Graffiato

707 6th Street
Washington, DC  20001
202.289.3600
www.graffiatodc.com
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Like I've said, I remember China Town/Penn Quarter as a collection of Chinese restaurants (go figure) that served Dim Sum but was a bit of a barren space in DC.  When Verizon Center opened in 1997, the area slowly started to become re-developed and by the time it became what it is today, I had already been gone for a few years.  The good part about that is that all this is still new to me.  It can be argued that Graffiato is one of the center piece restaurants around the gentrification of Penn Quarter and I've read and heard a ton  of buzz the Top Chef association of Chef/Owner Mike Isabella doesn't hurt in that department) about it for awhile now so I couldn't wait to get there.

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Taqueria Poblano

2400-B Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA  22301
703.548.8226
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Down the street to Taqueria Poblano turned out to be downtown Del Ray.  While there is a Taqueria Poblano about half a mile from District Taco, I had a chance to go to the original Taqueria Poblano for lunch today.  I've definitely tasted some different flavors and have had a good time during this taco kick of mine but the one thing that I've found annoying is that tacos really aren't conducive to pictures.  They are sloppy and disparate things that are then mashed together and stuffed in your mouth.  When you order them, you care little for aesthetics.  You just want a series of bites that deliver a multitude of different flavors.

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District Taco

5723 Lee Highway
Arlington, VA  22207
703.539.2165
www.districttaco.com
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I'm going to see my folks and other family this coming weekend and was planning to stop by R&R Taqueria which is not only famous because of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives but also purported to be the best place to get Mexican food in the area.  I thought I needed a baseline in order to find out what the "best" tastes like so I decided to head out to District Taco which is only a short distance from my apartment and, more importantly, a joint with a solid reputation for producing good Mexican food.  I'm also planning on going to Taqueria Poblano down the street later on the week so I'd have a greater point of comparison.  Okay, so I have this Mexican kick going on too.

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Tackle Box

3245 M Street
Washington, DC  20007
202.337.8269
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Tackle Box was my first foray to one of Mike Isabella's (he of Top Chef Fame) restaurants in DC.  Isabella has created some great buzz for his Italian place, Graffiato, and has recently opened a tapas place right next door to Tackle Box called Bandalero.   Tackle Box is described as lobster shack and it's Isabella's take on some American seafood favorites.  A kind of reminder of the beach without the beach.  It's located on a really busy strip in Georgetown so traffic and parking were pretty trying and hopefully a good meal could make up for all that.  I decided to have an early dinner there so the restaurant was pretty thinned out when I arrived.

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Menomalé

2711 12th Street NE
Washington, DC  20018
202.248.3946
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Menomale (forgive me if I don't use the accent every time) is located in the Brooland section of Washington DC and I worry about places like this.  First of all, I've never heard of the Brookland section of Washington and that may just be my familiarity with DC.  Brookland is located in the NE part of DC and I was hoping it was some sort of hipster breeding ground like Brooklyn.  It's also not that far from Logan Circle so it wasn't entirely impossible.  But, when I drove up to the restaurant, it's in a quiet neighborhood and surrounded by residences except for the three small storefronts where Menomale was located.  Part of my worry is that it's a big of a hike to get there and it's a bit out of the way.  But, most of my worry is that Menomale just isn't in the right place to give everyone a chance to eat such great food.

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Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company

3471 Washington Blvd
Arlington, VA  22201
703.528.9663
www.rocklands.com
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I drive by Rocklands every day on my way to work and on my home.  I remember eating there when I first moved back but that's about all the I remember.  It's pretty much just the land mark I use to remind me to make a left turn into the local Giant Food Supermarket.  That being said, it's the summertime and I'm being inundated by specials about grilling, barbeque, etc...which makes me crave some good barbecue.  Since it is a regular part of my day, I decided to eat dinner there three times over the span of about two weeks so I could sample a few of their types of barbecue.

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Ship's Cafe Restaurant and Crab House

828 Frederick Rd.
Catonsville, MD  21228
410.744.1838
www.shipscafe.net
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We did Father's Day dinner a day early and had planned to go to R&R Taqueria, which is widely known as the best Mexican food in the area.  Those plans went up on smoke when we realized that R&R was only a take out joint and wouldn't have room for 8 people for a sit down dinner.  Plan B was to find an old fashioned crab house and have a Maryland tradition for dinner.  We decided to go try out a veritable institution just a few miles from Baltimore (in Catonsville) called Ship's Cafe Restaurant and Crab House.

