It’s always fun when you walk to the hostess stand at a restaurant on a Friday night and she gives you a worried look when you say you don’t have reservations. It’s even better when she says she has this one table and gives you that sideways look. And it’s the best when the universe says, “You know what? I’ve got this.” and you end up with the best seats in the house.
So started my Friday night when a friend and I trekked over to Oyamel for the Tequila Mezcal Festival (that ends in 3 days. Get it while it’s hot.) We waltzed in and 5 minutes later we were seated in the window seats by the ceviche station. it was the quintessential city experience. Drinking fantastic libations, eating delicious food, having great conversation, and watching the city walk by.
Oyamel serves traditional Mexican food, tapas style. It’s not cheap but totally worth it. The food was fresh and flavorful. I wouldn’t whole-heartedly recommend a spot unless the drinks were up to par. I tried the Vallarta ’75 and the Riviera off the house menu. The Tequila Mezcal Festival drinks were all too spicy for my taste. Both were well balanced and intriguing in their ingredient combinations. A true experience in each sip. Next time I’ll try something off the entire page of margaritas.
Overall rating: I’ll definitely be back. I’d be fine being anywhere in the restaurant because the food and drink are superb, however I’d definitely request the window seat.
My love of oysters is apparently never ending. I could eat them everyday. I’m even getting pretty handy with my new shucking knife. I recently figured out, after extensive taste testing of course, that oysters sourced from the Chesapeake Bay are my current favorites. Naturally that means I found myself at Rappahannock Oyster Company’s stall at Union Market.
First, let’s acknowledge how awesome Union Market is, and how annoying it is to get to (like anything on the red line). They have everything, from butchers and bakers to knife makers and, well, local oysters.
The oysters served were Stingrays, Olde Salts, and my personal favorite the Rappahannock River oysters. On a scale of brininess, Olde Salts (as the name suggests) taste like delicious ocean water, ranging to the Rappahannocks that are sweet and delicate.
It would be totally out of character if I didn’t mention the drinks. They have a nice selection of a few local beers and a small selection of cocktails. I was nursing a pretty hard hangover when I went, but two Bloody Marys later I was feeling right as rain. It was not overly spicy and far too quaffable.
Overall rating: Oyster lovers must try Rappahanock Oyster Bar; everyone must visit Union Market at least once. Make it a day as the new One Eight Distilling is within walking distance.
Rum. It’s one of those staple liquors that I forget about. Which is distinctly un-American. Rum was deeply rooted in colonial America, long before whisky. As I learned at a Society of Cincinnati event, the lowering of taxes on non-British molasses, the base of rum, was one of the sparks of the Revolution. Yes, we were upset about lower taxes. Trust me it makes sense.
Set in a gorgeous building, wherein I felt I had breached the outer ranks of a secret society, I learned some and drank more. Lyon Distilling out of Maryland had always been on my list to visit, and now after tasting their rums it’s jumped to a higher priority. They brought three types of rum, white, bourbon-barrel aged, and dark. The white rum is the base spirit and Lyon Distilling uses the traditional molasses as well as cane sugar, lending it a grassy note. The barrel-aged rum as you may guess was my favorite, strong vanilla on the nose with a smokey hit on the palate. The dark rum is not the usual dark rum that you can get in the woefully inadequate Virginia ABC stores. They boil down cane sugar into a caramel, no food dyes or anything like that, and add it to the white rum. Because the caramelized cane sugar reflects the cane sugar already in the spirit, it melds beautifully, resulting in a sweeter rum.
Overall rating: For $15, this was an absolute steal. I’m always in favor of scholarly drinking, so I’ll definitely be looking for more of these to attend.
So I’m sorry I’ve been absent for a bit. Started a new job that was wearing me out with all the learning of new skillz. But I’m back and I’ll try to keep getting to of all of the DC barstools that are out there. So we begin again with an old favorite: Pearl Dive.
As we all should know by now my heart sings for oysters. Simple, raw oysters. Specifically east coast oysters, because the east coast is better. The east coast ones are meaty and have a sweet finish, while the west coast oysters taste like salt and then cucumber. But you can get either type of oyster at any self-respecting raw bar. What really drives me to Pearl Dive over and over again are the drinks and the people.
Who else has great Vodka martinis as a happy hour special? Though the more I learn about cocktails I might have to amend my usual dry martini order. The speciality cocktails are far too delicious and I always end up drinking more than my wallet would appreciate. The little sidewalk patio is great in the summer, and the people watching is always top-notch.
