Adams Morgan

Church! The Best Places To Watch Football

At approximately 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 1, Casey Brockman will walk to the line. The Murray State quarterback will look across the field to find Louisville’s stud linebacker Dexter Heyman, hoping to God the Cardinals’ won’t blitz on first. The 6’2’’ junior will lean over center Brock Rydeck, ignore the jeers of the Cardinals’ crowd, and demand the ball.

In all likelihood, it will be a bad day for Casey, Brock and the Murray State Racers, but an excellent day for the rest of us. Because on that day, when Rydeck snaps that ball and Heyman drives Brockman into the field of Cardinal’s Stadium, football will once again be with us (this NFL preseason crap doesn't count).

It’s been said that this game of grace and violence is our national religion. If that’s the case, then the sports bar is our house of worship. Being a fan of far-away teams (South Florida, Buccaneers), it took me a while to find a few decent bars and restaurants in the D.C. area to watch football. The region may be inundated with sports bars, but few offer the trifecta of great beer, good food and the promise of your team on the screen (unless you’re a Skins fan, in which case any Chili’s will do).

Well, friends, I’m here to help. Below are my top five bars and restaurants in the DMV to watch the faux-pros on Saturday and Pro Bowlers on Sunday. 

1. The Black Squirrel: The Black Squirrel has three floors, 49 taps and 11 TVs (and if you call ahead, the third floor can be your private sports bar). Owner Amy Bowman keeps this Best Beer Bar stocked with a top tier line-up of craft beers, while the talented Gene Sohn runs the kitchen (order the burger). Is it a coincidence that on game days all the TVs are tuned in? Nope, The Black Squirrel was co-founded by former sports columnist Tom Knott. (Disclosure: I’m friends with Amy and Tom. Still, The Black Squirrel is a great place to watch football.) 

2. Iron Horse Taproom: If the Iron Horse Taproom opened at noon on weekends it would be the best place in D.C. to watch football. The multi-level bar is big, filled with TVs, has a great selection of craft beers, and features the best menu in town -- by not featuring a menu at all. The Penn Quarter tavern (pictured above) doesn’t have a kitchen, so it allows patrons to bring in food or have it delivered. Want to dig into some Texas barbecue while watching the Lone Star Showdown? No problemo. Grab a pound of brisket from Hill Country or better yet, a burrito from Capital Q and head to the Iron Horse. How about some lamb vindaloo while you watch the John Beck/Rex Grossman quarterback controversy unfold this season? Mehak is just down the street. Just make sure your game doesn’t start before 5 p.m. If it does, you’ll need to head elsewhere. 

3. Frisco Tap House: What’s more American than football? Excess. The Frisco Tap House has 50 taps, a beer engine, a table where you can pour your own draft beer, an extensive bottle and can list, great burritos and eight giant flat screen TVs (with more coming this fall). Sure, the Columbia, Md., bar is a hike if you live in Logan Circle. But if you live in Maryland, you have one hell of a place to watch football.

4. Capitol Lounge: This is where it started for me. When I moved from Tampa to D.C. in the late 90s, Cap Lounge was the only place in town I could reliably catch Bucs games. It helped that one of the bartenders was a Bucs fan and wanted to watch the games, too. The Capitol Hill bar continues to be a great spot to catch a game, with a mess of TVs tucked and hung throughout the two-floor restaurant, and a stellar selection of craft beers on draft and in bottles and cans.  

41380020 5. Rustico: These days, it’s tough to write a story about beer without mentioning ChurchKey and its downstairs sister, Birch & Barley. But before there was CKBB there was Rustico, owner Michael Babin’s first crack at a craft beer establishment. While ChurchKey is unabashedly a beer bar, a fine one at that, Babin makes sure his two Rustico restaurants remain casual neighborhood spots, which makes them ideal for watching the game. Greg Engert oversaw the beer program at the original Rustico in Alexandria before heading over to ChurchKey, and continues to curate the draft and bottle lists for his original restaurant and the newer Ballston location. Although neither will be mistaken for a sports bar, the Rusticos have just enough TVs to catch most of the marquee games. And if the beer list and full menu aren’t enough to attract you, they’re offering beer specials as well. Beginning September 10, both Rustico locations will offer $3.50 cans of craft beer, including G’Knight, Dale’s Pale Ale, Old Chub and Ten Fidy (they clearly have a thing for Oskar Blues’ beers), and $2.50 cans of college beer (because you or your buddy don’t know better) during games. 

The Black Squirrel: Best beer bar is the best reason to head to Adams Morgan

I don't care for Adams Morgan. I haven't since I was in my 20s, and even then I wasn't crazy about the neighborhood.

