I thought about their weight and their egg wash. Trips back to D.C. often meant trips back to Julia's.
(The great thing about Julia's empanadas is that they're always good, whether you're eating one at 11 a.m. or 2 a.m. -- and I've eaten them at 11 a.m. and 2 a.m.)
Now, the empanadas being a Spanish-cum-South American dish, you'd think the Chilean style beef or the chicken filled Saltenas, with their boiled eggs, olives and onions would be the way to go. Or maybe the spicy chorizo empanada with black beans. Oh no, my friends, they may be delicious pockets of meaty joy, but the best one on the menu is the turkey empanada with spring onion.
The sweet savory ingredients of turkey, onions, jalapeno and cilantro mingle together in a rich filling tinted dark yellow by turmeric. It's Latin Thanksgiving inside a warm golden shell. Without a doubt, it is the best $3.41 this city has to offer (which is why I always end up spending $6.82).
So as the immigration debate rages on, consider that the signature dish of our nation's capital might be a South American pastry born in Spain. I like apple pie, but I love Julia's empanadas.