Plus the bartenders that I’ve met, George and Enzo, are great to talk to if you are sitting at the bar alone waiting for some friends or just killing some time. Or if you’re with a group; so really anytime. They also happen to be quite knowledgable and make superb cocktails. Beware, though, this is 14th street so expect 14th street prices. And it does get pretty crowded.
Overall rating: Oysters: fantastic. Cocktails: supreme. I’ve never ventured in for the full menu but I keep ending up here by choice, so that has to mean something.
The Navy Yard is doing some great things to revive the area around Nats Park. Clearly they have their heads on correctly because they knew, every great park needs a tavern. Obviously. But Park Tavern isn’t your usual dark wood, don’t-know-what-time-of-day-it-is type tavern. LEED certified and bright and airy, this is a great place for pre- or post-game drinks and food.
I didn’t have a lot of time to delve into the drink menu when I was there, I was stopping in briefly before seeing Space Jam in the park on a large blow-up movie screen outside. Summertime, am I right? But the food was worth mentioning. Apparently there have been some ups and downs with this place, their first head chef being a real stand out and then a few subsequent ones turning out to be duds. The new chef though, definitely a winner. I had the fried fish sandwich and the breading was light and crispy, the fish melted in my mouth. I was picking up the bits and pieces that fell out of my sandwich as a causality of eating. I couldn’t leave any on the plate.
I ate at the bar inside because it was just me but they have an expansive patio with a great view of the LED lit fountain that you can run through. Which I’ve done because apparently I’m 6.
Overall rating: Come visit the park or go to a game, stroll around for a bit, and then have a nice meal at the tavern on their patio. To work off the meal on a hot day, splash through the fountain with the kids. The recipe for a great summer afternoon. And if that little fountain isn’t enough, head to the waterfront, there is a whole splash pool.
If you know me at all you know I love cheese. If I were ever inspired to write poetry it would be an ode to cheese. So naturally I found my way into GCDC. What’s better than cheese and carbs? Cheese and carbs, grilled. Unfortunately, GCDC’s full menu is during lunch time and there is just no way I can get over to Penn Quarter during lunch at this time. Someday. So stopping in for happy hour is the best I could do.
The grilled cheeses were unsurprisingly phenomenal. Between my friends and I we tried all four on the evening menu. Now be prepared, they aren’t a slice of cheese byproduct slapped between 2 overly processed slices of white bread. It’s real cheese and real bread. So while it won’t transport you to your childhood full of tater tots, you will have a delightful adult meal. The house-made chips were also great. Next time I go I’m going to get a cheese board, apparently the mozzarella is a real stand out.
The surprise here was the high-quality, inventive cocktails made by Ben. (As a side note here to DC Craft Bartender’s Guild: I think you need new judges for your competitions. It seems to be the same 5 mixologists that make it to the finals.) I had the Garden Variety Rickey made with Gin, from scratch celery shrub, and soda. Ben was planning on making a Rye-based beet Rickey for the competition. I need to try this. I also tried his Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, which was created for the Bombay Sapphire “Most Interesting Cocktail” competition.
Overall rating: CHEESE. Would’ve been enough said but damn those were some mighty fine cocktails. If you can’t make it for lunch and tell me how the rest of the menu is, do yourself a favor and go for happy hour. You won’t be sad about it. Also they’ll soon be offering cheese classes. You know where you’ll find me.
I’m from New England, when I say “let’s go to the deli” I don’t mean the deli counter at a grocery store. I mean an unassuming little sandwich shop that doesn’t do gourmet $14 sandwiches, but classics like the Italian or a plain old bologna sandwich. Simple and delicious. You might even get a house-made pickle if it’s one of those uppity delis. But that doesn’t really exist around here (as far as I know, please inform me if I’m wrong). That and good bread is hard to find.
The north is finally making some inroads into DC with DGS Delicatessen. While not a hole-in-the-wall deli by any means—the interior was simply decorated, accenting the textures of the building—they serve up some amazingly fantastic deli fare, with great drinks to boot. I went with a friend for “Deli After Dark” (seems to be on Thursdays) with special guest 3 Stars Brewing, so of course I went for a beer. But my friend got the house punch, a delicious combination of white rum, aged rum, pomegranate, pineapple and orange juices, cinnamon, lime, and star anise.