The clubs, chaos and shitty bars just aren't my scene any more, not that they ever were. I do love Madam's Organ, but even that ramshackle joint isn't enough to deal with the mess anymore. And as the good Ethiopian restaurants disappeared from the 18th Street corridor, there was nothing to draw me to the neighborhood.

Well, there was nothing.

33670003 A couple years ago, three friends who met in a bar opened a bar. A good bar. A very good bar -- The Black Squirrel, the hardest working beer bar in Washington, D.C. And they did it in the heart of Adams Morgan.

If there was ever any doubt that the craft beer revolution has changed D.C.'s bar scene, you need only consider The Black Squirrel. Before Gene Sohn, Tom Knott and Amy Bowman took over the space, it was another Irish pub, one of too many in the area. Like so many businesses up and down 18th Street, the Irish place failed. The fickle tastes of the twenty-something bar hoppers that crowd the sidewalks every weekend decided that pints of Guinness weren't their thing and so another Adams Morgan business needed a buyer.

33670008 Since the trio moved in and replaced the imported macros with American micros, they've established a following of neighborhood regulars and loyal beer enthusiasts willing to trek into Adams Morgan to experience what's on tap. Two years after opening, The Black Squirrel is on its second expansion. Last year, they opened an upstairs bar and lounge. Later this year, they'll outfit their freshly graffitied basement with a bar (with 30 to 40 draft lines!) and bring in live music. Soon enough, they'll open a second location and start brewing their own beer.

And to think they've done all this without Jägerbombs, drink specials or, frankly, much experience.

Gene Sohn spent his career in fine dining. After a three-year stint cooking at Marcel's in the West End, Sohn was ready for something different, maybe a place of his own. So he started talking to Amy and Tom, a long-time couple who were fellow regulars at the old Austin Grill in Glover Park. Amy is a health care writer, Tom a sports columnist, and neither has ever worked in the restaurant or bar business, but they were interested.  

33670021 Man, were they. In the past two years, Gene, Amy and Tom (far left, background and right, respectively) have operated one of the most interesting craft beer bars in the area. Their draft lineup isn't the largest in D.C., but beer director Melissa Yuckel (center) makes the most of what they got. Two taps are dedicated to Black Squirrel white and Black Squirrel black beers (usually a Belgian witbier and an amber), but the other 15 feature a regular rotation of American craft and imports, including Great Lakes' Eliot Ness lager, Great Divide's Titan IPA and North Coast's Brother Thelonious abbey ale. In the coolers, The Black Squirrel offers 80 to 100 bottles, the latest of which are advertised on the chalkboard next to Tom's favorite perch at the end of the bar. A couple months ago, they got on the growing firkin bandwagon and started tapping a cask of fresh local beer every Friday.

This alone would make The Black Squirrel a good beer bar (and the best damn bar in its neighborhood). But they're not done (I told ya, they're workin'.).

Because all of that is just not enough, Amy or the bar staff have made multi-state beer runs to pick up beer otherwise unavailable in the D.C. area (Greg Jasgur may be driving Three Floyds back from Chicago, but Amy's going up and down the damn East Coast). As a result, The Black Squirrel has held North Carolina Beer week, New Belgium beer week, Philly beer week and has more theme weeks on the way. Each time one of these new beers rolls into the bar, Gene rolls out new specials from the kitchen. North Carolina beer week featured Big Boss from Raleigh and pulled pork sandwiches from Gene. Philly beer week included beers from Yards and Sly Fox, and foie gras cheesesteaks with black truffle mousse (yeah it did). Now, they've cracked open cases of SweetWater beer from Atlanta and served them with an appropriately Southern menu of fried chicken, greens and grits.

"What we've learned from our type of customers is they want to be surprised," Tom said. And so the road trips and taps rotations will continue.

33670017 When Amy, Tom and Gene started talking about opening a place three years ago, the District's craft beer scene was just getting under way. There was Bierria Paradiso in Georgetown, the Brickskeller in Dupont Circle and its sister restaurant RFD in Chinatown, but ChurchKey was still two years from opening and Pizzeria Paradiso's cramped Dupont location didn't have a bar. Granville Moore's and Brasserie Beck had just opened, expanding the Belgian beer scene from Belga Café on Barrack's Row to the Atlas District and downtown.

Today, the beer bar scene is in full swing, yet The Black Squirrel remains a standout.

"We do have more of a domestic (beer) focus," said Amy, who described The Black Squirrel as a "hop head" bar. "It's sort of nice that they have their niche and we have our niche."

