Food, glorious food! If you want something tasty this summer (and can stand to stop countin’ calories for a day), just venture to the D.C. area for some classic eats! My recommendations for a …
Nice, juicy burger: You won’t find any better than Ray’s Hell Burger at 1713 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington (Rosslyn neighborhood). I’ve only been here twice now (on the other side of town) but I’ll gladly venture back again and again. I got the au poivre burger, a peppercorn-encrusted behemoth that dripped with tastiness all over my plate. Good thing Ray’s provides plenty of paper towels! I got my burger with pepperjack cheese and some guacamole on the side, and a big tasty bottle of Moxie soda (which is pretty rare around here). You can pile your own burger with a wide variety of toppings or take one of Ray’s suggestions on the flipside of the menu. Oh, and they have root beer on tap! Final verdict: Best burger I’ve ever had, bar none. (Now to try Ray’s other restaurants: Ray’s: The Steaks and Ray’s: The Classics.)
Hot dog: Want it with chili? Head over to Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street – an area rich with African American history. This home of the famous half smoke has been in the business since 1958. It survived riots following the asassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sits on what was once known as “Black Broadway.” (See http://www.benschilibowl.com/ for the full story and lots of great photos!) Now a landmark, we happened to visit on a day an independent documentary was being filmed. Our group was struggling to find a place to sit in the popular restaurant when a nice lady said, “Oh, honey, you can sit back here!” and showed us to a back room, which was reserved for the film crew that day (who took pictures of us eating)! My half smoke was smothered in generous amounts of delicious chili and I almost died and went to heaven devouring it.
The back room’s walls were decorated with a beautiful painting of prominent African American figures, multiple photos of famous people who have visited the place (Bill Cosby was an avid Bowl-goer), and an amazing portrait that Eric said was made entirely out of wire. (I couldn’t see that well across the room.) Visit this place for the yummy, perfectly cooked food … and the bustling, friendly neighborhood atmosphere!
Pizza and beer: The Lost Dog Cafe serves up meals for a cause: The owners are directly involved in the rescue of hundreds of dogs and cats, and restaurant proceeds help out The Lost Dog and Cat Foundation (http://www.lostdogrescue.com/). I visited the brand new location on Columbia Pike and found a HUGE menu with 52 different speciality sandwiches (and plenty of “build-your-own” options), and at least 31 gourmet pizza options, not to mention a wide variety of appetizers, soups, salads, pasta, and desserts. The Crabmeat pizza comes with slabs of yummy crustacean across the top, while the Burro Pie equals homemade pico de gallo and black been dip with cheeses right on the crust. Speaking of crust, it’s so good you might want to munch on that alone for a snack — soft and doughy. And then there’s the beer menu … it’s a brew-lover’s dream with scores and scores of imported and domestic (including many IPA) beers, plus several wines and non-alcoholic options. Try the Clemson Tiger Tea to wash down your food — it’s a mixture of lemonade and iced tea.
The restaurant itself is clean and well-lit, with a friendly, down-home feel, a wall of beer bottles behind the bar, and a slew of framed rescued (or waiting-to-be-adopted) doggie pics. If you live closer to Washington Boulevard, there’s another location there. Also on Washington Boulevard: sister eatery and animal helper The Stray Cat Cafe, which features many Meditteranean options as well as another giant menu full of sandwiches, burgers and platters galore. (Haven’t been there yet, but rest assured I will soon 🙂 For more information, visit http://www.lostdogcafe.com/ or http://www.thestraycatcafe.com/.
Bolivian, anyone?: Have you ever had a saltena? If not, get thee to My Bakery & Cafe. My coworkers introduced me to the joy of Bolivian food here, and I have been back several times. With a few locations in Alexandria, Falls Church, and Manassas, you can find one somewhere near you in the Washington D.C. outskirts.
So, what is a saltena? It’s a round pastry with beef, chicken, and veggie stew inside. Warm and hearty, even just one is great for a satisfying meal, especially on a chilly, rainy day. You will get a side of green spicy sauce to dole onto your saltena. It’s delicious, but beware — it will also set your mouth on fire!
Aside from that, there are many other delicious options, many of which come with yuca (like french fries, only thicker and chewier), fried plantains, and egg. It’s all quite yummy, but the food is heavy and the portions are generous, so be prepared to bring some home for dinner! (Please don’t waste this good food!) My Bakery also has a wide variety of yummy-sounding cakes for all kinds of occasions, including Tres Leches (Three Milks) in a cup!
A gathering in your own backyard: My advice is this: Get a bushel of crabs, sprinkle liberally with Old Bay seasoning, and pass around the Honey Moon (Blue Moon’s summer seasonal brew!). Ahhhhh…now that’s heaven!