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Washington Nationals Park (Nationals v. Yankees)

I went to the Nationals game today.  Heartbreaking 14 inning loss for the Nats that I could only stay for 8 innings because I had Father's Day dinner plans.  I grabbed a Shake Shack burger while I was there and now I've been to the one at Nats Park, Madison Square Park and Midtown West.  I forgot how good the burger is and there's one at Dupont Circle which I expect I'll be visiting soon.

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Al's Steak House...

1504 Mount Vernon Ave.
Alexandria, VA  22301
703.836.9443
www.alssteak.com
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If you look closely at the sign on the front of Al's Steak House there's an ellipsis (or ...) right after Steak House which is ironic since it seems to infer that it's a bit more than just a steakhouse, which it isn't in the traditional sense.  In reality, you could probably call it a CHEESESteakhouse, if there was such a thing, even though they offer other fast food staples like burgers, fries, and onion rings.  I may try those other things one day but today I was craving a well-made cheesesteak sub and the word is that Al's has been making the best cheesesteak subs in the area since 1956 (or that's what the web site says).

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Maple Ave

147 Maple Avenue West
Vienna, VA  22180
703.319.2177
www.mapleaverestaurant.com
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"Confit, whatever that is...." is just one of the things I overheard from a group of colorfully loud older women having lunch at Maple Ave.  That statement, to me, sums up the contradiction that is Maple Ave.  On one hand, it serves wonderfully flavorful and diverse food, which we'll get to later, that uses inspiration and technique from several different sources.  On the other hand, it looks and feels like a diner and is located pretty far from DC on a heavy trafficked street full of strip malls in Vienna, VA.  It's a commitment to get out there and I worry that the people with easy access to Maple Ave may not fully appreciate what a gem they really have (whatever that is...).

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Society Fair

277 South Washington St.
Alexandria, VA  22314
703.683.3247
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Society Fair is Cathal Armstrong's latest addition to his Old Town Alexandria empire.  On it's website, they describe it as a "a boutique emporium of epicurean delight ~ where everything we do is devoted to food."  Think of Eataly on a much smaller scale and decorated by Liberace.  Okay, the second part may be a bit of an exaggeration but there certainly were lots of reflective surfaces, chandeliers, gilding, lavenders and overall frou-frou.  I went there for lunch and I still don't quite know what to make of the place.

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The Pig (Washington, DC)

1320 14 St NW
Washington, DC  20005
202.290.2821
www.thepigdc.com
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I had a buddy in town for a conference and we decided to grab some drinks and a late dinner at a new joint in Logan Circle called the Pig.  Luckily, my buddy was running a bit late so we were able to get a table right away with the dinner crowd just thinning out.  Unluckily, the place is pretty dark and none of the pictures I took of the food turned out well enough to post.  Hopefully, I describe it well enough for you to go and try it out yourself.

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Columbia Firehouse

109 South St. Asaph St.
Alexandria, VA  22314
703.683.1776
www.columbiafirehouse.com
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Work and some other commitments have kept me busy this past week so I haven't been able to write much less go find a good place to eat.  I had some free time today and decided to take a bit of a long lunch to try out Columbia Firehouse which is part of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group.  So, far I've been to Tallula, Rustico, The Evening Star and Vermilion.  Columbia Firehouse, I think, is a slightly more casual take than the others but still very much in the same family with its take on simple, casual comfort food.

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NYC to DC

I posted this article in my About section as an interesting read:

"Getting a good meal in D.C. requires some ruthless economics", Washington Post, May 25, 2012 - A very interesting read on the state of restaurants in Washington DC and while I don't wholly agree with everything in the article, I can relate to it just from my experiences in comparing NYC to DC.

I was going to leave it at that but I kept thinking about what it said about DC and the state of its food because while I don't agree with everything in the article, I think a lot of the points it makes are spot on.  Like I've said before, I don't consider myself an expert on food but I've eaten at a lot of places.  I started this blog about 5 years ago but never really got into it until recently.  I wish I did record some of my previous experiences because I feel like there are a ton of restaurants that helped encourage my love for food that I haven't talked about and hopefully I'll get back to them soon.  But, I digress.

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Sakuramen

2441 18th Street
Washington, DC  20009
202.656.5285
www.sakuramen.net
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An interesting thing happened when I went to eat at Sakuramen.  As I was leaving, I ran into one of the owners outside (Jonathan) and he asked me how I liked the food.  I told him I enjoyed it and we ended up chatting a bit about NYC noodle shops like Ippudo and Momofuku.  He really paid homage to David Chang for paving the way for places like Sakuramen and I would have liked to talk a bit longer but we got interrupted by a woman looking to get paid back a debt by one of Jonathan's former employees.  I'm not sure that worked out well for her.  I shook his hand, excused myself and went to get a black and white milkshake down the street.

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