That niche includes location. Think about where all the beer bars popped up in the District: Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Logan Circle, downtown, even H Street, which is still pretty rough. For a neighborhood that's known for its Miller Lite bars and noisy clubs, its only craft beer bar stands out.

When they were considering locations for The Black Squirrel, Amy said they recognized that Adams Morgan was a club district that didn't have anything like what they were considering. However, it was more affordable than other locations around the city. Besides, for all late-night crowds and turnover in businesses on 18th, they knew a lot of people lived in the neighborhood who didn't have a spot to grab a decent meal and enjoy a beer. If they could attract the locals (they have), their business might just work (it has).

Another factor in their success is their staff. Tom said they attract well-educated, bright employees who understand the concept and are good with the customers. The problem with bartenders and wait staff with graduate degrees, however, is it's hard to keep them around.  

Now, I've never asked Melissa or their former bar manager Hollie Stephenson (who's heading up their brewing project) for their CV, but The Black Squirrel's staff is friendly enough, which is probably more important than their academic backgrounds (but who am I to argue?). After all, you can clearly run a successful beer bar and restaurant in a challenging neighborhood with absolutely no experience whatsoever.

When he was looking for business partners, Gene said he was more interested in finding someone who would be a good fit rather than someone with a restaurant industry background. As it turned out, it may be Amy and Tom's lack of restaurant experience that has been their greatest asset.

Gene runs the kitchen, while Amy and Tom handle the front of the house. Amy also takes care of marketing, paperwork, beer menu and stock levels and deals with the city. Tom oversees the staff, financing and works on new endeavors, like the second location and brewing project. It's a system that's working, but that's not to say there isn't room for improvement.

33670013 I understand the decision to open shop in Adams Morgan, but I don't have to like it. But because I like The Black Squirrel - and I do - I'm compelled to wade back into the neighborhood. To mitigate my misery, I tend to hit the bar earlier rather than later, which helps, but even in the late afternoon, Adams Morgan isn't great, it's just less shitty.

If Gene, Amy and Tom had opened The Black Squirrel in another neighborhood, I might've had my own stool next to Tom's by now.

During the interview, Amy said one of the keys to their success is the food, which Gene calls typical bar food, but done with fine dining quality. That's probably true (foie gras cheesesteaks, people). I've rarely been in The Black Squirrel without seeing families and couples having dinner. But as I've mentioned before, a good restaurant doesn't make a good bar.

It's kind of like kids in a casino. I like my bars to be full of drinkers, so the family sitting at the next table enjoying their meal always takes me a little out of the moment. A native of Houston, Amy said you can't go into a bar in Texas without finding good food. Well, I'd like to keep my bars and restaurants distinct, but that's just me.

As for the beer, Melissa does an excellent job making the most of the space she has. Of all the beer bars in the D.C. area, The Black Squirrel consistently has the strongest and most consistent selection of American craft beers. However, their selection of local beers is spotty. While you may find a couple bottles of Flying Dog and occasionally a Heavy Seas on draft, I'd like to see a wider selection of local beers (Hook & Ladder, Evolution, even Baltimore's The Brewer's Art), particularly from a bar that prides itself on its domestic lineup. After all, what's more American than supporting your community?

What they do have on hand does rotate a good bit, which keeps the beer and selection fresh. But the way they advertise the new beers is confusing. The chalkboard by the bar (and Tom) lists the new bottles. I know this because the first time I ordered off of it expecting a draft beer to show up, I was given a bottle and a glass. In my experience, my chalkboard lists are for drafts and printed lists are for bottles. However, the printed draft list is (occasionally) relegated to the menu and may or may not be current. Honestly, the best way to find out what's on draft is to ask, which is fine at the bar, but sucks when you're at a table.

The communication problems also extend to the Website. As far as I can tell, the only useful information on the Website is the phone number and address (maybe the food menu, too). The draft and bottle beer lists are out of date, and they never advertise all their special beer weeks. So, if you want to find out about an upcoming event, you need to connect with The Black Squirrel on Facebook. If you want to find out what's on draft, you better head down there. Pizzeria Paradiso, ChurchKey and RFD do a decent job of updating their beer selections online, and there's no reason The Black Squirrel couldn't do the same. When I'm trying to decide where to spend my money on a few craft beers, I like to know what my options are. Unfortunately, The Black Squirrel's Website doesn't help.

That said, roll the dice and see what Amy and Melissa have brought in. The Black Squirrel isn't the biggest place, and it doesn't have the most taps or the largest selection; but Lord knows they're all working hard and burning fuel to make sure that that 18th Street joint is one of the best beer bars we got.