But once the food arrived silence descended upon our table. Between the two of us we ordered almost every side item, but it was such a deal: for $20 you can pick brisket or chicken (we got both, smoked to perfection) and 3 sides. The baked beans and mac and cheese were especially great. The grilled corn on the cob was to die for. We couldn’t resist dessert, even being stuffed to the gills, and ordered the black-and-white cookie hazelnut-ice cream sandwich. Totally worth it.
Overall rating: Definitely hit up “Deli After Dark”, it’s a great deal and they have a special menu. But I’m going back to try their regular menu. Go hungry, you will definitely need the room.
For the first time ever, I’m going to tell you to skip the cocktails. Yes, it happened, I ran into a place that was lackluster on the craft when they should’ve been spot on. The Green Pig Bistro in Clarendon is absolutely owning it with their food. Order everything on the menu. It’s so damn delicious. Especially the Heirloom Tomato Salad if they have it. But skip the mixed drinks and go for beer or wine. You’ll enjoy your meal more.
Recently I read in David Wondrich’s Imbibe an excerpt from Household Words from 1853 that
The barkeeper is a scholar and a gentleman [or woman]…making them [beverages/cocktails] not only exquisite to the taste, but also delightful to the view.
Well the cocktails at the Bistro missed on both accounts. While the ingredient combinations all sounded intriguing and delicious, both the cocktail I had and the one my friend Lori had tasted sort of the same, overly tart and a little too sweet. And the presentation was the same for every cocktail on the list, a soda glass with a listless lemon. It’s sort of a waste of the interesting ingredients used in the drinks.
Overall rating: Definitely stop in for dinner as many times as you can and enjoy their comprehensive wine and beer list but save your money and skip the cocktails.
I don’t normally review things in other cities. It doesn’t really fit the theme of my blog but guys, if you ever find yourself in Vancouver do yourself a favor and dedicate an entire day to Granville Island. Not only do they have a killer rooftop at the Sandbar restaurant, but they have their very own distillery, the Liberty Distillery.
Rooftop at Sandbar with a great view of False Creek.
You better believe I spent almost a whole day there and may have imbibed a little more than I should have (I got back to the hotel just fine). They are doing some interesting things, like a vodka that actually has it’s own flavor. The Truth Vodka was easy going down and had hints of botanicals and vanilla. The unaged white whisky, Railspur No. 1, had a bit of a burn but carried delicate flavorings like honey. The Endeavor Gin was one of the best gins I’ve had, right up there with Green Hat, which wins out only because I can actually buy it at home. If they both were local, it would be a tie. Liberty’s gin was floral and bright, the juniper only coming through as a compliment. For those opposed to gin because it tastes like a Christmas tree, this is a great gin for you.
Each cocktail I had really showcased their liquors, except maybe the Caesar, the Canadian Bloody Mary, but it’s really hard to taste anything besides tomato and clams. But I had to try it. When in Rome and all that. Each was well balanced and far too delicious. Plus I was able to taste test a coffee martini that they are working on for their cocktail list, which makes sense since they open at 10am.
Overall rating: If you live in or visit Vancouver, put this spot (and take time to wander around the island as well) on your must see list.
It was a classyish sorority party on a boat, just as I hoped. People drinking and carrying on like they were in Clarendon, but on a boat. But we were smart and got a spot on the upper deck of the Boomerang Party Yacht. The Coast Guard only allows a max of 34 people on the top deck, but it was worth staking out our spot. We could partake in the rousing party music but with a gentle breeze and prime night time views of the Kennedy Center, the monuments, the Memorial Bridge, and my favorite bridge: the Key Bridge. It was an up-close-and-personal view of the sights that I literally see every day. I can see the appeal of owning a yacht. Now if only someone would give me a ton of money.
The drinks were a sugary mess in my opinion, but that’s not the draw. I’d do this at least once in your life, though I think the sunset version might be more my speed. I’d imagine the Spirit and Odyssey dinner cruises are more subdued and sophisticated, but you’re definitely going to pay out the nose for it. The Boomerang came in closer to something we could afford and we knew exactly what we were getting. I definitely recommend getting there early to get a spot on the deck and to make sure they don’t leave without you (someone’s friend was definitely left standing on the dock.)
Overall rating: It’ll be like a college-age bar crawl disaster, but the views of DC can’t be beat and the people watching is just as entertaining.