And you know what? It is.

Score: 16 of 20 (beer: 7 of 8, atmosphere: 3 of 5, bartenders: 4 of 5, other elements 2 of 2)

The Best Beer Bars so far: Birreria Paradiso (17 of 20), The Galaxy Hut (16 of 20), Franklin's (14 of 20), and Rustico (16 of 20), Lost Dog Café (12 of 20). And don't miss our special feature on D.C.'s best German bars.

The Black Squirrel
2427 18th St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 232-1011


Well, it finally happened -- For the first time I, Jason Storch, actually enjoyed an Ethiopian meal. For those of you that think I don't actually pay attention to comments,'re wrong. Back when I posted about Zed's, a couple people, through comments and emails, told me about Harambe in Adams Morgan. I noticed it again last weekend when I ate next store to it at El Tamarindo, so this week, I decided to give it a try since it's Mother's Day weekend and mother-to-be Amy loves Ethiopian food. (It turns out though, that Harambe is Eritrean, not strictly Ethiopian.)

I was a little hesitant to try Harambe, as are many people when they see a restaurant with no one in it. Last week when I looked in the window, there were maybe two tables taken. This week, as we approached the restaurant, there was only a single table with people at it.

"OK. Appearances aren't everything," I told myself as I opened the front door.

The restaurant is sparsly decorated -- the space has an old eclectic feel, but the furniture has a modern spin on it. Candles line the walls, but none of them are lit. In the rear of the restaurant by the bar, there was a single bar table with a group of men smoking by it, most likely friends of the manager with whom they were talking non-stop. Perhaps they were the owners or friends of the owner. Pretty much the whole night, one person would leave, and then about five minutes later, another would appear, they'd all greet him happily and bring out some food for him. Some smooth jazz played over the sound system.

The menu was pretty small -- no desserts that I could see -- Maybe they're on a separate menu. Also, the first page had pasta on it of all things, which I found really first. There were only three appetizers: Sambusas, chicken or beef soup, and Azifa (lentil salad). Under the appetizers is a section for pasta. On the menu it says "Experience this Italian favorite improved upon by influences from the east." Thinking back now, I probably should have at least ordered the pasta for $6 to see what it was like, but the ignorance of my white-suburban upbringing reared it's ugly head, causing me to raise an eyebrow and say, "There's something not right about pasta on an Ethiopian restaurant's menu." At that point Amy (with her photographic memory) recalled that almost all of the desserts on the menus at Meskerem and Zed's are Italian.

"Maybe there's an Italian influence in Ethiopia that we don't know about," she stated. It turns out, she was right. In 1889, Italy had significant influence over Ethiopia through a treaty where Italy thought that Ethiopia was its protectorate. Ethiopia, however, had a differing opinion and when Italy tried to invade Ethiopia in 1896, Ethiopia fought back the invaders. Through another treaty, Italy was allowed to keep a base in Eritrea. Then in 1991, Eritrea gained it's independance from Ethiopia and there have been ongoing border disputes between the two countries ever since. Since Harambe serves Eritrean food, perhaps the reason that they have pasta on their menu is because they had the greatest Italian influence due to the base being located there. It's amazing what you can learn from food. OK. Enough with the history lesson already.

The rest of the menu is traditional Ethiopian, or should I say Eritrean fare (I'm starting to get confused myself). Tibbs, FitFit, Wat, Kitfo, Gored Gored, all with slightly differently spelled names than other similar places we've eaten at. We ended up ordering a couple vegetarian sambusas, Harambe Tibbs (small morsels of steak in a sauce with onions, tomatos and jalapenos), Dorho (typically Doro Watt at other Ethiopian restaurants -- chicken in a garlic, onion and ginger sauce with a hard-boiled egg), and Shiro (pureed chick peas and mixed vegetables). The sambusas were rather good and probably better than other sambusas I've had. The outside crust was light and flakey and the inside filling, made with lentils, onions, and jalapenos, was juicy and spicy. One thing Harambe likes to put in their food more than anything else is fresh jalapenos and I appreciated the extra spice they added to each of the dishes.

Our entrees were all very good as well. The beef in the Harambe Tibbs was tender and all of the ingredients seemed fresh. I didn't get the sense that our dishes were sitting on a stove all night waiting for us to order them.  As with the sambusas, the entrees were adequately spiced. A nice balance was added to the meal with the Shiro which was sweet and complemented the other two spicier dishes.The only complaint that we had was that the Shiro was completely pureed and smooth and we would have liked a little texture to it, but I think it was served as it is actually supposed to be.  Compared with the Tibbs, the Dorho was a little bland. Entrees were served with a variety of vegetable sides (collards, spinach, cabbage, etc.), all of which were nice compliments to the main courses.

I tried a new beer called Asmara. It's brewed in the city of Asmara in Eritria. It had a creamy, hoppy flavor to it that matched the spicyness of the food rather well. This was the first place I've been to where I saw this beer being served. Don't even bother with the wine menu at Harambe. Most of the wines are those that you find at the local corner store in your neighborhood. The good news is that you wont find them charging $30 of the $5 bottle of Sutter Home Merlot -- it's more like $12.

As usual, we ordered way too much food and left a lot on the plate when we were done. Something about the injera just fills us up really fast. Of course, we didn't order any dessert. Our service was typical of and Ethiopian restaurant: not really quick and we had a hard time understanding our waitress, but it's all part of the atmosphere I guess. The manager came around to check on us at one point in the meal, which was nice. Now on to the financials...

Most of the entrees are only $9 - the most expensive being the combination dishes that are $13. Vegetarian entress are only $6! This was an extremely economical meal for us at $41 where we ordered three entrees, two appetizers, and I had two beers. Overall I wasn't completely blown away by this meal,  but it was one of the better Ethiopian places I've eaten at, and that says a lot.

1771 U Street NW (corner of U and 18th)
Washington, DC
(202) 332-6435

Dress Code: Casual
Parking: Street Parking - Good luck with that in Adams Morgan
Reservations: You don't need them
Smoking: I saw people smoking by the bar
Amy's Bathroom Rating: Old and run-down but clean and well-stocked.
Nearest Metro: Dupont Circle

Continue reading "Harambe" »

Cashion's Eat Place

Cashion's Eat Place. The name sounds rather deceptive doesn't it? The name makes you think of some soul food place that serves you buffet style. However, Ann Cashion and John Fulchino's French-American restaurant in Adams Morgan is anything but that. Saturday night when we dined there, we had the luxury of sitting in the window. Every five minutes, someone would walk up in jeans and a t-shirt looking for a quick bite to eat. When they took one look at the menu, their eyes popped out of their heads and they quickly did a 180 in the other direction. We first went to Cashion's when we first moved to DC, before Ann Cashion won her James Beard Award. I was happy to see that the restaurant hasn't changed much.

Saturday morning, I called to make the reservation because I was too absent-minded to call the night before or any other time in advance. I got their answering service, but it turned out that you could leave a message to make a reservation, so I did. The answering service said "If you'd like to make a reservation, please leave you name, phone number, the number of people in your party and the time you'd like to make your reservation after the beep and we'll call you to confirm."

My response was, "Hello, my name is Jason Storch. I'd like to make a reservation for anywhere from 7 to 9:30 pm. Thank you." And then I hung up.

Instantly, Amy said, "Uh...did you forget something?"


"You didn't say how many people you wanted the reservation for," she barked.

"Oh, shit."

Anyway, I called them back again and left a new message with the full information that they had requested in the first place. Later, someone from the restaurant called me back as promised I also remembered to leave my phone number the second time). They didn't have anything the times I wanted though. I had a choice of anywhere from 5 to 6 PM or 10 PM. Damn. We chose 5:45. I later found out at that if you want your choice of times on Saturday night, you have to call by Tuesday.

Before I get to the meal, let me tell you about one thing. The $5 valet doesn't start until...well, until sometime after we arrived at 5:45. It probably started at 6, but Cashion's web site mentioned nothing of a start time for the valet. Anyway, I was driving around Adams Morgan for about 20 minutes trying to find a spot.

OK. Now onto the food. Amy's not drinking, so I had to choose from the wines by the glass. Most of the glasses ranged from $8 to $9. I did take a quick look at the wines by the bottle. For a restaurant where the entrees range from $20 to $30, I would've expected the wines by the bottle to be more expensive than they were. There were many in the $30 to $40 range.

Amy began her meal with a roasted beet, goat cheese, and walnut salad. Amy loved the beets. For some reason she said the beets were soothing. I loath beets. I'm not sure what it is about them...the texture, the flavor, the fact that they turn your tongue red...I.LOATH.THEM. I did, however, like the goat cheese which I spread on the bread they gave us. I started with a goat cheese and leek tarte, which tasted really strong, and creamier than I expected. A word for any vegetarians out there (Not that Cashion's Eat Place is vegetarian friendly at all), but there were two pieces of bacon on the tarte, which was not mentioned on the menu.

I wasn't all that crazy about my entree -- organic beef short ribs on top of risotto with fava beans, peas and caramelized onions. The short ribs were tender and would have been great on their own, but the sauce ruined it. It made the dish more like a stew. The short ribs were swimming in the sauce which was extremely over-powering. Thinking back, it serves me right for ordering beef short ribs which aren't the finest quality of meat by definition. Frankly, I'm sick of seeing every restaurant with short ribs on their menu. I should've ordered the bison filet or the lamb roast which I would've enjoyed much more.

Luckily for me, Amy didn't finish half of her Mediterranean Dorade. If you're unfamiliar with what dorade is (like we were when Amy ordered it), here is a fact sheet on the fish. The fish was roasted to perfection and cooked very simply (unlike my short ribs) with some grilled veggies, black olives and lemon. The fish tasted like and had the consistency of salmon, with a slighly meaty texture.

After our entrees, neither of us had much room for dessert, but we ordered some anyway because you always want to order dessert at Cashion's. We opted for the chocolate hazelnut terrine which our waiter recommended. I was expecting  a slightly larger piece of cake than what appeared, but since I wasn't very hungry, I didn't mind. On the side there were hazelnuts covered with hardened caramel, basically like a hazelnut brittle. The chopped hazelnut layer in the cake had cinnamon in it as well with cut the sweetness of the chocolate. It was all VERY good!

Service was excellent -- Attentive, but not over-attentive -- Friendly, but not too friendly. Our food came out perfectly timed. At no point in our meal did I look around wondering where something was. Like I said, perfect. Cashion's does a nice job of keeping the reservations spread out and not overloading the servers and the kitchen staff, unlike some other restaurants that we've been to lately.

Our bill came to about $100 for two appetizers, two entrees, two glasses of wine, a dessert and a cup of coffee. Overall, I was pretty pleased with our visit to Cashion's Eat Place and we'll probably go back again soon.

Cashions Eat Place
1819 Columbia Rd NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 797-1819

Dress Code: Casual to Business Casual
Parking: None - Good Luck finding a spot in Adams Morgan. I ended up parking illegally. Valet available for $5, just be patient.
Nearest Metro: Woodly Park.
Reservations: Taken
Amy's Bathroom Rating: Immaculate.

Afghan Grill

Friday night, Amy and I visited Afghan Grill again. It's been about five or so months since we'd last been there - too long if you ask me. I had a major craving for their Kadu Buranee (sauteed pumpkin). We didn't bother making a reservation, but we probably should've. The restaurant was packed around 8 PM when we arrived. Overall, Aghan Grill seems to be doing very well. I mean, the last time we'd been there, they weren't nearly as crowded and it was really easy to get a table. This time, we were lucky that they were able to make room for us.

We didn't order appetizers, although, I wish we had. (I saw someone order the sampler and it looked very enticing.) Instead we decided to just get entrees and eat the pita bread that they always bring to the table. They did change the dipping sauce that they bring with the bread - for the better. It is now much spicier. You can see the pepper seeds in it. They've obviously added jalapenos or some other green pepper to the recipe. I also ordered a glass of the Turkish red which has always been a winner in the past.

When the entrees came, I was ready to devour. Amy ordered the Kadu Buranee and it was very good as usual. Knowing that Amy would never finish her entire dish, I went with something new. I should have written down the name of the dish, but I remember the last word in the title was "Pulao". Anyway, it was a basmati rice dish with carrots, raisins, and your choice of chicken or lamb. It was excellent. The meat was tender and adequately seasoned. I don't know what it is about the rice at Afghan Grill, but I swear I could eat plates and plates of it on it's own. The sweetness of the carrots and raisins complimented the spices in the chicken well. The Kadu Buranee that Amy ordered tasted great as usual. Overall it is a very sweet dish. Meat sauce is added to the top of the sauteed pumpkin to add a salty flavor to the dish.

We opted out of dessert. This was probably one of the fastest meals we've eaten in a long time. I mean, we were in and out in less than an hour. Most of the people that were there when we arrived were still there when we left. The pace of the service helped very much. The server brought our food not too long after we ordered it. Each server in the restaurant helped with out table at some point, whether it was filling out water glasses or bringing our food. Service gets an A+ grade. When it was all over, the check only came to $33 which was definitely on the cheaper side compared to most of our meals recently.

Read about my previous trips to Afghan Grill here.

Afghan Grill
2309 Calvert Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 234-5095

Dress Code: Casual
Parking: None - street parking is a rare in Woodley Park. No Valet either. I recommend taking the metro or cabbing.
Nearest Metro: Woodly Park. Literally, it's right there.
Reservations: Taken
Bathroom rating: Eh, they're ok. The actually aren't in the restaurant. You have to go outside the restaurant and upstairs to some comment restroom that the building has. Cleanliness is questionable, but all the utilities are all working.

Straits of Malaya

So I could start this review out telling you how Straits of Malaya in Adams Morgan used to be Wazuri and how at he beginning of the year the owners of Wazuri decided to close and reopen Straits of Malaya after 5 years, but EVERYONE knows this. If you don't know, you can read all about it here, here, and here.

Anyway, last Friday, Amy and I went to Straits of Malaya.  I was really in the mood for something new last weekend. We'd been to the places in our neighborhood way too much lately, and it was time for a change. After reading some interesting things about Straits of Malaya, I thought Malaysian food would be an welcome diversion.

At about 8 PM we arrived at the restaurant. There was a short wait to get a table on the roof top deck or the front sidewalk, so we just opted to sit at a window inside. The first thing we noticed once we were sat was the extremely friendly service from all the staff. Everyone from the bus boys to the manager were eager to serve. One of the people serving us turned out to be the owners sister who was visiting her brother and was helping out at the restaurant. She was very friendly as well.

The menu was atypical from other places we've been and that was to be expected since we've never had Malaysian before. My first impression was that all of the dishes had hints of Thai, Chinese and Indian influences on them. The appetizer that caught my eye as well as Amy's was the five-spice roll. From the description on the menu, it sounded like an Indian style meatloaf - and I love meatloaf, so we ordered it. Another appetizer I'd like to try is the beef-stuffed curry puffs - Maybe next time. For an entree, I ordered the "signature dish", a spicy chicken and eggplant curry with rice and carrots. I forget the Malaysian name for the dish and I seem to have misplaced the menu I grabbed on the way out. Oops. Amy ordered the Cha Kway Teow, a spicy Chinese-style rice noodle dish with sprouts and chicken.  The only reason I know the name of that dish is because everyone else who has reviewed Straits of Malaya has written about it.

As we were waiting for our food to come out we were people watching. I can't think of a better place to people watch than Adams Morgan. There is always such a huge variety of people there. Looking around the restaurant and seeing all the empty tables at Straits of Malaya, and then looking across the street at the tourist trap we call Lauri-hole Plaza, we laughed. There's no reason there should be such a wait for that place.  Anyway, there...I said it. Just like everyone else who has reviewed this Straits of Malaya. So? Sue me.

The five-spice roll came out and it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but non the less it tasted great and turned out to be the highlight of the meal. Basically, it is a thick, Malaysian-style beef sausage, sliced thin and served with a spiced soy sauce. This dish was like nothing else I've had and Amy and I both really enjoyed it. We almost ordered another one, but then our main courses came out. Another comment is that the food always came out promptly and with good timing.

The entrees came out similar to the way entrees come out at an Indian restaurant. They are served in little dishes on trays and meant to be shared among everyone at the table. My first impression of my entree was that it would have been better without the eggplant. The eggplant was really overcooked and had an overall mushy texture. Maybe it is cooked this way on purpose, but I just did not care for it. Other than that, it had some really good flavor - spicy, hints of curry, etc. The chicken was not overcooked which is always a good thing and the carrots were a nice touch. Overall though, I would say I have have better dishes that were similar to this.

I like Amy's Cha Kway Teow better than mine. The noodles had just the right texture, and everything was cooked to perfection. The sprouts were not overcooked, the chicken was tender, and the sauce had just the right amount of spice to make you have to take a drink every couple of bites. This dish, I would say, is worth a second trip to Straits.

The portions are fairly large, so we had no room for dessert, although, there was nothing on the dessert menu that really peaked out interest. As I said before, the service was very attentive, and the check came out as soon as we were ready for it. The bill came to around $70 with an appetizer, 2 entrees and 4 beers, and tip. I would say that it was pretty reasonable given it's location and the quality of the food. Most entrees were priced between $10-15 and the appetizers were all below $9.

Dress was casual. Most people there were wearing jeans although I spied an occasional sport coat. I was wearing a nice pair of dress slacks and a nice shirt and I fit right in.

My final judgement. Straits of Malaya is probably on of the better restaurants in Adams Morgan. I'd put it up there with the likes of Meskerem. As far as service goes, it is probably the best in Adams Morgan. We'll probably go back, but I just wont order the same entree again.

Straits of Malaya
1836 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 483-1483

5:30pm-10:30pm Sun-Thu
5:30pm-11pm Fri-Sat

Dress Code: Casual
Reservations: Accepted

The biggest sign of insanity is...

How boring am I? I came home from work today. Amy was already home and I was starving. We had the usual conversation.

"What do you want to do for dinner?"

"I don't know. What do you want to do?"

I was trying to stay on the cheaper side tonight, because our credit card bill broke the bank this month (too much eating out!). Somehow, we ended up on our way back to Adams Morgan and LeftBank.

They say the biggest sign of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over and expecting a different outcome. HELLO?! Don't you remember a couple weekends ago -- the $90 check, average entrees and mediocre service?  Yeah, yeah, but the melon and prosciutto...hmm, that was good.

But this time seemed different. Our waitress, Natalie, was the perkiest waitress we've ever had. She knew every dish on the menu and, unlike the waiter we had last time, actually gave us a sushi menu.  On top of that, she was able to rattle off the entire tea-infused martini menu. Our previous waiter didn't even know they had them. When they were out of something that we ordered (the salmon napoleon), she recommended the fried calamari (it was her favorite) which turned out to be wonderful.

We did learn one lesson from our last visit. We stayed away from the entrees and ordered five first courses. Natalie even said it was a good idea to order that way. All of the dishes were great - tuna tartare, melon and prosciutto, sausage and lentil ragu, grilled asparagus salad...oh, and the calamari.

I was feeling really good about this meal...then the waitress brought the check. It came to about $95. Wait, wasn't I trying to do a cheap meal tonight?

Just like last time, the culprit was the alcohol. Those tea-infused martinis were $10 each, and then we let Natalie talk us into several glasses of wine.  They were out of the wine we requested, but were offering a more expensive wine by the glass for $7. Four glasses later, we were presented with a $38 liquor bill.

Ouch. Again.


Early this year, Cities "closed for remodelling". When it reopened, it had a new name, look and menu. The swanky feel that once was Cities has been replaced by the retro-casual environment of LeftBank. The owner, Sahir Erozan, refers to the new environment as a wired bistro lounge. Translation: Retro-looking cafeteria tables, pleather booths, and funky lighting. But who gives a crap about that? On to the food.

The menu changed completely, which is no surprise. You now have a choice of four menus: Garden, Ocean, Farm, and Sushi. The Garden menu contains all vegetarian/vegan dishes, the Ocean menu is all seafood, and the Farm menu, naturally, is for all us carnivores. All of the menus were surprisingly friendly to the fad diets (one of which, I am still on -- sort of). As far as price goes, there were no entrees over $15 and the appetizers all ranged between $5 and $9. There was one appetizer that was only $1, but I wondered if it was a typo. The wine list was nothing to write home to mommy about, but was reasonably priced.

We were seated at a six person cafeteria-style table. All of the tables are large. If there are only two of you, you'll be sharing the table with someone.

Continue reading "LeftBank" »

Mr. Chen's - I can't believe I just discovered this place!

For years now, people have been telling me that I need to try Mr. Chen's Organic chinese delivery and for some reason I ignored them...until Thursday night. Oh my effen God! Best Chinese Amy and I have ever had!! Everything was fresh. Not to sound like a commercial, but you never would've guessed it was delivery. Quoted from the top of the menu, "At Mr. Chens Restaurant, we use organic fresh vegetables along with a health-conscious cooking style to prepare delicious Chinese cuisine."

I ordered the Chicken in Black Bean Sauce. It was just slightly spicy and the chicken wasn't overcooked --TONS of flavor (not MSG flavor). My only complaint was that there were not many black beans in the sauce, but it is only a tiny one. Amy got Kung Pao Chicken and loved it as well. Like mine, it was slightly spicy which just kicked the flavor up a bit. I always like that. We also ordered some spicy wontons which weren't all that spicy, but tasted a lot better than they looked. Definitely try the Curry Fried Rice. It was very different from any other fried rice than we had ever had. It is basically your typical fried rice with chicken, pork, shrimp (or vegetarian) and some curry and tumeric spices. 

The menu gives you the option of small or large portions. If you want a ton of leftovers, order the large. We did and ate them the next day for lunch.

Mr. Chen's Organic Chinese Cuisine
2604 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 797-9668


I have to admit, Ethiopian food is not my favorite. I find it pretty boring because all the food pretty much tastes the same to me. Amy, however, loves it. The other night, we went over to Adams Morgan to try Cities again but to our disappointment, they were closed (Cities is closed until April to prepare for their yearly change in menu). Right next-door to Cities, is Meskerem (I wonder if Amy knew that Cities was closed :)). I had been putting off getting Ethiopian food for a while now. Pretty much every time we go out, Amy brings up the idea of either going to Zed's or Meskerem, and I find an excuse not to go. There was no excuse this time.

Continue reading "Meskerem" »